Saturday, December 29, 2012

Escape and Hide

Collection of images called Cabin Porn.

While most appear either snowbound or abandoned, some are downright delicious. A few semi-apropos book reviews are sprinkled among the pictures.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Top Ten 2012 Art Tools and Materials

Okay, I'll pile on with my countdown list of favorite art tools and materials of 2012.

My discovery of some of these pre-date the beginning of the year, but this was the year each of them got under my skin and into a position of must-have. They are more or less in ranked order.

10. Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils: I had been playing around with these for a few years, but only intermittently. This year I started to use them much more often. I use them for under-drawing for pastel, watercolor, and gouache pieces. The lines and the colors bleed and run and kind of set the stage for later color work, and I like that layering. I also use them for finishing touches on watermedia pieces, both laid on dry and rubbed in with my fingers. The pencil can add an interesting extra scumbly texture that I like.

9. Uniball Signo white gel pen: I finally found a practical way to carry decent water-soluble, opaque white ink. Hurrah! I bought a dozen at least. (Life has taught me that the minute you become dependent on a thing, it's discontinued by the manufacturer. Hmm. Maybe I need to get another dozen.)

8. Cubix Round Zip Pencase: Only under duress will I admit to how many sketch cases I have bought over the years, tried, then discarded. It's embarrassing. Well, this year I finally found one that appears to be the perfect compromise between size and flexibility. Not too big that, when loaded, I'd never carry it. But big enough to hold what I think of (right now) as a minimal kit. What helped boost this case to the must-have list is how well the new watercolor box fitted in it. (See #4, below.) But you can also see in the picture above how well a couple of handfuls of watercolor pencils fit just as nicely in that same right-hand pocket, aided by a piece of elastic I sewed in. Flexibility! Adaptability!

7. BFK Rives 'tan' paper: I love working on toned paper and the failure of the otherwise excellent Stonehenge 'Kraft' brown paper for use in folded and sewn sketchbooks was a blow. So I was on the lookout for a replacement. I even made it my quest during a Spring visit to the legendary New York Central Art Supply. (That was fun!) There I bought samples of a number of exotic and wildly expensive toned papers from all over the world in the hopes of finding a new gem. No luck. 

With reluctance I turned back to a paper that I had used for printmaking, BFK Rives 'tan'. I say "with reluctance" because though I loved the color and appreciated the quality, I loathed the company which had recently purchased the Rives mills in France: Canson. In my experience, every art product with the name Canson on it is total crap. But, despite some minor issues, the Rives paper seems to be working for me. This year I actually got to like it a lot for sketching and watermedia. I assume that as soon as Canson finds a way to destroy the quality of the Rives paper, it will not hesitate to do so. So I am using and enjoying it in small-sized orders. 

6. Silver Brush Bristlon 'Filbert' brushes: I found a recommendation for these synthetic brushes on Roz Stendahl's blog and bought a few. I tried them with both the gouache and the pan watercolors and promptly bought a few more. I use a #2, a #4, and a #6, but mostly the 2s and 4s. The filbert is a good shape for me: I can get a thin line by turning it on end but can also lay on a good wet impasto swipe of gouache using the flat of it. Their best quality for me is their spring. I can dig around in a gooey glop of gouache or in a watercolor pan with no worries about damaging the brush. This is right now, for me, the perfect brush.

5. Schmincke gouache: I had been playing with gouache on and off for a few years and I enjoyed the way it let me work in opaque layers. So this year I decided to use it more often. I asked a lot of questions, tried a number of brands and techniques, and did some gouache paintings that I really enjoyed doing. So far, the brand that I like the best is Schmincke. They are wonderful on toned paper!

4. Derwent Academy watercolor box: I stumbled across the Derwent Academy Watercolor Pan Set in the big gift shop at the National Gallery of Art and I bought it. Don't ask me why. Fate intervened. The whole set, including twelve pan colors, costs far less than one single tube of artist quality watercolor paint. But voila! I pulled the plastic pan holder out and the box itself turned out to be the perfect fit for about seventeen Schmincke half and whole pan watercolors, a few indispensable DSmith colors squirted into half pans, and one sawed-off Silver Bristlon Filbert brush. The pans and the dots of magnet on the bottom of each fit exactly into the box. But the box is slim! It fits perfectly into the pocket of the Cubix Round Zip Pencase. The stars aligned, marrying together the box, the pans, the brush, and the case. It all clicked into place so seamlessly that who am I to quibble? Small miracles. But much appreciated.

3. TWSBI Micarta: This pen became a must-have stealthily. It's big and fat. It's funky-looking. It doesn't hold much ink. The nibs are not remarkable. (There isn't a stock italic available for it.) It even smells funny. But somehow I got quite attached to it. It's the micarta material that makes it so cozy. It goes with me everywhere.

2. Schmincke pan watercolors: I began messing around with Schmincke pan watercolors based, again, on a recommendation in Roz Stendahl's blog. These are now my go-to watercolors. The Schmincke and DSmith tube watercolors are just fine but Schmincke's pans seem richer and denser to me. (Much more so than other brands of pan watercolors.) I've had it patiently explained to me a number of times that the Schmincke tubes and the pans both use the exact same paint formulation. If that's the case, then the process of drying and hardening that the pans undergo must be what changes the apparent (to me) performance. The richness and denseness of some of the colors approaches that of gouache, which I love but which is not practical for a sketch kit. But here I have almost the perfect combination: nearly the richness of gouache with the ease of use and portability of watercolors.

1. Midori Traveler's Notebook: This was my favorite discovery of the year.

First, some background: I have never liked store-bought sketchbooks. They never had the kind of paper I wanted to use. For years I had been using the Circa/Rollabind system to bind my own sketchbooks and was quite happy with that. But a while ago I became less than enamored. I can't say why except that perhaps they began to look stupid to me. So I decided to learn how to bind my own sketchbooks. I spent a lot of time researching this and decided to hold off on attempting one with a cover until I could take a workshop or two. Among other aspects, the stitch diagrams scared me. But in the meantime I had made some mini pamphlet-sized sketchbooks with my favorite papers that turned out just fine. But they had no cover and so were not a practical carry-around solution.

I don't know where I first saw mention of the Midori Traveler Notebook system, but I think it may have been on the Fountain Pen Network. It's a simple system: a leather cover and replaceable inserts held in place with elastic bands in the spine. But reviewers were oddly devoted to their Midori notebooks. I had guessed this was because the dead-simple design was so easily customizable. I promptly bought the cover and then made my own inserts to fit. And just as promptly fell in love. I took the larger Midori on that sketch+shopping trip to NYC and it worked perfectly. The TWSBI Micarta pen rides in a loop in the passport-size Midori and both go everywhere with me.

More Midori info and links here.

And so these are my Top Ten. I hope you enjoyed playing with your art toys as much as I did this past year. Looking forward to an equally adventurous 2013? Me too!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


"High key" and posterized.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Hockey!

This gave me my first honest-to-goodness belly laugh in about a month and a half. Who says hockey players can't camp it up big time? The Belfast Giants play in the Elite Ice Hockey League in the U.K. and they are my new favorite team. This is their version of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and it is   S T U P E N D O U S.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No wonder he's so unhappy

New Yorker cartoon by James Thurber, published on December 12, 1936

Some of my fav Thurber short stories:
---  "A Ride with Olympy"
--- "The Night the Bed Fell" 
---  "What do you mean it was brillig?" 

(Online collection of Thurber short stories is here.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Add a new wing

Construction begins promptly on the new Nats' Fans' wing. Welcome to our world.

I'm mad too.

About 2" x 4", ink, wash, watercolor, on Kraft paper

Saturday, October 13, 2012

He Can See

About 2" x 4", ink and watercolor, on 'Kraft' paper,

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Africa Room

This room is stupendous on so many levels. Obviously, the map carpet is remarkable. But look at the steamship mural at the far end, the artwork display below it, the double-height windows, the quality and quantity of the light, the spaciousness. And what looks like an antique printing press on the right.

If this was MY office studio, I'd be quite happy.

More here, including larger version of the image.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Yeah, so ladylike. But summer's over. Try again.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Today: from Spain

Spectacular map art by Fernando Vicente, in Madrid. Wonderfully textured and touchable and comfy. I like these a LOT.


BONUS! There's this scary large object in Barcelona called Sagrada Família. And there's this famous sound+light show company in Montréal called Moment Factory.

Recently "Moment Factory was invited by the City of Barcelona and the City of Montréal to create the first sound and light spectacle to be projected on the complex façade of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona."  It took Moment Factory four months to design and set up the 15-minute-long show entitled Ode à la Vie, but holy gaudí it sure is worth it.
 --= See a short vid here.
 --= Watch the full son et lumière show here. (I like this vid the best of all the full-length HD versions because it's like you're really there.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sketch 'Em Links

The Scribble Project : Download and use prompt pages for inspiration for sketching.
A Pen Full of Light : Sketching with Tombows. An Afficionado's Insights, by Scott Wilson.
An eighty-page online book filled with ideas and examples using Tombow markers. Good stuff! Take a look.
Where Your Book Begins: Journaling 101
Short posting, but full of interesting links.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jewels of the Trade

Clockwise from the left: a vintage Sheaffer Prelude with a "B" italic nib, a Twsbi 540 with a 1.1m italic nib, and the King of the Hill, the Nakaya Neo Standard with a Music nib.

Alas. Addicted! More.more.more.more Want.want.want.want.want

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Please. Ted, say it ain't so.

Day Numero Uno of the 2012 NHL Lockout [sigh] : Greedy owners (I am looking at you, Ted) lock out all their millionaire players and all us hapless duped chump-like fans.

Aha! Now is the time to explore entertainment alternatives, such as the NSO and ballet. Right? Right! By golly, RIGHT! (Wait. Are you allowed to heckle ballet dancers when they mess up a step? No?! Hmmm. . .)

<----- Graphic here is courtesy of Mother Jones News, and an article about when women used Lysol as a douche. Yeah, okay some stupid Lockout hurts much MUCH less than that. [shudder]

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lizzy in the Winda

It's difficult to describe how delightful the weather has been lately. The hideous record-breaking heat and soul-crushing humidity of a few weeks ago never happened.

She's my solar-powered Queen Elizabeth. The tiny solar panel in the top of her little purse powers her regally waving upraised hand. This week, bathed in sunlight, she's been a-wavin' to me with a vengeance. (She comes from Doodlet's in Santa Fe.)

Three years ago today: Too subtle for me!
Four years ago today: By George . . . . !

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I have never been to China, but I am dubious. Anyone?

Alain Delorme's 'Totem' series of photographs. Hover over the right or left side to get the arrow, so you can scroll through and see them all.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ugly Means to a Satisfying End: the New Barnes

Backstory: A means-end analysis of the birth of the new Barnes Foundation in downtown PhillyPA would be very complicated and very ugly. The players ranged from the most blackhearted of the modern day Robber Barons (the Annenbergs, Mr. Perelman, and the Pew Trust folks) to saintly art academics. There was hubris, guile, thievery, dirty-dealing, and drama enough to make Philadelphians glow with pride.

Overdose on these details via The Art of the Steal, a documentary film with a title that tells you the angle from which it approaches the issues. According to the film's director, Don Argott, at the discussion session after the film's screening at the 2009 New York Film Festival: "People were yelling, screaming at each other. These issues bring out these emotions. I’m not sure why. But for some reason the Barnes stirs something up in people.”

I had been stirred. I had been to the Merion Barnes out on the Main Line a number of different times over the years and enjoyed it very much. The ambiance and the intimacy of the galleries in the "Palladian château" and the marvelous gardens, as well as the eye-popping spectacle of the collection itself, appealed to me very much. (I briefly mourned its passing here.) I had been peripherally aware of the war for its soul (and its art loot), which was eventually won by the Robber Barons (natch!), and I had been VERY eager to see for myself the result: the new cash-cow Barnes on Ben Franklin Parkway, in the heart of PhillyPA's museum mile. A Smithsonian RA 1-day field trip allowed me the opportunity.

Success!: With relief, and with both a deep genuflection plus a heartfelt apology to Dr. Barnes, I pronounce the result to be just fine.

The building is a couple of simple long boxes, but becomes more interesting the closer you get. Varied textures and sizes of limestone slabs lift the mood of the heavier base. The milky glass of the long cantilevered upper box does not distract. The entrance is approached along river pebble-filled zen-like twin pools in a sequestered exterior space, around on the other side of the complex from the Parkway. Once inside you go through a series of various cavernous boxy spare spaces, the purpose and details of which went right over my head, eager as I was to see what the heathens had done to the collection itself. And to Dr. Barnes' brilliant way of displaying it.

Hurrah! It's intact! The scale and the layout of the rooms duplicate the Merion experience almost exactly. Dr. Barnes' scheme for juxtaposition and resonance among objects is preserved. The scale is the same. You are still nose to nose with multiple masterpieces. And a timed ticket entry system ensures that you have ample personal space to enjoy it all. You are still happily trying to decipher the relationships among that Renoir and this Amish blanket chest and that African mask and this Cézanne and that piece of door hinge. It's still the wondrous puzzle box it was in leafy Marion.

The success and sincerity to original concept of the permanent collection spaces makes you forget the Renoir key chains and the Van Gogh posters in the gift shop, the eight dollar bottle of beer in the restaurant, and the "Event" being set up by the caterers in the lobby area. It also (almost) makes you forget that the collection is no longer closed one day a week to accommodate art education classes, as had been mandated by Dr. Barnes.

Despite all that, the new Barnes may be proof that I can have my cake and the Robber Barons can eat it too. I was all ready to blame the greedy blackguards for stealing and then ruining "my" Barnes. Now I am tipping my hat. Let 'em have their old-white-men-only parties in the lobby. Just so I can still have my profusion of Cézannes. And it's now a much shorter cab ride from 30th Street Station.

Bottom Line: Go, and then go back often. It's just up the road from DC and it's a winner for everyone.

 -- Barnes Foundation Website
 -- A Museum, Reborn, Remains True to Its Old Self, Only Better, by Smith, R. NYTimes (May 17, 2012)
 -- Interactive panoramas of some of the rooms at the Merion Barnes are here
 -- Moving Pictures, by Schjeldahl, Peter. The New Yorker  (May 28, 2012)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Two Venuses

At top is Venus of Urbino, 1538, by Titian. The painting hangs in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. More.

At bottom is Venus of Urbino, 1994, by Dave Moreland. The 3-dimentional painted cardboard construction hangs on my apartment wall. More.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Yeah fans, there really is such a color as "warm violet".

(This pastel re-arrangement into warms and cools taught me quite a bit about color. I decided to do this when I was working outside one day and the box was in full sun. I looked down and was surprised by the powerful difference between two greens which were the same value but worlds apart in temperature. They were both "medium green" but they were as different as night and day. The bright sun told the tale clearly. And that was when I decided to never ever again get them mixed up and jumbled up together. And be fooled into picking up one when what I needed was the other. So there it is.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pencil Convergence Day

Pay homage to Pincellus. Resistance is futile.
  • From Rad and Hungry, purchase country-specific sketch kits. Some of which include pencils.
  • Get a load of the giant pencil sculpture in Japan, by Pascale Marthine Tayou. Pic on left. More pics here.
  • Sprout! "Sprout is a high quality cedar pencil with a water activated seed capsule at its tip. When it's too short to use, plant it!" Is this cool or WHAT? I am so in.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dr. Awing's 5 Favorite Learn-How-To-Draw Books

Buy your sketcher wannabe friend this set of five books and they're set to GO. The whole kit is about 80 dollars from Amazon.


Keys to Drawing, by Bert Dodson (1985) – This is MUCH better than the standard “bible” on drawing, which is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. Dodson is more relaxed and less analytical about it all.

Keys to Drawing with Imagination: Strategies and Exercises for Gaining Confidence and Enhancing Your Creativity, by Bert Dodson (2007) – Outstanding workbook that presents material in very small, easy to deal with chunks, along with hundreds of example sketches. Dodson has a lot of fun with this stuff! There is no pressure at all. You are invited to find your own voice.

Sketching School, by Judy Martin (1991) – Excellent textbook loaded with very useful instruction and examples. Recommended highly. You will come back to it over and over again. (This one is out print but well worth the premium for a used copy.)

NOTE: Others have reported that Mastering Sketching: A Complete Course in 40 Lessons, by Judy Martin (2011) is a re-print of Sketching School. It is indeed a re-print. There appear to be no revisions, changes, or additions. 

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing on Location Around the World, by Gabriel Campanario (2012) -- Section I is a discussion of supplies and style and Section III is organized around subjects. By far the biggest section is the middle Section II which contains thousands of sketches. Each picture caption covers materials and technique, but the main thing here is inspiration. They are doing it, so can you.


Sketch Book for the Artist, by Sarah Simblet (2005) -- Far-ranging and eclectic. Off-the-wall yet very practical. This is another textbook that you will come back to time and again for ideas, motivation, and stimulation. Beautifully illustrated.


[Cover images courtesy of]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kentucky Lane

This is about 9" x 12" and is done with pastels over a thickly textured ground. Because of the texture, the complementary colors I used in the underpainting poke through from below quite a bit. Not sure if I like that or not. I am tending toward 'like'.

I worked form an old photo I took many years ago of a country lane outside of Lexington KY.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

El Farolito

Made from a photo by my friend John Robinson, posted on his blog Life Is A Highway

Tool Report: Journlets for your Midori, by EveryDayArtist

Journlets are refills for your Midori Traveler's Notebook made with art-quality paper! They are finally here! Hooray!

Background: I have been using my Midori Traveler's Notebook for some time now. It's a dandy everyday sketchbook with a mysteriously endearing aura. However! None of the papers in the various refills offered by Midori (and its knockoff competitor, Pelle) has the heft and versatility suitable for my ink wash and watercolor wash sketching. So I took to sewing my own refills from various art papers lying around the studio, teaching myself the "pamphlet stitch" along the way. I blogged and posted about this and, much to my delight, I heard from Leigh Abernathy, a jewelry artist, avid sketcher, and book artist. She had begun to sew refills for her Pelle notebook using various art papers. Happily for all the rest of us, she has now decided to sell them! They are sophisticated, sensible, and super! More below:

The Product: Journlets (rhymes with 'pamphlets') are sold from Leigh's EveryDayArtist Etsy site. Leigh researched various papers suitable both for sketching AND for binding (the properties do not always overlap!) and selected these three to begin her line:

- Strathmore Aquarius II
- Fabriano Tiziano colored papers, with a warm brown+tan option and a black+grey option
- Southworth 100% Cotton paper

The journlets are available in 3-packs or individually. They are priced differently, and have different numbers of pages, based on the paper type. Those journlets made with heavier and/or stiffer papers have fewer pages. Leigh has thought carefully about the correct journlet size for each paper type and has adjusted the number of pages to maximize usability.

Paper Type                          Weight       # Pages    
Strathmore Aquarius II         170 gsm        24            
Fabriano Tiziano                  160 gsm        40
Southworth 100% Cotton       120 gsm       48

Design and Construction: Each journlet is hand-stitched with linen thread so it will open and lay flat, encouraging you to sketch or paint across the whole two-page spread. There is an integral heavy paper cover with a fold-over flap. The flap and cover are secured with dots of clear Velcro. The covers on the Strathmore and Fabriano journlets are 140 lb watercolor paper and have a lovely deckled edge. Decorative interior fly leaf sheets, front and back, and a pretty paper band add elegant touches. Each journlet that I reviewed also had a small clear sticker on the back cover describing the type of paper within.

Paper Performance: Sketchers' techniques and material requirements vary so much that my own opinions on each of these paper types won't help much. But what the heck.
 -- Strathmore Aquarius II is my all-time favorite white paper for journaling, sketching, and watercolor and I was thrilled to see that Leigh decided to include it in her journlet line.
 -- Fabriano Tiziano is slightly lighter and stiffer than the Aquarius II. The tinted colors work well for gouache, even though it buckles a little bit from being wet. The colors in the brown-tan journlet suit me well.
 -- The Southworth paper is smooth and luxurious. It's great for graphite or pen and ink journaling and sketching.

Leigh provides detailed paper descriptions in each of the journlet listings on Etsy, so for more on paper performance, look there. If you are undecided about which paper to chose, order a sample pack for a dollar.

In Action, Inside the Midori: Journlets are exactly the same width and length as the standard Midori refills, which are 4-1/4" x 8-1/4". And so they fit perfectly in the Midori Traveler's Notebook. You can close the journlet's cover flap using the Velcro dot, fold it under, or cut it off as suits you. Since the cover is also made from high quality paper, you can also draw and paint on it. Below is a pic of the warm brown+tan Tiziano journlet in my Midori. It's the insert at the top of the stack.

In Action, as a Stand-Alone Sketchbook: Because of the integral heavy-duty Velcro-closeable cover, the journlet is also an outstanding stand-alone lightweight sketchbook for those weekend getaways or to stash inside your everyday bag. And again, since the cover is also made from good thick quality paper, it's begging for embellishment!

Bottom Line:  EveryDayArtist's journlets are very carefully designed and skillfully made. They fill a significant niche for high-quality paper inserts for the Midori Traveler Notebook. I recommend them!


Full Disclosure: Leigh sent me a free sample of each of the journlets to review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sketchbook Summer 2012

Sketchbook Summer 2012 is a vid of a recently-filled Midori Traveler "Kraft" paper mini-journal. For some reason I really enjoy the cheap crinkle of that "Kraft" paper.

An extra special tip o'the hat to Antonio Vivaldi.  XXXOOO

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bus Ladies

About 8" x 8", which is a 2-page spread in the Midori "Kraft" paper sketchbook.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tool Report: Nomadic PN-91 Sketch Kit Case

The PN-91 Top Open Pencil Case is one member of a family of useful and well-designed sketch cases made by Nomadic. This model has a deep mesh pocket in the top and an interior hinged flap with five elastic pen slots. The bottom compartment dimensions are about 7-3/4" x 3-1/4" x 1" deep. There is a dorky little pocket at the top of the main bottom compartment, but thankfully it does not interfere much. And can even hold a handy eraser, as you can see.

Here it is with 14 Caran d'Ache Supracolor watercolor pencils in the bottom compartment, 4 pens in the central flap, and two waterbrushes and a retractable X-acto in the left hand mesh pocket. It can easily hold twice that number of pencils (or pens or whatever) in the bottom compartment. If you are so inclined.

-- Nice deep mesh pocket on the left and good sturdy elasticized slots for pens on the flap.
-- Well-made and padded throughout.
-- Can distend to accommodate stuff slightly bigger than the "resting" interior dimensions. See pic below showing my 8-1/4" long x 1/2" thick watercolor box all alone in the bottom compartment. It will zip closed with that in it!
-- Weighs nearly nothing empty.

-- The innermost elasticized slot on the central flap is practically useless, because if you put a pen in it, it won't stay flipped over to the left.
--It's not inexpensive.

Possible Modifications and Customizations:
-- Add another strip of elastic slots to the backside of the central flap. This would hold oft-used pens up out of the bottom compartment. But it would diminish the capacity of the bottom compartment.
-- Add an elastic strip to the bottom compartment, across the full width of the compartment. This would hold all the pencils more snugly in the lower compartment. The pencils tend to roam around inside the case.

BOTTOM LINE: I like this case! It feels good in the hand, the neon green is a nifty color, and the interior layout and dimensions suit me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


About 15" x 10", done with pastels

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sculpture Garden

This is about 4" x 11-1/2" on 800-grit UArt sanded paper, done with pastels.