25 April 2018

first pages and warm-up exercise

Today’s first video in the online Sketchbook Revival class covered those “first page fears” as well as the “what should I draw?” quandary and warming up exercises. I chose not to follow along with the examples given — it’s supposed to be about having fun and I don’t enjoy random scribbling.

So I followed my own long-standing practices instead:

For years, I have drawn my art tools on the first page. This can be simply what colors I am currently using, as shown above, or a sketch of my palette, fountain pens or pencils. Usually there is a wonky line or smudge of ink or paint — the sketchbook is now no longer pristine and I can move on past that first page! (I also record personal contact info on the inside front cover, in case the book is lost.)

As to “what should I draw?”, I began the sketchbook habit in 2007 by following Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters drawing challenges. This list really got me moving forward!

My favorite warm-up exercise is a simple continuous line drawing. I did so many of these back in high school art classes, some “blind” and some timed — they are really quite relaxing! I don’t do them every time I draw, but if I feel “stuck” they help. This drawing of two more of my tea cups finished up the small folded sketchbook I made for the first day of class — my own wee boring book filled with tea cups like Danny Gregory’s!

24 April 2018

shapes and edges

. . . and here’s my notations and class work for today’s second half, “Sketching Complex Shapes with Edges and Shapes” with Liz Steel. Liz is SO RIGHT — capturing shapes first is so much easier and quicker than beginning with lines!

a tea habit

Today’s first class in Sketchbook Revival was presented by Danny Gregory, a true hero in the sketchbook artist world. It was his book, Everyday Matters, that began this drawing journey so many of us are on. My response was to draw three of my own tea cups (okay, two of them are mugs, not cups — but I like BIG cups of hot tea!) Shown above is the tea I was actually drinking while watching the class video on my phone.

I’m using the simple folded journal I made yesterday using Bristol paper. This Scottie cup, given to me by my dear friend Ginger, looks very wonky but I was not using any pencil guidelines — just straight with ink in Lamy Safari fountain pens.

And this is my only real tea cup and saucer, unless you count some antique doll china that once belonged to Bill’s grandmother.

23 April 2018

a temporary sketchbook cover

After making two of the simple sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Revival class today, one folded and one a single sewn signature, I went ahead and sewed another book block from the leftover sheets of Cotman 200 lb. cold press watercolor paper. The paper is so thick, I used only one folded sheet per signature! But it should work very well for any wetter paint applications I might use.

Originally I had planned to do any class work in my regular current sketchbook journal, but because the first class was on making our own books, I decided to work in these books for the duration. The simple ones seen in my previous post are of Bristol paper, a smooth paper for pencil or pen and ink. This book block above is more for watercolor.

Eventually I will design covers for all three books but I really don’t want to decide on what they might look like today. So I needed a temporary cover to hold them:

This plaid book cover was made to hold paperback novels — I bought it because I love all things plaid but have never used it.

By tucking the front or back page into the inner flaps, my two larger sketchbook page blocks are easily held in place within the cover. The smaller folded book stays in place with the bookmark ribbon.

Seems like a simple temporary solution for some very simple sketchbooks!

some simple handmade journals

The Sketchbook Revival online workshop began today, with the first lesson teaching how to make three simple sketchbooks. I didn’t make the first example, an accordion book, because I had already filled two journals of that style, full of special memories.

The larger one, made by Cathy Johnson, was filled in March and June of 2013 during two of my “Granny Nanny” trips staying with grandkids. Across three pages of one side is Mikala’s gigantic Maine Coon kitten, Oreo — Sadly, he died of a heart attack near the end of that same year, making this sketch poignantly special. (That was also the year my husband Bill had a major heart attack, followed by bypass surgery. I am SO GRATEFUL that he not only survived but is still thriving with a strong heart!)

The smaller accordion book contains random sketches from 2015, including my cataract surgeries. I fill both sides of this style of book, using a couple of rubber bands to hold uncorked pages together as I work. Otherwise the book can easily spill across the floor!

The two books in front are a simple folded version of white Bristol and a single signature sewn book of the same paper, covered with a folded piece of vintage Bristol in a cream color. I think I’ll use both of these for some of the class work.

Two separate parts to today’s class were sent by email today; I’ve only watched the first one due to wimpy internet. Maybe I will be able to view the second half before bedtime.

22 April 2018

new sketchbooks

Even though I have a small stash of papers to bind my own sketchbook journals, I haven’t really been in the mood to get started on it. I also need to find a better quality glue before beginning on that project.

But for now, I am liking every Stillman & Birn sketchbook I’ve tried, especially the softcover versions. My current book is the deep blue Beta lying underneath this light blue Field Notes notebook that stays in my purse. And in the above sketch, two new books recently arrived by mail order: a Zeta landscape softcover and a Nova softcover with gray toned paper.

I still have nearly half of the Beta to fill, so there’s still time before I have to decide . . .

18 April 2018

time to re-ink

Some of my fountain pens were skipping a bit and some were nearly dry, so it was time to re-ink. I seldom completely clean a pen; inserting the nib and feed into the ink, then emptying and re-filling the converter a couple of times seems to lubricate everything. My pens then write like new again.

This old wooden box that holds my ink bottles (De Atramentis Document, Noodler’s, and J. Herbin brands) and a few pre-filled cartridges is from my grandfather’s print shop, and once held odd type, blocks, and bits for the monstrously big printing presses he kept in his garage. I can remember the smell of the ink he used a large roller to apply. His fingers were always ink-stained. As are mine after refilling my pens!

13 April 2018


Our daughter-in-law Carrie recently had a birthday . . . and she woke up to find that her yard had been taken over by plastic flamingos!

(Flamingo pink is a very hard color to mix!)

11 April 2018

which green?

I have tweeked the limited palette that I recently put together, replacing the raw umber with burnt sienna — I can always mix a near-match to the raw umber with ultramarine. Then I wondered whether to keep the one single-pigment green as perylene green, or replace it with phthalo green BS?

So I mixed it with my other colors. If what I’m after is “bright”, the phthalo is a better choice; for subtle, realistic color, the perylene works better. . . . . Still undecided. What do you think?

The other choices in this limited palette are quinacridone rose, quinacridone gold, Hansa yellow medium, phthalo blue GS, ultramarine, burnt sienna, Payne’s gray, and a dab of white gouache. Plus a  Loew-Cornell #8 round and a 3/4 flat for my brushes. The flat’s handle has been shortened to fit the box and pointed for scratching effects.

09 April 2018

a cleaning day

I store tubes and sticks of watercolor in a deep drawer of an antique wooden toolbox, with paints already squeezed into pans and allowed to dry stored in a shallow drawer just above the paint drawer. Over time, it gets vary messy, though I dotry to keep the paints in roughly the same order as I place them in palettes. There were several colors that I’ve stopped using or some I tried due to other sketchers’ experiences — I decided to clean these out and settle on just the ones actually used.

Some of those on the right hand side are only used once in a great while, or only in a special granulated palette. So my “core” palette is usually made up with 10 to 14 of these. I will miss the old quinacridone gold (no longer available). I still have some squeezed and dried in pans. But it has been removed from the overall stash.
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