The ‘Aha!’ moment

Finding inspiration

Yesterday evening, I found a little oompf to play with colour in my watercolour sketchbook. The little blocks of colour on the right hand side are the result.

I dropped wet into wet, both watercolours and metallic watercolours, and just let the watercolour do their thing. I also tried similar with Inktense ‘watercolours’ too.

Just doing something simple like this, playing with colour for the sake of playing with colour, led me to want to try something different.

I had got frustrated and not all that happy with the designs on the left page over the past couple of days. Browsing through Pinterest, my attention was caught by illustrations that use black line drawings with a wash of colour. So, I thought I’d try those out.

I also wanted to try different pens to see how waterproof they are on watercolour paper. Unipin pens in grey and black, Pitt artist pens and a Signo DX pen were what I had to hand.

I used the pens to draw some of my favourite kinds of motifs, but rather than leaving just the outline, I used the pens to add shadow and the illusion of shape to the motifs. Once I was happy, I added watercolours. I did go back and add more lines where needed once the watercolours had dried. I also used a white gel pen to add highlights.

Reflections

Firstly, all of the pens were waterproof. The grey Unipin pen did bleed more as I was drawing with it initially than the others, which showed little bleeding at all. Anyway, I’m happy that I now know for sure they are waterproof.

I have used colours that are different for me. They have more of a vintage vibe to them. I actually like the colours, a lot.

Still developing my artistic voice(s)

I keep trying to move away from black line drawings with colour, to paintings made solely of colour. Each time I do this, I’m never really happy with what I produce, it never seems to feel it is ‘me’. I love to see how others use just pure colour to create art, it just never seems to work out quite right for me, not unless I work digitally. Even then, the digital artworks make me smile, but they still don’t feel right.

I like to draw colouring templates that help others express their creativity and to use for relaxing, meditative, calming activities. These are lovely in their own right and for the purpose they’ve been created for. However, they lack the details that I find satisfying.

That ‘Aha!’ moment

And there it is, I’ve worked out why things don’t feel ‘right’. Detailed line work. Using line and pattern to create shadow and volume in a drawing. There’s also a need for me to use line to define and structure artwork.

That was something I always used to love to do in my earlier artsy years, and something that has gone by the wayside as I’ve used my skills at stylising motifs for my work as a colouring book artist/illustrator.

Those skills will never be lost and will always be used. However, I have a need to find ways to express myself in ways that satisfy my artsy heart, and this revelation is one answer to that.

It’s obvious when I look back at my blog, that I’m constantly trying out new things, going back to old things.

Sometimes I return to old crafts and styles I’ve tried in the past as they are familiar to me and that familiarity comforts me when I need time to just create and feel some level of satisfaction in what I do. Comfort art I’ve described this in past, and it’s just as true for me now as then. There are times when I’m not up to challenging myself as I try or develop a new style to me. Then, I go to art and craft styles that I know I can do fairly easily.

At other times, I’m seeking for the new, different and to stretch myself artistically. Out of a lack of inspiration over the past day or so has come a style that will stretch me, and perhaps will sit easily with me so it becomes one of my ‘voices.

Oh, I’ve not abandoned my new-found passion for typographic portraits/art. In fact, my mind is ticking over how I can incorporate that along with this coloured detailed drawings. Before I try the idea, I need to get some drawings done! I’d like to try the idea out digitally to see if it will work. That way, any drawings I’m really pleased with won’t be messed up.

Practice, practice, practice!

I did spend some time working on a second typographic portrait of Aneurin Bevan yesterday, using a photographic reference that had more detail in it in terms of grey scale.

Before bed, I wanted to relax with some colour (1). For some reason, I pulled out my set of Tombow Dual Brush pens and tried working with them on an A5 piece of Arteza mixed media paper. Hand lettering with gradients, with and without black outlines resulted, and then I wanted to try drawing with colour gradients.

To create gradients, I held the tip of one pen on top of the tip of the other. I then used the lower pen to draw or write with. I used the bullet nib for the lower examples. I used the brush nib for the larger lettering and also the leaves and flowers and so on.

I made some notes as I went, to remind me what I did and what I liked about them. I used a Uniball Signo DX 0.38 pen to do this, which is also waterproof. So, I used it to add lines.

This morning, I wanted to start my arty day experimenting with alcohol inks, once again (2, 3 and 4). All because I’d watched a YouTube videos where people use a straw to blow the ink and alcohol blending solution/rubbing alcohol/isopropyl alcohol/propan-2-ol around the yupo paper.

One helpful piece of advice I heard along the way was it’s best to use only a small amount of alcohol ink. Which is what I did. One drop to start with and then add more ink of the same or different colour(s) as needed.

It took me a while to work out not to blow as hard as I could, and to try different angles to hold the straw at, as well as moving the ink in different directions.

I’m much happier with the results this time, though the scans have bleached the colours out a little. I really must work out the best settings on my scanner so that this doesn’t happen.

Anyway, I need to find a way to seal the alcohol ink so I can draw on top of it without wrecking the pens. I also want to do some better scans so I can make use of these alcohol ink backgrounds in digital art.

Today I want to continue work on the typographic portrait. This second one seems to be building up more quickly than the first one. I think that’s all due to me becoming familiar with the process and accepting that my hand lettering based on my handwriting is good enough. I’m also working out my own ways to fit letters to curves and the shapes at the ends of the sections.

So, all of these activities – using waterbased media, hand lettering, hand drawn typography, and alcohol ink backgrounds all have one thing in common – practice, practice, practice!

Watercolour Practice

Yesterday, after taking a walk and getting a few bits and bobs done, I settled down to spend some time with watercolours.

Each piece of paper is approx 4″ square. The top ones were just playing around with foliage, wet into wet, and adding some details with metallic ink, a gold glitter gel pen and a white Souffle pen. I just wanted to see how the different details could add to, or mess up, the watercolours.

I do like the one on the top left. It satisfies my inner need to not leave much in the way of white space.

The bottom image was me trying out painting plants in pots – the top row with very faint pencil guidelines and the middle with Pitt Artist pen outlines in black. The bottom two were comparing like ot like with black outline and pencil outline.

I had trouble with the details in the first two plants in pots on the top row. That was when I thought I’d try the black outlines.

I’m really not sure which I like most, or if either of them really work out.

I’m rather tired and headachy, again, today. I think that I’ll soon be going out for a walk. It’s another overcast and cooler day with a breeze. I love to walk on days like this.

Watercolour Tiles

Another day, another migraine type headache. Nothing helped yesterday, not even painkillers. I woke up with the same headache, though some painkillers did ease it somewhat, eventually. Enough that I could go out for a short walk around my local cemetery.

I needed to create in order to create a mindful space within me. So, I thought a collection of square tiles may be a nice thing to do. A way to practice with watercolours and to do a bit of pattern making on them.

I used a square template to mark the squares out, not very evenly it has to be said. Faint pencil lines that would, hopefully, become part of the watercolour.

I used Daler-Rowney Aquafine Smooth watercolour paper. That shows how little I was thinking clearly. I really don’t like working on this paper at all. The watercolours dried too quickly, and when they were just wet enough to drop more wet colour into them, they just didn’t flow and mix as I like them to.

I tried using watercolour pencils, with similar frustrating results. So much for this being a meditative, mindful, relaxing exercise!

Oddly, they all look fairly OK in the photo.

Once they’d dried, I used a mixture of metallic silver, silver glitter and white gel pens to add patterns to each tile. I could’ve used white gouache and/or pearlescent watercolours or pearlescent acrylic inks with a fine brush. However, by this point I was so frustrated with brush and wet media that I just wanted to draw. So I did.

It may not be a wonderful, finished, polished piece of art – it was never meant to be. It was practice.

What I may do, on a larger scale, is to heat emboss a design in white and then add watercolours. I can do this using a Sakura glue pen or a versamark embossing pen with embossing powders. Maybe not today, but another day. And I need to use a different paper to the Aquafine to avoid frustration.

Inhale, Exhale, Repeat

This was so very enjoyable!

I started with the hand-drawn typography. I’ve just started another Domestika course — Hand-Drawn Typographic Portrait by Sarah King. The first exercise is to letter words boxes divided by wavy lines. Then, creating letters in different weights. And of course, practice is something that needs to be done.

There was just something about her approach to this that grabbed me, and so, I now have many boxes with words and quotes in.

The first lesson shows how to use Photoshop to edit your lettering outlines and fill them with black. I found the process rather clunky and long-winded. Perhaps that’s because I’m used to working in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with a pen on a screen as if they were pen and paper, that I could do this in my own way.

So that’s what I did. I used one of my pencilled samples to create the typography for the centre panel.

Then, it was adding the background. I just went with the flow on that one. I made use of the symmetry tools in Sketchbook Pro, and just had fun with a limited colour palette and my favourite kinds of shapes.

The course is about portraits. However, I have zero interest in drawing people. However, the techniques shared will spark ideas for how I can use them.

I’ve long been trying to incorporate words, quotes into my artwork and struggling to find my own style. I’m not sure if this will help, but I’m really quite happy with this particular artwork.

Watercolour greeting cards

Greeting cards

It was a morning for some simple art. Art just for fun, relaxation and self-soothing. So, I thought that small watercolour gradient panels with really simple drawings on them and metallic and pearlescent paint highlights would be perfect.

For the first time ever I managed to create smooth colour gradients with watercolour. The secret, for me, was using a mix of water and gum arabic to wet the paper before applying the colour. Of course, working on such small pieces of watercolour paper helped. Still, it’s a personal achievement!

Once the panels were all done, itseemed a good idea to mount the little panels on some 4″ x 4″ blank cards. So I did just that and added a few more cards to my stash.

Stress and self-care

I had a really poor night’s sleep after the stress of my trip out to the pharmacy yesterday. I woke around 2:30am with a splitting headache and found it hard to get back to sleep. When I did, my alarm went off and woke me with quite a jolt.

I’d set my alarm last night as Wednesday is my delivery day with Able & Cole, and I like to get the deliver in and stored asap.

Once the delivery had come, around 6:30am. I had breakfast and then went back to bed to sleep.

I’m feeling a bit more centred and content now, but I’m still exhausted. So, today will be a quiet, self-care kind of day for me. I’ll be doing my best not to give in to the temptation to take a nap this afternoon so that I can sleep myself our properly tonight.

Watercolour Wednesday

I know, it’s been a watercolour day nearly every day for the past week or so. However, I do like alliteration. As did the Anglo-Saxons, who used alliteration in their poetry rather than rhymes.

Anyway, a fair amount of watercolour being done here in the past day.

Painting (1)
This one is now finished. It was an unusual one to do as I didn’t start with a sketch, but just added shapes as the painting grew. It’s colourful, for sure, which is my usual way of working with colour. I know I needed some colour to brighten my heart up yesterday.

Painting (2)
A work in progress, this one is on a piece of Arteza Premium watercolour paper, which is 100% cotton. It works in much the same way as the other 100% cotton paper I have, but it’s slightly more offwhite, with a yellow-ish tone, than the Khadi paper. It also has a different texture that is finer and not quite so bumpy. I’ve yet to work out which I prefer.

I’ve decided to complete this painting in shades of blue, green and purple, mostly. I’m sure I’ll end up changing that idea, or sneaking in other colours here and there.

With the 100% cotton paper, I am starting to become comfortable with dropping wet into wet and letting the colours spread and blend with each other. Judging the quantity to get the depth of colour and a smooth gradient is still a tricky task for me.

Painting (3)
I don’t know what got into my head this morning, but I felt the need to paint a mandala in much the same way that Carl Jung would to start his day with an idea of what is going on mentally and emotionally on a subconcious level.

I also had a kind of bright idea to use a diecutting machine to cut out circles of paper, in this case Daler-Rowney Mixed media paper.

With the first circles I tried watercolour and had really unsatisfactory results. This surprised me given the fairly pleasing experience I had with the ClaireFontaine mixed media paper.

So, rather than use watercolours, I thought I’d try Inktense pencils, using a damp brush to pick colour up from the pencil nib. I also used a solution of gum arabic to help keep the colour wet for longer. Gum arabic also increases the translucency of the pigments, and can add a glossiness to the colour too. This helped the Inktense colours to work more like watercolours.

I also added dots of gold Daler-Rowney FW Pearlescent acrylic inks to the design here and there. To finish the design off. I had thought of adding patterns in gold to the blank areas, but that just didn’t feel the right thing to do. It felt finished, white space and all.



The aim of this painting wasn’t to create a work of art, but to give an insight into what is going on within me at this time. I’ll keep my observations on this to myself. What I will say is I’m feeling out of sorts and rather sad and low today. I have a lot of confusion, anxiety, fear and despair surrounding various things going on and I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by it today. It’s all just emotional weather – just as the clouds cover the sun, they will move along by and the sun (or moon) will shine bright and clear once again, so it is with emotions.

Jupiter’s Clouds

100% Cotton rag paper is my favourite for watercolour, so far at least! I started work on this one soon after I’d finished my comparison of papers for watercolour yesterday.

I was inspired by images from the Juno space probe of the clouds on Jupiter. The images intrigued and captivated me, so I used them as an inspiration for the pattern on this piece . I have no idea why I used blues and greys with yellows and browns, but I did. A very unusual choice of colours from me.

The Khadi 100% cotton rag paper stays damp longer than the other papers, including the specialist watercolour ones, meaning I don’t get dark areas where colour overlaps as I’m applying it to one area. When I do work over the area, the pigment doesn’t lift or become blotchy once it is dry. Also, less pigment gives a more intense colour than on the other papers.

It’s the ease of letting colours flow and blend that make all the difference.

One thing I’m not too fussed on is the texture of the paper. I used the smoother side, but it’s still rather rough. I may have to hunt around for 100% cotton paper that is smoother in texture.

I also got to learn a lot more about working with watercolour on this paper, and how I can get it to work for me. As long as I can remember what I did in future artworks.

Despite my odd choice of colours, I’m really pleased with this one. I’ll certainly be doing more of a similar style going forward. Once the design is pencilled out, the process of water-colouring is quite soothing and relaxing. It’s also fascinating to watch the colours move and blend in each other in each section. Although I know this is science in action, there’s also something rather magical about it too.

Comparing paper for watercolour

I was getting vexed, again, about the paper I was using for the watercolour I was working on yesterday (1). It still wasn’t behaving like the one I used at the start of the week (3).

So, after another comparision ‘twixt these two, I realised that the paper was too lightweight to be any of my watercolour papers. It the dawned on me it was a fugitive piece of Arteza mixed media paper in my store of pieces of watercolour paper.

So, I had to try a piece of Arteza mixed media paper to confirm (2), and it was the same paper as (3) with similar effects.

The Arteza mixed media paper is off-white, just like the Canson Moulin Du Roy (5) and St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford (1).

As I liked the way the mixed media paper worked, I thought I’d try a piece of ClaireFontaine mixed media paper (4). It’s bright white, in comparison, and the colours are much more vibrant. The watercolour laid down in a similar way to the Arteza paper, but the paper is so much smoother as well.

So, which do I prefer. Although I’ve not done an abstract piece on the 100% cotton rag paper yet, I’m sure that will be top of the list. What surprises me is how much I like working on the Arteza and ClaireFontaine mixed media papers. I do think the Arteza has the edge on the ClaireFontaine, though I wish it was a little less on the creamy-yellow side.

Perhaps I like these papers as I’m not working wet into wet, nor am I doing much in the way of glazes. I find they let me apply the watercolour with a finish that pleases me.

I also know I don’t like working with Daler-Rowney Aquafine paper with the White Knights paints. It works better, for me, with watercolour pencils.

I know I will continue to experiment with different papers and watercolour; I have Daler-Rowney mixed media paper to try, along with the Khadi 100% cotton rag paper too. I don’t know if I have any others hidden away in my stores, but if I find them, I will use them.

Abstract Watercolour WIP

What a grey, cool, windy and showery/rainy, changeable day it is here in the Valleys of South Wales, UK. Such a huge contrast to the three days of a heatwave earlier this week. Mind you, I’m one of those people who prefers to be cool rather than too hot, and on Wednesday and Thursday it really was too hot for me!

I’m still not quite right in terms of mental focus and emotional balance. After the rollercoaster rides I’ve had over the past month, it takes a while for the stress hormones to leach from my system. Each time they had started to lower, I found myself on that rollercoaster once more.

This is nothing that is affecting me directly, other than emotionally. However, it’s the emotional stuff that makes it difficult to deal with, despite me meditating and self-soothing and losing myself as much as I can in creativitity. That’s hard when I can’t settle to anything.

I do find I can settle somewhat more today, but I am still tired and my mind still feels fuzzy and unfocused. So, I won’t be chancing doing any work that requires my absolute focus, not today.

I was up early-ish this morning for a delivery. While waiting for it, I cut up a sheet of St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford watercolour paper and washi taped a 5½” x 4″ piece of it to an old cutting plate. I then took a 3mm mechanical pencil and sketched out an abstract design based on clouds, believe it or not.

I’m now part way through adding colour to it with White Knight’s watercolours and a size 2 Graduate round brush by Daler-Rowney.

Yesterday, I thought that this Bockingford paper was the one I’d used for the first of these abstract watercolours. It turns out it isn’t. I’m begininng to wonder if it was some mixed media paper as it is a brighter white than either Bockingford or Canson Moulin du Roy. It definitely wasn’t Daler-Rowney aquafine paper nor Tim Holtz’s watercolour paper. Nor was it the 100% cotton paper either. How curious.

I have enjoyed the process of drawing the design and starting to add colour. The colours are softer than yesterday’s watercolour, but more vibrant than the one I did earlier this week. Perhaps the change in colours is a sign I’m continuing to settle back to my usual chilled out, calm and content state.

So, I’m going to take a break from arty stuff for a little while. My concentration is wavering and I’m tempted to go back go sleep. However, I know that will prevent me from sleeping well tonight.