This morning I needed a quiet, slow, simple time with some arty stuff.
Firstly, I get so frustrated working in a bound sketchbook. The binding always gets in my way even though I like the paper. I much prefer working on loose sheets of paper. I want to keep a sketchbook, or series of sketchbooks. So, the pennies dropped that I needed to put together a discbound sketchbook filled with acid-free cartridge paper and bristol board, and other papers I may wish to draw on.
Yes, I know I’ve got a disc bound sketchbook filled with papers coloured in many ways to draw on. But, my recent forays into art, the realisation that black and white line art is my favourite way of working, needed a solution too.
So, after a while of sorting out such a discbound sketchbook, I thought I’d like a cover page for the Slowtember part of my this sketchbook. It gave me a chance to practice some hand lettering, and to mess around with Tombow Dual Brush markers.
I also added drawings for pancake plant, the prompt for days 10 to 12 which I missed out and went straight to rubber plant!
I suspect that by the end of the month I will have a visual reference for leaves of these indoor plants.
Naturally, I messed up the numbers for the dates for each prompt. My hand lettering isn’t wonderful, nor are the leaves around the title. Let’s not mention the colouring. However, it will do; after all it is a sketchbook page not a finished, polished piece of art. That means no pressure on myself to get it perfect, or as near as I’m happy with. It’s about trying things out and if they don’t work then it’s an opportunity to reflect and learn more about my skills and artistic voice. It’s also a chance to use media that I wouldn’t normally use, and possibly to remind myself why I don’t usually use them as well!
Yesterday afternoon and this morning I’ve spent time catching up with #Slowtember by @megaelod on twitter. Here’s the sketchbook page I created for the prompts monstera (Swiss Cheese Plant), areca palm and rubber plant.
I took the opportunity to practice my hand drawn typography / hand lettering, as well as my use of line to add volume to a line drawing.
I’m not the best with colour, or with traditional media to add colour, but I think I’ve done OK with some of these. I like the simple washes of gradient colours in the areca and rubber plant leaves. The line work is nice, but the colour brings it to life. The monstera leaf done in coloured pencils works well as far as a sense of volume goes, but I’m not the best with coloured pencils, even using blending solution.
I even found some microscopic images of cells from monstera and rubber plant leaves and stems. So, I just had to do quick drawings of patterns from these, with some imaginary colour added to them.
It’s nice to do this challenge. It’s not as full on and intense as Inktober is, and even if I fall behind there’s not so much to catch up with. It’s also nice to work in a sketchbook (or digitally) as there’s no pressure to complete a finished piece of work. I like how I’ve left some of my drawings partly coloured so I can compare how colour adds (or not) to the design.
When I’m looking at my page and writing about it I always have ideas about how I could’ve approached an idea, or get new ideas. Time for me to go and jot them down before I forget them!
I know, it’s that page in my Arteza watercolour sketchbook again! However, there are some changes, most noticeably the bottom left design.
I have added some depth and contrast in colour using coloured pencils to parts of the designs, and left other parts as just watercolour. I have used a blending solution and paper torchon to blend the pencils in most instances, but not all. Sometimes the blending just isn’t needed.
The bottom design was done today. It took around three hours to complete. Drawing the design with Pitt Artist pens, followed by the background washes of watercolour, finally the coloured pencils.
What I’ve learned
I like using coloured pencils on watercolour paper, and over a watercolour wash.
I find it really difficult to get the intensity of contrast with watercolours alone. Using coloured pencils makes that a cinch, especially on paper with a good ‘tooth’ to it, like watercolour paper.
I got a good sense of satisfaction as I completed the bottom design. I’m not all that happy with some of my colour choices, but that wasn’t my main consideration today; that was trying coloured pencils on watercolours on watercolour paper.
After a walk and lunch yesterday, I eventually settled to working with my aha moment. This sketchbook page is the result, though I have work left to do with it.
The designs are inked in with Pitt Artist Pens and I’ve used watercolours and Inktense paint pans and pencils to colour the motifs. Well, most of them. I’ve left some parts in black and white to show the difference that colour makes.
I used a Daler-Rowney artist’s sketchbook. The paper is acid free, but is not specifically for watercolours. It held up surprisingly well to multiple layers and glazes of colour, though it does grab the colour and it’s difficult to move it around as on watercolour paper.
I also found the wet brush lifted some of the pigment from the Pitt Artist Pens. That surprised me as they were totally waterproof on watercolour paper.
Having an ‘aha moment’ and working with that realisation can be quite different. It’s nice to try different ways of using line and stippling to add shadow and volume to the drawings.
The half-beetle was an interesting one to work with. On the lower wing I could’ve used lines to add the illusion of curves, but for some sections I just used colour. I also used the beetle to practice adding lines and stippling.
I tried drawing the beetle digitally, but it just didn’t feel ‘right’. I didn’t get the same satisfaction as I did drawing it with pens on paper. I’m sure that’s due to me having my brushes set up incorrectly. That’s something I’m going to have to work on. I ended up with a drawing that was too perfect. That surprised me too, as I love to work digitally. Perhaps that was a function of my current mood and energy levels.
I do tend to switch between digital and traditional media, sometimes mixing the two. That is certainly an option moving forward – drawing the line art on paper, then colouring digitally.
I do like the earthy tones I’ve used to add colour to many of the design elements on this page. That still continues to surprise me, as much of my work has been brightly coloured, often with ‘in your face’ colour palettes used.
The smaller designs I’ve drawn here also have their own sense of satisfaction and enjoyment for me. Usually, I draw full page designs for colouring books. But here, I’ve drawn small compositions, and that is not so overwhelming for me at this time.
I’ve been working in my Arteza watercolour sketchbook (A4 in size). I’ve continued to add some colour to the larger design. As this is a sketchbook and nothing has to be perfect or finished and is a place to experiment, I decided to try adding black lines to the bigger design as well as to draw a smaller design in black pen first.
I’m still not all that comfortable with my entangled kind of designs without black lines it seems. Or maybe this is just a function of me being totally out of sorts over the past few days if not weeks, possibly months.
The black lines add structure and form to the design, but there’s also a colouring book feel to it too.
I am thinking I’ve not yet worked out how to get enough contrast in the watercolours to bring out the volume of the various design elements and to separate them one from another clearly enough.
I also tried adding white lines using a Signo gel pen. That worked out nicely in terms of adding highlights. The shapes of the lines also helped to add the illusion of dimension.
Finally, I tried adding some metallic watercolour in a pale gold. I tried adding dots as highlights,but I also tried a very dilute glaze of the watercolour over the paint. Now I liked that very much, but it has to be dilute and blended out quickly. Sadly, the photo doesn’t show this well on the purple weird mushroomy thingy on the top of the big design.
I’m telling myself it’s all learning, experimenting, finding my way. I just don’t know what my way is at this moment.
Art and my emotional and mental wellbeing
I am tired today. Emotionally drained. and I’m finding it difficult to be satisfied with anything I’m currently doing, even artistically.
This is definitely affecting my ability to ‘art’ at the moment. I lack focus, energy, inspiration even. I am getting frustrated with myself all too quickly, and fed up of what I’m working on too easily.
These are sure signs that I’m out of balance, emotionally more than mentally. However, my emotional health does have an effect on my mental health if I’m not careful.
It feels like some self-care time is needed, with activities that won’t overwhelm me but will help to soothe me and give me the time and space to find that inner balance and contentment once again.
The touchstone of contentment is there, in my heart, but it’s hidden by the shadows the clouds of emotional disturbance are casting within me.
Like all weather, the current unsettled emotional weather will pass. It has lessons to teach me and adjustments to be made. I am resilient enough to do this, to work through this mood and exhaustion, as well as to know how to take care of myself in times like this.
As I reflect backwards, it wasn’t all that long ago, just over a year, that I discovered the touchstone of contentment within me and found that it was OK to look after myself, take time out for myself, to have quiet, non-busy days to myself.
I never feel guilty about doing this any more.
I know if I try to do things that need to be finished, done well, then days like these are not the days to attempt them. The frustration kicks in and just unsettles me more.
I’m not sure if it will be Ben and Jerry’s and Star Wars that will help me, or something else. But I will find my way back to my usual, default, contented state of being.
Everyone could do with learning that we need time to relax, to give ourselves permission to do nothing other than just be.
Society expects us to be constantly busy, productive, on the go, making the use of every single minute of waking.
But all that does is to drain energy, pile on the guilt if we’ve not completed every task in our planners, journals, diaries, and so on.
Social media is full of videos and memes and blog posts about how to be more productive, successful, famous, noteworthy. All of which can make a person feel guilty, useless, underachieving, unworthy.
There seem to be relatively few saying how important it is to look after your mental and emotional health as much as your physical health. So few messages about how important it is to take time out to recharge your energy, to stop and just be rather than forcing yourself to get something done, even if the frustration with the task means it’s taking longer and longer to do.
It’s not easy to give yourself permission to take time out, to relax, recharge just be, watch the world go by, read, listen to music, create, day dream, just for the joy and peace they bring. No, it’s not easy at all, given all the pressures that come at us from every direction.
These kinds of activities are just as important as the ones that are ‘productive’. They are activities that are productive in a different way – you are productively taking care of your energy levels, your mental and emotional well being, feeding your heart and soul with the tasks that soothe and heal.
It’s all part of self-care, making sure your needs are catered for. It’s not being selfish; it’s recognising that you need to take care of yourself as much as you take care of others. It’s about balance in life.
I am hoping that through the pandemic more and more people realise how important it is to slow down the pace of life, to take time to do things that feed heart and soul.
Today, my heart and soul need soothing and caring for. Everything else can be put on hold until I’m able to face them without frustration and rapidly getting fed up of them.
Today, I share a glimpse into my current sketchbook. It’s an Arteza watercolour A4 sketchbook.
I’ve completed all the drawings in boxes now, and am adding colour to them using watercolours, graphitint watercolours, graphitint pencils and/or inktense pencils.
The paper is rather nice to draw on with Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens or a Uniball Signo DX 0.38 pen.
On the cover page I swatched my collection of Inktense pencils, using a damp brush to bring their true colours out.
Inktense pencils are intense in colour when activated with water. Also, once activated with water and dry they are permanent.
I like all the media I’ve used so far on this page. Which I use does depend on my mood. Today, I wanted to choose an inktense palette of colours that is like the rusty colours I’ve been using with watercolours.
I really am drawn to this colour palette in my work at the moment. The dark blues, rich red-browns, blue-greys, earthy-dark greens and the vibrant mustards. One day I’ll look up the psychology of these colours and see how they relate to my mood/life at this time. But not today.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been doing some work in a new Arteza Watercolour Sketchbook, slightly larger than A4 in size.
I am really happy with Arteza’s professional watercolour paper, though I do wish it was whiter in colour. So, I thought I’d try out their watercolour sketchbooks. They’re sturdier than my custom discbound sketchbook, so easier to cart around with me as I need.
I rarely do huge works of art, unless it’s digital work, so I like to work in little boxes on the page. I have drawn all the designs with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens as they are waterproof. Like all watercolour papers, there’s a texture to them and this does wear the fibre-tip of the pen away. I can live with that as I tend to wreck them quickly as I am a bit heavy handed when it comes to pens.
Talking of texture, this paper is less textured than the cotton professional watercolour paper. It is also double sided, with the other side being smooth in texture. This smoother texture is much more to my liking.
Although this paper isn’t 100% cotton, I find it so much easier to work on than the other pulp watercolour papers I have. The paint doesn’t dry too quickly so I can work wet in wet. The pigments also stick to the paper so that successive glazes don’t shift the underlying layers, something I’m only just discovering the magic of working with.
As I don’t really wet huge areas of paper, there is no warping. Also, though I’ve worked in layers of colour in some areas, there is no breakdown of the paper surface.
All in all, as a watercolour beginner, I like the paper. It works with me and the way I like to apply watercolours, whereas other papers I’ve tried definitely work against me!
It’s also quite affordable, with two 64 page sketchbooks come in at £26.99 on Amazon. This means I can experiment with watercolour to my hearts content without feeling I’m destroying the lovely 100% cotton watercolour paper.
Black lines, or no black lines? That is the question…
I keep switching between black line-art that I colour with watercolour and using light pencil outlines so my designs are worked in pure colour. I can’t seem to settle on one way of working. I like both, but my mood changes from day to day it seems.
At the moment, it seems I need that clear, firm structure in my designs, clear boundaries within which I lay down colour. This is, I think, a reflection of my inner self and the issues I’m working through at this time. Issues that I have no words for.
Even though my art is usually rather controlled with clear structure in it, it still allows me to work through emotions and thoughts that are troubling me.
My mind is ever active, but not with self-talk most of the time. Art allows me to express things I can’t in words. It may be choices of colours, the style of art I gravitate to, the media I choose to use at any time.
On this page, some words have appeared, and those are like bullet points from what I’m working through. Other words are noted in my journal and aren’t shared with others.
Rusty, corroded colours.
There is one design that I have filled with colours that remind me of rust. When I get the right consistency of wet into wet colours, I get these delicious, spiky blooms of colour that really do remind me of rusty textures.
Taking time to look closely at rust, there are lots and lots of beautiful colours, some of which sparkle as they catch the light. It never ceases to amaze me how interesting it is, when examined closely.
Nice, shiny, pristine metallic structures and sculptures are lovely, but how much more interesting they become as they weather and corrosion subtly changes them, adds interest and a different kind of beauty to them.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that I have discovered how to create these rusty colours and textures. They are a completely different colour palette to what I would usually use, but I actually love it! Now I know what I’m doing, I can work on understanding the exact consistency of wet on wet I need, and how to get all the various colours I’d like to incorporate.
As I write this, raku glazes come to mind too. All those glorious colours that various copper oxides produce – magenta, rusty orange, purples, greens, blues, and more. I think I’ll be spending time looking at raku again and working out colour palettes to use in my work going forward.
Typographic portraits update
I’m quietly working at the third iteration of my Nye Bevan portrait. My mind is ticking away with what I need to do, and taking a break allows me to return to it with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.
It all began with a drawing in my A5 sketchbook. I then wanted to use it for digital art, and this is the result.
I’m really happy with the flower design. The black lines work in this instance; they give a stained-glass feel to the design.
I’m not at all sure about the background, however.I think I’ve just gone over the top, again. I just can’t seem to leave ‘white space’ in my art.
As a result, I tried some gold patterns on a rich, dark colour. Whatever I tried, just didn’t seem to work. Perhaps I could’ve created the line art in gold instead of black before adding colour. That may have worked out OK.
I’ve left it as it is, for now, as I’m tired and hungry. I’ll look at it with fresh eyes at some point. For now it’ll do, even as an example of art to remind me to work out when enough is enough!
Even though I’ve ended up a bit frustrated with my efforts on the background, I still enjoyed the process of creating this morning. It does make my inner light shine that bit brighter, and we all really need that extra bit of shine at this time of pandemics and more going on in the world.
I wanted a quote that went with the art, so I chose one about blooming and that sums up how I feel when I create, be it art or crafty pursuits. Even when the art goes in a direction I’m not happy with, there’s still a happiness inside that comes from just creating. There’s also a positive feeling about things not working as I want them to, artistically. It’s an opportunity to learn something, either artistically or personally. Today, the lesson is a reminder that I need to learn to leave ‘white space’ in my art.
I woke at around 4:30am again today and couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I got up, made tea, and did some work on my art journal / sketchbook.
Making Distressed Paper
I spent a good two or three hours making the papers you can see to the left. I used the following:
printer and layout paper, cut to A6 in size (UK size)
Distress Oxide Inks
5″ x 7 ” Gelli plate
small Brayer roller
water in a spray bottle
pieces of cut and dry foam
metallic inks and paints
For some of the pieces, I brayered the Distress Oxides onto a Gelli plate and then pulled the print onto a piece of paper. For others, I used the Brayer to apply the ink to the paper. I also used the black side of a piece of cut and dry foam to apply ink to some of the papers.
I sprayed the papers with water to activiate the Distress Oxide, and used the heat tool to dry them. After doing this, I crumpled up a lot of the papers and then used the brayer to flatten them out. Both of these techniques resulted in textured paper. So, I used the cut and dry foam and some Distress Oxide ink to lightly brush the paper to help to accentuate that texture.
Finally I used cut and dry foam to brush metallic paint or ink over the paper to add some shimmer and shine. I used some textured cut and dry foam to add patterns too.
I now have quite a stash of very distressed papers to use in my art journal in the future.
Both the printer paper and the layout paper are much thinner than I would usually use for such a task. The light spritz of water on each, however, created a lovely, bumpy texture. They were also easy to crumple up, adding that kind of leathery texture.
The subtle shine that the gold metallic ink gave is rather lovely, though I do like the bright, shiny gold of some paint I found in my stash.
I can see me using these papers for collage, for making pockets/envelopes and other bits and bobs for a journal, and no doubt for other things I’ve not yet thought of.
Storing my custom papers.
I realised the papers I’ve made over the past couple of weeks have been piling up and I really needed to do something that would let me find them easily. So, the quickest and easiest solution was to use A4 poly-pockets and a ring binder, both of which I had to hand! That certainly has let me have a tidier desk, and I’ll be able to find the papers easily too.
Art journal pages.
I also finished up the two pages shown to the right. I attached inchies, to fill in some gaps.
I used simple paper hinges to attach the ATC cards on page seen in the bottom image. If I ever wish to remove them to swap/share/gift, then I can remove them easily. That simple solution has relieved my anxiety about adhering them permanently into the sketchbook!
I’ve also folded some squared paper, used distress inks to colour the edges and folds, and put them in the vellum pockets I’d made earlier, all ready for me to journal on. Unusually for me, I made use of some washi tape to embellish the pockets.
I’ve also noticed that I’m very ‘regimented’ about how I put things in my art journal. I much prefer carefully cut paper to torn edges most of the time. Everything needs to be arranged ‘just so’ with me. Just as it is with my line-art – precise and neat. I suppose it’s another example of me expressing my personality through my art.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m exhausted. I’m practically falling asleep as I type this; that’s what happens when I wake up at stupid o’clock once again. I’m now officially overtired! I may try to get back to sleep soon; I do have work I need to do today!
As far as me being under the weather goes…
Well, I still have a sensitive digestive system and I feel nauseous from time to time. I did wake with a bit of a headache today, but that could just be lack of sleep, as is the tiredness I feel. I have eaten and my tummy doesn’t seem to be objecting as it has done. This all makes me hopeful that I’m almost over this bout illness. I was really quite grumpy about it yesterday, and I’m entirely sure I’m not grumpy today!
Other than that, emotionally I’m doing just fine. The sunshine helps with my mood for sure, as did being able to hear the bird song as the world was slowly waking up this morning.
I am enjoying working a little either on my sketchbook-journal or preparing bits and bobs for it each day.
The main thing I wanted to do this morning was to get some little word tags prepared and in use.
I created a list of words I’d like to add to bits and bobs of art. I copied the list, using different fonts, then printed out an A4 sheet of the words. I made a second sheet using different words and different fonts. Then, I cut the sheets up into smaller pieces for storage.
Then, I realised I’d need to create a storage space for them in my sketchbook and thought an envelope would be the easiest way. I do have some commercially produced envelopes, but I thought it was time to use my We’R’Memory Keepers envelope punch board for a more custom size.
I cut an 8″ x 8″ piece of ordinary printer paper. I coloured the paper with distress oxide inks (old paper, tea dye and dried marigold) and then made an envelope that measures 3.5″ x 6″.
I then realised I needed a way to keep the envelope closed. I could tuck the flap inside the envelope, but as I used copy paper I didn’t know how durable it would be. So, I came up with the idea of having a little pocket to tuck the corner of the flap into. And that meant I could cut out “words” from one of the lists and add it to the little pocket.
Before I did that, I aged the edges of the label with Distress Ink. Next, I glued it to a an old book page and cut it out with a border of text. That layer was also edged with Distress Ink, then it was added to the pocket. I used a metallic Gelly Roll pen to draw around the label.
On the page, you can see some small drawings I’ve done over the past couple of days.
On the left of the page are three ATC cards (2.5″ x 3.5″) made from a piece of mixed media paper coloured with the same Distress Oxide Inks.
On the right, is a larger artwork, an experiment and exploration of what I could do. I collaged some Distress Oxide coloured pieces of paper on to the background. I added metallic gold and copper paint to some of the pieces, and also to create patterns behind them. I drew little designs too, including a Dangle Design from one.
I’m not all that happy with the ‘explore’ card. There are bits I like, and other bits where I think I messed up. I think if I’d left it with the gold patterning on the background and just some simple patterns on some of the collaged rectangles, maybe some gold paint on the smaller ones, then it would’ve worked out better.
I think I’m going to make a vellum envelope or pocket to store the ATC cards in. Vellum in translucent and so will provide a tantalising glimpse of the card(s) safely stored within.
The ‘explore’ card will be placed into the sketchbook, with notes and reflections about it. It’s one that will be a learning experience more than anything else.