Friday, September 25, 2015

Books Full of Artsy Goodness: My Five Most "Dog-eared" Art Books

I was all set to do a review for the Derwent InkTense pencils, which are awesome by-the-way, but I had an artsy brain fartsy and just could not think of a subject to paint. It's the weather these days, not that I am sad to say goodbye to the 100 degree temps. Fall is my favorite time of year, and it should be inspiring my best work, yet allergies and migraines have been my daily bane for the past ten days.

When I get blocked, I usually pull out my favorite art books. Some of them are instructional, while others are just eye candy. I have many books in paper and digital forms, but there are certain titles that I always return to for an inspirational nudge when needed. I am not listing them in any particular order.

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

pic from Amazon site Creating Textures in Pen and Ink with Watercolor
cover image from Amazon
1. Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor, By Claudia Nice

My love of pen and ink predates my infatuation with colored pencils, which is saying a lot, believe me. I have Speedball dip pens, "Manga" style fine liner pens and countless other ink tools and products in my bottomless stash. I also keep a lot of pen and ink books, including several Kindle additions of works by Claudia Nice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Magic of Water Soluble Pencils: Reviews and Techniques for Royal & Langnickel and Derwent

I had half of this post written before I even started to play with the pencils I would be reviewing, but then I had to go and delete the whole bit I had written. Why? Because I had thought that my memory would suffice for certain parts of this review. I found out how wrong I was when I began to compare swatches. This is no way to review or discuss water soluble colored pencils. In fact, it is just boring and uninformative.

When looking at the dry swatches, there is very little difference, except for variations in a color between brands. That is because a swatch is a poor evaluation tool. I am sure that plenty of people want to know which brands are the best, but what if you buy the best and realize that the medium is nothing like you expected? When it comes to watercolor pencils, artists want to know how they compare to traditional watercolors.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Crazy Pinterest Lady, Alien Abductions, and Random Colored Pencil Artsy Goodness

This week I have been quite busy with my "day job", which is writing articles for other people's blogs, so I feel bad for neglecting my own blog of artsy goodness. My work schedule is clear today, and I just tore myself away from Pinterest to start this post. For the record, Pinterest is my weakness, an ultimate time suctioning site that entices my visual thinker-and-learner brain with a smorgasbord of high-quality images that usually link to sources of even more images. Honestly, I lose more hours with Pinterest than a UFO abductee. Wait, maybe the E.Ts are in on it...

Anyway, yeah, Pinterest. My Pinner name is Cray Z. CatLady, by-the-way, and I have several boards that I maintain to satisfy my eclectic interests. I have a few boards related to art, of course, and I have found many fantastic websites and blogs during my Pinterest binges. One of them is the Sketchblog run by UK artist Lianne Williams, who shares my love of colored pencils, or "coloured pencils" as they spell it over there (I think the word is prettier with the "u" in it, personally).

image of Lianne Williams Sketchblog logo
Lianne's Logo from her Sketchblog
Image belongs to Lianne Williams

I really want to share this post from her blog because it reinforces my belief that expensive art materials are not necessary to make great art. In her post, Lianne creates a beautiful colored pencil portrait using Crayola colored pencils. Originally, I followed a Pin to one of her May articles, "My Essential Colour Pencil Techniques". She seems to be a great fan of the Polychromos!

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

While I have a special love for certain artist grade varieties, I am all for using whatever you can afford or find. My eclectic stash of CPs does, indeed, include some random Prang and Crayolas, and I have the big deluxe box of Crayola crayons in my chest of drawing goodies. I use my Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils often as well. They are not as cheap or easy to find as Crayola, but they are extremely affordable and durable.

Also, if you have a serious interest in colored pencil art, I would suggest checking out the Colored Pencil Magazine website and the "CPM Contests and Giveaways" blog. Currently, CPM is sponsoring a giveaway for a set of 12 Faber-Castell Polychromos. They have these contests regularly, so it doesn't hurt to subscribe. The prizes are always fantastic, at least in the eyes of colored pencil artists. The magazine is very nice, too. I am considering renewing my subscription after I pay off some bills. I have entered their monthly challenges in the past, but I have never won. That's okay because entering these competitions motivated me to create finished pieces and push my own skills with challenging subjects, like shiny candy wrappers:

Colored pencil art candies and shiny dishes
My September 2013 entry for the CPM monthly challenge

Personally, I love colored pencil, and I think the medium has begun to gather serious interest in the art world, thanks to many great artists who have created brilliant art works and published books about their techniques. I have several in my library. Do you have any favorite colored pencil books that you would recommend to fellow artists?

I hope that one day my own skills will evolve to the point where people will want to learn my techniques as well.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Affordable Artists Pastels Part II: The Softies

Today, in Part II of my two-part pastel review series, I will discuss Rembrandt Soft Pastels and Mungyo Standard, Gallery, and Handmade Soft Pastels.

image of a box of Rembrandt pastels
My well loved set of Rembrandt 15 half-sticks.
The original white is gone, so I keep another brand of
white in the box .

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Affordable Artist's Pastels Part I: Prismacolor and Mungyo Semi-hard Pastels

image of assorted pastels in boxes
Part of my pastel stash, complete with dusty covers
(that is pastel dust, not home dust, btw)

I was going to break the pastel articles up by brand; however, as I started planning this first post, I realized that it would be better to separate them by hardness since I would be comparing brands in my reviews.  "Apples to apples", as they say. During my research over the past few years, I have learned that it is more beneficial to use different types of pastel when creating a painting with many layers of pigment. I am talking about full-on finished works that look painterly, not quick sketches.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Let's Talk About Pastel and Chalk Pencils: Conte, Stabilo, General's, and Koh-I-Noor

Even though my current obsession is charcoal, I haven't abandoned my other beloved mediums, of which there are many. Today I will focus on some brands of pastel pencils that I have tried. I'll discuss them in two categories: "chalk" pencils and true pastel pencils. I use General's and Koh-I-Noor chalk pencils and Conte of Paris and Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils.

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

All of these pencils have their own merits, and I am glad that I have the selection on hand because I have better results sometimes when I use them together and with standard pastels and charcoals. I have been using my Desert Song Multi-Functional pencil sharpener for all of my pastel pencils lately, and I recommend it highly. I have another review post for this sharpener that covers all the details, so I will not talk any more about it here.

General's Pastel Chalk Pencils

I am not sure how they did it, but the General Pencil Company managed to produce a pencil with a soft pastel core that does not crumble or break constantly. They are labelled "pastel chalk" pencils, but they are more like pastel than chalk- perhaps the name merely differentiates them from oil pastels. I bought the set of eight neutral colors, which includes black, white, light and dark grays, beige, burnt sienna, peach, and dark brown. They are great colors for portraits and wildlife drawings. There are larger sets available with additional colors as well.

First, I have to mention the erasers on the end of each pencil. They may erase the pastel at first, but I have found them more useful for blending. They get dirty fast, and the rubber is too hard to erase cleanly. I use my kneaded eraser when I have to remove marks, but the pastel in these pencils is very easy to erase with any soft eraser. 

The pastel marks are subtle, requiring a bit of layering, and they leave a lot of dust behind. I could not make a complete artwork with these pencils alone because they are not meant for extensive layering, so I use them to create an under-drawing or to blend color in small areas. Their softness should make them great for highlights, but the pigment is too weak for this, usually. However, General's white charcoal pencils are fantastic for adding small highlights as they have opaque white cores. I have only tried the neutral set of colors along with General's white and black charcoal, so I cannot comment on other colors, but sets of twelve and 24 are available, and all of these sets are very affordable. 

Koh-I-Noor Chalk Pencils  

KIN pencils are the polar opposite from General's in terms of pigment and texture. The cores are quite hard and sharpen to needle points, although a needle point is not very practical. Despite their hardness, the KIN chalk pencils have excellent pigment load, and I love the silky feel of the chalks when I draw on paper with them. They remind me of Conte crayon more than chalk, and they are even harder than my semi-hard pastel sticks. 

I only have dark and light sepia and white pencils from this line because they came in a mixed media drawing set. I have a sanguine pencil, labelled "red chalk" from this set as well, but the core is like waxy crayon and not at all like chalk. The matching crayon stick was the same way. They are nice, but they do not mix well with the other chalks from the set. 

I checked out the chalks on the Koh-I-Noor site and found that the company has both dry and oil chalks in pencil, stick, and 5.6 mm lead forms. KIN is a pricier brand than General's, and the choice of colors in this line is limited to traditional drawing shades: white, black, sepia and sanguine. They have sets of hard pastels that offer a large color range, but I have not tried them, and they are hard to find. 

The texture and pigment in the KIN pencils makes them perfect for initial stages of pastel paintings (working from hardest to softest), but I enjoy sketching and drawing with these pencils all by themselves. Their ability to hold a point is very useful for rendering small details. The white is too hard to use as a top highlight, but it is great for blending other colors and for drawing on toned paper. I love to mix the sepia and white pencils with charcoal in my drawings.

image of shaggy dog drawn with Koh-I-Noor Chalk Pencils, Nitram Charcoal, and Prismacolor white pastel
I used the Koh-I-Noor chalk pencils and sticks, soft
Nitram charcoal, white Prismacolor Nupastel to
make this sketch of a Pulli dog

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Classic Artsy Goodness with a Little Ranty-ness on the Side

Last night I enjoyed the waning Labor Day weekend by watching some Hulu while sketching the evening away using my new charcoal sticks and pencils, which I have already reviewed in earlier posts. My mom popped in to tell me something, but she was distracted momentarily when she saw my sketch in progress, a portrait of a giant schnauzer. She remarked that the hair on his snout looked so real it was "almost touchable".

image of schnauzer charcoal sketch
My schnauzer head, charcoal and white pastel
I used a fellow Blogger member's photo from
Magna Giant Schnauzers.
My sketch needs more work, but I have
come to love charcoal more with each piece!
I was flattered, of course, because I strive to convey  a certain amount of realism in my work, but I do not aspire to photo-realism. While I admire the skill and dedication of photo-realistic artists, I am rarely moved when I look at these pieces. I like to see the artist's "hand" in the work and get a feel for his or her style. I am much more inspired by stylized works than by seemingly mechanical copies rendered in precise detail and scale. So I give props to the uber-realists, especially those who have spent years honing their drawing skills. As you can see on the left, I cannot compete in the photo-realism category, but that is no big deal for me. I want people to know that I have drawn or painted my image.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

More Charcoal Artsy Goodness: Marie's Paper Wrapped Charcoal Pencils, Nitram Review Update

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

Yesterday, our wonderful UPS delivery man, Jamie, brought me some goodies that I had ordered from Jerry's Artarama. Whenever I get a box from Jerry's or Amazon I am like a kid at Christmas even though (or maybe because) I already know what is inside. This time the contents included a box of twelve Marie's paper wrapped charcoal pencils, a packet of two Tombow Mono Zero eraser stick refills (I'm not reviewing these), and a pack of five Nitram Academie Fusains in the soft B grade. I have already reviewed Nitram Batons Moyens and the Tombow Mono Zero in previous posts, so today I will start with Marie's charcoal pencils.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Artsy Goodness "Odds n' Ends": Erasers You "Knead" and Whatnot

Sorry about the corny title, but I am an unabashed art nerd. This will be a hodgepodge post with a side of lagniappe in the "artsy goodness" category, but I promise to make it interesting and useful, just the same.

As a little teaser, I will list some of the items I plan to review  and/or discuss in upcoming posts:

Upcoming Product Reviews

  • Derwent water soluble pencils: InkTense, regular  watercolor pencils, and, hopefully, water soluble sketching graphite and graphitone pencils
  • Daler Rowney pan watercolors: Aquafine and Simply
  • Nitram Academie Fusains, Maries paper-wrapped charcoal  
  • Various Pastels: Rembrandt, Mungio Gallery, Prismacolor NuPastel, 
  • Pastel Pencils: General's, Conte, Stabillo Carbothello, Koh-I-Noor 
  • Acrylic painting Mediums: Liquitex slow-dry retarder, Flow-aid, Air brush medium, and fabric medium, Daler Rowney glazing mediums
  • Artist markers: Copic, Prismacolor, Sharpie (yeah, why not?), Tombow

Possible Future Topics

  • Halloweeny stuff- great crafting possibilities  
  • Affordable digital painting software
  • Scoring artsy freebies 101 
  • Artist Paper: when to scrimp and when to splurge (with semi-reviews)
  • Favorite mixed media combinations
Please note that these are not listed in the order I will publish them. A few items I plan to review are still in the "wishlist" category for now, but I own and use most of these products already. 

Today's reviews will include the Tombow Mono 2.3 mm round shaper, the Pentel Clic, and various rubber and putty varieties.