Here’s a quick, miniature (about 1.5x2in.) sketch of Otho, who was one of the brief hopefuls during the Year of the Four Emperors. All I know about the details of his appearance (beyond the statues, I mean) is that he was short, said to be vain, and was overly concerned about depilatories. Poor Otho. He lasted exactly three months. Left behind some nice-looking statues, though.
The squarish beige test swatch of paint in the middle of the paper is a handmade paint I’ve been playing with to get the right skin tone for any future Iustas. She’s a little on the washed-out side in this piece 😀
Materials used: Sakura Pigma Micron 005 pen; Sennelier (Phthalo Blue, Yellow Lake, Rose Madder Lake), M. Graham (Azo Green), Holbein (Mars Yellow), and Kuretake Gansai Tambi (Orange) watercolours; on Fluid 100, 100%-cotton cold press paper (I have a big crush on this paper at the moment); using a Mimik #2 Round brush that is meant to mimic a squirrel-hair brush at about a third the price (so far, so good, and I’m not afraid to use it, as I am with my one-and-only Kolinsky sable brush–10x the cost of the Mimik).
My warmup sketches today turned into a full journal comic like I used to do–daily!–years and years ago. I stopped doing journal/memoir comics so much because 1) it’s awkward when you’re drawing about people you know, who’ll know it’s about them, and 2) a few too many people were nodding sagely at the comics and saying, “Ah, yes, now I see why you’re the way you are…” I should go back to writing about the angst of fictional, semi-fictional, and millennia-gone historical people!
click on the image to see it larger:
UPDATE: At the bottom of this post, I mention that my Stillman & Birn Delta pocket sketchbook cracked and tore at each signature as soon as I opened it to those pages. It was suggested I contact the company, since apparently there’d been a defective run of sketchbooks, and some stores didn’t return their stock when it was recalled. The Sillman & Birn customer service rep sent out a replacement and a Gamma sketchbook to try. I’ll try them both over the weekend and report.
And now, back to the old post:
Today is the last of my 5-day reprieve from counting the days of the month for 8-9 hours a day (literally, not figuratively–I’m proofreading calendars. Go ahead, ask me what day of the week Waitangi Day 2018 is and when all the Queen’s Birthdays are). I should be being productive today, should mail out bill payments, finish other freelancing. But instead I’m being unproductive. I’m eating dark chocolate with oranges and almonds and playing with art stuff ^_^
Since I spend so many waking hours away from the house, I’ve been carrying my art supplies with me everywhere. The bare minimum gear is an 11×17 or 11×14 drawing pad for the comic, a notebook to work out plot and dialogue, a metal ruler, and a pen roll like this one or one of these. But also I like to take along a sketchbook for doodles and warmups, a roll of colour pencils, the Hobonichi I’d otherwise forget I have, my Peerless palette, and maybe some Copics. Now that I’ve been digging out the old-school watercolours too, the bag is getting crowded and heavy and people are giving it the side-eye. And I keep losing my wallet and Metrocard in there and missing the train.
Many days I end up with no time for drawing unless I break out the supplies while commuting. Big palettes are unwieldy when everyone’s elbows and knees are poking into everyone else’s. At the office where I freelance, it’s a little conspicuous to pull out a big metal tin of fancy paints, especially at a company that deals with so many lovely art books and clever craft books (and pretty calendars); it’s intimidating and looks weird. I’m not sure I can handle being stared at on the train, but I wanted to find a way to be inconspicuous during lunch break or curled into a corner at the nearest Starbucks. It would also be helpful to have more compact supplies to fit into the art space at Carmine Street Comics.
A lot of people buy or make mini travel palettes for their plein air painting and urban sketchbooking. I have the usual thousand empty Altoid tins lying around in various corners of the house, so I gave it a try:
- Altoids tin that still smells like cinnamon
- adhesive applicator I picked up a couple of years ago for the Hobonichi, to stick the pans in place
- variety of empty half pans scavenged from cheap paint sets acquired to use at children’s workshops–plus some sturdy Schmincke pans that turn out to fit better
- Artist Trading Card in a plastic sleeve cut down to fit the lid, as a mixing area; some people add a coat of enamel to the lid but I decided to try to make this kit from only whatever was within arm’s reach because of 1. the challenge, and 2. not really a challenge, all my junk is crowded into a small space that I sorta huddle in the middle of, and 3. if the tin rusts I have about 50,000 other empty Altoids tins lying around
- little ceramic water dish from one of those cheap paint sets; I prefer ceramic to mixing on plastic or enamel-metal palettes, which sometimes have to be abraded so the paint doesn’t bead up, and often stain
- a silly little bit of sponge and/or folded up kitchen paper towel for cleaning the brush (a square sponge should be just the ticket)
To get the lid to snap closed on each side with the mixing dish inside, I’ll have to swap in slightly less tall Schmincke pans like the ones in the top row. For now, I don’t mind using a hair tie to make sure it stays closed. That also conveniently holds the water brush.
Although Stillman & Birn sketchbooks were recommended–for good paper and for a reputation for being able to open flat or even bend back without a problem–and the pocket size is just right to go along with a mini-palette, the Delta sketchbook cracked and ripped at the gluing between signatures as soon as I opened to the page, as you can see below. I still have have an unused Stillman & Birn Alpha pocket sketchbook, which I’ll at least give a try, but unless the Alpha books are constructed differently, a brand that can’t withstand sketching on the couch is a fail for sketching on the go.
Good thing I have three drawers full of blank or nearly blank sketchbooks to try….
Therefore, I have a lot of empty sketchbooks. Many of them are made for watercolour, which I used to do a whole lot more of than line art but have kinda sorta forgotten how to do now. As it happens, I have a lot of watercolour paints. Last week/month/year I went to the art store for comicking supplies and saw there was a 50%-off inventory-clearance sale (old-formula-pigment Quinacridone yellow to be had for less than the day’s coffee and morning cinnamon danish? I mean, who can say no to old-formula-pigment Quinacrindone yellow, amirite). But I realised that if I bought it, that too would go in the drawer with the supplies that aren’t used up because I’m always, always afraid to DO ART WRONG.
So, to get past this, I assigned the sketchbooks a purpose: In January, once a day, I’ll do variations of a subject in each of several sketchbooks; and not as an end in itself, not trying to do the Arting right, but to a technical and practical use–to determine the paper that best suits investing in more of the same. For the time when I might want to do a real sketch journal or go out for some for reals urban sketching or really use those fancy-palette watercolours in the way they deserve. It’s not that I’m messing up sketchbook pages so they won’t be inspiring carnets for others to see. This is specifically the task of figuring out which paper I like best. I’m trying spiral bound pads, and those economy watercolour paper blocks that are glued down on the sides and give you mad deep papercuts when you loosen a sheet, and softcover sketchbooks that come several to the shrink-wrapped package, and hardbound journals like what those urban sketchers use, and if the art is so-so–or so, so bad–so what. That’s not what this is for. This purpose does not include “BE PERFECT” anywhere in the description.
The sketchbooks, at least, have found a meaning in life for 2017.
Yesterday I only used Sennelier paints, plus that of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold. This is on Cotman Montval 300gsm cold press paper:
Things I don’t plan to fret about just at the moment: perfect uniform details; perfect body proportions; perfect use of colour; colour theory (don’t get me started; at least, not in this post). The sloppiness isn’t bothering me at all, nope nope nope. I do need to care about skin tone–this particular paint sometimes dries paler than I’d expect, but I wanted to scan the drawing before I go back in with another glaze to fix Felix’s pallor. Maybe adding a layer will mess up the drawing, but, hey, that doesn’t bother me, nopey nope nopers, not at all I tell you.
On Arches 300gsm cold press watercolour pad, not going to get fussed about the wacky skin tone tests here either:
Pencils with washes, paint over waterproof ink, seeing how that works on the Arches paper:
This paper–Fluid 4×6-inch “Easy Block” cold press–I’ve deemed inexpensive enough to use for itty bitty test sketches and mixing and layering tests. Do I care that the sketch is completely wonky no of course I do not ha ha ha it’s fine no really i am ok with this:
Next test piece in progress in a Strathmore 400 series 300gsm watercolour sketchbook:
Semi-Related Recommendation: If you love the love of history and archaeology and discovery, and are in the mood for a quietly (and sometimes outrageously) funny comedy, try Detectorists, created by actor/writer/director Mackenzie Crook (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean). It’s available in the US on Netflix. It gave me all the feels there are. It made me want to stick with something I love, even if it breaks my heart sometimes, even if it means ruining a perfect sketchbook cover. @detectorists