Monday, November 19, 2018

But I Can't Draw!

So after I started doing watercolor sketching, I nearly instantly added in travel journaling to my sketchbook, because the place I travel to the most is so beautiful, and the landscapes are not complicated.

This fall when I went to Santa Fe, I took a class in travel journaling by an amazing artist and learned a LOT. Her style is very different from mine, but that's how you learn to stretch a bit, which I did.

My grandfather kept a journal for each year of his adult life and he wrote in it faithfully every day. Just little tidbits of his life - who he had lunch with, what he was working on in his shop, etc. It's SUCH a treasure, and I wish I were that disciplined.

I feel like I "word journal" here on my blog, but watercolor is how I like to record more of my activities - even mundane ones, and so travel journaling & daily sketching is where that desire found a home.

Now that I have done a bit of it, I try to encourage other people to do it, and the first thing everyone says to me is "BUT I CAN'T DRAW". Well neither can I! Or certainly not in any skilled way, although I've gotten better through just DOING it which is the secret to all art skill or any other kind of skill.

So I have a few tricks for you today that will get you over that hump of drawing and let you build your skill to the point where you feel comfortable sketching in the wild.

The key to drawing or painting semi-realistic things is SEEING. And your eye/brain combo fools you, and you shouldn't trust it in the beginning. Your eye can see a vanishing point, but your brain tells you that's not true - buildings have straight lines that don't converge, and so you draw them and then they look weird and you don't know why. Perspective is my biggest challenge and so here is my box of tricks.

  • My phone - I actually travel journal AFTER I'm home for the most part. I take lots and lots of photos, size them for my travel journal and print them out. 
  • My favorite pencil - you need a good, reliable mechanical pencil like this one - I've never found one that came close and it's the only thing I sketch with. I hope they aren't discontinuing this - it says out of stock in a few places. I like this eraser. 
  • Graphite paper - when I was in college, graphite paper was complete garbage. It would smudge all over your work and leave a dirty mess. This paper is amazing and only transfers what you want it to transfer. The sheets are large and can be used many, many times.
  • A good light/magnifier combo for adding detail. My eyes are at that point where I'm both nearsighted and far sighted and I need a little help for adding details. This heavy combo of light and magnifier sits on my standing desk in the craft annex and helps me spot mistakes, work on small details in watercolor or other tiny things like threading needles, get splinters out - you name it. Photo below.
  • The BEST sketchbook - I went through a lot of really awful sketchbooks to get to the best, and I have Antonio Darden to thank for that. I did a studio tour last year with him - we spent hours with him, and I got to flip through his sketchbook, which had this dreamy paper in it. He showed me how even with heavy pigment and water, nothing bled through, and how the color was super vibrant. I instantly bought one, and because I don't pay attention to detail when I want to buy something, I actually bought a series that wasn't made for watercolor - the Alpha series - and that's when I found out how great they are - because it still didn't bleed through and the color and light were just as spectacular as the series that are made for watercolor - Beta Delta and Zeta. I talked to the company at the Expo and found out the reason ALL their books work this way is they have both internal and surface sizing - double sizing - on all their paper. My previous sketchbooks had such inconsistent sizing that it would ruin what I was working on. So these are wonderful and worth every penny. I prefer landscape because I have room to swatch the colors I'm using, but you do what you like.
  • Viewfinder tools - if you are sketching live on location, you MUST have viewfinders to help you frame and size your sketch. 
  • If you want to do live sketching, I recommend a water soluble graphite pencil like this, or my favorite blue water-soluble pencil for monochromatic watercolor sketching - it does come in other colors but WHY? That crazy pencil can write on acetate and glass, too. I sketch mostly in pencil with Daniel Smith watercolor, but today I'm using these watercolor pencils, which are a really fun and easy way to travel journal, super economical and they blend without leaving marks.
  • A good waterproof pen for ink details. My favorite sketcher - Charlie O'Shields does ink + watercolor, as did my instructor. This isn't currently my personal style but I love it so much. I keep a pen like this in my bag for taking notes, as you'll see in my flip through of my journal in the video.
Travel journaling is about recording the feeling of the place, so don't get too freaked out if it's not a masterpiece - it's a visual diary, and it's for no one but you. Have fun and relax. 

Here's what I'm going to show you my process on today. This is a walk I take every day I'm in Santa Fe - down to the square downtown. This intersection marks the divide between the quiet neighborhood above and the peaceful, mildly bustling city center, so I wanted to capture what I see as I enter the main part of town each day. I'm on a hill looking down at Canyon Road and there's a beautiful, old adobe on the corner that always has flowers lining the street. 

Here's the reference photo I took. I sketch in what I call "selective detail" - deliberately omitting things, and keeping most things loose with a little pop of detail.

If I had drawn that without the graphite paper I can assure you the perspective and vanishing point would have been all Cubist. But you'll see how easy it was in the video to get right. 

Here's my lighting setup on my rolling standing work surface in the annex - I am starting to prefer working here over my desk, and I think I'll get a slanted surface to paint and color on under my light/magnifier combo. My Scan 'n Cut is on the left and my beloved paper trimmer is on the right. I got the rolling standing desk from Uline - it's meant to be a tool box, and it's adjustable height. You can get a maple or laminate top.

Here are the supplies.

Arteza Professional Watercolor...
[ ARTZ ]
Arteza 9x13" Graphite Transfer Paper,...
[ ARTZ ]
Arteza Fineliner Pens Black (Set of...
[ ARTZ ]
Arteza Water Brush Pens, Set of 6
[ ARTZ ]
Beta Series Sketchbook, Landscape
[ BLIC ]
Alpha Series Sketchbook, Landscape
[ BLIC ]
Delta Series Sketchbook, Landscape,...
[ BLIC ]
Zeta Series Portrait Sketchbook
[ BLIC ]
ViewCatcher - BLICK art materials
[ BLIC ]
Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle...
[ BLIC ]
20408-5001 - Stabilo All Colored...
[ BLIC ] : Staedtler Mars 780...
Pentel Hi-Polymer Erasers - BLICK art...
[ BLIC ]
Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors
[ BLIC ]
Escoda Versatil Brushes, Travel Round...
[ UTR | BLIC | INK ]
Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix F Brushes...
[ BLIC | ELH ]
Lawn Fawn STAMP SHAMMY Cleaner LF1045
[ SSS | ELH | CST | ART ]
Rotatrim Professional Series Cutter -...
[ BLIC ]
Nesting Porcelain Bowls - BLICK art...
[ BLIC ]

Arteza is offering a 10% off coupon for my readers today. Use the photo link below and shop their entire store at a 10% discount with coupon code UnderstandBlue2. My favorite products are: The Woodless Watercolor Pencils, the Expert Watercolor Pencils, the Graphite Paper, the Fineliner Pens and their water brushes. The Expert Pencils are the professional grade, the Premium Watercolor pencils are student grade, with a kid-friendly triangular grip. You'll see them both in the video.

And before you watch the video, I wanted to let you know about a big sale at Picket Fence! 20% off + a free Life Changing Blender Brush for every $30 you spend. The sale link is below with the details!

So now - on to the video where you can see my lighting setup and my process in action! Take some time during the upcoming holiday and just walk outside and sketch something. It's incredibly relaxing and fun. Don't fret if it's not perfect. Perfection is for serial killers.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Let it (Pretend) Snow!

I was about to say Happy Friday when I realized it's only Thursday. Which is a good thing because November goes so fast it makes me crazy. All the things you think you're going to get done just evaporate. I don't know if it's that one day that gets lopped off at the end, or the doomed trifecta of the time change, the one day and a bunch of holidays all jammed up together. Whatever it is, it's not cool.

What is cool is that Thanksgiving is coming. For most of us, this all the fun of Christmas without the stress of the gift thing. You get an excuse to let your calorie guard down a little and nap. I really think the napping is the true power of Thanksgiving. When else is it appropriate for a bunch of adults to drape themselves all around a room, TOGETHER and just snore after eating pie? THAT STOPPED IN KINDERGARTEN FOR MOST OF US. Also, no one told us in kindergarten - HEY! STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT NAPPING YOU LITTLE DUMMY - THIS WILL BE THE WHITE WHALE OF YOUR ADULTHOOD.

Looking back on my teaching years, I'm thinking I should have yelled this at kids more.

Anyway, the other thing Thanksgiving is about for me is the beginning of making my Christmas cards in earnest. I have a stack from blog posts already, but this is sort of the dateline that I use to really get started on any design I need to get up to the right number of cards. Then when I'm done with those, I make tags if I have time - these are to give away, as we have blissfully done no-gift Christmases for years - it truly changes the holiday into what it should be and removes all stress.

Today, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll actually see a tag hop that I'm participating in with Tracey McNeely, who really does Christmas up right on her blog. I'm making the project on behalf of Picket Fence Studios, and that's who makes this ADORABLE gnome I am using today. First, I cut my tag with this adorable stitched tag die. I love how it makes the tag almost look quilted. It cuts out a hole reinforcer too, but I didn't use that here. It's super cute. Then I took the gnome stamp - I've seen so many cute things with this little guy and stamped him in the new Hybrid ink from Picket Fence. (This also comes in a cube if you want to try it out.) I colored him with Copics, and cut him out with the matching die. Using this 6x6 stencil and Unicorn ink and the small, oval Life Changing Blender Brush from this set, I brushed the stars onto the background and set them with my heat gun. I stamped the sentiment from the same set onto white cardstock in the hybrid ink and then cut it out with these nesting hex dies.

To finish it off, I added these white Nuvo drops - they make such perfect shiny dots! - and added some thick red & white twine.

A Gnome Winter - Picket Fence Studios
[ PFS ]
A Gnome Winter Coordinating Die -...
[ PFS ]
[ SSS ]
Grid Stitched Tag Confetti Cuts –...
[ RVR | SSS ]
Christmas Star - A Colorful Life Designs
[ CLD ]
"Life Changing" Blender Brush Set -...
[ PFS ]
Tonic GLOSS SIMPLY WHITE Nuvo Crystal...
[ SSS ]
[ SSS ]
Hero Arts Pigment Ink Pad UNICORN...
[ SSS ]
Black Hybrid Ink Pad - Picket Fence...
[ PFS ]
Black Hybrid Ink Cube - Picket Fence...
[ PFS ]
Heavy Base Weight Card Stock- White
[ GNK ]
MISTI Stamping Tool
[ MSW | HA | SSS | ELH | MFT | UNT ]
Absorber - Synthetic Cleaning Cloth
Rotatrim Professional Series Cutter -...
[ BLIC ]
Mudder 10 Pack White Buffer Sanding...
Essentials by Ellen Storage...
[ ELH ]
Teflon Bone Folder - Ellen Hutson LLC
[ ELH | SSS ]
Tombow MONO MULTI Liquid Glue Two...
[ SSS | ART | BLIC | ELH ]
Ink Off Cloth
[ INK ]

Now that's a fancy looking handmade tag that really just took five minutes. You just need the right tools! Yes, that's your permission slip for shopping. :)

Head over to the Picket Fence Instagram account to see everyone else's tags, and have a fantastic weekend. I'm making Christmas cards with friends on Saturday - what are you up to?

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