Scrambled Easter Eggs --- Mixing Inks

The Goulet Pen Company has an "Ink Drop" program where they send you five fountain pen ink samples at the beginning of each month. It's a lot of fun to experiment with the inks that seem to magically appear in my mailbox every four weeks or so. In April they sent out five unnamed vials of samples as an "Easter Egg Hunt", and we were supposed to try to guess what the inks were. Great fun.

Yesterday I was looking at these five samples and it occurred to me that they might provide an nice muted, dark color that would wash easily when mixed together. So, I put one eyedropper full of each color into a vial, shook it up, and loaded up my Lamy Safari fountain pen with the resulting mixture. To test drive the result, I used photo references from the Weekend Drawing Event on the Wetcanvas website, and gave myself just a couple of minutes for each sketch, to explore the properties of the ink.

I was really surprised and pleased by how much the colors separated with the waterbrush wash after I'd done the initial drawing. The initial color was a beautiful navy blue, but it washed into shades of blue, blue-green, and violet. If you click the drawing above and take a closer look, I think you'll be able to see it. I love it when these unexpected things happen! I'll definitely be using this mixture some more. I think it might work beautifully for some architectural drawings.


Sketchcrawl in Hudson NY

Click any image to enlarge.

Today I went sketching in Hudson, New York with artist friends Janice Filkins and Gretchen Kelly. The City of Hudson is an old Hudson River town with fabulous architecture. It's filled with restaurants, antique shops, galleries, and small stores. You could stand just about anywhere and find something to sketch or paint!

We started out at the Hudson Opera House. I brought my Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook that I reviewed yesterday, along with ink pens and watercolors. The sketch above is the Hudson Opera House, done from across the street with Private Reserve Chocolat ink and a waterbrush.

From there, we walked a couple of blocks to the exquisite Hudson Courthouse. This was done with Private Reserve Velvet Black and a waterbrush. The foliage was just starting to bud and there were flowering trees all over the town.

From the walkway to the courthouse, you can turn in any direction and find a charming scene to sketch. I could have stayed right there all day! I turned to the left and painted this row of colorful buildings. After two monochrome sketches, I desperately needed a color fix, so after drawing with ink and brushing out some values, I broke out my Koi watercolor kit to add splashes of color.

I am loving this Beta sketchbook! I've always been partial to stitch-bound/hardcover books, but I'm finding different advantages to working in a spiral.


Stillman & Birn Beta Series Sketchbook Review

Above is a waterfall sketch that I did last night while test driving the Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook. There are five different paper types in the S&B sketchbook lineup. I've been working with all of them, and as I accumulate enough knowledge about their performance, I'll post reviews here. Hopefully I'll be reviewing all five within the next few weeks.

Features of the Beta series are a heavy, bright white paper with some texture and excellent sizing. Although it is called "rough surface", I don't find it to be rough at all compared with the rough watercolor papers I've used. It weighs in at 180lb --- 270gsm. As you can see from the color brilliance in the sketch above, this paper really allows the color to sit up on top and show itself well. There is no show-through from one page to the next, and the paper doesn't buckle with my watercolor work.

I use fountain pens with various inks and waterbrushes in my sketchbooks too, so I put this book through its paces with my pens too.

Using a hard touch with the fountain pens sometimes resulted in the tip catching in the paper fibers, but with a light touch it was not at all a problem. You can see that the writing is not skipping, and the inks sit on top of the paper enough to wash beautifully with a waterbrush. The little watercolor test revealed the same brilliant color results  as on the sketch.

If you've lamented over the fact that watercolor sketchbooks are often only available in landscape format, you can now celebrate! These babies are available in 6x8, 7x10, and 9x12 portrait formats, plus a 7x7" square! For those who prefer stitch-bound books, that will be your only disappointment, as these are only available spiral bound. I'm one of those folks who definitely prefers a stitch-bound book, but this spiral series will end up converting me when I need the heavier paper.

Here's a link to a series of posts done using this sketchbook.

These sketchbooks are available at Utrecht Art Supplies and Wet Paint Art Supplies.


Rondo's Loyal, Royal Subjects --- International Fake Journal Month

Rondo's International Fake Journal, continued. Click image to enlarge. If you'd like to see the rest of Rondo's journal, click the "International Fake Journal" category in the left sidebar.

This entry was sketched first with a fountain pen filled with J. Herbin's Gris Nuage. You can see some of the remaining lines. They look just like light pencil. I love that ink! It's subtle and doesn't overpower the watercolor.


A Peek Inside My Sketching Bag

You can click on any images in this post to enlarge them.

Everybody always wants to know what's in my sketching bag, so I thought I'd take a post and open up the bag to show what materials go with me lately. This bag came with my Plein Air Pro easel. It's actually way too small for that. Although it just barely holds the easel, it cannot fit any of the supplies you need to go along with an easel --- like paint and water and mosquito repellent! Meanwhile, my sketching supplies were in need of a larger bag, so it was re-purposed to accommodate them, and the easel moved into a roomy backpack. This messenger-style bag fit the bill perfectly, with numerous pockets, a nice carry strap, and it's super lightweight.

 From the side, you can see that it has a zipper to expand/contract the entire back compartment. This is so convenient for when I want to lighten my load. I just remove a bunch of stuff and zip that up for a smaller bag, and I'm good to go anywhere.

With the front flap up, you can see all those great pockets for pens, pencils and brushes. The left hand pocket holds all my fountain pens. I've been experimenting with lots of different inks lately.
I spread out all the pens in this pocket to show you how I've been keeping track of what ink is in what pen while I'm test driving so many inks. My husband has a little label maker that's come in really handy, so I always know what I'm working with.
Most of these are Platinum Preppy fountain pens with a 05 nib. Some have been converted to eyedropper pens (as I explained on a previous post), others I'm refilling cartridges with, and I also use a couple with converters. They're very fast to write with and can easily keep up with my quick sketching. The three colored pens up front are Lamy Safari pens. I like that I can easily switch out nibs on these from extra fine to broad, and they write very smoothly.

 A separate pocket holds some mini misters for my watercolors, my beautiful Escoda sable travel brushes and a travel squirrel mop, a little brush thing for scrubbing from the pharmacy, and a correction pen. I see here that one of my Escoda brushes is missing. I probably put it in the wrong pocket and it will turn up somewhere....

The next couple of pockets hold my wonderful Kuretake brush pen, pencils, calligraphy pens, Uniballs, waterbrushes.....and OH! There's the missing Escoda travel brush, off cavorting with the calligraphy pens. :)

The middle section of the messenger bag is where I keep my sketchbooks and a foamcore board and clips. With a stitch-bound, hardcover sketchbook, I keep it open fully by placing the foamcore behind the open sketchbook, and clipping each side to the foamcore. There is no added weight to carry, and it's been a perfect solution to the deep gutter problem.

Now for that BIG back compartment....Let's take all that stuff out of there.

Inside you'll find:
  • sun visor
  • sun block
  • bug repellent
  • extra pair of sunglasses
  • inexpensive reading glasses
  • a couple of small watercolor sets
  • date stamp and ink pad that I always stamp my sketches with
  • pack of Pitt brush pens
  • masking tape
  • white-out
  • small bottle of water
  • pack of tissues (or cut up paper towel sheets clipped together, or both)
  • palette cup that clips onto the watercolor set
  • extra clips which are always needed for something
  • masking tape
  • white gouache
  • sponge
  • plastic ruler
  • small plastic container with kneaded eraser inside. 

This is what the little black watercolor set in the photo looks like when it's opened up. The middle row is supposed to hold a travel brush, but I put extra half pans in there so I can carry more colors. This is my favorite set for sketching. When I use a waterbrush, I don't need to clip on the little palette cup. I set a piece of sponge into a full pan to clean the waterbrush as I go. I can just wring it out when it gets soaked. If I need a larger one, I use one of the clips to attache the extra sponge to the kit.

To the items shown above, I might add:
  • A bottle of drinking water
  • Car/house keys
  • Cellphone
  • Wallet
  • Camera
  • Binoculars (depending on where I'm going to sketch)
  • Snack/Sandwich if I'll be out all day
  • Pack stool with shoulder strap

Materials lists of course change over time. Sometimes I empty a lot of it and go with gouache, or colored pencils, or even acrylics to work with in my sketchbooks. Part of the joy of working in sketchbooks is multi-media experimentation.

I hope you enjoyed this browse through my sketching bag.


Rondo Goes to the Catskills

Here's Rondo at one of his favorite spots. We call this one "Mossy Falls" due to the abundance of beautifully colored moss that covers the rocks. There's a smaller waterfall that he likes to play in, but with all the rain we had over the weekend, there was way too much forceful water rushing over the rocks to let him do that. I was afraid he'd get swept away!

Winsor Newton and Holbein watercolors. Platinum Preppy pen with Whaleman's Sepia ink. (Lettering with a Pilot Parallel.)

Rondo is not a model

Rondo sleeps for long periods of time without batting an eyelash, but he hates to model for me. Dogs must have a sixth sense about knowing when somebody is staring at them. No sooner do I lift a pen than he gets up and changes position. The best I can get from life are quick gesture sketches. They were done on graph paper and glued into my journal.
These were done with Private Reserve Velvet Black ink in a Platinum Preppy pen, washed with a watercolor brush just a bit in shadow areas, then Koi watercolors surrounded the sketches.


Roz Waves to Rondo

Rondo's adventures continue during International Fake Journal Month. You can see the series by clicking here. The posts will appear in reverse order, from the most recent down to the first of the series. The explanation about IFJM appears in the bottom post.


The Treat Cabinet

When Rondo wants a snack, he tap dances on the laminate floor in the kitchen, next to the cabinet where we keep his treat. On rare occasions, we've forgotten to close that cabinet door, and he's helped himself to an entire bag of doggie junk food!

This sketch was done with Iroshizuku Yama-guri ink, in a Lamy Safari fountain pen with an "M" nib, and washed with a waterbrush.

Lightfastness Results

Note: Too see all of my lightfastness tests to date, click here.

You may recall that I started a series of Lightfastness Tests back in early March. Samples were taped to the windows in my southern exposure studio on March 10. It is now exactly one month later, and I took them down and photographed the results of one month's exposure through double pane window glass. Given that it's taken even the most fugitive oil paints six months to show signs of change when I've tested oil paints, I was quite suprised that after only 30 days, nearly all of these ink samples had faded or shifted (some more than others). Below are some larger images of the test results. You can click on these to see them even bigger:

You can click all of the images here to get large views of the samples and form your own opinions. The biggest surprise for me was the Baystate Blue. Out of the 13 inks I tested in this round, I consider that and the Diamine Red Dragon to be the Biggest Losers. After checking at the two week mark, I figured the Baystate Blue would just lose the intensity of the color, but even the more muted blue left behind is starting to fade. The Kung Te-Cheng was the clear winner in the Lightfastness category.

Some of the inks are presenting only the slightest shift in color at this point, or slight fading. Inks that I feel are holding up pretty well include:
Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng (the winner!)
J. Herbin Rouge Hematite (huge surprise that it's holding up this well, but it is lightening slightly)
Noodler's Nightshade (turning a bit more red)
Noodler's Sequoia (graying slightly)
Noodler's Navy (fading just a hair)

Some colors are exhibiting strong shifts in color, or fading in only certain components of their mix.
Noodler's Kiowa Pecan is losing the red coponent and becoming more yellow
Noodler's Walnut is also losing red and becoming more yellowish brown
Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia is losing the bluer elements, and the ink is shifting to red/pink.
Private Reserve Avocado is fading
Private Reserve Velvet Black is shifting color
Private Reserve Chocolat is losing a little intensity

Enlarge the images above and form your own conclusions. I'll probably photograph them again at the three month mark. If you'd like to see what this looked like before I put it in the window, here is a link to my previous post.

I have about 20--25 more ink samples to put up in the window today, so stay tuned for results on different inks in another month.


Adding Color to Monochrome Work

(Click image if you'd like to see it larger.)

For many reasons, I decided to add watercolor to my monochrome sketch of this scene. You can see my previous post at this link, with the monochrome image. I broke up the background too much for a monochrome piece, and it became jumbled. The dog, signs, and bright red fire hydrant biscuit jar, didn't stand out and form the triangular composition that I had intended. With the color added, I think the composition falls more into place. The background is unified, and the sketch has better balance and cohesion.


Showing Off

This was sketched with Quink Black ink, a Pilot Parallel calligraphy fountain pen on its side, and a waterbrush to do the washes. This paper is a little rough for a steel calligraphy nib, so I did the writing on the top of the page with a marker. You can click the image to enlarge it, if you'd like a closer look.

The Quink ink washes into a subtle blue-gray and the tiniest hint of raw sienna color. It's quite nice.


Rondo Goes to the Spa plus Reviews of Private Reserve Chocolat ink and Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

This sketch was done with Private Reserve Chocolat. Initially, I wasn't so crazy about this ink because so much red appeared in the wash areas. However, as I used it more, I was able to control it better, and keep the ink more to the brown tones by putting down a lot of ink and not overbrushing. Now I love this ink! It's got a deep, rich, chocolate brown color that allows for plenty of value changes. Also, in spots where there was a lot of water but not much brush action, you can see it separate into red and green. If you look at the area above the flag, you can see that happening. (You might have to click the image to enlarge it in order to see the effect.) How cool is that?!

I used a Platinum Preppy fountain pen with a .05 nib for this one. I find this fountain pen to be very fast, so it can keep up with my quick sketching and lay down plenty of ink. They only cost a few dollars, so I have a lot of them and swap them out as I work with different colors. I converted this one to an eyedropper pen so it can hold lots of ink, and I don't need a cartridge nor converter. Brian Goulet has a wonderful video showing how easy it is to do this conversion.

The Goulet Pen Company sells the O rings and silicone grease that you need in order to do the conversion, as well as the .05 Preppy pens.


Fine China for Gourmet Dining and Review of Noodler's Nightshade Ink

(Click image to enlarge)
This is Rondo's fine china. In case you're wondering, yes, this really is what his bowls look like, except they're yellow!

This journal is about 6.5x9", so this sketch is 6.5x18 across the two page spread. Now you can see why I don't like spiral journals! I really like expanding beyond the center line, so I feel limited by journals with a crater in the middle. Of course, stitch-bound journals with a really deep gutter are also difficult to work with. The paper in this Art Spiral book is a little different on one side than the other, but it worked out okay.

This ink is Noodler's Nightshade, one of my favorites. I generally prefer neutral colors, and though this is on the borderline, it doesn't cross over into screaming raspberry or violet. It's just muted enough to make it work, and vivid enough for some excitement. Lines can wash away if you're not a bit careful with the waterbrush, but the ink is so strong that it only takes a small touch to get plenty of wash going. I've also found that if I pass over a line with the brush and let it set, I can wash it again when it's dry and my lines will stay.


International Fake Journal Month --- The World According to Rondo

It's "International Fake Journal Month"! What that means is that hundreds of sketch artists around the globe will be taking on a new persona, who will compose their April sketchbook journal. I have chosen my Bichon Frise, Rondo, to introduce you to his kingdom. My journal is titled The World According to Rondo. Here he is on one of his thrones, doing what he does best: supervising.

Along with Rondo's adventures, I'll be discussing inks this month. Each post will feature a new ink I've been working with, so if you're interested in inks that work well for sketching purposes, stay tuned! This sketch was done with Private Reserve Velvet Black. I love the rich darkness of this ink, which makes the values spring to life. It washes into a subtle violet with a waterbrush, which I find so much more appealing than the blacks that just wash to gray. It also holds a line really well, so even though I can use it for ink and wash techniques, the lines of my sketch stay put.

The sketchbook I'll be using as my fake journal is a Maruman Art Spiral. It's very heavily sized and works well for wash techniques, and at 24 pages long, it's ideal for this project. Those who know me are aware of my intense dislike for spiral journals, so I hope I survive the month with this one. The spiral is very small, so hopefully it will be less pesky than most, and I'll be able to do some two-page spreads.

If you'd like to keep following as I showcase more inks and Rondo's little world, just add your email address in the Subscribe box on the right sidebar. I don't plan to post every day, since I have some painting commissions to do and shows I need to paint for, and of course plein air season is getting underway! But I do hope to get in at least 10 sketches in this project, and maybe more.

(Too see all of my International Fake Journal posts, click here. They will appear in reverse order --- from the newest down to the oldest.)