Birds and Mammals at Animal Kingdom

Stillman and Birn Epsilon 5.5x8.5" hardbound sketchbook
Noodler's Apache Sunset ink

I was back at Animal Kingdom with my sketch group last week. One of the staff members came in and gave us lots of peanuts and goodies to feed the parrots who were out loose in the rain forest room, so we had a great time sketching in there. I focused on the Sun Conures this time, and was actually very happy with these sketches until I got home. Then I decided to spray the sketch with iridescent acrylic paint. Big mistake. It clouded the brightly colored image and made the ink run. I guess it was well worth the disappointment for the lesson learned.

We all went out for a wonderful lunch together at Eveready Diner. When we returned, I decided to draw some furry critters. Of course as soon as I started to sketch the baby guinea pigs, every single one of them went to hide in their little house! So, that was that! The rabbit was more cooperative, and also their store mascot guinea pig named Rosie. (Sorry about the glare on the sketch.) You can click either sketch to enlarge the image. I still have one more to post from this excursion, which I haven't had time to photograph yet.

I've been so busy lately that it's been hard to keep up with all the photographing of my work and adjusting of images. I've been finishing up a large oil painting commission (stay tuned for that on my Hudson Valley Painter website), plus as usual I'm doing a lot of color and media experiments. I'm working on some new background ideas and new border thoughts, and have some lightfastness test results to reveal on the recent fountain pen ink tests I posted. So, stay tuned! Lots coming in the week ahead.


Sea Turtle tank at the Maritime Aquarium

This was my last sketch of the day. I was all out of black background pages, so I went to this page. The surface was prepared with sprayed blue and gold iridescent diluted acrylic paint with a slight pattern, created by putting a stencil over the page before spraying it. The painting was done with watercolor and gouache, and the writing with a Sakura Gelly Roll pen. The iridescent surface is beautifully shimmery in a subtle way, but I don't know if you can see that in the photo. The turtles stayed more to the background this trip. Last time they were nearly in my face the whole time I was sketching their tank!


Sea Ravens and Wolfish from the Maritime Aquarium

Stillman & Birn 5.5x8.5" hardbound sketchbook
Golden Black Gesso
Golden Interference Fluid Acrylics
Sakura Gelly Roll pens

This sketch was done on another spread with a background prepared in the studio in advance. The sketch itself was done on location at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT. The gouache stood out pretty well against the black and iridescent surface, and the metallic Gelly Roll pens were the perfect defining touch for these eerie creatures of the deep!


Golden Black Gesso and Sakura Gelly Roll Pens

This was so much fun! (Image can be clicked for a larger, clearer view.) I used Golden Black Gesso to coat a few page spreads in my Stillman & Birn 5.5x8..5" Epsilon hardbound sketchbook, drying each with a hair dryer before going on to the next. One coat of the Golden Black Gesso perfectly coated the paper. I did try a couple of different dilutions of it also, but it was best right out of the jar the way it came. It applied a thin, totally opaque covering of the paper with a single coat. I used an inexpensive foam brush.

Then I diluted some Golden Fluid Acrylic Interference paints in spray bottles, using a little airbrush medium, flow release and water, and spritzed each page spread with a couple of different colors, drying them again with the hairdryer. I did this in preparation for a sketching trip to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. They have a few very dark rooms with extremely interesting things and flourescent lighting, like jellyfish! This page in the book almost exactly mimics the dark, flourescent tank they were in. I grabbed a handful of Sakura Gelly Roll pens, purchased at a Jerrys store on my way to the Aquarium, and went to town with them.

The Gelly Roll pens worked fabulously on the gesso and the paper. They are very opaque, bright and smooth. I am going to get more!

Here's what the Sakura Gelly Roll pens that I got look like on black and on white. On the white paper, I brushed over the crosshatched sections with a waterbrush to see which ones will wash and which are waterproof.

That first sketch was fun, but it didn't give me exactly what I wanted. I turned to another black/interference page spread, and this time used gouache with some Gelly Roll pens over the top. I was much happier with this one!

This is something that I definitely want to spend more time exploring in the weeks to come!


Sketching at Carol's House

Click image for a larger, clearer view
Watercolor and a bit of ink across a two page spread
of a Stillman & Birn 5.5x8.5" Epsilon hardbound book
(The black along the center is black gouache from other pages that bled through the thread holes.)

A member of our sketch group invited us all over to her house to sketch her yard from her windows. I loved the colors and light in her sun room, so I sketched the room instead!


Daniel Smith Watercolors and Palette Thoughts

New paints are so much fun! I got a bunch of colors from Daniel Smith last week --- some transparent yellows, as well as earthy reds and maroons. I also had to try their Blue Apatite and Moonglow, and Serpentine while I was at it!

I did some swatches and color comparision tests, and tried a few mixes, thinking about what might be effective for some new palette ideas I have.

I pulled out Craig Nelson's book, 60 Minutes to Better Painting. He has so many great ideas in there, and some interesting palettes too. I was admiring his analogous palette paintings and decided to put together a few analogous palettes to try out. I had some extra kids' watercolor sets that I'd popped the pigments out of. These tiny palettes are wonderful for trying new colors and ideas. I set three of them up as analogous palettes --- one red, one yellow, and one blue. That means that the entire painting should have that color in it, so for example, the blue analogous palette would have blue, a blue-green, a yellow-green, a bluish violet, and a reddish violet. The complement is used only to dull the colors, so although there would be an orange in the blue palette, it would be only for mixing purposes. Here are the three palettes and some test swatches I did:

The next day, I went to Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger NY. I decided to test drive the blue analogous palette in the greenhouse.

In the end, I couldn't resist adding the yellow flower centers, and I realized that an analogous palette is probably not the best choice for a flower garden or greenhouse! When I got home, I wanted to try it again, so I set up a still life and did a quick color study.

I'm afraid that for me, the jury is still out on this. Maybe I'm just not fond of all those cool colors, or maybe I like the pop of the complements too much for this limited approach. I haven't tried the red or yellow analogous palettes yet, but plan to do so soon. In the meantime, I'm going to let the color junkie in me have a little fun with some full color!

Note: The sketches above were done in a 5.5x8.5" Stillman and Birn Epsilon hardbound book. The color samples were done in an S&B Epsilon 8.5x11" hardbound book.


Little Juniper Bonsai

Click image for a larger, clearer view
Page was prepared with diluted acrylic paints--fluids and iridescent
Sketch Ink is Private Reserve Copper Burst in a Pilot Petit
Writing ink is Private Reserve Sepia and Noodler's Golden Brown
Sketchbook is a Stillman & Birn Epsilon, 5.5x8.5" hardbound

I was walking around the greenhouse at Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger, New York. As I rounded a corner, I noticed a little bonsai garden tucked away on one of the display tiers. I fell in love with this twisty little juniper bonsai. It made a perfect pen and ink subject. I definitely want to do more of these next time I go back there! I selected this teal page spread for it's greenish tones, and also because I felt this color ink would stand out so nicely against it. I just got a bottle of this Private Reserve Copper Burst, and it immediately became my favorite brown ink.


Copper Weathervanes at Adams Fairacre Farms and more glittery stuff

You can click this image for a larger, clearer view
Stillman & Birn Epsilon 5.5x8.5" Hardbound Sketchbook
Collage, ink, gesso, and acrylic background
Private Reserve Copper Burst ink in a Pilot Petit fountain pen
Noodler's Midnight Blue ink in a Kaweco Sport EF fountain pen
Schmincke Dry Copper Gouache

I have the most challenging time adjusting these iridescent images. The copper is really stunning, but in a photo it looks dull and brown without the shimmer of the light on it. If you can imagine the shimmer that you see in spots, spread throughout areas of the sketch, you'll have a better idea of how this looks in real life. The border and box shadow are copper iridescent acrylic, and there's a light coating on the multi-layered page background too. In fact, that background has eight layers of assorted media on it! If you click the image, you can see through parts of it to various background layers of patterned ink and shapes.

I was sketching at Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger, NY this past week. I had prepared several page spreads in advance, including this one with the copper background. When I walked by a display of large copper weather vanes, I knew I'd found the perfect subjects for those pages! Combined with my love of birds, it was irresistible! I sketched them with Private Reserve Copper Burst, added some Noodler's Midnight Blue for contrast, and blended/shaded a bit with a waterbrush.

I loved the Schmincke Reichgold Dry Gouache so much that a couple of weeks ago, I got three more jars of different colors:

This was a perfect opportunity to dip into the copper version, so I mixed up some of that after I got home, and added it to areas of the weathervanes, and painted the page title with it.


Louise King Mud Ponies on Parade

Click image for a larger, clearer view.
Stillman & Birn Gamma 9x6" Hardbound Sketchbook
Private Reserve Velvet Black ink
Private Reserve Chocolat ink mixed with PR Velvet Black
Noodler's Sequoia ink pluse PR Chocolat/Velvet Black mix

I sketched my little herd across the two page spread using fountain pens filled with the listed inks. Afterwards, they were washed with a waterbrush. This Gamma paper has an ivory-toned surface that lends itself to certain colors and applications. I like these inks on it a lot. This sketchbook opens up to a large spread of 18". It's nice to have that spacious feel to expand a sketch, and still have room to write a bit!

Back in the days when my sister lived in New York, she gave me a Louise King "Mud Pony" clay sculpture as a holiday gift for a few years in a row. I've always treasured this little herd of ponies, and I'd like to get a few more of them too....someday! Here's a little video about her and her clay horses:


Noodler's Eternal Inks Lightfast Testing Preliminary Report

Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company contacted me regarding some lightfastness testing I've been doing on a number of inks. So far I've tested 39 fountain pen inks. (If you haven't seen those results, you can click here and then keep scrolling down to see them all.) Whether or not lightfastness is an important issue is a decision you need to make for yourself, and your particular applications. Having the information available is always a good thing, and it gives us one more factor to consider when choosing an ink for a specific job.

In the interest of providing information to his customers, Brian suggested a collaborative venture to test all of the Noodler's Eternal inks, and have those results available on Inknouveau. Although some of my previous testing did include some of these inks, having them all done together at the same time, and available both there on Brian's site, and here on my blog, will be a good resource for those times when some UV resistance is important. The line of Noodler's Eternal Inks that we are testing includes the following:
  • Noodler's Bad Black Moccasin
  • Noodler's Black
  • Noodler's Blackerase Waterase
  • Noodler's El Lawrence
  • Noodler's Heart of Darkness
  • Noodler's Polar Black
  • Noodler's X-Feather
  • Noodler's Lexington Gray
  • Noodler's Whiteness of the Whale
  • Noodler's Blue Ghost
  • Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher
  • Noodler's Bad Blue Heron
  • Noodler's Luxury Blue
  • Noodler's Periwinkle
  • Noodler's Polar Blue
  • Noodler's Bad Green Gator
  • Noodler's Hunter Green
  • Noodler's Polar Green
  • Noodler's Dostoyevsky
  • Noodler's Year of the Golden Pig
  • Noodler's Empire Red
  • Noodler's Fox
  • Noodler's Rachmaninoff
  • Noodler's Socrates
  • Noodler's Tchaikovsky
  • Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng
  • Noodler's La Reine Mauve
  • Noodler's Mata Hari's Cordial
  • Noodler's Pasternak
  • Noodler's #41 Brown (2012)
  • Noodler's Polar Brown
  • Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia

I selected a Stillman & Birn Alpha 7x10" Wirebound book as my paper to do the tests. It's nicely sized, acid free, archival, heavy weight, doesn't have too much tooth, and is a clean bright white. Brian sent the 32 ink samples to me, and I got busy making swabs, crosshatches and washes to test in my studio window.

The ink samples were sorted by color group according to where Brian placed them in the Goulet Swab Shop, then by alphabetical order within that group. The swabs were done with Q-tips --- twice across on the top swab, and once across on the lower swab. All writing was done with a glass dip pen (including the crosshatched sections), which was washed and dried between samples. Artists who use fountain pens are often interested in knowing how much an ink's lines will wash with a water-filled brush after the ink is dry, so I washed a portion of the crosshatched sections with a wet brush. That also spread the ink thinner, providing additional information as the UV light interacts with the ink. Here are the prepared pages. You can click on any image for a larger, clearer version:

Black, Gray, White, Clear (Blue Ghost):

(My apologies for some ghosting on a couple of these images, due to the next page showing through a bit. I didn't realize that was happening until I was adjusting the images, and it's not too relevant at this stage in the process.)


Greens, Turquoise, Yellow:

Red, Pink, Magenta:


The pages were then cut down the centers vertically, so that the name of the ink and half of each swatch is on each side. The right sides of the pages were placed in my south-facing studio window. The left sides will remain in the closed, wirebound book, where they will be in total darkness. Here they are, all set to go:

Most fountain pen inks are more fugitive than you'd think. That may not matter if whatever you write will not be exposed to UV light in its application, but it is certainly a reason to keep all of your inks stored in darkness.  Even colors in artists' paints that fade very quickly, like genuine alizarin crimson, take many times longer to show signs of change than fountain pen inks. Some inks start fading in just a matter of days. Others take six months or more.

I actually did this almost a month ago, so I will be posting preliminary results in about a week. That will give you an idea of which inks fade the fastest. I can tell you that a lot of them already have changed. So, stay tuned, especially if your favorite ink is on that list!


Tall Sketch with a Muted Palette

Watercolor in a 9x6" Stillman & Birn Gamma Hardbound sketchbook

I decided to test drive my new little mini, warm-toned, muted palette in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook, which has ivory paper. I gave myself the additional challenge of working a two page spread in a landscape format book (6x9"), holding it in a vertical orientation. This made the sketch 18" top to bottom.

I cut a paper template with a 2x6" opening beforehand, so I could peer through the window to size up potential subjects and compositions, and get an idea of how they would fit on the page. I'll keep that tucked inside the book.

Compositionally, I was really pleased with the way this glass pitcher and flowers worked in the tall format, and I am loving these colors on the ivory paper, even though I've decided that some of them will definitely be switched out of the palette. But I think you can see that it's difficult to showcase the 1:3 verticals in a digital image on a short computer screen. If it fits on the screen, it looks like a skinny ribbon of a sketch! And you enlarge it, then you can't see the whole thing. Here's an image to show you what I mean:

The logistics of actually holding the book vertically and painting this were more awkward than I'd anticipated. I clipped the book to a 12x18 piece of coroplast, which I'd cut previously to hold open some 8.5x11" sketchbooks. But this book was in fact longer than 18" when open, so it extended past the support a bit on either side. Fortunately, in this instance I was working in my kitchen, which has an enormous granite peninsula. Out on location, it would be difficult to work this vertical format.

For a painting that will be matted and framed, I think this vertical 3:1 ratio is a stunner. For sketches that will be seen mostly on a computer screen, not so much! I thought that working this way both horizontally and vertically would be an interesting exploration of 1:3 ratio compositions, and I haven't necessarily changed my mind about that yet. I'm going to pursue some horizontals this way. I can certainly see a benefit to the format for many landscape applications as studies for future paintings. More to come as I work my way through this challenge.


Mini Muted Palette

Stillman & Birn 5.5x8.5" Epsilon Hardbound sketchbook
Watercolor, Noodler's Lexington Gray ink in a Lamy Safari

I had an extra mini kids' watercolor palette lying around, so I decided to use it for a limited palette. I chose an assortment of seven muted colors (since there were 8 spaces for paints after popping out the ones that came in the set), plus the white gouache that I always carry along "just in case". But then I thought, "Gee, seven colors plus white is really not a 'limited' anything!" Although I titled it Limited Palette because it's a range of muted colors, that's a term that us usually indicative of not only muted colors, but also just a few of them!

I played with mixes and made some determinations regarding what I want to keep and what I'd like to swap out for something else. The colors listed are a starting point, and I expect this palette will be an evolving exploration. I've already ordered some new colors to replace a few of these. I've been looking forward to using a group of mostly warm colors like these on lightly toned paper --- ivory or peach or some other warm tint. I am really loving the olive greens I'm getting with the Quinacridone Gold and Paynes Grey.


Private Reserve Blue Suede Ink Review

You can click on any of the images below to get a larger, clearer view.

Stillman & Birn Epsilon 5.5x8.5" Hardbound book
Border prepared with Golden and F&W Acrylics
Private Reserve Blue Suede ink, washed with a waterbrush

Private Reserve Blue Suede ink is so color-saturated that I probably should have put up a sunglasses warning icon at the top of the post! As winter gets colder, this color conjures up images of clear Caribbean waters and tropical skies. I love it. Not only is it colored strongly enough to create great washes, but it also shades when writing with it.

Here are some closeups of writing done with this ink using several different pens. These were done in a Stillman and Birn Alpha book, and posted previously in my long post on shading inks (though not in this closeup form.)

First up are three dip pens. Each crosshatched section was allowed to dry, and then washed with a brush dipped in water.

Below is Blue Suede with three fountain pens, which display better shading than the dip pens did:

I liked the broad range of shading that was present with the flex nib, so I wrote up a page of quotations, posted below. (Check out that first one from Erma Bombeck! Can any of you relate to that? LOL)

The writing in this sketch was also done with Blue Suede.

So, what's not to love? Well, I do wish the ink would hold a bit more line when washing with a wet brush. I had to go back once it was dry and restate some of the linework on the sketch where I had washed a lot, and put the darkest darks back in. Still, it didn't give up the line as easily as many others do. I haven't tested it for lightfastness yet, so we'll put that assessment on hold for now, and I'll start testing it soon, along with some other new samples. In the meantime, if you love teal and turquoise, you're definitely going to want a bottle of Private Reserve Blue Suede!


Water Birds at the Bronx Zoo

I remembered these red-orange birds from the last time I was at the zoo, so I prepared these border colors in advance and made sure to pack a pen with Noodler's Cayenne ink! I used a combination of the ink, watercolors and gouache on this sketch.

Hornbills and a BIG Pigeon at the Bronx Zoo

Warning: You are probably going to get very sick of teal and turquoise by the time I finish this sketchbook! I have fallen in love with a new ink: Private Reserve Blue Suede. I prepared some acrylic backgrounds and borders specifically to use a few new inks that interest me greatly. The writing in this image was done using my new bottle of Blue Suede. I love it.

To get to this section of World of Birds, you have to actually go outside and back in again. Unlike the area when you first enter the building, where the birds are behind glass, in this zone they are free to fly all around you. When I arrived there, my friend Bernard was already seated and admiring the birds while having his lunch. I set up and started sketching just as one of the Long-tailed Hornbills flew over to Bernard and sat on the railing in front of him, looking longingly at his sandwich. He pulled off a piece, which the Hornbill gratefully accepted and took to a tree limb. Clearly this was not the first time this bird shared lunch with a visitor, because in another minute he went back for more. He had the routine down pat.

Getting back to the sketching part of this trip, I was again fighting with the watercolor due to having put too much acrylic down on the paper. So I pulled out my Pentel Pocket Brush pen to sketch the Hornbills. My those things come in handy! They seem to write on anything, and stay there too! My plan was to do the bird's big white crown with one of those white Sharpie paint pens, but that leaked and made a big mess. Foiled again. I ended up finishing it up with white gouache that I keep in with my little watercolor kit. The gouache did a lot better on the acrylic than transparent watercolor, so I pulled out my tiny gouache kit and used that in conjunction with my mini watercolor kit for the rest of the day. People wonder why I always have so many different options with me. This is why!

Surprisingly, there were no exhibit notes nor identifying information on the hornbill in the middle of this sketch. I looked online after I got home, and it is clearly a hornbill, but even after viewing hundreds of images, I couldn't find one with the yellow around the eye that these guys had. There were at least three or four of them in the exhibit.

The Victoria Crowned Pigeon is the largest member of the pigeon family. She had beautiful muted coloring and never strayed from her nest while I was there.


Birds at the Bronx Zoo

I met with my sketching group in the World of Birds exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. I was especially excited about this trip because I was going back to a Stillman and Birn Epsilon book that I'd only done two sketches in previously, so it was like starting a new book. For awhile I got sidetracked and worked in way too many sketchbooks simultaneously. Finally, I exerted my willpower and narrowed the field, so in the past couple of months, I finished off three of them by consolidating my efforts in one book at a time.

It's been especially hard to let go of the last one I finished --- a Stillman and Birn Alpha hardbound book that I really loved. I did a lot of experimenting and mixed media-growing in that book, and liked what was coming out of it. I wasn't sure where this new Epsilon book was heading. But then I thought about the fact that I treated the Alpha book like a playground. It did well with a mixed media approach and I enjoyed that, so it gave me the chance to grow in that direction. It wasn't long before I remembered how much I love the feel of pen and ink and dry media on this Epsilon surface. I expect that I'll be doing a lot of drawing in the near future!

In the meantime, I prepared about 10 two-page spreads with acrylic washes and borders to see how the paper would respond in comparison to the Alpha. To my surprise, it did just fine. I think I'll not only be able to use a similar approach in this Epsilon book, but I'll like it even more for my dry media.

This page was a bit problematic because I didn't dilute the acrylic paint enough on the background wash, and the transparent watercolor did not want to adhere to the shiny smooth acrylic surface. I fought with the acrylic/watercolor combination a bit on this sketch above. The sketch was done with Noodler's North African Violet ink in a Pilot Plumix italic calligraphy pen. That is a washable ink, and I let it wash into the watercolor at will, and wrote in the species names with the same pen/ink combination.


Part V of Stillman and Birn Alpha Review --- Working on the White Paper

Early on in my Stillman & Birn Alpha review series, many viewers were asking, "What if I only work on white paper?" I am hoping that this installment of the review will be helpful to those of you who are wondering about the Alpha paper's performance with wet and dry media directly on the white paper, with no toning or other preparation of the surface. (If you have not seen the previous installments of this review series, click here to go to Part I. Each post will link you to the next post in the series.)

To help you see the differences in the various Stillman and Birn papers with dry media, I cut a strip of each type of their paper, made some swatches on them with Prismacolor Black colored pencil, Wolff's 6B Carbon Pencil, and brown ink (drawn with a fountain pen), and ink and wash, and glued them into my Alpha book. You can click the image below to get an up-close view.

My assessment is that for dry media like colored pencil, the S&B Epsilon book yields the greatest value range and smoothness of application. It's a plate smooth paper, so the pencils make fuller contact with the paper. The Alpha and Gamma papers, which have a little more tooth to them, don't cover quite as fully, but still perform well. The Beta and Delta books show the most white in the swatches, since it's even more difficult than the Alpha to get into the tooth of the paper. Those uncovered areas (which I refer to as pinholes) reflect light, which translates as not being as dark a swatch. I did a colored pencil sketch on the Epsilon paper a few months ago, and was very impressed by that paper. The Prismacolor pencils loved the Epsilon surface, and my fountain pen glided across the paper like an ice skater. The Alpha actually does well with dry media, just not quite as well as the Epsilon, in my opinion.

You can see in the pen swatches above that all of the papers took a Medium nib fountain pen just fine, and did a fine job with the wash too, though there is a difference in the feel when using fountain pens with less tooth vs. more tooth. I've been using fountain pens a lot on the Alpha paper and it's great for both pen and wash and pen alone. I have never encountered bleed-through with any of my fountain pen inks.

Below is a watercolor and ink sketch that I did across a two page spread of an 8.5x11" Stillman & Birn Alpha Hardbound book. I have been very pleased with the brilliance of the watercolor on the Alpha paper. The paper is sized internally and externally, so the paint sits nicely on the surface. The vellum surface, as you can see here, does not present a problem for pens.

There is some very minimal buckling of the paper with the watercolor. It would bother me in a painting that I'm going to mat and frame, but in a sketchbook I kind of like it. It gives the paper character!

I turned the page of the sketch above and photographed the top of the reverse side of  the page that has most of the writing on it. If you look at the image below, you'll see that there is a very slight ghosting of the watercolor border, page title and text. Initially, I thought this would really bother me. But in practice, it does not. Once I work on the reverse side, I only notice it if I'm looking for it. However, it does show in photos. When you photograph or scan your work, you might encounter something like this (below) which is visible along with your image on that page.

There may be times when this is an important factor, and other times when it doesn't matter. My suggestion is to skip a page when you encounter a situation where it matters. This can either be done by sketching only on the right hand sides, (skipping each left side), or sketching across every other two page spread, leaving the back sides blank. All of the ink samples in this post were written back to back on the paper, and you can see that even with these ink tests, the opacity of the paper was not a problem!

All in all, the S&B Alpha Hardbound book impressed me. I threw a lot of different media at this book, turned pages into envelopes, removed the center spreads of the signatures, used multiple layers of acrylics, pastel ground, pastels, Cretacolor leads, inks, watercolor, gouache and pencil. The binding held together nice and tight, and I didn't find one situation where I couldn't "follow the paint" and do what I wanted to do. I would highly recommend this as a multi media book. Even though officially the book is good for "dry media and light washes," I was able to do much more with it without difficulty.


Driving Through the Garden State

I had some journaling templates tucked into my messenger bag on the way home from Maryland. By the time I finished my Maryland Montage, we'd crossed into New Jersey, and I wanted to do something different for the next page spread. I used the templates as stencils for the rectangular shapes -- about the only way to draw straight lines in a moving car! Then I did these little scene captures in ink and watercolor while driving through the state. The page background color and border had been previously painted with diluted acrylic.

This sketchbook is now finished! I have a couple of test pages that I haven't shown yet, but I'll be showing those soon, along with a couple of wrap-up review segments about this Stillman & Birn Alpha hardbound sketchbook.


Maryland Montage --- Sketching in a Moving Vehicle

Stillman & Birn Alpha 5.5x8.5" hardbound sketchbook
Noodler's Kung Te-Cheng ink in a 0.3 (fine) Platinum Preppy fountain pen
Private Reserve Sepia ink in a 1.5mm Pilot Parallel calligraphy pen
Noodler's Golden Brown ink in a Pilot Plumix italic pen
Brown Sharpie Calligraphy pen
Winsor Newton, Daniel Smith, Holbein and Schmincke watercolors
Background page toning done previously with diluted acrylic

I've done montage formats like this before in open studio life drawing, at the zoo, and other times when I was just grabbing images on the go. But this is the first time I did it in a moving car. (At least I wasn't driving!) We were on our way home from our niece's wedding in Maryland. With just two page spreads left to finish this sketchbook, I couldn't resist the temptation. It was quite an experience. I learned two important things:
  1. Drawing straight lines, in a moving vehicle at a high rate of speed with potholes and curves, is not going to happen.
  2. If you think you don't get carsick, try sketching for awhile!

Initially, I was having so much fun that all I could think about was, "Why didn't I try this sooner?" I even did another two page spread after this one, since one remaining page spread was even harder to resist than when there were two left.. By then my stomach was in knots and I was definitely done for the day. I think the next time I sketch in a car, it will be parked!


Wedding Flowers

My first big event of 2012 was my niece's wedding! She got married on New Year's Day, so we spent a few days in Maryland to take in the festivities. The table bouquets were white hydrangeas, assorted yellow flowers, and peacock feathers. I got to take one of them back to the hotel with me and sketched it that night during the first half of the Giant game, while the guys cheered on our home team. Even I gave in and watched the second half. Some things are a requirement!

The feathers had so much sheen to them that after I finished painting, I mixed up some of the Schmincke dry gold gouache and added some sparkle to them. Unfortunately, that isn't visible on the photo. However, you can see the coppery shimmer on the border from the iridescent acrylics that I used to prepare the page ground and border.

Inks used: Private Reserve Copper Burst and Private Reserve Sepia
Pens: Pilot Parallel 1.1mm, Pilot Petite
Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors
Winsor Newton, Schmincke and Holbein gouache
Pages prepared in advance using Golden Fluid and Golden Fluid Iridescent acrylics, and F&W Acrylic Inks
Painted across a two page spread in a 5.5x8.5" Stillman and Birn Hardcover Alpha sketchbook


Breaking in Your Stillman and Birn Alpha, Gamma or Epsilon Hardbound Sketchbook So It Lies Flat

For all of you kindred spirits who share my infatuation with Stillman & Birn Alpha, Gamma or Epsilon  hardbound sketchbooks, I have some great information to share with you! I was talking on the phone last week with Stillman and Birn co-owner Michael Kalman, and he told me that their hardbound books have been designed to open completely flat, and they have a flexible binding! Yep, that's right!

In order to achieve this, you have to break in the book before you use it by opening to the center of the book and bending the pages and covers back 360 degrees so they touch. Then go through the book and do that throughout the book, gently bending the pages and covers back.  I know you're thinking the whole book will fall apart. That's what I thought, and I would never in a million years have done it if he hadn't told me. But when I got off the phone with him, I went straight to the new S&B sketchbook I was about to start, and did exactly what he said. My husband walked in and was horrified --- he thought I was destroying the book until I explained it to him.

After bending the pages and covers gently all the way back from the middle of the book, I did the same thing from the center of each signature (where the stitching is). Then I again started from the middle, working toward the front, opening every page spread that way; then I did the same from the middle toward the back. Don't use every ounce of brute strength that you have, because if you try hard enough to pull the book apart, you will probably be able to do that!  When I was finished going through the whole book twice like that, every single page spread laid down flat. No deep gutters to cross! It was a miracle. I am sooooo excited about this! It works. Try it.

The reason why you want to do this before working in an S&B book is because if you paint across the two page spreads like I do, adding that flexibility to the binding reveals more of the white paper in the gutter area. If I were to do it to my almost-completed Alpha book, I'd have a white vertical stripe down the center of nearly every painting I've done in that book. I have noticed while working through the book that as it has broken in a little bit by itself, some of that white in the middle has been revealed on some of the page spreads. Not only will the books lie much flatter by breaking them in ahead of time, but it will also stop those white center areas from appearing later on as the binding gives with use.

The S&B hardbound books apparently have a triple binding process that involves three different types of adhesion. It is this triple process that enables them to undergo bending the binding and page spreads back that way without damage to the spine, and keeping all the pages intact. This is such wonderful news for those of us who work across the two-page spreads; I had to share!


Butterfly Fish, Flame Angel, and Painted Glass Fish --- and happy new year!

Watercolor on acrylic-prepared surface in my 5.5x8.5" 
Stillman & Birn Alpha hardbound book.

Happy New Year to all my visitors. I hope that 2012 brings you all joy, good health, prosperity, and let's not forget.....creativity. Of course I'm also wishing for world peace and tolerance, the end of famine and natural disasters, health care for all, and a better economy!

This was my last sketch of the day at Animal Kingdom. When I do these on location, I leave the writing for after I get home. That enables me to get as many sketches done on location as I can, without being slowed down by the journaling part of it. Sometimes it takes me a few days to get that done and get the images photographed, adjusted, and loaded up here.

The sign on the tank identified that yellow and white fish as a Spotted Butterfly, but when I looked online yesterday, the "Spotted Butterfly Fish" I saw didn't look anything like this one! So, I'm not quite sure what this one is, but he does look like some kind of Butterfly fish. The little glass fish were highly florescent --- gorgeous little creatures! They weren't in the same tank, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to sketch them, so I put them in here.