Thursday, April 4, 2019

Fremont’s Ship Canal (and Zeta Disappointment)

3/30/19 Path along the Ship Canal

Although the Fremont neighborhood is best known for the Troll, the statue of Lenin and general irreverent funkiness, one of its highlights is the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Flanked by poplars and Google’s office buildings, the walking/biking path along the water is a city jewel that makes me happy to live here – especially on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Technical note: Back when I was doing preliminary testing of my Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook for various media and techniques, I made sure the paper was sturdy enough to withstand the liberal spritzing I like to do with water-soluble colored pencils, since that’s a favorite technique of mine when sketching foliage. I forgot, though, that another way I use my spritzer is to spread water quickly onto the clean page before putting in some dissolved color for the sky (what I call the “licked” pencil technique). It’s just an efficient way to get the paper wet. When I started to use this technique for the sky in my Ship Canal sketch, I was alarmed by how the blast of water sank immediately into the surface of the Zeta paper in a measles-like pattern, and when I spread the blue with my waterbrush, the color collected more heavily in those spots. With my old Canson XL, S&B Beta and other papers sized specifically for watercolor painting, the water floats evenly on the surface until it dries. Although Zeta is heavy enough to withstand spraying and heavy washes, it is definitely not sized for watercolor painting applications.

Since I’m not using watercolor paints, this discovery was not a deal-breaker, but it was still a disappointment. I thought back to the sketch I had done the day before at the Burke Museum demolition site and wondered why I didn’t have that problem then. I remembered that I didn’t want to get out my spritzer, so I simply squeezed the waterbrush to spread a little water onto the paper. It was probably less water overall, and the day was cooler, so it evaporated less quickly. But I’ve also used the spritzer for the sky on other sketches that didn’t react with a case of the measles. Strange . . . I’ll pay more attention to how much water I use when spritzing to see if it’s just a matter of keeping it light.

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