A few months ago I got an illustration job that was perfect for me. I was commissioned to make some artwork with a new line of watercolor brush pens by the Inspire! Art company. The purpose of the illustrations were to demonstrate the kind of work the pens could produce and to show examples alongside the product photos online.
I had so much fun because I had free choice to draw whatever I wanted and I even got to work in my own sketchbook!
I really had a lot of fun with these pens. There are a huge range of line weights possible with these brush tips. I think the clearest example of finer lines is in the outlining in the butterflies wings. I also liked the painterly way I could work, as seen in the Johnny Jump Ups piece and the tulip petals. The colors are very tropical but coordinate well with each other within a color family. The set also comes with two water brushes in a fine and broader size.
You can check out these pens on their Amazon sales page (click through all the photos to see my work).
To see some more examples of my work with these pens, follow Inspire! Art on Instagram as I made some additional drawings that haven’t been published yet.
I took a break from art for a few days to get my studio (i.e., my bedroom) in order. I wasn’t really happy with the lighting in my space, so I made a change and swapped bedrooms with my daughter. I was also struggling with clutter overload, so I took the opportunity to dispose of a lot of excess stuff and completely reorganize. The changing of the seasons seemed like the perfect time to undertake the project.
My art supplies and personal possessions are much more manageable now, but the whole job took more than two days and it was exhausting. Unlike some of the glamorous studio tours I’ve seen, my room is very plain and simple and nothing special to look at (hence, no pictures!).
One thing I love about my new setup is that my scanner is next to my desk now, so I can use it whenever I want. I didn’t have a place for it before and I had to keep it in my basement, which made scanning a real chore. I also got a new Ottlite with an attached magnifying glass (which has already been coming in handy).
After I got everything set up, I had a massive scan-a-thon and rounded up some of my recent pen and ink work to show you all. Thanks for looking and enjoy!
I recently came back from a trip to Washington, DC where I got to visit a Blick store. While I was there, I got some new pens, including the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica Pen. This is a gel pen with a metal tip and acid-free, archival, water and fade resistant ink. It comes in five sizes, from 0.3 mm to 0.8 mm. I got the 0.3 mm size to try out because I usually go for the finest lines. Below is a nature study I did in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using this pen.
I really like this pen for the following reasons:
It is smooth, even on coldpress watercolor paper. I didn’t notice any skipping, ink globs, or smearing. Reviewers on the Blick website noted some issues with globbing with the larger sizes.
The ink is very black and the side of the pen is clear so you can easily see how much ink is left.
Unlike felt tip fineliners where the nib tends to relax and get larger over time, the Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica has a tungsten carbide roller ball for a consistent line.
Things about this pen that I wish were different are:
I wish the ink were waterproof and not just water resistant. When I used watercolor over my drawing, the bleeding was minimal, but somewhat unpredictable as some areas bled more than others.
I wish this pen came in other colors besides just black. I would especially like a brown or sepia colored ink.
I wish refills were available instead of the whole pen being disposable.
Overall, this is a great pen and perfect for throwing into my purse when I don’t want to have to worry about making sure my fountain pen is freshly inked up. I’m thinking of buying a few more in the 0.3 mm size as well as trying out some of the larger sizes.
I’ve been doing a lot of drawing, painting, thinking, and planning lately (as well as studying). My mind has been drifting to trees lately: the trunks, branches, and leaves that appear in my sketchbooks, but also the deep roots below. Scientists have found that there is much more going on underground than originally thought (Read: Trees communicate via their own fungi-based “internet”).
When I think of trees, I think of wisdom, strength, and stability. I’ve never had successful New Year’s resolutions in the past, but this year (probably because I am starting a new season after graduation) I really feel like I am starting my life over with a fresh start. I have been thinking of my priorities, and the things I really want to get done. I’ve also been focusing on my health, taking control of stress, and finding ways to incorporate minimalism into my life (Read: Go Deeper, Not Wider).
I’ve been enjoying spending time in my sketchbooks more than ever. Instead of being a task to check off my list, artmaking has become much more of a pleasure than it has been in a long time. I know that this feeling will not last forever, but I’m really loving it for the time being!
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. Psalm 92:12-13
For more tree goodness, check out Terri Windling’s blog posts on trees. She writes so poetically, and the photos of her forest are so magical. Be sure to hover over each photo for poetry and quotes.
These are some of the blank greeting cards that I painted over the past year. I had a recipient for each of these in mind when I painted the cards, but it is a goal of mine in the upcoming year to paint a few of these ahead of time. I would also like to get some images printed on cards as well because while I like sending cards with my artwork on them, it is not always feasible or desirable to send original art. I also would like to find a replacement watercolor greeting card for the Strathmore brand that I currently use. I’m not entirely happy with the paper as it seems to give me uneven washes and I have a hard time lifting color.
At the end of July, I took a day off from my studies to go out sketching at Tower Hill’s Free Fun Friday event (free admission for the public). As a member, I had never attended this event in the past before because I can attend anytime, but this time I was supposed to meet someone from the CPSA for a day of sketching. Unfortunately, I did not realize that there would be so many people that that facility would have to close the gates because there was no more parking.
In the end, the meeting never took place, but I did get to do some sketching on my own. Many people (at least 50) can up to me and either watched over my shoulder or struck up a conversation about my art. Many people would find this kind of attention anxiety provoking, but I didn’t mind it. I actually found it rewarding to talk to the kids about keeping a sketchbook and I think many of them were really inspired. I did find that I didn’t get as much sketching done as I would like because of the interruptions. I also made some pretty mundane sketches. I tried out my new Derwent Inktense colored pencils and did some experimenting with Stabilo Point 88 markers, which are both fairly new to me.
While this was not the ideal situation for nature sketching, I think showing up at an event like this to sketch and hand out business cards would be a great marketing opportunity to try in the future.
A few weeks ago I came across this blog post about how to implement a minimalist strategy with art and crafts supplies. Some of the author’s opinions are a little extreme and I prefer high quality materials even for sketchbook work. That said, so many people out there have a problem with collecting art supplies and she definitely has some good points. I also have realized how much I have veered off track from my minimalist roots. Going through nursing school is tough (I’m halfway done with the program!) and I have definitely used art supply purchases as a reward for getting through school in one piece.
At this point, I have plenty of interesting supplies to play with and I’m going to focus on using them to their full extent. The biggest thing that has helped me maintain control is to decline purchasing supplies that do not relate to my chosen media. Right now I only work in watercolor, pencil, and ink. Until I have a bigger studio space, I have decided not to pursue acrylic, pastel, oils, printmaking, etc. It’s not that I don’t have an interest in experimenting with other media; it’s more of a practical way to stay focused. For the rest of the year, I am going to make a concerted effort to stay out of art supply stores and use up what I have. I do have some new supplies that I have not finished experimenting with yet, so stay tuned for some future blog posts about those.
Recently I got an email from a reader asking me what brand of watercolor paint I use. I generally use Winsor & Newton and M. Graham, but I recently purchased a new set of watercolors and spend the last few weeks testing it out. I originally heard about this set on the Artist Journal Workshop facebook group that I am a member of (a great resource for hearing about new supplies).
The watercolors are made by a company called Prima Marketing based out of South Korea. The set comes with 12 half pans in a handsome metal enameled tin with a numbered color chart that fits nicely in the box. There are several sets available: The Classics, Tropicals, Decadent Pies, Shimmering Lights, and Pastel Dreams. I decided to go with Tropicals. Upon reading the reviews, some of the colors in the other sets are metallic so be aware of that.
The paint is advertised as being professional grade, but I beg to differ. The paints are numbered and there is no pigment information listed, which is a red flag. I was able to find this lightfastness chart, but the color names sound more like makeup than paint names (e.g., lilac rain, pool party, etc.) I, like many others, bought the set solely for the tin with the intention if filling it with my own paints later on. The paints are actually not that bad though, and I will definitely use them in my sketchbook, where I am not concerned about lightfastness. I was able to mix all sorts of muted and intense colors. I especially like #16 (avocado) which is a pale yellow green and nice to mix with blue or brown to make some nice earthy greens.
The best thing about this set is the price, which is very reasonable and worth it for the tin alone. This would make a nice gift for a budding child artist or someone just getting introduced to watercolor who was hesitant to spend a lot of money.
I used the paints for the following sketchbook pages. I also included an image of the color chart that came with the set.
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke
It’s actually feeling pretty spring-like today, but there is still snow on the ground. I can’t wait until it is consistently warm and sunny outside.
For this piece, I used my new set of sepia Copic Multiliner Pens. I really do like them and they offer a nice alternative to black. The only downside is that I wish they were just a tad darker and that the nibs were not so fine. I usually gravitate toward the thinnest nib in the set, but for some reason, these pens were especially fine.
I admit, I’m someone who likes gadgets and I recently got a new one, the Slate 2, which I thought I’d review for you here. This device acts like a clipboard that digitalizes your drawings when used with a drawing utensil surrounded by a metal ring. It is advertised as a way to combine digital art with “the pleasure of drawing on paper.” Basically, you draw on the paper and then your lines appear on the screen. You can change the color, opacity, nib size, and simulated drawing utensil (pencil, ballpoint, felt tip, marker, chalk, airbrush, and eraser). There are a few downsides, though:
The equipment is glitchy. There were unwanted lines that appeared on the screen when holding the utensil just above the surface. This may be useful for the airbrush feature, but it is a big problem if you want to do detailed hatching, for instance. I read in the help forums that this issue can be made less noticeable by placing the stroke smoothing setting on LOW and the speed sensitivity on HIGH. This did help, but it did not totally eliminate the problem.
There were also issues with the calibration of the utensil because there was a slight discrepancy between where my pencil was on the paper and where it showed on the screen. I found myself attempting to correct for this (you can see it a little bit on the replay). Therefore, the paper drawing I ended up with was not anything I wanted to keep afterward.
There is no pressure sensitivity. With the pencil setting, you can choose between different hardness levels, but this feature is very limited.
There is no bluetooth feature on a PC. It is annoying for me to have to use a USB cord at all times, especially when there are strict guidelines about how far away you must keep the unit from other metal objects, magnets, and computers/electronics.
The company is located in France and I read in some comment threads that it was next to impossible to return it.
Even still, I think this is a fun toy. The price was not that bad, but if I wanted to get something for serious digital art, I would probably get an iPad Pro. The Slate 2 is definitely not anything I would use to create a serious piece of artwork with unless the glitches were corrected. I do like the replay feature and I think I would like to experiment with this some more. There is a feature to use the device without being connected to the software and then transferring the image to the computer afterward, but I have not used this yet and I am hesitant to do so with the problems I’ve encountered thus far. You can see my sketch and replay video below. I hope this review is helpful to anyone who may be considering this device.