Sketchbook Saturday

What’s new?

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.

Working with the ‘aha moment’

Sketchbook page

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.

Reflections

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.

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.

Sketchbook Saturday

Very much a work in progress

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.

Productive? Busy?

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.

Art for heart’s sake.

Experiment in watercolour

It’s WIP Wednesday, so here’s a work in progress I started this morning.

I woke thinking it was about time I tackled rendering one of my abstract, stylised, imaginary botanical designs in watercolour.

I think I’ve gained a bit of experience with watercolours, kind of have a feel for them and how I like to work with them. Or so I thought.

Anyways, I started by drawing the design lightly in pencil. I used a 0.5mm mechanical pencil by mistaked; I had intended to use a 0.3 mm one instead. No matter, this is an experiment, a trial in my Arteza watercolour sketchbook.

Once I was happy with the drawing, knowing I can always add more to it or alter it before painting it, I started to add colour.

I started with the bottom right blue seed-poddy/stylised flower motif. I thought I’d use two different shades of blue alternately around it, adding shadow and depth. That didn’t work out too well. I tried dry brushing on the ‘spokes’ of the motif. My reaction was ‘yeuch! Angela what were you thinking???’.

I didn’t give up at this point, though it would’ve been easy to do so. I continued on, reminding me this is an experiment, I’m trying something out that I’ve not had much success with in the past; just keep going.

So I did. And I know I have work to do to recognise when the wet paint has dried enough for a different wet colour to spread nicely, but not too much, when dotted into the first colour.

As time was going on, I was becoming more comfortable with how I was adding colour. I was working out that adding glazes was a way to darken areas, and that I could gently blend the edges out while the glaze layer was still damp so I didn’t get harsh lines.

Slowly but surely I coloured in different motifs, careful not to do wet next to wet.

All in all, I’ve worked on this painting for around three hours. There’s a lot more to do, but I can pick at it from time to time.

What I have noticed is, however, how much I want to add colour in the same way I do when working digitally. An interesting observation, the implications of which I have not even started to unpack yet.

Therapeutic art once again…

Once again, I turn to art to help me manage my unsettled emotions and thoughts. I am so tired, again. The stress of the past week or so has taken it’s toll. However, like the heavy rain and rather windy weather we’re experiencing here in the Valleys of South Wales, these will eventually blow over and I’ll be able to focus on my contracted work.

I’ve learned that when I’m all out of balance, it’s best for me to focus on art that is soothing, that no one expects anything from me, that I don’t have to worry about messing up. If I try to do art that others need to be happy with too, then I get frustrated and negative about myself, doubt myself.

So, for today at least, I will be creative in ways that will give me the time and space to heal my frazzled emotions and gradually work my way back to mental and emotional well-being once again.

After a life-time of putting everyone else’s needs and happiness first, I’m gradually learning to take care of my own needs first.

I felt guilty and selfish to say ‘my own needs first’. But it isn’t selfish to look after myself. It’s a recognition of being responsible for myself and my own needs and well-being.

And so, today I art, for art’s and heart’s sake.

I just wish it wasn’t so darned rainy and blowy. The rain alone I’d be happy to go and walk in, or the wind alone. But not both together. It is forecast to ease off in a couple of hours, so maybe I’ll get a walk this afternoon, with brolly and waterproof jacket. I’d like that. But for now, I’m going to go and drink tea, draw the design for Template Thursday, and have the quiet time I need to heal, recharge and refresh.

Watercolour Art Therapy

Art to calm and soothe

More art therapy was required yesterday and today. This time I messed around with watercolours and botanical motifs.

Some I like, some are hideous, but all resulted in me finding some calm amidst a maelstrom of emotional and mental pressures being exerted against me.

Although I’ve not yet tried to express my emotions via colour and pattern today, working with motifs from nature is soothing in it’s own way.

Perhaps there’s more of me expressing my needs in creating botanical art. I do feel the need to be out walking where there is nature. With Covid19 still doing the rounds, my places of choice are cemeteries; so few people visit them and I feel safe there in a way I don’t feel safe in nature when I’m by myself.

So, as it’s fairly overcast and there’s a good breeze, I’ll head out as soon as I’ve completed my social media stuff for the day.

Materials and method

I used mostly watercolours, but I did try out the Inktense paint palette I received yesterday for one motif. For some of the motifs I used a faint pencil outline. On others I darkened that outline once I’d painted the motif. And I tried black outlines using a Signo DX 0.38 pen on some others. I also used white Signo gel pens to add highlights. Finally, I splattered some gold watercolour over the page, and added some bigger dots of gold.

Oh, I worked on one of the smooth textured pages in my A4 Arteza watercolour journal.

Kintsugi art therapy

My artistic method today

I do apologise for the poor photos. These were the best of many that I took of my arty pursuits this morning. I’m not sure if I’m finished with it or not.

This was an unusual excursion into the realms of art for me. I was feeling totally emotionally overwhelmed – scared, anxious, sad and confused.

So, I thought I’d try to express my emotions artistically, with watercolours.

I used masking tape to edge an area approx. 6″ x 2.75″ (15.5 cm x 7cm) in my Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook. I used a new page for this, and it was the smooth side of the paper.

Next, I applied a wet wash of indigo watercolour, and then dropped in greys and rusty oranges, reds and browns into it.

The paper warped with the quantity of water. No biggie though, as this is a sketchbook. Once I’d finished adding colour and letting the watercolour do it’s magic, I used a heat tool to dry the paper. When I removed the masking tape, which was low tack, it lifted some of the paper with it, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, it is a sketchbook, so no biggie.

I then wanted to add some gold patterns and lines. I dug out a Cosmic Shimmer iridescent/metallic watercolour palette and a size 1 brush.

Finally, I thought I’d add some details in black pen (Uniball Signo DX 0.38), but I’m not sure about them at the moment.

Reflections

My emotions were, and still are to a degree, all over the place. I tried to meditate to find some peace and calm; my mind was just racing faster and faster and I just couldn’t sit with the emotions.

So, I decided to try to paint my feelings, to put into colour and pattern what I couldn’t put in words, or make sense of. I thought I’d try a totally intuitive block of colour where I asked my feelings what colour they wanted to use, where to put it and when it was done.

I chose dark, gloomy inky indigo for the background, and rusty yellows and browns. Indigo for both the sadness and upset I was feeling, but also the deep calm I was seeking. The rusty colours perhaps represent the blood, sweat and tears I’ve been expending for a while now. Or maybe the stains on my soul and emotions that have resulted in my struggle today. Either way, the colours just seemed the right ones to use.

There’s also a lot of depth in the way the colours sit on the paper.

Oddly, this is a colour palette I’ve been using for a while now, but never quite so dark. Perhaps my unconscious has been trying to tell me what was likely to come if I didn’t take care of myself.

Once I’d got the block of colour done, I knew I needed to add lines and patterns of gold, a kind of artistic kintsugi. I hoped that the gold would help to heal the shattered pieces of my emotions and mind in the way gold infused resin is used to repair much loved pieces of porcelain. I hoped that the gold would remind me that my healed trauma-wounds that have been filled with gold would remain healed and I could be reassured that I wasn’t going to break.

I won’t, but I could feel myself unravelling.

For some reason, once I’d calmed a little, I felt the need to put the pattern of black at the bottom. Piles of tiny little stones. What springs to mind is they represent the touchstones that are the foundation of my emotional wellbeing. There’s quite a few of them there! That surprises me, as my usual one is the one of contentment, a gentle smile in my heart. I may have to explore what these other touchstones are at some point.

As I look at the panel now, I can see there are lighter areas, where a storm seems to be breaking. Light is shining through, clarity perhaps. The photo doesn’t show the colours at all well. I really do need to learn how to use the camera on my phone or my DSLR much better I think.

A successful experiment

I know art always is a source of peace and calm for me. What surprised me was that I felt I was expressing my feelings in this little, very personal artwork.

I’ve never really used art as a way to work through difficult (or not so difficult) emotions before. I think it’s something I’ll be doing again in the future.

Sketchbook Page

Arteza Premium Watercolour Sketchbook Review

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.

Abstract Watercolour

A good three or four hours have been enjoyably spent on creating this little abstract watercolour painting.

The painting itself is approx 3″ x 3¼” on a small piece of Arteza professional watercolour paper, which is made from 100% cotton. I used Graphitint paints by Derwent. These paints have a more subdued, earthy range of tones. They are also quite granular in nature, and duller on the paper than other watercolour paints, which is to be expected as they are made from water-soluble graphite. That also means that they are more opaque.

I used to have a set of Graphitint pencils, which can be used as you would ordinary drawing pencils, but they have a subtle colour to them. When water is added, the colour is activated and becomes more apparent. I enjoyed using them, but I have no idea where I have put them, after searching high and low for them. I saw the Graphitint paint set, and so was intrigued by it. So, yesterday I had to have a go with them, and this is the result.

I usually go for much more vibrant colours in my artwork; I struggle mixing colours and making less bright tones. I also struggle with having a huge choice of colours and remembering to use a limited palette isn’t something that yet comes easily to me.

There are only twelve colours in the the Graphitint paint set, so that limits my colour choice immediately. I’m sure I can mix them with other watercolours, something I intend to experiment with.

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!