Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tax Break with Monkeys

2/4/15 Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils,
Fabriano 140 lb. hot press paper
We’re working on our income tax return, which is unusually complicated this year. After several hours of confusing, left-brained work, I needed a break.

This silvered leaf mama monkey and her young one looked like another good exercise in sketching fur with colored pencils. But unlike Punxsutawney Phil, whom I sketched Monday, these monkeys demanded that I pay closer attention to their expressions, which I’m afraid I failed to capture. In the calendar photo that was my source, mama looks alert and attentive, while her baby is pure trusting innocence (and yes, it really is bright orange). It’s one thing to render an animal’s form or even texture somewhat accurately; it’s quite a different challenge to get its expression right.

Technical note: Ever since I noticed that the texture of my formerly favorite Canson XL 140-pound cold-press paper had changed, I’ve been trying to decide what to do. Even though it’s a cold press, I’ve really enjoyed using Canson XL because it used to be smooth enough for a fountain pen but still toothy enough to impart a nice texture with watercolor. Now it’s rougher, especially on one side, and I’ve been ranting about why manufacturers make changes like that! I bought several pads at discount a while back, and they all seem to have the “new” texture. Aackkk! (I should know by now that stockpiling a favorite product can backfire this way – it’s happened to me before.)

Today I pulled out a pad of Fabriano 140-pound hot-press paper, which I had last experimented with about a year ago when I was trying out various papers. I remember its smooth surface being a joy to use with a fountain pen, but I didn’t care for the way it looked with a wash of ink or watercolor. Since I use wet media of some kind more often than not, I decided that Canson XL’s cold-press texture served my overall needs better. I don’t think I had tested the Fabriano with colored pencils back then, though, so I tried it today with the monkeys. It’s not bad, but I think I prefer a bit more tooth when using pencils. On the other hand, I rarely use colored pencils while sketching on location, so perhaps this paper would be OK for my Stefano sketchbook. I might stitch up a few signatures and give it a try.

In case you haven’t guessed, I have a habit of hoarding stockpiling accumulating art materials I fall in love with and decide are perfect, and then often it turns out that 1.) the product changes (today’s example); or 2.) I change (I need something different). I also love experimenting with lots of different media, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I tend to want to use all of them simultaneously, requiring many different types of supplies.

Apropos to all of this, Roz Stendahl’s blog today has excellent wise counsel related to product testing, hoarding art materials and expecting art materials to stay the same forever. It’s a lengthy but worthwhile read. I will quote here a paragraph I should hang in my studio:

REPEAT AFTER ME: There is no perfect paper. A magical pen or pencil does not exist. There is no such thing as a perfect art tool or supply. There are a lot of fun ones out there, but none are perfect. Don't spend your valuable sketching and painting time looking for the perfect anything. Love the one you're with.

Thanks, Roz, I needed that. (Don’t worry – her admonition will have no effect on my Epic Pen Search and Discovery.)

Sigh. I guess I’ve procrastinated enough. Back to taxes.


  1. How well I understand this -- recently I had to buy six stackable storage bins just to hold the art supplies collected over the years that I thought would be great fun, used once or twice, and then abandoned. I keep thinking I'll return to them someday...sigh.

    The monkeys are a lovely distraction.

    1. Alex, you're in good company -- it seems to be a common malady among artists! ;-)

      - Tina

  2. The monkeys look great! With supplies you never know if you should stockpile or not. Things change and disappear, or get ruined where you store them. Life happens, so I guess Roz is right.

  3. Love your animal sketches, Tina. I think I disagree with you about 'love the one you're with.' If I get a paper/pen that I don't like, I stop using it and try something else. Life's too short to work with materials that aren't comfortable.

    Cheers --- Larry


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