Thursday, August 24, 2023

Green Lake Mixed Media (and Etchr Deal-Breaker)


8/19/23 Green Lake (Supracolors and Fibralo brush
marker in Etchr sketchbook)

Although I walk and sketch often in the Green Lake neighborhood, I hadn’t been down to the actual lake in a couple of weeks. Last Saturday I was dismayed to see how yellowish many of the trees are getting. Some of it is the weary, dehydrated hue of late summer, but I’m sure I also see early hints of that river in Africa.

The sky over the lake that morning was still mostly blue, but by afternoon, a haze of smoke was starting to drift in from wildfires in the North Cascades and Canada. In California, they talk about the year having an additional season: smoke season. I guess we have to add smoke as a regular season to our calendar, too.

Color and media notes: With three natural greens in the Caran d’Ache Mixed Media Botanical Set, it was easy to get a good variety reflecting the range of foliage around the lake. Wanting to keep the “mix” in mixed media, I tried something new with a Fibralo brush marker: The foreground trees along the shoreline had the yellowest tint, so I first used the Golden Ochre (033) marker to roughly shape the sunny side of those trees. Then I spritzed the Fibralo marks and the whole top half of the page liberally with water (see below). The water-soluble Fibralo blurred nicely, and I could then easily go in with three Supracolor greens (Olive Black 019, Moss Green 225, Light Olive 245) on the very wet page for all the trees.

Fibralo brush marker used to shape trees, then spritzed liberally. (Apologies for the dark image... I was sketching in the shade.)

I like the textures and blurry color blends I got from this part of the palette, and I especially like the way the Fibralo dissolved completely like watercolor instead of leaving a lot of hard marker lines. This might be my favorite use of water-soluble markers so far.

I’m still struggling, though, with mixing sufficiently dark darks with this palette, such as the shadow under the pier. In this serene sketch, I really wanted to avoid the garish purple marker (Lilac 110) that I’d been using, so I tried mixing the darkest Olive Black with Supracolor Dark Carmine (089). The hue is OK, but I couldn’t get it any darker. I might have to break out of the palette and add something cooler and darker to the mix.

Etchr sketchbook notes:

Toward the end of the 30x30 Direct Watercolor challenge, I used some Etchr Lab paper samples. In the same Etchr order as the samples, I had also gotten an A6-size, cold press sketchbook that I was planning to try as soon as I finished the current Hahnemühle. The results I got on the samples were especially encouraging.

Eager to crack it open, I took the Etchr to Green Lake for this sketch, and I’m sad to report that it’s a deal-breaker – but probably not in the way you’d expect. The paper is beautiful. The sizing keeps heavy spritzing afloat, and the 230 gram, 100-percent cotton easily holds up to my vigorous penciling, even sopping wet (thinner, cheaper papers will start pilling at that point). The substantial tooth is also ideal for the textures of foliage and ripples on water. All the qualities I love about Hahnemühle are comparable in the Etchr.

The bulky Etchr (left) compared to Hahnemuhle.
But here’s the deal-breaker: The fabric-covered hardcover is too thick, making the book too bulky in my tiny bag. As soon as I had received it, I was afraid that would be the case, but I wanted to take it out on a walk to see if it could be tolerated. Alas, it’s just too fat. In addition, although it contains only 52 pages compared to the Hahnemühle’s 60, slightly heavier pages, the Etchr book weighs a bit more, so that thick cover adds quite a bit of useless weight.

It’s a good, sturdy cover that can probably withstand heavy abuse, but since I can fill 52 pages in two or three months, I don’t really need a cover that strong. I’d rather have a thinner, lighter cover even if the corners are a little frayed by the time I fill it. (Hahnemühle or Etchr, please make a softcover edition with 100-percent cotton paper!)

I have other complaints about the Etchr, too. The binding is so stiff that it’s hard to get it to open as flat as the Hahnemühle. You can see below how it won’t stay closed without fastening the elastic. But I could have tolerated the binding issue if the bulk hadn’t been a deal-breaker.

Stiff binding will not allow cover to stay closed.

It won’t go to waste – I will certainly enjoy using the paper at home. But if I can’t take it out with me on walks, that lovely paper isn’t going to get nearly as much use as I had hoped.

My tiny everyday-carry Rickshaw mini Zero Messenger bag (shown most recently in this post) is a fairly restrictive factor in what my sketch kit can include. But I’ve been enjoying the ease (on my shoulder) and freedom of a small bag so much that I can’t go back to my larger Rickshaw bag. I’ve thought about looking for a bag that’s somewhere between the two sizes, but that’s a well-known slippery slope. If I have more space, I’ll just be tempted to carry more. I’m holding firm.

It’s back to a Hahnemühle.

An unfortunate deal-breaker.


  1. I don't use hard covered sketchbooks because of their weight. I don't need anything too heavy to lug around, especially if I am going into the city. I like the results you got spritzing the yellow ochre for the sunlit parts of the trees. It gave them a really nice glow.

    1. I'm not crazy about the Hahnemuhle's hardcover either, but at least it's thinner than the Etchr's cover.


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