Sunday, January 31, 2010

Emma Dean

This piece I dub Emma Dean, in honor of John Wesley Powell's boat of that name (named after his wife, actually), in which he cruised the Grand Canyon in his second expedition of 1871 - 1872.

This is 11" x 11'. First I used Golden Light Molding Paste on Fabriano Artistico 'rough' watercolor paper, 300lb. Then I used DSmith "extra fine" wc sticks. Finally, pastels.

Powell's Emma Dean, at left. NB: Major Powell's spindle chair, lashed to the deck. Yowser!

Our Hero

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Lady GaGametrical

Yeah, I know. I know! The cross is too symmetrical and straight and dagger-like. Agreed. But the background is really cool.

Principal ground: Golden Light Molding Paste.

Friday, January 29, 2010


This is entitled Calling for Rain - the Wanyarang Suite by Shane Pickett. It is eight panels, synthetic polymer paint on linen, and 248cm x 370cm (or about 8' x 12'). It was painted in 2007 and is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Shane Pickett came from a "family of Nyoongar artists", in Western Australia. He was born in 1957 and he died two weeks ago.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This is 10" x 10", on white Rives BFK paper. I used:
Golden Light Molding Paste
Schmincke AQUA modeling paste, fine
General's powdered Graphite
Stones Crayon (a litho crayon)
✱ a 9B pencil
✱ and some white Polychromos

Does this, like, remind you of something? [sigh]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Graphite Soup

This is the first piece from my new class, 'Abstract Represen- tation'. taught at the Yellow Barn at Glen Echo by J. Jordan Bruns.

It's big! 22" x 30", on a sumptuous piece of bright white Rives BFK. (I forgot how damn great this paper is.)

The assignment was to just let the thing dictate where it wanted to go. To just play with marks. Gee, that was EASY! Too easy?

We began by shaving dust from a woodless pencil -- I used a soft 9B -- with a razor and then rubbing that dust into the paper with a towel. Thus getting a ghostly-mottled, but somewhat uniform, mid-tone ground. Then we marked into that ground with erasers, kneaded and harder, to get back to the white of the paper. And then added areas of real dark rubbed-in graphite dust and pencil marks.

We were to be sure we did NOT (1) wander into any kind of representation and, (2) get too enamored of any passage or area and let it dictate to the rest of the piece. That second pitfall is called, among artists, letting something get "too precious". (UPDATE: I have unrolled this piece, taped it to cardboard and propped it on a chair where I can see it all the time. I am afraid I am becoming overly-attached to it. It is becoming "precious" right before my eyes. Damn!)

The assignment for next week is:
 -- Keep a journal of "ideas" that I'd like to express.
 -- Think about a way to turn one of those "ideas" into a "series" that is worth "exploring". (Try to get over the art jargon as well, if at all possible. Sheesh.)
 -- What idea or form or shape or notion is "haunting" me? What do I keep coming back to? (Pah-leeeze tell me it's not pears for heaven's sake.)
 -- Think about other artists and what I admire, i.e.
✱ Matisse: color (see especially 'Woman with a Hat')
Richter: layering
Shane Pickett: line
Creevy: on principle

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Examined: How to chose your Fountain Pen

Thinking of trying a fountain pen for your sketching? Thinking of going back to the future?


You can load a fountain pen with exactly the correct ink for the job at hand or to match your whim of the day.

Besides, fountain pens feel luxe in the hand.

The nib is the key element. Where the 'rubber' (or the silver or the gold or the steel), as it were, meets the road. If you are on your way to a fountain pen, here's help selecting a nib size:

. A posting in the Fountain Pen network forum entitled Nib size perference. (Here is the front door to the whole Fountain Pen network suite of pages and forums. Wealth of knowledge here!

. The Tools and Materials page from Russ Sutler's online Book about Sketching that discusses nib sizes and fountain pens for sketching.

. A quote from Chose Your Pen: "There's the question of nib size: extra-fine, fine, medium, bold. The right size is determined by the size of your handwriting. If you write small, look for a finer point; a wider nib will make your letters illegible. . . . But a fine nib may feel "scratchy" if you have a light touch or if the angle at which you hold the pen is less than straight-on." 

So we could extrapolate from that line or reasoning to sketching: if you are gestural and loose, a medium nib would be good. If you are into fine and precise detail in your drawing, then maybe the fine nib would be the best.

. Here's a posting called Chosing a Fountain Pen, at a UK pen shop's site, that discusses nibs.

. Make a special trip to the nearest annual Pen Show. At one of these extravaganzas (and I do mean serious extravaganzas) you will find everything from a two-buck plastic disposable Japanese fountain pen to an Italian-made jewel-encrusted pen worth as much as your Mercedes. As well as all manner of vintage and antique writing pieces. Hobnob with dealers and collectors. Nib makers set up booths at the bigger shows. Have your nib custom made! Go nuts.

. Finally find a local fine pen store and try different nibs. The staff are usually pen fanatics and will be delighted to advise you on your selection. My two faves: Pen Haven, in Kensington MD, and Fahrney's, downtown.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


This is about 9" x 10-1/2". First I took a piece of green Saint-Armand Colours watercolor paper and laid on a mixture of clear Colourfix primer, water, Golden Fiber Paste, and DS 'Green Gold' watercolor paint. The paper buckled a bit and so I let this concoction (which was the consistency of yogurt) pool up and flow around the buckled-up areas. It created a kind of gooey spiderweby effect. (Which I should have documented. Since it looked pretty alluring.) Once the paper was dry I glued it to a piece of partially (left+right sides only) beveled foamboard.

Then I made the underlying design using DS Watercolor sticks, NeoArt crayons, and Horadam Gouache in the wonderful color 'madder red dark'. I tried some alcohol sprays, but didn't get too enamored of the effects. Seemed to muddy things up too much.

Once that was almost dry I played around with the soft pastels on top. And more gouache, and more pastels.

Colors? Well. I was reading a post the other day about how digital cameras vary all over the place with regard to color rendition. This pic here? Well I couldn't even come close to rescuing the colors with Photoshop. And even if I had, your monitor is not calibrated the same as mine is so it'd look different anyway. So c'est la vie. As I noted: this is all an exercise in approximation.

Pot'o Goodness: Currently bubbling in the pot as we speak: Crockpot Chicken Makhani. (Thank you, Miss E, for suggesting it!) No, my friends, I did not sew my cardamon pods together. This is what a tea ball is all about. (Holy cow, but them cardamon pods is damn expensive, ain't they?) And no, I didn't have any 'Garam masala' hanging around in the the old spice rack. I mixed my own! The question is: what am I going to do with all this leftover shredded coconut?

Saturday, January 16, 2010


This is on Strathmore Aquarius II wc paper, done with Noodler's Sequoia Green ink (which is a delightful deep dark green) and done using a Walnut Drawing Stick.

The Walnut Drawing stick, despite being so named, is in fact made of carved bamboo.

By the way, the largest (not tallest, but largest) currently known Sequoia sempervirens tree is named 'Lost Monarch', is located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods Park and was "discovered" in 1998. It is 320 feet high (oh, say almost twice the height of my 16 story building ) and 26 feet in diameter at the base. (I once camped -- that is, I pulled my entire 17-foot-long VW Eurovan camper -- INSIDE an old sequoia stump in a small oceanside park in northern California. It was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. To sleep inside a tree. Albeit long dead.)
sempervirens = "always alive"

Friday, January 15, 2010


This is about 6-1/2" x 19" x 1/2". Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has a 3rd dimension. The man-made part of the island is a vacuum cleaner filter encased in various media to render it pastelable. It rises about a half inch from the surface of the board. It's still a little spongy, even with all that stuff on it. But that enhances its islandness. Right?

Oh I don't know. For heaven's sake. What the heck!

The list of media is similar to Map2. Next I am going to try granulating medium and more alcohol, both sprayed on. Also Schmincke Aqua Effect Spray Medium, which "disturbs the surface of watercolor paint and creates interesting patterns." Keen? Keen! Am eager to try this stuff with the DS Watercolor sticks and with the gouache. And on top of the pastels.

Monday, January 11, 2010


About 7" x 10". Base is 300lb 'rough' watercolor paper.

I used, in approximate sequence:
cut-open teabags, glued on with primer
DSmith watercolor sticks (yeah, I sprung for 'em)
✱gouache and watercolor paints
NeoArt watercolor crayons
✱alcohol washes and sprays
✱spays of water
Colourfix primer
Golden Fiber Paste
✱layers of soft pastels
✱more primer
✱sanded the surface down w/sanding block
SpectraFix fixative
✱more soft pastels and pans

Okay, yep: I basically used everything in the house on this piece except mayonnaise. Hence, the new tag "mixed-media". Eh?

I don't like books where every other sentence has been contrived with an eye to eventually appearing in Bartlett's. Spare me.

Pic: Click on this doggie here on the right. Trust me.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Examined: Ink Wash Color Tests

This is a review of 7 water-soluble inks that I have been using for my regular everyday sketching. (These tests shown below were done on 80lb. Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper, which is what I use in my sketchbook.)
[BEWARE: The color calibration of computer monitors varies quite a bit. So the colors of these inks may not look the same on all monitors.]

1 Noodler's Borealis Black - Straight, firm, pure warm black. Washes to a nice grey flannel. No color drop-out. (Considerable bleeding of the lines on the wc paper, as you might be able to see. Might be a problem.)
2 Noodler's Squeteague Green - Cool turquoise blue lines and wash. Nice.
3 Noodler's AirCorp Blue Black - Same wash color as the Squeteague, except that the lines stay very dark, almost black. Nice contrast with the wash color.
4 Noodler's Nightshade - Dark red/black lines that wash into a lovely violet/fuschia. There are faint undertones of blue as well. Very varied, very nice.
5 Noodler's Sequoia Green - Deep dark green lines that wash into a warm almost olive green, but with pronounced undertones of red, which is green's compliment. This one is quite nifty!
6 Private Reserve Midnight Blue - Good neutral ultramarine blue wash color, with very slight undertones of a yellowish green. Need to experiment with this one more.
7 Private Reserve Velvet Black - My benchmark and my favorite. Washes into violets, blues, and greens. I wanted to compare this side-by-side with these new inks.
--Noodler's Inks from Swisher Pens
--Noodler's website
--Private Reserve inks website (beware the auto-audio--yuck!)
--Index of Ink Reviews on the Fountain Pen Network website - excellent resource for more on your ink of choice.


This last one, at the bottom, is a side-by-side close-up of the Noodler's Borealis Black (on the left) and the PR Velvet Black (on the right), showing very clearly how the PR breaks into all manner of other colors. Love the Velvet Black!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Barrier Island Map One

I can leave my creche out and my Christmas tree up as long as I want. Right?

Here is remarkable 22-step(!) pastel painting sequence by outstanding pastelist Maggie Price, entitled High Country Fall Painting Demo. To watch it unfold step by step (fascinating!), click on the button labeled 'Slideshow' in the top left hand corner. (Change the interval to 1 second on the next screen's bottom menu.) Isn't that whole sequence pretty durn interesting? Q: Would you have stopped before she did? Me too. At which frame? (PS - Here is her commentary.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

5 Elements for a Successful Artist's Blog

Revised 18Sept2011
"You need a blog. Not just an ordinary blog - there are too many of those. You need to talk, in some depth, about your vision and your art, in a way that makes me care about what you have to say. Tell me something worth hearing. Enlighten, entertain, inform. Make me happy, angry, intrigued, or inspired. Write about whatever you want, just make it uniquely you and don't leave me bored and uninterested. Express yourself and show your passion. Leave me wanting more, eagerly awaiting your next post. Your art may "stand on it's own" as some artists like to say, but with a good story behind it, your art will stand even stronger."
So goes part of a November 2009 posting entitled Is your art broken? Good news and bad news for artists, and the simple new rules of art marketing, written by "Micah" on the website We know nothing about "Micah" except that she writes well and she's spot-on correct: what's essential for a successful artist's blog (and ANY blog) is compelling, engrossing content.

A fly-by of the info on artists' blogs and blogging in general yields the following 5 elements of a successful artist's blog:

The most essential feature is outstanding writing. Don't even think of attempting a successful blog unless you wholeheartedly enjoy writing and are damn GOOD at it. With all the competition out there for prospective blog followers, none will tarry a moment on your site unless they find stellar quality writing there.

A blog is not only for showing prospective buyers your artwork (though it can and ought to include that). You can accomplish that with a simple gallery website. A blog is about WORDS, conversation, reading, writing, discussion.

Next in importance is frequency. Post new material on your blog at least twice a week. This is, of course, related to being a skilled and enthusiastic writer. If your heart is in it, this kind of frequency is not a burden. But a joy.

Regular and provocative postings create a community atmosphere. Casual followers will become loyal followers. (You know. How often have you discovered a really excellent blog posting, one that grabbed you and intrigued you, so much so that you bookmarked the blog. But when you went back at intervals over the next month, you found no new content. So here's what you did: you deleted the bookmark.)

The raison d'être of #1 and #2 is this third one: make it interesting. Make it engrossing, fascinating, amusing, stimulating. You can be the best writer out there and post faithfully every day, but if what you are offering to your followers is humdrum or boring or nonsensical or just too much work to figure out, no one will return.

This is difficult -- sometimes even controversial -- because there are so many variables. What might be absolutely riveting to you may be a big yawn to those you are trying to reach with your blog. Coming up with good ideas and fertile topics requires knowledge of your target audience. What do they care about? And beyond that, should you 'pander' to what they care about, rather than what interests YOU?

This next one is what OUGHT to be the catalyst of #3 above: be honest, be candid, be passionate. They follow your blog because they are interested in YOU and your artwork. Let your art and your personality shine. (Incidentally, prospective buyers really enjoy getting the 'back story' on you, your art, and especially on that one piece that has caught their eye. The more you reveal about your process and your thinking the richer the 'back story'.)

Last, be greedy. Make your blog a part of your own process of discovery, creation, and documentation. Use it as your personal art journal. "You can share the process of creation of your art and document it so that the connection between journey and destination is made even more unbreakable." (from remarkablogger) Follow your own progression and think about what you have done and left un-done. Heck, if you are going to go to all the trouble, you might as well exploit your blog as one of your learning tools.

WHY?Why Should Artists Blog? (2007), from
Why professional artists need a blog (2009), from Artists Talking, a British site
Top 10 Reasons to Start a Blog / Why Should You Blog? on
9 Reasons Why Every Artist Should Have Their Own Art Blog (2007), from

 HOW?Artist Blogging 101 (2009), from
Getting Started With Blogging – How To Create An Artist Blog (2009), by
Blogging for Artists - Resources for Artists, from Squidoo
27 Thoughts On Blogging For The Artist (2008), by Robert Bruce, posted in
☛ here's an ebook entitled 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: very interesting! Download it for twenty bucks. More info here.
Blogging for Artists (2009), from - loaded w/tips and how-tos
Notes on blogging etiquette for artists (2008) from Katherine Tyrell, on her excellent blog Making a Mark. There are a lot of 'NEVER's and 'ALWAYS's here, but the tips are very useful.
☛ Chose your platform: The blog platforms of choice among the top 100 blogs, from The winner? WordPress!
Content Strategy: 7 Tips To Make Your Blog Stickier, by Shane Snow.
All Info on Art Blogging, by Nancy Natale -- A bit scattered and disorganized, and somewhat ambitiously titled, but useful nonetheless.
A million visits to my art blog - and some tips, by Katherine Tyrrell, author of the blog Making a Mark

SAMPLES:29 Art Blogs to Watch in 2011, as nominated by Donna Zagotta, posted on 25Jan11
Top Ten Posts on an Artist's Blog 2010, by Casey Klahn
Top 10 Art Blog Posts of 2009, by Casey Klahn
☛ and the Top 10 Art Blog Posts of 2008, as selected by the inimitable Casey Klahn.
May 2010 list of the Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs, from

AVOID THIS: Avoid this if possible. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it tends to frighten potential readers: "My blog reflects my interests in stained glass, mosaics, encaustic wax, weaving, journaling, doll making, cooking, soap and cream making, herbs and, of course, sculpture."