Rain, Rain

It was pouring rain on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Rainy days are the perfect times to pull out those little antique shop items, paint flowers, clean the studio, or make some progress on a large painting. Since I was waiting for company to arrive, the little antique shop items won out. I picked up these three charming, cobalt blue vases over the summer and have been looking forward to their sketchbook debut ever since! Although they are actually blue, I didn't happen to have a blue pen inked up at the time, so these were sketched with Noodler's Purple Wampum, one of my favorite washable inks. I used a waterbrush over the ink lines to create the washes.

This was done in a 6x9" Fabriano Venezia journal across the two page spread. I only have two pages left in this journal --- the first and the last. Finishing up those pages will close a pretty big chapter in my life, since I started this book on February 1, 2011. I left the first page blank to title it when I was done. It's time for me to start thinking of a title!


Four Sketches of the Hudson River

Click image for a larger view.

I have a large oil painting commission to do of a scene along the Hudson. The other day, I grabbed my sketchbook and watercolors and headed down to the location to do some preliminary sketches to discuss with the client, before proceeding on the large piece. It was freezing cold along the river early in the morning, but I know from experience that the light on the cliffs of the Palisades leaves early. By the time the sun is well overhead, they are all in shadow. I bundled up with my warmest coat, hat, scarf and mittens, and worked as fast as I could! Word from the client: "I love them all!" So, I'll be combining some elements for the final painting.

I taped off the rectangles to do the sketches while I was out on location. That kept my borders clean. I already knew what the dimensions of the large painting would be, so I stuck to those proportions. Once I got home, I drew in the borders around each sketch with a calligraphy pen, and used acrylic paints on the outside border, mixing colors to match the inside border's ink color. When finished, I painted a layer of Golden Interference Gold Fluid Acrylic, diluted with gloss medium, over the outer brown border. Although it doesn't show in the photo, there is a beautifully subtle gold sheen on the outside edge of the page.


Golden Iridescent and Interference Acrylics

As I said a few days ago, I've been playing with some shimmery colors lately and test driving how I can use them most effectively. I did this chart to see what would happen layering assorted Golden Interference colors over some of the Golden Iridescents. I also made one row black, and left one the white of the paper, to see the color shift from light to dark (which is way more dramatic than I thought it would be!) There's some glare on the page, but I used this photo because it's when the light hits that you can see some additional effects. As you can see, the interference colors on black are really beautiful! Now I'll have to explore using these with other dark colors too.


The Wedding Day

My sister made these charming favors herself for her wedding guests. There was one at each place setting, with delicious chocolates and almonds inside. She let me bring home all the empty pots that guests left on the tables, so I can use them to hold paint and water in the studio! I really like having this memory of her special day, and every time I fill up a little pot with water, I think of her.

After the luncheon reception, my husband and I were able to go for a four mile walk on the beach and catch the sunset over the Gulf, before meeting up with everybody for a late dinner. There were tons of shells, and I collected an assortment to sketch in our hotel room. These are a few of the ones we picked up that day.


Traveling to Florida

My sister got married last weekend in Florida, so my husband and I flew down for the wedding. I didn't get much of a chance to sketch this trip, but managed a few pages. This one was on the way down, when I grabbed a few minutes while waiting for the bus to take us to the airport, and again in the waiting area before boarding the plane. We took off 20 minutes early, so that waiting period was a lot shorter than I thought it would be!


Some pretty cool Daniel Smith watercolors

I received a Daniel Smith catalog in the mail the other day, and inside was a card with five colors that had interesting properties. The colors were:
  • Quinacridone Purple
  • Iridescent Gold
  • Duochrome Desert Bronze
  • Pearlescent White
  • Interference Lilac

It's especially interesting to see how the Duochrome Desert Bronze and Interference Lilac shift color as the light changes. I've been experimenting with colors with different shimmering properties lately, so these were right up my alley! Although the Quinacridone Purple has no sparkle to it, the strength of the color is enough by itself! I used the purple and gold to make the page border. You can see a bit of the sparkle where there's some glare on the page. I like having reference pages like this in my journal so that I can always refer back to see what a color looks like that I test drove.


A Special Gift

This statue has waited a long time to make it into my sketchbook! I really enjoyed using a monochromatic approach. It seemed to suit the subject and my mood at the time!


Kaaterskill High Peak from Across the Beaver Pond

This is my second-to-last sketch in my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project 2012. It's a view from across the beaver pond behind my house, with Kaaterskill High Peak in the background, and the fall foliage reflecting in the water. There is a high bank there, shaped like a peninsula, with a beautiful grove of pine trees. Walking on the several inches of pine needles that have been accumulating for who knows how many hundreds of years, and smelling the pine smell, is really a magical experience.  This was painted on location with gouache. It is 7x10" across the two page spread in the sketchbook. I didn't date stamp or write on this entry yet, but I'll do so before sending in the book. All sketchbooks for this project will go on a world tour, and then be housed permanently in the Brooklyn Art Library in New York City.


The Many Sides of Mr Lute

11x17" across a two page spread in a 8.5x11" Stillman & Birn Epsilon book
Noodler's Zhivago in a Lamy Safari B nib
Private Reserve Chocolat mixed 1:1 with Private Reserve Velvet Black in an 05 Platinum Preppy
Noodler's Wampum in an 05 Platinum Preppy
Cacao du Bresil in an 03 Platinum Preppy
Noodler's Midnight Blue in a 6mm Pilot Parallel

I found this porcelain lute player in a post holiday sale at Christmas Tree Shoppe one year. He makes an occasional appearance in my sketches and doodles. I thought several sketches of him on the page would present good drawing challenges and a unified theme. I jumped right in with ink, and a Niji Waterbrush was used to do the washes.

I love the blend of the Private Reserve Chocolat and Private Reserve Velvet Black. It tones down the red of the Chocolat washes just enough, and amplifies the value range. Furthermore, after sitting in a Preppy fountain pen for a few months without being used, it started up immediately when I turned it over to draw!


Soup 'N Sketch --- an illustrated recipe

11x17", across a two-page spread in a Stillman & Birn 8.5x11" Epsilon hardbound sketchbook
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
Waterbrush filled with J. Herbin Gris Nuage
Noodler's Bulletproof Black in an Eversharp Symphony (fine nib) Flex pen
Watercolor (added later)

I decided that last night was "no excuses" night for sketching, even if it was rushed, so while making chicken soup for dinner, I stopped between bouts of chopping and dicing to do this recipe page of my ingredients. I used a black Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, and a waterbrush filled with J. Herbin's Gris Nuage, and did the sketches in monochrome. My intention was to leave it as a black and white sketch, but the longer I looked at it, the more it screamed, "COLOR ME!!!" I fought bravely against the color junkie within me, but in the end, I couldn't resist. While the soup simmered, I added the watercolor splashes.

The soup came out great. It's almost more stew than soup, but that's how we like our chicken soup around here. We had some with dinner, and I put a huge container of it into the freezer for some cold day when I don't feel like cooking.

I'm really loving working these big spreads. There's so much space to draw, write and play with design, and leftover areas for it to all be able to breathe a bit too.


Review of Some Waterproof Black Inks

Those of us who use inks in our journals need to know which ones will be waterproof for use with watercolors, or dissolve with a brush for ink and wash techniques. This post will examine some of the black inks that I like to use with watercolors, which claim to be waterproof. That's actually a relative term, because much depends on the amount of ink applied, as well as the sizing of the paper it's applied to. I'll be discussing:

  • Noodler's Bulletproof Black in a Noodler's Flex pen
  • Platinum Carbon Black in a Platinum Preppy 03 (fine)
  • Noodler's Lexington Gray in a Lamy Safari F
  • Uniball Vision Black

These are all fountain pen inks, except for the Uniball Vision. That's a rollerball pen available in most office supply stores. I'm including it here because there are times when it's just not convenient to travel with fountain pens, and that's been my main waterproof pen in those instances.

Although Lexington Gray is not quite as dark as black, I often prefer it to black when working with watercolor. Black can be a bit overpowering at times, and the Lexington Gray takes the edge off. Because I use it so much, I wanted to include it in the tests.

Like with the browns, I tested the inks on three different papers, to take the sizing variations into account.

The samples above were done on an Ampad Quad Ruled book. You can click to enlarge the image. I dried all the samples with a hair dryer, then ran a clean waterbrush over them several times. They all sat tight. Good news! Then I went to sized paper.

The swatches above were done in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon book made specifically for ink, then dried with a hair dryer, and washed over on the right sides with a clean waterbrush. Pens write like a dream on this surface, and the sizing lets the ink sit up on top of the page in the most beautiful way! But that same sizing enabled the Noodler's Bulletproof Black to move around a lot more than the other black inks shown.

Above are the same four inks, this time in a Stillman & Birn Alpha book. Results are about the same as with their Epsilon book, which isn't surprising as it's probably a similar sizing process.

Each ink definitely has its own character, and how waterproof it proves to be is just one of the factors when selecting an ink.

Noodler's Bulletproof Black was the darkest of the fountain pen blacks in this test. It also runs extremely well in my pens, never clogging and rarely even needing any kind of "jump start" after sitting for long periods of time. It continues to be my favorite of the true black inks.

Platinum Carbon Black was the most waterproof of the two true black fountain pen inks. That is my choice for use with watercolor if I want a true black ink, and plan to use it on paper that would cause the Noodlers to run. But it does clog up some of my pens. I've found it works well in the Platinum Preppy I used on this test, needing just an occasional nudge to get it going again, but it didn't perform well in my Noodler's Flex pen over time. I had to switch that pen over to the Noodler's Bulletproof Black, and it works great with the other ink. So, if you use this ink, you'll have to be a bit particular about which pen it resides in.

Noodler's Lexington Gray is almost dark enough to pass for black, and often that's exactly what I want. At times when black would be overly contrasty, heavy, or draw too much attention to itself, the Lexington Gray is the perfect solution. It has great waterproofing characteristics and good flow in all of my pens. I love it to bits! In fact, if I had to choose only one fountain pen ink to own, I think this would be it. I get lots of use out of this ink for all purposes from check writing to journal writing to ink and watercolor.

The Uniball Vision Black rollerball pen was not only the darkest of them all, but the most waterproof as well. Before I started using fountain pens, this was all I used. I bought them by the case and they went everywhere with me. I still take them along on trips when I need to fly somewhere, and keep one in the bottom of my purse, where I don't have to worry about leakage. So, why not just use that? Well, you fountain pen aficionados will totally understand.....It's a tactile thing. I just love the flow of the ink out of a fountain pen nib, the variations in the line with the speed, and the varieties of italic nibs or flex nibs that make writing or drawing with fountain pens so very enjoyable.

So, which one to choose? I say get them all! I use all of them all the time, and I'd rather not give any of them up. Each one has pluses and minuses, and each fulfills a need in my sketching kit. My main sketching bag has about 15 pens in it with various inks. These four are always in there, and often in more than one pen!


What if you were stranded somewhere without a sketchbook?

Here's a sketchbook that can be made on the fly with a single sheet of paper, no matter where you are! (You may have to pause the video if I'm flipping the pages too fast.) Instructions for making it are in Alisa Golden's book, Making Handmade Books. It's a little tricky to get the hang of it, but I made a few with scrap paper, and now I'm sure I can do it on the fly with whatever is at hand! A much larger book can be made by simply increasing the size of the sheet of paper. (This one was made with a piece of copy paper.)