Graphite: Derwent Graphitint Paint Pan Set (review)

A couple of years ago, I received one of Derwent’s original Inktense paint pan sets as a gift from a friend who works in an art supply shop in Italy. Recently Derwent released a companion set of 12 more Inktense pan colours (with all new colours not included in the original set), a 24 colour Inktense pan set (which I believe contains all the same colours as the 24 block sets) and a 12 colour set of Graphitint pans. These were the ones I was most excited about as, lightfastness issues aside, I loved playing with my Graphitint pencils.

Here’s my colour chart of the Derwent Graphitint Paint Pan set. Note that in real life, Indigo is a bit darker than it looks here.

For the most part, the colours in this set are similar to their counterparts in the Derwent Graphitint pencil range once they’ve been activated with water, though not all are an exact match and some (especially a few of the blues) are quite different). I found that all of the colours had significant granulation when applied to watercolour paper, which makes for interesting effects, but can be challenging if you wanted some completely smooth areas of colour.

These pans contain graphite, so it makes sense that they sparkle in a similar manner (though not as pronounced) to other pearlescent or metallic paints that contain mica or light-reflecting pigments. This is more noticeable than in the pencils, where the dry pencil has a subtle shimmer but the wet areas of colour are a lot less metallic-looking. The muted colours with the shimmer make for some attractive effects, but again, it’s not ideal when you consider that most artists would prefer to only have metallic effects in some areas of a painting rather than the whole thing. Still, it can help to lend an ethereal quality to a painting, whether it be a landscape or some sort of fantasy themed subject.

As far as I know, the Graphitint pans are made from the same material as the pencils, which, as I pointed out in my linked review at the start of this post, have significant lightfastness issues. I’ve not conducted my own lightfastness test with the pans yet, but the tests I did with some of the pencils showed about half the colour saturation lost within 7 days of starting my test (with the charts pinned to my front window) and the colour was completely gone after a month, so it’s safe to assume a test with the pans would have a similar outcome.

In terms of the set itself, it comes in exactly the same kind of box as the Inktense pan sets, including a sponge, a waterbrush and five mixing areas inside the lid. This makes it a great field sketching kit, as it’s small and portable and aside from your sketchbook and maybe a pencil, you don’t need to take much else with you in order to complete a painting, and it fits easily in a pocket or small bag. When the Graphitint pans are used up, you can either replace them (individual pans are not yet available but I imagine they will be eventually) or fill the empty half pans with watercolours or gouache of your choice.

Here’s the painting I did with the Derwent Graphitint pan set, along with some Graphitint pencils and a Caran d’Ache Supracolor pencil.

The Derwent Graphitint pan set would make a fun and interesting gift for an artistic friend or family member. It may not have quite the same versatility of the Graphitint pencils – which can be left dry to provide only the slightest hint of colour or wet to become more vibrant – but what it lacks in that regard, it makes up for in portability. However as with other products that aren’t lightfast, it’s best used for projects that will be scanned and distributed digitally or printed rather than displaying the original, as the original will likely begin to fade quite quickly even if stored away from direct light.

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Halloween Drawing Competition

In addition to my main teaching job at university, I also work in retail. Though many businesses have been forced to close due to the pandemic and the Stage 4 lockdown restrictions here in Victoria, my store is still operating on a click-and-collect basis, so one of my jobs at work is to go around picking items for orders. While picking an order full of children’s art supply products the other day, I saw a Crayola art set on the shelf. The art supplies themselves didn’t interest me, but I really liked the brightly coloured case, which looked like it could be converted into a cute field easel/paint box with a bit of tinkering.

Given I have no use for the Crayola art materials, I was struggling to justify spending the money just for the case, until I realised that if I added a few extra goodies to my order, I’d have enough to put together some little entertainment packages that I could send out to some bored kids who are also in lockdown in Victoria.

Therefore, I’m happy to announce… *drumroll please* my first competition! T&Cs and prize packs are explained below (please read before entering), but I decided to run a drawing competition for kids in Victoria. With Halloween coming up at the end of this month, I thought it would be appropriate to run with a spooky theme, so the drawing competition will be based on the following prompt for young artists (ages 4-12 years):

“Draw yourself as something scary for Halloween.”

Do you have a dream costume you’d love to wear for Halloween to scare people into giving you treats? Ever wished you could turn into a terrifying monster for a day? Now is your chance to bring those ideas to life. You can draw yourself as anything you like, but it has to be something SCARY.

Judgement will be made based on a combination of factors, so while drawing skill is an advantage, winning drawings will also be chosen for being particularly funny, scary, clever or cute.

There will be two categories for the competition. One for younger artists (ages 4-7) and one for older artists (ages 8-12). Two Runner Up winners will be chosen from each age group, plus one overall 1st Prize winner from both age groups combined.

Once your child has created their drawing based on the above prompt, simply scan it or take a photo of it and email it to artdragon_competitions(at)outlook(dot)com with your child’s first name and age.

The competition is open until 11.59pm on the 31st of October, so tell your kids to get drawing 🙂

Prize packs will be put together from the following pool of items.

Each winner will receive one lot of the supplies listed below. The 1st Prize winner will receive the 64 crayons. Runners Up in the 8-12 year category will receive either the 20 long markers or the 20 pencils. Runners Up in the 4-7 year category will receive either the 20 short markers or the 16 pack of crayons.

All winners will receive one of the following colouring books (allocated at random).

Each winner will receive one pencil case (colour allocated at random) and one packet of strawberry scented stickers (1st Prize winner will also receive a packet of chocolate scented stickers).

The 1st Prize winner and each of the 8-12 year-old Runner Up winners will receive a children’s novel or graphic novel (top row). The 4-7 year-old Runner Up winners will receive a Disney picture book (bottom row).

The 1st Prize winner will also receive a puzzle/activity book and some sheets of drawing paper.

Though some kids have already been able to go back to school in Victoria, many still can’t go and visit friends or go out to have fun because of the lockdown restrictions, so I hope these prize packs help ease some of the boredom for the winners. Below is an itemised description of each prize pack.

1st Prize

  • 64 Crayola crayons + 1 pencil case + 1 colouring book + 1 activity book + 2 sticker packs + 1 children’s novel + drawing paper

Runner Up Prizes (8-12 year-olds)

  • 20 Crayola markers + 1 pencil case + 1 colouring book + 1 sticker pack + 1 children’s novel
  • 20 Crayola pencils + 1 pencil case + 1 colouring book + 1 sticker pack + 1 children’s novel

Runner Up Prizes (4-7 year-olds)

  • 20 Crayola markers + 1 pencil case + 1 colouring book + 1 sticker pack + 1 Disney picture book
  • 16 Crayola crayons + 1 pencil case + 1 colouring book + 1 sticker pack + 1 Disney picture book

Terms and Conditions

  • The competition is open until 11.59pm AEST on 31st of October, 2020. Entries made after this time will be invalid.
  • Drawings must be submitted by the child’s parent or guardian (over the age of 18).
  • Entries should be submitted to the email address artdragon_competitions(at)outlook(dot)com. The entry should include a photo of the drawing and the child’s first name and age.
  • One overall 1st Prize winner and four Runner Up winners (two each from the 4-7 year-old age groups and the 8-12 year-old age groups) will be selected within a week of the competition’s end date. If your child’s drawing is selected as a winner, I will contact you by return email to get your postal address. If a winner does not reply to me with their postal address within 48 hours, they will be disqualified and another winner will be chosen.
  • Entrants must have a Victorian postal address in Australia. If a winner is selected but does not supply a Victorian address, they will be disqualified and another winner will be chosen.
  • Multiple children per family may enter a drawing, however no more than one winner from a family will be chosen.
  • The decision of who wins the prize packs and which combination of colouring book/pencil case/art supplies/story book each winner receives will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • I will try to post the prize packs within a week of receiving all postal addresses from winners, however I cannot take responsibility for any prize packs that are lost or delayed in the post.
  • Winning entries will be posted in a follow-up blog post after the competition has ended and winners have been notified. Only the drawing, first name and age of each winner will be included (no photos, surnames or other identifying details will be included).

UPDATE 5th November, 2020: Competition winners have been notified and have been sent their prize packs. Unfortunately I only had three entrants so I still have two prize packs left. I may run another drawing or colouring competition in the lead-up to Christmas.

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Paper: Fluid 100 Watercolour Paper (Review)

On my last trip to the art supply shop, I saw a packet of Fluid 100 watercolour paper, and since I’d never seen it before and it wasn’t too expensive, I decided to give it a try.

Fluid 100 paper is a 100% cotton paper manufactured by the HandBook Paper Co, who also make some pretty nice sketchbooks. The store I went to only had cold press 300gsm, but you can also get it in a super heavy 640gsm, with hot press available in both weights. Compared to other pads or packets with a similar number of sheets/similar dimensions, the paper was pretty cheap. Like many watercolour papers, it isn’t pure white, instead having a slightly creamy hue. The texture doesn’t seem to be as pronounced as other cold press papers, though it does at least have a natural, random pattern. Some student grade cold press papers have a more artificial pattern, which I’m not fond of.

Being a mid-weight paper, the Fluid 100 does buckle a bit when a wash is applied. This isn’t unusual for papers in the 300gsm range, but most other papers can withstand a small amount of water and keep their shape. Unfortunately the Fluid 100 began to curl up as soon as I put even a light wash on it. Taping the paper down reduced this slightly, but even then, the buckling was still more noticeable than other papers. I also found it more difficult to lift colour from this paper, as if the colours penetrated deeper into the paper fibre. This happened even with colours that aren’t usually staining, and scrubbing lightly at the paper with a brush produced some pilling on the surface. This was a little disappointing, and I probably wouldn’t use the paper for a big piece I was going to spend a lot of time on, but it’s quite nice to use just for sketches. As I mentioned above, the company who makes it also makes sketchbooks, so I suspect this is the same paper they use in those sketchbooks.

Here are some bookmarks I made for my overseas friends using the Fluid 100 watercolour paper.

Fluid 100 watercolour paper might not be as widely available as other watercolour papers, but if you can find it, it’s cheap enough to be worth giving it a try, especially if you’re a student painter. Just keep in mind that it isn’t as sturdy as most other watercolour paper, so some watercolour techniques may not work as well as you’d expect.

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Animal Crossing: An Escape From Reality

Video games are a great way to pass the time and entertain yourself when you’re bored, and that’s something that a lot of us especially welcome while everything is shut down due to the pandemic. Regardless of what genre of games you enjoy, there’s usually a new game to look forward to in the not-too-distant future, and when you can’t go out with your friends or hit the gym or (in the case of some people) work, having something to play can help maintain your sanity.

“… I’m not getting any walks for the next month, am I?”

In March this year, Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) for their Switch console. Animal Crossing is a fairly popular franchise to begin with, so – like Mario, Zelda and Pokemon – it was always going to be a much sought-after game anyway. But it couldn’t have been released at a better time; it’s a peaceful, relaxing game, and that’s something a lot of people really need at the moment. I know several people who have never previously shown any interest in Animal Crossing games, yet have become invested in their island worlds, and at my retail job, we kept selling out of the game within a day or two of receiving a shipment.

Until recently, I was also someone who didn’t get the appeal of a game that has no real end goal. I tried playing the 3DS game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf about 5 years ago, and got bored with it after about 5 hours because “nothing really happens”. But with my health issues and academic setbacks, and the way those things have torpedoed my mental health, I decided to give it another go, picking up a cheap copy of the game in January and starting a new file. I actually quite enjoyed it, so as the release date for New Horizons drew closer, I was as excited for it as long-time fans of the series.

I guess I should apologise in advance if this post gets a bit rambly. It’s not intended to be a review of ACNH. I just wanted to talk about how it’s helped me – and continues to help –  during a pretty crappy time.

Since early this year, I’ve often found myself staring vacantly off into space or just faffing around mindlessly on the internet, because I lack the energy or focus to do anything creative or productive. It isn’t so bad during the semester, but even so, unless I have a specific task that needs to be done (like running a class or marking assignments), I end up just wasting my days doing nothing but feeling depressed and anxious and not knowing how to pull myself out of it. It was especially challenging when we were put into stage 3 lockdown in March because of the pandemic, as I couldn’t even go out to the gym or visit my Nan.

When I first got ACNH on release day (March 20), I started off playing it in small bursts, picking it up for 20 minutes or so and then ignoring it until the following day. But as I unlocked the ability to explore and later change the layout of my island, I became more and more invested in it, especially as we were in lockdown so I had little else to keep me entertained. Some days I could still only spend about 20 minutes in it – because I had classes to teach and assignments to mark – so I’d spend that time running around my island, catching fish and bugs for the museum and gathering any resources, as well as checking in with my slowly growing community of cute animal villagers before saving and quitting for the day. In a world where weeks had started to blur together, it gave me a sense of purpose and helped to add structure to my days.

But when I had more spare time, I’d sink several hours into it, landscaping my island, rearranging the villagers’ houses to create a residential area and decorating my house and island, as well as continuing to upgrade the shops and expand and customise my house once I’d finally paid off the loan to Tom Nook.

The only world in which I’ll ever own a house.

As I discovered more varieties of furniture to collect and DIY recipes to craft, the possibilities started to seem endless. I still wasn’t being all that productive in the real world, but the time I spent in the game was time I didn’t spend being worried and sad. I became absorbed with thinking of new areas I could design and develop for my island.

No Karens allowed.

Also getting up to a bit of mischief.

Even in Animal Crossing, I am nerd trash.

Animal Crossing is a bit of an odd game. As I mentioned above, it doesn’t really have any goals or conditions for ‘beating’ the game. Other than paying off your home loan and getting KK Slider (a guitar-playing dog) to agree to perform on your island (both of which occur fairly early into the game), you can basically do as much or as little as you want. Earlier games used to punish players if you neglected the game for weeks or months by having your town become overrun with weeds or animal villagers up and leave town (I’m almost afraid to fire up my ACNL game as I haven’t touched it since ACNH came out, and I’m afraid I’ll find nothing but tumbleweeds blowing through a deserted town and a Pelican skeleton on the beach).

Thankfully, New Horizons seems to have eased up a bit; you’ll still end up with weeds everywhere if you don’t play for a while, but at least animals now will not move out unless you specifically give them permission, which makes it a lot less stressful for people who have favourite villagers but don’t always have the energy to play regularly. It’s also a game where nothing bad can really happen to you (aside from wasps, scorpions and tarantulas), so it’s good for those who want to play a game but get stressed about needing fast reflexes or having to defeat enemies. Even my Nan likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the game; she asks if I’ve got any new animals on my island or any new flowers, so I email her pictures of my villagers in my newly designed areas or my botanical garden or fruit orchard. Although it has led to some awkward conversations, where she’ll ask how my garden is going and explain in detail how I’ve been colour coding my hybrid flowers, only to have her reply, “No, I mean your real garden. The outside one.”

ANCH also had another unexpected but positive side effect: it helped me make more friends. And I don’t just mean the animal villagers within the game (though they’re so cute and varied that I already have a few favourites who I will never allow to leave my island).

This was the only birthday party I got this year.

I know some people only think people you socialise with in real life count as friends, and that internet friends aren’t real. But aside from a very small number of people, I generally struggle to socialise in real world settings; I’m much happier spending time with one or two close friends than going to a large party where I only know one person. Even before the pandemic began, I rarely spent in-person time with any of my friends, largely because I or they or both of us were too busy with work or family or studies or live too far away or just drifted through lack of any real common interests. A lot of my online friendships also started to fade away, partially because of everyone’s general malaise (I guess) and probably also because of my lack of energy to maintain regular communication with more than a handful of online friends I’ve known for many years.

When a gaming forum I’m a member of started a dedicated sub-forum for ACNH, I became more active, adding other users of the forum as Switch friends and visiting their islands, as well as sometimes having them visit mine. It was a lot of fun to see the variety of designs people had created for their islands, from nightclubs to meth labs and outdoor gyms to libraries.

This is not what I imagined parties in my 30s would be like.

For the most part, the ACNH community has been friendly and very generous. People are happy to donate any fruit you don’t have on your island, or go and water one another’s flowers to help with breeding hybrids or even deliver spare flowers to those who are seeking a particular colour or variety. There’s nearly always someone who is willing to open their island and let you come and visit if you need good turnip prices or want to visit a particular NPC selling interesting wares.

The game has a lot of different furniture in different colours/varieties to collect, as well as DIY recipes to craft, some of which can be hard to find. However in the Animal Crossing community (at least in the forum I’m in), if you say you’re looking for a particular item, there’s always someone who’s happy to trade you one or even give you one, or at least craft you one if you give them the raw materials. This generosity means that collecting everything you need for a particular area you want to design is fun and achievable relatively quickly rather than being intimidating or taking forever.

Within the forum, a few of us formed more close-knit groups, and we’d often visit one another’s islands just to hang out and explore to see what people had done with their designs. We also started just mucking around, seeing who could spin around in circles the fastest, hitting each other with nets (seriously, we’d spend 10 minutes just running around assaulting each other with our bug-catching gear) and, on one occasion, taking turns to fire our slingshots at the the statue of David’s private parts (because apparently we’re all 12 years old). Having people visit my island or being able to hang out on other people’s island helped to give me something to do in the evenings and made me feel less isolated.

I have to admit I did step away from the game for a little while after the lockdown restrictions were lifted in June or whenever it was (time has mostly ceased to have any meaning this year, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles to tell what day it is sometimes). Partially because I was able to go back to the gym and go out a bit more, and partially because I got another casual job at uni that lasted a few weeks. But in July, the number of COVID-19 cases in my state began to surge, and we were put back into stage 3 lockdown, only to have it upgraded to stage 4 not long afterwards. I’ve been trying to do more painting and drawing, but that requires a lot of energy that I just don’t have most of the time, so I’ve been poking my nose back into the world of Animal Crossing once again. Now that winter is almost at an end, there will soon be lots of new bugs and fish to catch (the in-game seasons match with the seasons in the real world), and I still have ideas for some new areas I want to design and build for my island. Nintendo have also been releasing patches with new content for the game every few months to help keep it interesting, so there’s usually a reason for me to go back to it, even if I haven’t played for a while.

I may not be able to go to a cafe in the real world, but my Zen Cafe in Animal Crossing is always open.

I think it’s going to be a long road ahead for all of us. Case numbers in my state are beginning to drop again, but we can’t afford to be complacent, as it only takes one infected person doing the wrong thing and being selfish to set off another cluster. I expect we’ll be under some form of restrictions until at least Christmas, though I suppose we’re lucky it isn’t as bad here in Australia as it is in some other countries, where the death toll is in the tens or hundreds of thousands and who knows how many more have been left with permanent chronic health issues after surviving the virus.

Animal Crossing isn’t going to fix the pandemic, but it might help to make it a little easier for some of us to get through it.

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Pencils: Faber-Castell Polychromos Coloured Pencils (review)

Faber-Castell is a company that’s probably right up there with Derwent in terms of well-known coloured pencil brands. Most of us probably had one or the other in our school days (or at least, their children’s grade equivalents), and for those who carried their interest in art and drawing into their teenage years and then into adulthood, our first box of artist grade pencils was likely either a set of Derwent Artists or Faber-Castell Polychromos. Mine was the Derwent Artists, but because the Artists pencils are the hardest pencils on the market, I wanted to try some that were smoother and softer, so I bought a tin of the Polychromos.

Here are my colour charts for the Polychromos pencils.

There’s a good balance of hues in the range, though with 120 colours to choose from, it’s hard to imagine them missing any, I suppose. More than 100 of these colours have been listed as three stars, or excellent lightfastness, with 16 having 2 stars and only 2 pencils having 1 star, which is generally considered fugitive (I’m not sure how these rank on the blue wool scale). As always, I would suggest conducting your own lightfastness testing rather than relying entirely on ratings provided by the manufacturer, but this is still a pretty good ratio of lightfast pencils compared to a lot of other brands and ranges (*gives Derwent the side-eye*).

Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils have a round barrel, which I’m not overly keen on; I prefer hexagonal barrels as they don’t roll off the table all the time. In terms of texture, these pencils are among the harder pencils available. Not as hard as Derwent Artists, but definitely harder than any of my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. In spite of that, they still feel soft, and are quite smooth to draw with, and they blend and layer well. This is perhaps because they are oil-based, instead of wax-based like most pencils. Their firm texture also means they’re less prone to lead breakage than some softer pencils. The White pencil is reasonably opaque for a firm pencil (moreso than most of Derwent’s line except for the Drawing range), but still not as soft or opaque as Luminance or Prismacolor.

The set includes three metallic colours as part of the range: gold, silver and copper. The silver pencil is relatively smooth and pleasant to draw with, but the gold and copper pencils are awful. They’re hard and scratchy and at any pressure other than heavy, they’re weak and dull; press heavily and you get a decent coverage of metallic pigment but the colours still aren’t as clear and luminous as other metallic pencils I’ve used (like the Derwent Metallics). Most fine artists don’t really use metallic pencils so it won’t be a huge issue for many people, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you were considering buying these colours in open stock. On that note, many art supply retailers carry individual Polychromos pencils as well as sets, so you can easily replace one if you use it up; they seem to be a little bit cheaper than most of the other artist grade pencils as well (eg. at my local art shop, Derwent Artists pencils are $3 while Polychromos are only $2.20).

Here’s a toucan I drew using the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, based on a photo by Cindy Fry in the Photos for Artists Facebook group. I also wrote a demonstration post for this drawing here.

If you want a good quality set of pencils but can’t quite bring yourself to spend big bucks on Caran d’Ache or Derwent’s new Lightfast line, the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are an excellent choice. almost all of the colours are lightfast, and they strike a nice balance between high pigment concentration and firm but smooth texture.

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Coloured Pencils: Toucan (demonstration)

Time for another coloured pencil demonstration! This one is based on a photo of a toucan by Cindy Fry in the Photos For Artists Facebook group. I thought this beautiful brightly coloured bird would make a nice model for a drawing. I’ve listed all the Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils I used for this drawing, but as always, you can use whatever similar colours you have in your own pencil collection.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils:
-Cadmium Yellow Lemon
-Light Chrome Yellow
-Dark Cadmium Yellow
-Cadmium Orange
-Pale Geranium Lake
-Deep Scarlet Red
-Dark Red
-Light Magenta
-Purple Violet
-Light Ultramarine
-Sky Blue
-Middle Phthalo Blue
-Light Phthalo Blue
-Cobalt Turquoise
-Light Cobalt Turquoise
-Dark Phthalo Green
-Light Green
-Grass Green
-Pompeian Red

*Note: I used the Faber-Castell Polychromos White because I was reviewing the pencils for another post. In terms of opacity and softness it’s actually quite good, considering the firm texture of these pencils, but if you have a softer and more opaque white (like a Prismacolor Premier or Caran d’Ache Luminance), you might find it easier to use that instead.

Stonehenge 250gsm paper (22cm X 30cm)

Step 1
Draw or trace the outline of the toucan onto your paper. Using a light pressure and diagonal strokes, put in an even layer of Light Cobalt Turquoise in the background, leaving it slightly lighter in the bottom quarter of the page, and then go over it again with the strokes in the opposite direction (try to make your strokes sort of circular rather than just back and forth, as this will reduce the hard edges; you want the background as smooth as possible). Add a light layer of Light Phthalo Blue using the same light, feathery strokes and gradually let it blend into the lighter background at around half way down the page, then add a light layer of Middle Phthalo Blue in the same manner to the top quarter of the background (see the markings I’ve made on the masking tape to work out where each colour should end). When you have finished, you should have a nice graduated blue background, starting off darker at the top and lightening towards the bottom. Using a medium to heavy pressure and horizontal strokes, go over the whole background with White from the bottom up.

For the yellow area of the toucan’s face and neck, add a light layer of Cream down the left and bottom, and gradually blend this into Light Chrome Yellow as you move towards the upper right, still using a light pressure. Try to make your pencil strokes follow the direction of the bird’s feathers. Add some Cadmium Yellow Lemon under the toucan’s eye.

Step 2
Colour the little red patch under the toucan’s wing with Dark Red, using a heavy pressure on the bottom half, then colour over the whole patch with Cadmium Orange and a medium pressure. Colour around the eye with Light Cobalt Turquoise, letting it blend out into the yellow a little above the eye, and then add some Light Green below the eye, allowing it to blend downwards and to the right towards the beak. Use Grass Green on the darkest areas just below and to the right of the eye. Leaving a few small spots white for highlights, colour the eyeball in with a light layer of Dark Pthalo Green, then use Black to outline the eyeball and add in the iris (don’t make the iris outline too sharp; let it blend a little with the Dark Pthalo Green).

Add a little Light Ultramarine to the black area around the beak and go over this with medium pressure White. Add the shadow just under the beak with Light Ultramarine and then go over this with Light Chrome Yellow, blending it out a little further than the edge of the Light Ultramarine. Use very sharp Dark Phthalo Green, Pale Geranium Lake and Dark Red to put in the beak line, then put in the golden triangle shape with Dark Cadmium Yellow and then go over this with Cadmium Orange, leaving some yellow showing along the top left corner and allowing the orange to go onto the lower part of the beak. Add the purple markings on the beak with Purple Violet. Add a shadow to the underside of the beak with Light Ultramarine and a little Light Green, and then use Light Green for the green patch on the lower half of the beak. Go over it with a light pressure using Light Cobalt Turquoise, leaving the end of the beak white. Go over all the coloured area in the lower part of the beak with White and a medium pressure. Put a thin area of Cadmium Yellow Lemon along the top of the beak, starting from the face and going to about half way along the beak, then extend this area along to almost the end of the beak with Cream (again stopping before the red area). Add a very light layer of Light Green and Light Cobalt Turquoise along the top half of the beak, leaving a small highlight above the orange area and leaving the red area untouched, then go over this with a heavy layer of White. Next, add a medium layer of Pale Geranium Lake to the tip of the beak.

Step 3
Go over the very tip of the toucan’s beak in Cadmium Orange with a light pressure, and then add some Pale Geranium Lake over the rest of the red area. Add a little more Cadmium orange to the tip and around the edge where the red turns to blue green, then go over the whole red area with medium pressure and Dark Red, making it darker in the middle and leaving a slightly lighter area for the highlight. Go over this highlight with White, blending this out into the red slightly. Add another layer of Dark Red over the blended bit of White, but leave the highlight untouched. For the black part of the beak, add a layer of Black, making it darker under the beak and leaving a few lighter areas of the Light Ultramarine from the previous step. Go over these light areas again with Light Ultramarine and add a heavy layer of White over the lightest parts. Darken the shadow under the beak with Light Ultramarine if necessary (after adding the black section, I realised my shadow was too light).

Using Sky Blue, Light Magenta and Light Cobalt Turquoise and a light pressure, colour in the bird’s black feathers, focusing more on the lighter areas (in particular the whispy bits around its neck). You can mix or overlap these colours or have some areas that are a single colour; it’s up to you, as long as you get a nice pastel underlayer. For the toucan’s eye, add another layer of green (Dark Phthalo Green for the bottom half and Cobalt Turquoise for the top half) in a medium to heavy pressure, again leaving the hightlights, and then go over the iris again with Black and a heavy pressure, letting the edge blend slightly into the green. At this point I also did a heavier layer of Cream and Light Chrome Yellow to the toucan’s face and neck, adding some Ivory in the lighter areas.

Step 4
Here I darkened the purple marks on the beak with a little more Purple Violet and added a very light layer of Light Cobalt Turquoise and Light Green to the top half of the beak before going over it all with White. I also blended the edge of the red area into the blue/green area with White and deepened the shadow on the bottom half of the beak with Light Ultramarine, blending it with White as well.

Now is time to lay in the black for the majority of the toucan’s body. Using a Black pencil and varying degrees of pressure, colour in the feathers, making your strokes follow the lines/directions of the feathers where possible. The darkest areas (like the shadows under feathers) can be a heavy, deep black, while highlighted areas should use a lighter pressure and let some of the pastel colours from the under layer show through, especially around the neck area.

Step 5
With Sky Blue, go over some of the lightest areas of the feathers. Use a medium pressure for the short feathers around the bird’s shoulder and the rounded feathers on the wing, and a light to medium pressure in the darker areas in the rounded top part of the wing and the lower front of the wing; add a very light layer of the same colour over all the black areas except for the head and neck. For the very lightest areas (the short shoulder feathers and the rounded wing feathers), add a layer of White using a medium pressure for the front hightlighted edges and reducing pressure as you move to the left. Use a light pressure with Light Ultramarine, Light Magenta and Light Cobalt Turquoise to make the pastel hues in the head and neck area more pronounced and reduce any white paper showing through. With Black, add another layer of fine feathers to this area, following the direction of the feathers with your pencil strokes and keeping a few areas lighter than the rest. Still using black, add another layer over the toucan’s body and wing, focusing on the darkest areas with a heavy pressure first, then using a medium pressure and a circular stroke pattern for the middle value areas (ensure you keep the blends between light and dark areas smooth where necessary). The lightest highlights with the Sky Blue (on the rounded wing feathers and short shoulder feathers) should mostly be left as they are, though some can be blended out to black. Now it’s time to sign your name in the lower right corner with Light Ultramarine.

I hope you enjoyed this coloured pencil demo. I hope to have a review of the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils up within the next few days.

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Pencils: Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils (review)

I’d been wanting to try the Japanese Holbein Artists’ coloured pencils for several years, but I’d never seen them available anywhere in Australia, and the sets on eBay were quite expensive once you added postage and currency conversion. On my last trip to the art supply shop before we were put in lockdown, I saw a bundle that included an A4 sketchbook, a pencil case and a set of 12 Holbein coloured pencils. I didn’t really want the book or the pencil case but the set was still cheaper than anything I’d seen on eBay, so I figured I’d get some anyway (and I can always put the book and pencil case to good use).

The full range includes 150 colours, with a nice focus on reds, violets and blues and quite a few pastel colours. I’ve seen boxes and tins online in ranges of 50, 36, 24 and 12 colours, with three varieties of 12 colour tins: Basic, Design and Pastel. Aside from Basic and Design both containing Black and White pencils, the colours in each tin are unique, so if you bought all three, you’d have 34 colours. The tin in my bundle was the Basic set; I’ve included my colour chart for it below.

It’s hard to give a price per single pencil as I haven’t seen individual Holbein pencils for sale anywhere. Jackson’s in the UK seems to have the smaller sets on preorder, with the 12 colour sets priced at $53AUD (which is slightly more than I paid for the pencils, pencil case and sketchbook bundle here in Australia). This adds an extra frustration to the difficulty in finding these pencils, as even if you can get a tin of them, you most likely won’t be able to replace a particular colour if you use it up faster than the others.

As you would expect from an artist grade pencil, the pigment concentration in these pencils is high, allowing you to lay down a solid and vibrant layer of colour without having to jam the pencil tip into the paper. Texture-wise, they feel somewhere in between Caran d’Ache Luminance and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils; quite firm, but still smooth and silky. This makes it easy to build up quite a few layers as long as you’re using a decent quality paper. Unfortunately the White pencil isn’t as opaque as I’d like it to be; while a Caran d’Ache or Prismacolor Premier white pencil can be used to add in highlights if you’ve accidentally coloured an area, the Holbein White only lightens it ever so slightly and blends it.

Lightfastness information is difficult to find for these pencils; I’ve been unable to find colour charts online, aside from those drawn by other artists. Even Holbein’s own website doesn’t appear to have a colour chart (not just for their pencils but for all their products). This isn’t much of an issue for their other ranges as their watercolour and gouache tubes usually have lightfastness ratings listed for each colour on various retailers’ sites, but the only source of lightfastness info I’ve been able to find for the pencils is on the pencils themselves and the pamphlet inside the tin. Out of the full 150 colours, there are 72 *** colours, 60 ** colours, 12 * colours and 6 “luminous” (fluoro) colours that are not rated. This puts them on par with the Derwent Artists or Coloursoft ranges, which do have some lightfast colours but also contain a significant number of fugitive ones.

Here’s the drawing I did with my Holbein Artists’ coloured pencils.

I’d love to be able to recommend these pencils to all coloured pencil artists, but unless you live in or near Japan or America, they’re probably going to be difficult to find (and expensive if you can find them). If you can get your hands on them, though, their firm but smooth texture and high pigment concentration make them a joy to work with, but beware of the fugitive colours in the range.

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Coloured Pencils: Vase of Flowers (demonstration)

Time for another coloured pencil drawing demonstration. This is based on a photo by Sei Nakutagawa from the Facebook Photos For Artists group. I used the new set of Holbein Artists’ coloured pencils I’d just bought as I wanted to review them, but you can use the same or similar colours in whatever brand you already have. I also did it in my Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook, which has good quality paper, but if I did it again I’d probably choose a sturdier and slightly rougher surface, like Stonehenge.

Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils:
-Canary Yellow
-Cobalt Blue
-Apple Green
-Holly Green
-Burnt Sienna
-Burnt Umber

Stillman & Birn Beta Series Sketchbook

Step 1
Draw or trace the outline of the vase and flowers onto your paper. Draw the line for the table with Burnt Umber, and then outline the vase and its highlights with Cobalt Blue, the flower stems with Apple Green and the flowers themselves with Violet. Don’t press too hard with the Violet (as I unfortunately did in some areas) as you need to keep a lot of the flowers white or light.

Step 2
For the table, lay in a very light layer of Canary Yellow to the left of the vase, and to the right just along the top/back of the table. Similar to how we did the surface of the violin, create the wooden texture of the table by drawing horizontal (not perfectly straight) lines in Burnt Sienna and Black. Use more Burnt Sienna to the left of the vase where it’s lighter, and use more Black to the right where it’s darker. Then go over all this with a smooth, light pressure layer of Burnt Umber. For the area of the table visible through the vase, add a very light layer of Burnt Umber, leaving some white space around the bottom edge of the vase and being careful not to cross over the vase highlights.

Colour the parts of the stems above the vase with Apple Green, leaving lighter areas on the left of the stems for highlights. You can also go over the highlight areas with a White pencil to make them lighter. For the shadow areas, add a light layer of Burnt Umber. Use Apple Green to colour in the bits of the stems visible inside the vase, but do this very lightly. Next, use Violet to colour in the flowers, again leaving white space or using very light presser for the highlights. Make sure your pencil strokes follow the contours of the petals.

Step 3
Use White to lighten the pale areas on the flowers (I wish I’d gone lighter with the violet as I ended up with a lot areas that weren’t as light as I wanted) and also to reserve the highlights within the vase. For the top left highlight, use a fairly heavy layer of White, then medium pressure for the larger one in the lower right, and a light to medium pressure for the thin highlight around the lower right edge of the vase. Using a light touch, colour in most of the white area in the top of the vase with Black, letting it touch the upper right edge of the vase. Do the same for the bottom left edge of the vase. Lay in a little black along the right side of the flower stems to further define their shadows.

Use Black to draw the shadow under the vase, making it darker where it touches the vase and gradually lightening your touch as you move outwards. In the darkest area, add a little Cobalt Blue for the vase’s reflection on the smooth wooden surface. Go over the entire table area with White, using a medium pressure for all areas except the shadow (which should use a light pressure) and then go over it all again with Burnt Umber, using a lighter touch on the left side of the table and a heavier touch to the right (I also added another light layer of Black over the right side). Apply a final medium layer of White just in the top left corner of the table.

Step 4
Go over the whole vase with Cobalt Blue with a light pressure, avoiding the highlights and being careful to let some of the stem and table colour remain visible. Use a light-medium pressure to go over the lowest right thin highlight, and a light pressure to go over the larger highlight in the lower right. You may need to go over both again with a White pencil to restore the highlight, but they shouldn’t be as light as the upper left one. Add some more Burnt Umber for the table again if you’ve covered it with too much Cobalt Blue, and then go over the whole lot with Cobalt Blue again, this time with a medium pressure and blending the edges of the highlights. The top left should have a fairly sharp outline but the lower right ones should be more blurred. With a medium pressure, go over most of the vase with White to smooth out the texture a little (you could also use a colourless blender pencil, if you have one). I also added another layer of black along the bottom left edge of the vase before going over it with Cobalt Blue again. It might take a few layers to complete this step, but just keep building them up until you’ve got the deep blue of the vase and a smooth glass texture.

Colour the background with Black pencil. You want a solid, dark background, so it might take several layers of medium-heavy pressure. Again, using a colourless blender in between layers might be helpful here (I have one but I couldn’t be bothered digging it out). Alternating the direction of your strokes (eg. horizontal for first layer, vertical for second layer) will also help you get more even coverage. For the first few layers I’d recommend just doing the background, and then once you get to the final layers, begin overlapping the black onto the darkest areas of the vase and the stems to provide a sense of depth (I also added some Apple Green to the darker side of the stems). Finally, go over the outline of the vase with Cobalt Blue again if your outline isn’t as neat as you’d like, and then sign your name in the bottom right corner.

That concludes today’s demonstration (apologies for the photo quality; I took it under my desk lamp with my iPad, so the vase shadow doesn’t look as pronounced as it is in real life). I hope you had fun with this drawing, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Seven Small Sketches: June 5 – June 15 2020

At the start of this month, I decided to do another Seven Small Sketches challenge, since I had so much fun with the last one. Rather than using a variety of mediums, this time I chose to use acrylics for all seven paintings, but to aim for the same style across the set. I chose impressionism because it’s a style I’ve always wanted to have a go at but always struggled to manage (the perfectionist part of my brain keeps telling me that everything has to be realistic and accurate). I didn’t quite get them all finished within a week because I was busy with marking assignments, and the final painting was larger and more complex so it took me about three days rather than one, but I’m still glad I ended up with another seven paintings completed. Here’s a ‘collage’ I put together of my paintings.

All of these aside from the dog portrait are on ATCs. I think for the most part, I succeeded in achieving an impressionist style, though I’m not 100% happy with all the paintings. I couldn’t find a rose picture that I liked so I painted one from imagination, and didn’t really get it right, and the landscape with the mountains in the background was one I painted late at night after work and rushed, so the contours of the desert area don’t look natural. Even though I think the peacock came out quite well, it’s probably slightly more realistic than I intended it to be.

Here’s a better photo of my portrait of Rosco, as I’m especially proud of it. I’ve wanted to paint a portrait of my furbaby for a while now, but aside from the painting I did of my Italian friend’s German Shepherd, Vedina, this is the only dog portrait I’ve done, so I kept putting it off out of fear that I wasn’t good enough and would mess it up.

I knew from the start that I would need to use a photo reference, so I set out to take one, but as is often the way with animals, Rosco would always run away or roll over or make a stupid face any time I got out the camera, so I resorted to going through my folder of dog photos to see if I could find a good one. I ended up having to use two; one for the pose, which had the expression I wanted but poor lighting, and another one with better lighting but where he wasn’t looking straight at the camera. I also thought it would be fun to make it my own little tribute to Van Gogh’s art by giving Rosco a Starry Night background. It was a challenge to paint, especially the nose/muzzle area, but I think he came out quite well and I managed to capture some of his personality and emotion (on a related note, the main photo I used was taken of Rosco when he was sitting beside my desk and staring at me as I ate a sandwich without giving him any).

I’m busy with a few jobs over the next couple of weeks, so it’ll be a while before I have the time to make art again, let alone the energy. I’m hoping to set myself another themed challenge; perhaps I’ll do a set of animal portraits, or a series of still life paintings.

Day 1: Cherry Blossoms, based on a photo by Carol Kendall in the Photos for Artists Facebook Group.
Day 2: Storm Sailor, based on a photo by Kymberlee Edwards McKay in the Photos for Artists Facebook Group.
Day 3: Peacock, based on a photo by Neringa Maxwell in the Photos for Artists Facebook group.
Day 4: Along the Tracks, based on a photo by Joan McDaniel in the Photos for Artists Facebook group.
Day 5: Rose, from imagination.
Day 6: Reflections on a Lily Pond, based on various photos by Lynn Nugent, Kay Davis and Gail Veasey in the Photos for Artists Facebook group.
Day 7: Starry Mouse, based on a few photos I took of Rosco and in the style of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

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Seven Small Sketches: Art in the Time of COVID-19 (and other disasters)

It’s been a few months since I last posted, and a lot has happened in that time. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in devastating death tolls in some countries, along with basic freedoms many of us take for granted – like being able to go to the gym or socialise with large groups of friends at the pub – being taken away as governments bring in various restrictions to try to curb the spread of COVID-19. Schools have closed and a lot of jobs have either been lost or been forced to make a rapid transition to online in order to stay afloat. Here in Australia, these restrictions seem to be working, with very few new cases reported each day and a relatively small number of deaths, but it’s still early days, so we can’t afford to become complacent, and it will probably be a while before things go back to the way they were.

With many of us suddenly finding ourselves at home with (theoretically) a lot more time on our hands, it’s not surprising that we can feel pressured to get more work done, to take up a new hobby or put more time and effort into mastering an existing one. I say “theoretically” because, as I’m sure most of us have discovered, more time at home does not equal more time to work, especially when we live with other people who also can’t go out anywhere or do anything. It’s really difficult to get things done when you are being constantly interrupted; I have a hard enough time trying to work with a 2-year-old German Shepherd constantly demanding cuddles or barking at the postie, so I can only imagine it’s ten times harder for people trying to work from home with children (especially if they also have to supervise those children while they do classes online). Not to mention the constant worry at the back of our mind at all times, about whether someone we love will get sick, or that money will become tight, or the general frustration about not being able to go out or have time to ourselves. No matter how much you try to put it out of your mind, it’s still always there, gradually sapping your energy.

I should add a disclaimer that I’ve been fairly lucky with regards to the shutdown in that it has not affected either of my jobs (and therefore, my income). My teaching job for uni has moved online, and my retail job is busier than ever. So while there have been a lot of things I’ve found stressful about the shutdown, money isn’t one of them.

On top of that, I’ve still been struggling with my own issues from last year. I’m still angry and upset about having to discontinue my PhD and the likely prospect that I’ll never be able to finish it, while the health issue I developed last year is still progressing (albeit slowly), and though I have a tentative diagnosis, I’m still not 100% sure what it is, let alone if it can be treated.

Even before Semester 1 started back in March, I feel like I did very little of anything worthwhile. I only did one or two drawings and I didn’t do any fiction writing. Once uni kicked off, I quickly became busy with class preparation and assignment marking, which didn’t diminish after we were suddenly forced to change from on-campus classes to online delivery because of the coronavirus. I also got put on a contract at my retail job at the same time, so I’ve gone from doing one shift there every week or two, to doing three shifts every week. This has been good for my bank account – and it’s also been the one thing that gets me out of the house – but it’s left me with little time for any of my creative hobbies, and when I have had time, I’ve generally not had the energy or motivation, so I’d end up just faffing around in Animal Crossing for several hours, and then feeling guilty and ashamed when my Switch’s low battery indicator came on because I’d spent the time on video games rather than doing anything useful.

I think it was while I was obsessing over where I was going to move my fruit tree orchard and how I would arrange the villagers’ houses in Animal Crossing that I had a thought: wouldn’t I be better off putting this creative energy into something where I’d actually have something to show for it at the end? Now, I understand this isn’t an entirely healthy mindset (see my note below), but it also got me thinking about how I could do something creative when I just really couldn’t be bothered.

Disclaimer number 2: while it’s important to try to do what you can and keep yourself busy, it’s okay to not be as productive as normal or to not finish everything on your to-do list every day, or even to have days where you just can’t do anything but survive. These aren’t normal times, so for a lot of folks, the best they can really hope to do is make it through until some semblance of normalcy returns; anything you manage to achieve on top of that is just icing on the cake (and if ‘wasting time’ playing video games helps you maintain your sanity and take your mind off how crappy life/the world is, even just for a little while, then the time wasn’t wasted). This post isn’t meant to guilt trip anyone into trying to be productive when they’re not physically, mentally or emotionally up to it; it’s just supposed to provide some ideas and encouragement for people who do want to do something creative but maybe don’t know where to start or have limited time and energy.

In light of this, I sat down and actually started to make lists of creative things I thought I could do that wouldn’t require too much time or energy. I considered trying to write short stories, but my writing muscles seem to have atrophied somewhat in the years since I did my writing and editing course (I have been re-reading the novel I was writing to try to immerse myself in the world again, but haven’t managed to do much more than bash out a few sentences in the manuscript). I thought about finally starting on a painting I’ve had an idea for since late last year, and doing it in steps, but I realised that anything that would take me more than one or two sittings to complete is probably something I won’t complete at all. None of the ideas I came up with seemed workable. It wasn’t until I was doing my annual desk clean, during which I clear away piles of notes and excavate lost stationery, that I found a rectangle of watercolour paper I’d cut from a larger piece and then clearly forgotten about for some reason. The scrap was rectangular and about half the size of a credit card, and although I couldn’t remember why I’d cut it out, it occurred to me that it was probably big enough to do a miniature painting.

Thus, Seven Small Sketches was born.

Seven Small Sketches
As is the case with most skills, art is something you have to practice regularly if you want to improve. Regularly churning out large drawings or paintings isn’t feasible for me (or a lot of people) most of the time, but doing regular small paintings is something that much more achievable. The painting I attempted on the watercolour paper scrap was a disaster, but instead of being discouraged as I usually am when I mess up a painting, I didn’t really care because I hadn’t put that much time or energy into it. I got out a small pad of watercolour paper that was almost used up and used masking tape to create 8 small rectangles. To help myself achieve the ‘regular’ part, I set myself a goal of doing one small sketch each day for a week.

This was what I ended up with (references for the photos I used are at the bottom of this post).

Even though it was a fairly small challenge, part of me still expected to fail, so I felt a genuine sense of achievement when I got to the end of the week and actually had seven new piece of art to show for it. Yes, they’re only small, but they’re still paintings and drawings that didn’t exist before. Completing this challenge has also given me the motivation to keep trying to make art, even if it’s only small pieces like this, rather than feeling bad about the fact my art supplies are just sitting in my drawer unused.

Tips and Ideas
If you want to have a go at your own Seven Small Sketches challenge, here are some things to consider before you get started.

You’ll need to decide what medium/s your small sketches will be created with. Depending on your art goals, you might choose to experiment with a different medium every day of the week, or to focus on one medium. The medium you choose will also influence the surface you’ll draw or paint on, so if you’re going to do what I did and use one piece of paper (or canvas) for the whole week, you’ll need to plan ahead. Otherwise, you can just use separate miniature canvases or pieces of paper for each piece.

As with mediums, you may decide to paint or draw a different subject every day, or to do the same subject but from different angles, or different variations of the subject. As a compromise, you could do a themed week of different subjects that are somehow related, or perhaps do several different paintings in a new style (like impressionism or abstraction) that you haven’t tried before.

Depending on how much time and energy you have, you may still be doing full-sized art works as well as your Seven Small Sketches. These sketches can be a useful tool for developing ideas for those larger pieces, as you can use them as a practice run or try out different ideas, colour schemes or compositions. This has the bonus of removing any anxiety about trying something new on a larger piece, because if you make a mistake in a small sketch, nothing has really been lost.

If possible, try to allocate a particular time each day to work on your Seven Small Sketches. Pandemic or not, it can be hard to find time for art, especially when we’re busy with work, but if you can set aside even half an hour a day, that should be enough time to create something. One advantage of the Seven Small Sketches challenge is that it’s contained to a single week, so if you know you’ll have a week where you’ll have a bit more time to yourself, you can have a go at doing it that week (similarly, don’t take on the challenge if you know you’re going to be really busy with work or family or whatever, as you’re likely setting yourself up to fail).

It goes without saying that you’ll need drawing or painting supplies, but it’s worth thinking about how your choice of materials may affect how you work on your sketches. Because these are supposed to be small and hopefully fairly quick to complete, it’s best if you use supplies you can set up and put away as quickly as possible (including cleaning up). If you already have a studio space set up with your paints, brushes and/or pastels etc at your fingertips, this is less of an issue, but for me space is limited, so I have to put all my supplies away when I’m not using them. This is why I didn’t use oil paints or soft pastels in my Seven Small Sketches challenge; I figured I’d spend more time setting them all up and having to clean it all up afterwards than I’d spend on the actual drawing or painting. It’s up to you, of course, but I chose to use small tins of pencils rather than getting out my full-range sets of Derwents or Caran D’Ache, and rather than digging through my box of watercolour tubes, I used my little Expeditionary Art Toolkit. If you’ve got any of those ‘sample size’ sets of supplies that are often thrown in as freebies with art orders or sold cheaply to introduce new customers to a product, this would be a good project to use them on.

At the end of your Seven Small Sketches challenge, make a note of the date you started and completed it. Similar to keeping a journal, this will help you monitor your progress and over time, you’ll be able to look back at your collection of sketches and see how your skills have improved.

Sometimes life will happen, things will go wrong and you won’t be able to complete the Seven Small Sketches challenge. And that’s fine. Doing seven drawings/paintings a day for a week is a goal to aim for, but the art police aren’t going to come and bust your door down if you miss a day because you were sick or tired or just too mentally/emotionally drained to pick up a brush. Pushing yourself to create when you’ve got nothing left only exhausts you more and it usually doesn’t result in good work (and even if it does, is it worth it if it leaves you so burnt out afterwards that you can’t function for a week?) so you’re better off taking a couple of days or a week to recharge and then pick up the challenge again when you’re ready. Even if you don’t do art for all seven days and only manage four or five? That’s still four or five pieces of art you didn’t have before, and it’s still time you spent improving your skills. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t finish a challenge. Just pick yourself up again and try when you’re ready.

I hope this somewhat rambly post has given at least some people a bit of encouragement and motivation to get out their art supplies again. If you do decide to do your own Seven Small Sketches challenge, I’d love to see you post your creations using the #SevenSmallSketches hashtag on social media so that other artists can follow along with your progress.

Day 1: Indigo bunting, based on a photo by Michelle Cassandra Vincent (watercolours).
Day 2: Ladybird, from imagination (coloured pencil).
Day 3: Mountain landscape, based on various photos by Joe Price in the Photos for Artists group on Facebook (gouache).
Day 4: Waterlily, based on a photo by WthrLady in the WetCanvas Reference Image Library (oil pastel).
Day 5: Pumpkins, based on a photo by dancinghen in the WetCanvas Reference Image Library (acrylics).
Day 6: Lighthouse, based on a photo by Alice Hoagland Burghart in the Photos for Artists group on Facebook (crayon).
Day 7: Fox, based on a photo by Paul Green in the Photos for Artists group on Facebook (ink).

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