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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Golden Video Library

Today, I'm not bringing you a sketch. Instead, I'd like to direct your attention to the Golden Video Library. I'm always surprised by how few artists know about this fabulous resource that the Golden Paint Company has created. I am often asked by friends and blog visitors how to apply an isolation coat or varnish, or what the best way is to prepare painting surfaces, or characteristics of specific mediums. These videos explain and demonstrate these things and more, far better than I can! Do yourself a favor and take some time to explore the video offerings they've posted on their website. It may give you ideas for new things to try, ways to use materials you may already have, or better ways to achieve your painting goals. Golden also has a YouTube channel, but I like going to the library on their website because all the videos show on the page together. Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2013

RiverWinds Gallery Sketch with Pitt Pens and Watercolor

(click sketch to enlarge)
Sketched at RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon NY
Pitt Big Brush Pens (cool greys) and watercolor
on Stillman & Birn Zeta paper

This sketch was done while at RiverWinds Gallery last weekend. They have such beautifully arranged displays, and the gallery is an inviting place to spend the afternoon. Many thanks to gallery owner Virginia Donovan for a wonderful day.

I started out this sketch with just the monochrome Pitt Cool Grey Big Brush Pens. Gallery visitors thought I should leave it as the monochrome version, but the color junkie in me won out and I added color to it. Then they all liked the color version better! You can see the monochrome version by clicking here. Which do you prefer?

The paper is the new 180 lb. smooth Zeta paper from Stillman and Birn. I love the way pens and markers glide over the surface! We should be able to get sketchbooks of it in another month or so. Can't wait!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best of the Year Part III --- My Favorite Discoveries

You may think I've played with just about every art product on the market at one time or another, but every year I seem to discover or rediscover something that plays an big role in my work for the year. This past year, that happened with several products that had been on the market for quite some time, but suddenly I was hooked! So here are my favorite new "older" products of the past year.

GOLDEN AIRBRUSH PAINTS
First up are Golden Airbrush Paints, used with regular brushes rather than an airbrush.

 I did not exactly "stumble" upon these. In spite of the fact that I consider myself to be a rather creative person, I never would have thought to give these a try! I was struggling with some effects I was trying to create with the fluid acrylics. I wanted something that would lift more easily and maintain a transparent glow like watercolors, stay put when dry like acrylics, and be able to frame without mats and glass like oil paintings. I wanted to be able to lift color to reclaim my lights, and blend better (like wet watercolor), but retain the capability of opacity like acrylics. In discussing this issue with a tech staff member at the Golden Paints factory one day, he said, "Oh, you want to try the Airbrush paints!" He pulled some out along with some brushes, and we played. They lifted. They glowed. They blended. They were permanent when dry. They are certainly misnamed as "Airbrush" paints, since no airbrush is needed! He explained that these paints have retarder built in, so they are movable for a longer period of time than the diluted fluids.

We tried using Silverpoint Ground as white to reclaim whites too, which worked better and also dissolved not-quite-dry paint a bit for easier blending. Apparently the Silverpoint Ground has the highest concentration of Titanium White pigment. I started carrying a small ink vial filled with it. (Note that if you do that, the vial will not contain the little metal ball that helps mix the pigment, so you'll have to stir well with a wooden brush end or palette knife if it settles.)

I fell head over heels in love with the Airbrush paints. I bought all of the most lightfast, single pigments that were available. I took them up to Kaaterskill Falls, and the Helderberg Escarpment. I was able to formulate a small, lightweight painting kit with them that fit easily in my backpack, and it became one of my favorite sketching mediums of the year. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more with them both in the studio and outdoors. I also want to try them as an underpainting for pastels, and for transparent glazes and opaque overpainting techniques on monochrome underpaintings. I want to try them in combination with Pitt Brush Pens and fountain pens, and on large sheets of rag watercolor paper, as well as boards. So much to explore. So exciting!


FABER CASTELL PITT BRUSH PENS
Another discovery, which I started using in 2011 but more widely used in 2012, are the wonderful Pitt Brush Pens. Here's some of my stash of the Regular and Big versions. They also make great chisel-pointed calligraphy pens, but those don't come in many colors. (I hope they expand that color range over time.) 

Things I love about these are:
  • Most of the colors are highly lightfast. Those ratings are clearly marked on the pens, so you can select only extremely permanent, archival colors for fine art use.
  • Once they're dry, they don't budge.
  • While wet, you can blend the pigment with another marker, a finger, dampened tortillion or Qtip, etc.
  • There is a large selection of colors.
  • The big brush pens have a ton of ink in them. No need to worry about running out while working.
  • Since they are water based, there is no odor.
  • They don't have a tendency to bleed through paper.
  • They can cover a large area in a much shorter amount of time than colored pencils or fine-tipped markers, yet still have a point for detailing. 
  • Convenient to carry. No palette needed. No water, paints, or spills!

Here are some of the sketches I've done with them --- just a small sampling:
Quick Figure Sketching
Tree Sketch
At the Zoo
More at the Zoo
In the Greenhouse
Greenhouse Statue

Here is one I just did on Sunday with Pitt Big Brush Pens, using only the Cool Greys. I added watercolor afterwards, and will post the version with the watercolor added soon.


Things I don't like about them include:
  • Older Pitt Brush Pens don't have the color name on the barrel of the pen. That's a real PITA when you want to reorder a color, or even identify one! The writing on the barrel is so tiny that identification by number is impossible without my glasses, and then I need a chart to find the color name from the number. This is a packaging nightmare.
  • That isn't the only packaging nightmare either. The barrels of the pens don't effectively match the colors and values of the inks inside. This is most problematic on the sets of warm and cool greys, where lighter valued barrels contain darker valued ink and vice versa. It is further complicated if you happen to have the pens without color names on the barrels, so you can't even tell by reading the name which is lighter or darker. 
  • Even if you can read which is lighter/darker, two of my Big Brush Cold Greys are actually reversed. From lightest to darkest, they go I, IV, III, VI, Black. Values III and IV are almost exactly the same, but reversed. Value I is very light as you'd expect, but the next pen available is quite dark. There is nothing in between for light-colored objects in a sketch. I think what I'll have to do is combine the warm and cool greys and see if I can get a better value scale happening, even if the colors will vary. I hope Faber Castell resolves these issues in the future.

Even with those negatives, these are my favorite journaling markers for both headlines on text, borders, and sketching. I haven't found anything else that even comes close. Tombow markers and Sharpies are not archival. Copic markers bleed through everything and they smell. Many other water based markers on the market are not waterproof. Since Pitt Pens are archival, sketch work can directly translate to fine art and hang on a wall. They won't run if you layer watercolor over the top. I love the way they glide on the smooth Epsilon sketchbook paper by Stillman and Birn, and also the new extra heavy weight Zeta paper. (Zeta books should be available in another month or so.) If you want to check out somebody who uses them to great effect, take a look at Don Colley's blog!

GOLDEN IRIDESCENT AND INTERFERENCE ACRYLICS


What woman doesn't like a little glittery glam from time to time? I've had a great time exploring the virtues of the Golden Iridescent and Interference acrylics in the last couple of years. I've used them in my sketchbooks, mixed in with other colors in acrylic paintings, and to make beautiful backgrounds and borders with sponges, sprayers, stencils, and brushes. Give them a try and bring some sparkle into your life!

If you'd like to see Part II of this "Best of the Year" series, click here.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best of the Year Part II --- Products New on the Market

I've tried a lot of new products this year. Some I loved, some I hated, and some were okay but probably won't become staples in my studio. A few I know I'll be using for many years to come. These are my favorite items new to the art market this past year. You can click the images to see larger, clearer photos.

Stillman & Birn Beta Hardbound Sketchbooks (two sizes)
Stillman & Birn new Zeta paper (soon to be available in books)

I have adored the new, extra heavyweight sketchbooks that Stillman and Birn manufactured. The 180 lb. paper takes everything I've thrown at it. These sketchbooks go everywhere with me and I can have confidence that no matter what medium I decide to use in my travels, it will work on this surface! It's such a joy to be able to work across the spread  (since the books open completely flat) and on both side of the page with no show-through or buckling. I can travel with a book half the size, and in using the full spread, I have double the space. They're amazing.

Stillman & Birn has also made a new paper called Zeta. It should be available in hardbound and wirebound books very soon. I've been able to test drive some loose sheets of the new paper, and I am chomping at the bit to get my paws on a book of it! Since I love fountain pens, the very smooth, plate-like surface of Zeta is perfect for my pen and ink work. Nothing shows through this 180 lb. paper to the other side, and the heavy weight and abundant sizing enable it to handle wet media too.

Speaking of pen and ink, here is another favorite product: the long-anticipated TWSBI Mini fountain pen:

I've always loved my larger TWSBI, but it's a bit heavy in my hand. I got a fine point TWSBI Mini when they came out a month or two ago, and it's the smoothest fine point I've ever written with. If you have a large hand, you may find the Mini a bit small, even when the cap is posted on the barrel of the pen. But for me, it's absolutely perfect. I couldn't be happier. It goes everywhere with me. I find it comfortable in my hand, it writes like a dream, and holds a ton of ink. It is currently loaded with Private Reserve Copper Burst.

I hope you'll give some of these new products a try. Many new items hit the art supply market every year, and it's hard to get around to sampling everything, but I do feel the new Stillman & Birn products and the TWSBI Mini are worthy of rave reviews from among the large number of new materials I sampled during the year.

In the past year or so, I've also been working with a lot of products that are not new to the market, but are new to me. Some of them have become favorite painting, drawing and sketching materials. I'll be featuring those in the last installment of my "Best of the Year" series, so stay tuned.

You can see "Best of the Year Part I" on this link.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of the Year, Part I


Happy 2013 to all my viewers! I'd like to start off the new year by sharing my favorite discoveries and new products of the past year. Some are new to the market, while others are things I'd just not explored before and hope to work with more in the year to come. I hope that some of you will enjoy using them too.

Today's post is about my favorite pigment of 2012: PR206. It is actually a Quinacridone red, but looks more earthy than many of the Quins. This pigment gives me a warm red, transparent earth color. It can easily be mixed with earthy yellows to yield the equivalent of a transparent red oxide. When mixed with ultramarine blue, it creates a dark, muted violet. I started using this color in my watercolor palette after taking a class with David Taylor. It became such a staple in my palette that I searched for the same pigment in oils and acrylics. The past few years have found me working transparently a lot more in both oils and acrylics, so this pigment was a natural fit --- especially for underpainting and glazing. I did several paintings using it as my only red. The pigment goes by many different names, so you need to look carefully for the pigment number, which is PR206.

Here are a few manufacturers that make it for different mediums.

Watercolor
Daniel Smith --- Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet
Winsor Newton --- Brown Madder

Oils
Maimeri Puro --- Avignon Orange
Daniel Smith --- Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet

Acrylics
Golden Fluid --- Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Golden Heavy Body --- Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Golden OPEN --- Quinacridone Burnt Orange


Click here to see Best of the Year, Part II.