Friday, April 17, 2015

A Shady Needle

4/17/15 various inks, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper

My weather app said it was 64 degrees in the South Lake Union area this afternoon, and the blue sky and sunshine certainly seemed to concur, but the strong wind made it feel much colder. I was hoping to sketch the lake from the park near MOHAI, but it was just too windy for me. I ducked into MOHAI’s café and sketched the park and the shady side of the Space Needle through the café windows. It’s a less-detailed version of the sketch I made more than a year ago.

March Sketchbook Bound

My March sketchbook is done!
My March sketchbook is full and bound. I rarely choose pink for the covers, but since I couldn’t resist putting one of my cherry blossom sketches on the front, it was a rare opportunity to indulge. Also on the front cover is a sketch of Maple Leaf Park when the temperature hit 70 a few weeks ago. On the back cover is the doughboy memorial at Evergreen Washelli cemetery. The theme is clear: I’m sketching outdoors again; it must be spring!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lamp Post

4/16/15 Caran d'Ache Museum colored pencils, Platinum
brush pen, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
After seeing a gallery exhibit in Pioneer Square this afternoon, Greg and I stopped for a break at Zeitgeist Coffee. We sat looking out the windows that face Jackson Street, where I wasn’t particularly inspired by my view. I do, however, like the old, three-globed lamp posts all around Pioneer Square, one of which was standing right across the street. With colored pencils and a brush pen, I decided to do a simple value study on this lovely sunny day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


4/15/15 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink,
watercolor, Caran d'Ache Museum colored pencil,
Canson XL 140 lb. paper
I apologize in advance if this seems disrespectful of an icon intended to comfort the grieving, but the whole time I was sketching the angel statue, I kept wondering if she had been designed in the ‘70s: It’s that flipped-back Farah Fawcett hairdo. Back then, I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror with a curling iron trying to get my hair to do that, so I’m very familiar with the look.

Still chilly in the shade, Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park (where I’ve recently sketched a couple times) was quiet. With my back to the sun, bright sky above, and huge, fluffy, white clouds slowly drifting behind the angel, it felt like a sketcher’s heaven, indeed.

P.S. Below is the scene I’d really like to sketch someday, but I’m confounded by it. How do I indicate all those white grave markers without drawing or painting every one of them? And the pattern of those parallel rows on a slight incline . . . whew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But someday.

Yes, MiataGrrl took the top down!

Lots of Lines

4/14/15 India ink, dip pen
This is as far as I got on yesterday’s ink drawing class assignment. The image I was copying (below) is actually a woodcut print, not a drawing – which makes all those lines even more amazing. As before, I really started getting into a meditative state making lots and lots of tiny hatched lines. At one point, the dip pen nib (or quill) I was using seemed too wide for the wood cut lines, so I switched to an even finer quill. That’s about the time my neck got sore, and I had to take a break!

Speaking of which, I see lots of blue sky and fluffy white clouds out there today – a nice break from our recent run of gray and rain. Time for some outdoor sketching!

Woodcut print

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wide Open

4/13/15 DeAtramentis Document Brown ink,
watercolor, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
My Easter tulips have fallen wide open. If I carried them upstairs to my studio, I was afraid all the petals would end up on the floor. Intrepid urban sketcher that I am, I decided to sketch one “on location,” standing next to the kitchen counter.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Product Review: Canson XL Mix Media and Borden & Riley Vellum

My latest DIY sketchbooklet, this time made with 98-pound
Canson XL Mix Media paper.
I may have inadvertently discovered an ideal paper for making small sketchbooklets!

I wasn’t looking for it; after making my most recent DIY notebook, which was mostly an exercise in spite, I was planning to go back to the Canson Biggie 100-pound or Strathmore 100-pound watercolor papers that I had used originally. Those papers are great for the kind of sketching I do in small sketchbooklets because they take a light ink wash well. Unfortunately, they are also so heavy that I can fold only six sheets together (yielding a 24-page sketchbooklet). I was hoping to find something thinner, which led me to trying Rhodia paper, but it’s too transparent to sketch on both sides. Like I said, it was mostly an exercise in spite because I was so frustrated with all the small notebooks on the market (though obviously I accomplished nothing more than cutting off my nose).

Anyway, I was actually shopping for paper for the ink drawing class I’m taking at Gage. The instructor had recommended paper with a relatively smooth texture appropriate for dip pens and also heavy enough (around 100 pound) to withstand a wash of diluted India ink. For the one-time “quick start” class I took last week, I used 100-pound Bristol board, which I happened to have on hand, but it’s a bit pricey to be burning through during 10 weeks of class exercises, so I decided I needed something cheaper. (Not to mention that I’m always looking for an excuse to shop for art supplies.)

Borden & Riley Vellum
Canson XL Mix Media
I came home from the Blick store with two pads of paper: Canson XL Mix Media (98 pound), which the instructor had used last week, and Borden & Riley Vellum drawing paper (90 pound). In the back of my mind, I was thinking that the Borden & Riley could turn out to be appropriate for making sketchbooklets since it’s much thinner than 100-pound paper and also very smooth, making it pleasant to write and sketch on with fountain pens, and because the pad says “recommended for light washes, pen & ink” and dry media.

First I tested both papers with the types of pens and media I’m likely to use on them: a dip pen with India ink for class; three fountain pens with both waterproof and water-soluble inks; and a swipe of watercolor.

Borden & Riley tests
Canson XL Mix Media tests
Reverse side of Borden & Riley
The Borden & Riley vellum tested disappointingly poorly on all counts. My Pilot Falcon nib, which puts out a fire hose of ink to keep up with its extreme flexiness, feathered to high heaven. Even the fine dip nib feathered, and my Sailor fude pens, which almost never feather, showed a little feathering, too. But the most disappointing part was how poorly the paper took washes. Maybe it’s the sizing (or lack thereof), but inks apparently sink straight into the paper (and all the way to the reverse side, in the case of the fire-hose Falcon), leaving nothing on the surface to wash when swiped with a waterbrush. With an ordinary fountain pen, the paper is opaque enough that sketches could be made on both sides, but not if water is applied. This paper flunked out as both a classroom paper and a potential sketchbooklet paper. (The misleading labeling that indicates the paper is appropriate for all the media I tested it for is particularly annoying.)

4/12/15 Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink, Pilot Falcon
pen, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble
colored pencil, Canson XL 98 lb. Mix Media
(slightly leaning Eiffel sketched from photo)

The Canson XL Mix Media paper, on the other hand, performed well in all the ways that the Borden & Riley failed. First of all, I have to say that I’ll never understand paper weight poundage designations. This 98-pound “mix media” (my copyeditors eye is twitching! It should be “mixed media”!) paper is significantly thinner and lighter than 100-pound watercolor paper – way more than the 2-pound difference. In fact, it feels thinner and lighter than a couple of 90-pound watercolor papers I have!

I’ll forgive the confusing poundage, however, because its surface is wonderful. It has some tooth, which gives washes some character, but is smooth enough not to snag my flexy Falcon or dip nibs. None of the nibs and inks I tested feathered at all, and the water-soluble inks blurred to soft, lovely washes when water was applied. At 98 pounds, it’s fully opaque, as expected, and no bleed-through occurred, even where the ink was washed.

4/12/15 Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolor,
Canson XL 98 lb. Mix Media paper
I got so excited about it that I made two sketches, one on either side of the same sheet – one with my wet Pilot Falcon, Iroshizuku Take-sumi ink and a little water-soluble colored pencil (above), all washed (these media are what I would typically use in a small sketchbooklet) and a second sketch with waterproof Platinum Carbon ink and watercolor (at left). As you can see, there’s no bleed-through at all (and barely visible ghosting), and only minor buckling – yet the paper is thin enough to fold eight sheets together (yielding a 32-page sketchbooklet). That’s not quite 48 pages (apparently the industry standard for pocket notebooks), but compared to my former 100-pound sketchbooklets, it’s 33 percent more bang for my handbinding buck!

Canson XL Mix Media gets an A+ for both my pen and ink class and my daily-carry sketchbooklets! (But not for editing.)
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