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!

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 practice

Good news – the headache has gone! Yay! The sun is shining, I have uplifting music playing, and I’ve spent some of the morning practicing watercolour skills and working out how to subtly draw/paint on top with white.

The little tiles at the bottom have designs painted on them with white gouache. There’s a lot more variability in line width with these.

The book marks have had the designs drawn using a white Soufflé pen by Sakura. The ink goes on clear but dries a matt and opaque white.

I used som Molin du Roy watercolour paper from Canson for these. The tiles are approx 2″ x 2″, the book marks are approx 2″ x 7″.

I may mount the tiles on greeting card blanks. The bookmarks need a hole punching in the top and then some string/ribbon threaded through.

I did try out the Sakura Quickie Glue pen and embossing powder yesterday, but really wasn’t happy with it. I also tried using a variety of Sakura pens to draw the outlines before watercolouring – black Glaze, metallic siver Gelly Roll and silver Stardust. They were waterproof, but just didn’t give me the borders for the patterns that I wanted. The black was very bold and gave a rather stained-glass feel to the tile. But, white turns out to be my favourite.

It’s been nice to spend quite a few hours working with watercolours and trying out ideas without any pressure to create anything that is finished. Sometimes making art for the fun of making art is enough and much needed to soothe some rather battered emotions.

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.

Bookmark WIP

7″ x 2″, St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford watercolour paper, White Nights watercolours and a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pen.

Abstract patterns, bright, almost 1960s psychedelic colours and a small project that doesn’t overwhelm me are what I need today. I’m feeling under the weather, and bright cheery colours and a simple project are what I needed to do.

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.

Sunday Creativity

Sunshiny watercolours

Last night, I bought a book called “Paint Yourself Calm” by Jean Haines. It’s about playing with watercolours and colour to gain a sense of calm. Not for any other purpose. Not to create great art. Not to produce anything. Just for the sheer enjoyment of working with watercolours and colour.

The concept appealed to me. I do find it hard to let go of the idea that I have to create finished art. I think that’s part of the instinct to start up a sketchbook practice again too. There’s no pressure to complete finished art in a sketchbook.

So, I was taken by one exercise in the book, which is to draw a shape, with watercolour, around five blank areas on the paper, and then colour the rest of the page with watercolours.

I grabbed one of the A5 Arteza mixed media sketchbooks I have. The paper isn’t the thickest and it did warp, but the colour does bloom and flow when the paper is wet in almost as good a way as it does on the high quality 100% cotton papers I have. I was just playing around and, despite the advice in the book, I just couldn’t feel I was wasting some of my best paper.

I used yellow to start with. I needed some sunshine yesterday evening. It had been a dull, grey, high-windy, wet day here in Wales, UK. So, sunshine was needed, and watercolours could provide it.

Once I’d got the area around the white spaces wet with watercolour, I dropped some oranges and reds into it. Small drops that blossom and bloom like tiny flowers and then flow one into another to create patterns of colour.

I also ran water down the page in rivulets to move the colours some more. And I added some pearlescent gold acrylic ink to these rivulets and let it flow and move, blossom and bloom as it wished.

Once it was all dry, I felt the need to add patterns in black pen. I ended up with patterns that remind me very much of plant cells under a microscope.

The whole process was very calming, meditative and settled me down to go to sleep.

Art Journal Covers

To the right of the watercolour, you can see two covers I’ve made for an art journal. I used some really sturdy cardboard and punched two holes in each. This way I’ll be able to use book binding rings to assemble the covers and internal pages. Each board measures 4.5″ x 5″ and I’ll use papers that are a maxium size of approx 4″ square in it.

I covered both sides with white gesso before using PaperArtsy Fresco chalk paints to colour them in a patchy, grungy way. I’m so grateful I hadn’t got rid of them, as I am thinking of having a major clearout of my stash at some point in time.

I wanted the colours to look a bit like the verdigris on weathered copper. Once dry, on the fronts, I added some medium grain texture gel. Once that was dry, I dry-brushed copper paint so it picked up the texture on both the back and fronts of the covers. Finally, I used the copper paint to edge the boards.

You can’t really see the copper in the photos, but it is there! I’m quite pleased with this.

Oh, I was inspired by a YouTube video by Kylie Coo Studio.

So, I’ve had a creative morning so far.

Tranquility

Watercolour

It’s taken me a couple of days to complete this small watercolour. The paper is approx 5¼” x 3¼”. So, it’s tiny and rather detailed.

I stuck to my intention of using blues, teals, greens and purples. This palette gives a rather calming and tranquil feel to the artwork. That was also the mood I was doing my best to create for myself.

I’m usually calm, content when I create. However, events in life can disrupt that to some degree, mainly my ability to relax and settle into my artistic or creative pursuits.

I do enjoy doing these abstract watercolours; the lack of black lines is a change for me, but something I’m learning to be comfortable with. It’s taken me a long time and many, many trials with that. Digital art has been the medium that has helped me find that sense of comfort at leaving out the black lines.

It’s nice that I’m able to translate those skills into more traditional media, particularly watercolours. I love the way watercolours work, but I’ve never found a way for them to work for me. I’ve struggled with them time and time again. However, I think that these abstract watercolour art experiments have helped me.

I love to see people create beautiful botanical watercolours, especially the looser kinds. Whenever I try it, as successful as I may be, it never seems right to me. It never sits ‘right’ in my creative soul. It’s another case of finding out what isn’t me to help me discover, or accept, what is me.

In that vein, my sketchbook is gaining small drawings of abstract designs. Whether I use all of them for paintings is a moot point at the moment. Making use of a sketchbook again is something that seems important at this time. In some ways it’s nice as there is no pressure to get something right or perfect. There’s still quite a bit of the hyper-perfectionist in me, though I’m better at recognising when something is ‘good enough’ to be finished.

RedBubble

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