Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Having the good fortune to work close to a 44-acre nature preserve, I go for a hike nearly every day. I bought a Moleskine sketchbook (3.5x5.5 inches) that fits nicely in my pocket, along with a few pens, so that I could do quick sketches. After doing a few of those, I decided that I really needed a water brush so I could put in washes. After a week of doing of ink and wash, I was really feeling the need for color and so started looking for a small paint kit that would fit in my pocket. I did consider making one out of a candy tin, but the collapsible Sakura water brush sold me on the small Sakura paintbox. I carry a brown and a black Sakura pen (waterproof ink), and a black micro Uniball (not waterproof) for when I want to get a gray wash out of a line.
The Water Brush
The Water brush is a great Japanese innovation - a brush attached to a hollow handle that you fill with water. Not all water brushes are created equal. I got a set of Aqua-flows, and they are not terrific, the water doesn't flow very evenly; however, that is the only brand I've found that makes a flat brush--all the others are rounds. Also Aqua-flow's smallest round is not very small. The Sakura Koi is excellent--nice bristles and good flow, and has the advantage of a plug for the barrel, so you can fill it with water, but carry it broken down in your paint box. I have read good reviews of the Yasumoto Niji water brush, and will buy one of those to try. Brushes run around $6 to $9, depending on what you buy and where. Ok, tried one of these--they do have a tiny brush--manufacturer seems to be the same as that of Aquaflow. I like the Sakura Koi best.
The Paint Box
So, I bought the Sakura Koi, Pocket Field Sketch Box, which has twleve colors, comes with a Sakura Koi water brush (very nice!) and a small sponge to wipe the brush on to clean it between colors. The box measures 3.5x4.5x 7/8 inches and has plenty of mixing room in the lid. The paint picks right up with a wet brush, so there is no scrubbing at the paint to get color on your brush. The only snag was that there is nowhere to put the plug once the brush is assembled, so I used a piece of poly thread to attach the plug to the box. I wanted a few additional colors, and two half-pans fit in nicely. When the sakura paint runs out, I plan to fill the box with half pans; with the plastic paint holder removed, 18 half-pans fit in the box. The 12-pan box (Sakura makes 18- and 24-pan boxes, but they are bigger) runs between $17 and $25.
The Moleskine Notebook
I am totally in love with these notebooks--as any lover of books would be. They are beautifully made, with and elastic band to hold it closed and a pocket on the inside back cover. The sketch book has 84 pages (42 sheets) and vertically formatted. The paper is quite slick. To get the paper to take watercolor, I wiped down the pages with a wet sponge to remove some of the sizing and then blotted them with paper towel. I did about a signature at a time. The watercolor sketch book has 200 mgs watercolor paper and 60 pages (30 sheets) and is horizontally formatted. The small notebooks run from $12 to $15. I think that these are reasonably priced--it takes a while to fill them. Matisse, Van Gogh, and Hemingway are a few past Moleskine lovers, so you will be in good (and inspired) company.
Putting Tube Paint in Pans
I have been filling my plein air watercolor pallette with tube paint for a while now, and one problem is the pigments drying out--particularly the earth pigments and cerulean blue. I did notice that back when I had gum arabic in the water in my spray bottle, the paint didn't dry out. So I put a tad in the two half-pans in the Koi box before adding paint and mixed with a toothpick. The are staying quite moist. Also read that glycerine and honey are used to make semi-moist pans. So I thought I would try that. Right now I have some soupy watercolor and gouache that have both honey and gum arabic. However, I did do one palette that has worked well (so far)--paint is semi-moist--I mixed a teaspoon of honey with a teaspoon of water and put a drop of that in the bottom of each pan in the palette. For oil palettes, I have read--but not yet tried--that putting a few drops of oil of clove in the palette box before closing will keep paint fresh.
I put together the kit because I wanted something that fit in my pocket and that involved about zero setup and breakdown time. But then...this is so much fun to use, that on the weekends, when I don't go to the park, I find myself doing paintings of things around the house (like the cats) when I have a few minutes to kill. This makes doing "a painting a day" really easy. I even do paintings when I'm in bed.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Last summer when I was doing a lot of outdoor watercolor sketches, I was also interested in using gouache. After crawling Amazon.com and the web, I came to the conclusion that there was no useful technical information out there on using gouache as a legitimate art medium. So, I was delighted to find that Diane Tesler, who is an oil painter, was offering a gouache workshop, and I signed up. I attended the 2-day workshop “Gouache for Field Studies and More” this past weekend, and was really taken with the medium and her technique, which she spent a number of years developing. Her goal had been to find a way of working with a water-based medium that was similar to working with oil; that is, working from dark to light.
Critical to her technique is the paper. She uses Rives RFK printmaking paper (250 gr), which has a velvety texture and—get this—does not buckle or warp, so does not need to be stretched, taped down (aside to keep it from blowing away if you are working outside), or otherwise fiddled with. The paper is absorbent, so rather than floating on top of the paper, the pigment is drawn down into the paper. I found that this makes it possible to put a layer of color over a previous layer of a different color, while it is still damp, without disturbing the first, so the colors do not become muddied the way they would be when working on watercolor paper, where the paint sits on top of the paper. (I was working with both watercolor and gouache.)
Back to Diane’s technique. She does her sketch in charcoal pencil and then fixes it with a wash of thinned acrylic paint (one of the umbers, sienna, red oxide, ochre) so that she has a mid-toned surface. Next, she uses a fairly thin mix of gouache to block in her dark masses, similar to using a thin oil wash at the beginning of an oil painting. She then starts working the mid-tone colors. The final layer is the lights and highlights, and there the gouache is the thickest, though not as thick as an oil impasto, because if gouache is laid in too thickly it will crack and likely flake off.
Because it is water-based, gouache can be mixed with and used in conjunction with watercolors, which opens up a range of possibilities. I am inclined to try this without toning the paper first, use watercolors to put in the darks and then go in with the gouache on top of that. I don’t know how much the acrylic wash seals the paper, so may have to put on a clear acrylic wash if the paper is too absorbent. I found the absorbency of the Rives with one layer of acrylic wash on it really nice to work on. One of the really great things about using gouache is how easy it is to make corrections and change things around. And I am totally in love with the paper—it completely changes the water-based painting experience. This brings to mind Ross Merrill’s discussions on Sergeant and Homer and the paper they used—in that it wasn’t sized the way that contemporary watercolor paper is and was more absorbent—I seem to remember his mentioning that from one of his lectures.
This was the first time that Diane had done a gouache workshop, and I hope not her last; it was a terrific workshop and I recommend it highly. It was also highly edifying to watch her work. The onion painting is my first whack at this.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Feb. 22 through June 1, 2008
In 1927, Chiura Obata (1885–1975) visited Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada, where he made approximately 100 drawings in pencil, watercolor and sumi ink. Between 1928 and 1932, while Obata was in Tokyo, he transformed these California landscape watercolors and sketches into a limited-edition portfolio titled "World Landscape Series." "Obata's Yosemite" features 27 prints and watercolors and a series of approximately 21 progressive proofs. This display is the first time the artist's prints have been publicly exhibited on the East Coast. Joann Moser, senior curator for graphic arts, is the curator of the exhibition.
Curious, I googled the painter Chiura Obata and came across this terrific website: http://obata.wilderness.net/ Obata’s work includes terrific block prints, water colors, and sumi-e.
Painting Demonstration, Kogod Courtyard
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Theo Jenson is a physicist/sculptor who is making amazing wind-driven walking “creatures.”
Watercolor demo. This guy does a great job using just a hake brush and a rigger.
Liquid pencil, this is an interesting medium:
Banana, in preparation for those of you who will be taking the Chardin class:
Great Chinese calligraphy cartoon:
Love this guy’s (gal’s) animation
Spray painting, stenciling, and scratching out: