Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tips on buying paper for watercolor media

Whichever watercolor medium you are using: paint, watercolor pencils, markers or even watered-down acrylic paint, you need to be careful of what papers you buy.

What's best?
When I started out in fine arts, of course I would buy the least expensive because I didn’t want to invest too much money into something I may hate. Seems to make sense. Except when you are using bad materials, you often have bad results. As a teacher once said, "A bad painting is either the artist or the materials." Hmmm.

As a case in point, I had a teacher who recommended Strathmore watercolor paper, what I now call wood-pulp paper. I was new to watercolor, so I went out and bought the stuff. But no matter how hard I tried, I never got the paint to look like anything I saw in magazines or books. The paint literally just sat on top of the paper, never really penetrating it.

Then, I took a weekend workshop on watercolor painting. Fortunately, the instructor supplied the materials (something I truly appreciate). This is where I learned about using the right paper for the right job. It's best to use 100% cotton, not the stuff that's made from trees and/or other materials.  The entire process changed for me. Suddenly I witnessed watercolor pouring and blending over the paper with ease. It was wonderful.


Below is an example of how watercolor paint reacts on wood pulp paper and cotton paper. Notice the rooster painted on the left is on the Strathmore paper, while the one of the right is 100% cotton. It makes a difference.



So, here's my best recommendation: don’t buy the cheap stuff.  And most importantly, if you are using a wet medium, your paper needs to somewhat thick and tough. Below you will find a chart for a variety of papers. 




Paper companies

All of the above paper companies are fine. I use them all; my favorite is Sanders-Waterford from England, but Arches (France) and Fabriano (Italy) are good as well. Stonehenge paper is wonderful. I use it for my colored pencils but have found it to be great for water-soluble pencils as well. In fact, Stonehenge has just come out with their "aqua" brand specifically for water media.







Paper characteristics
There are three basic types of paper: hot press, cold press and rough. Also, there are three ways to make paper. Let's talk about the former first. Paper can be:
  • Handmade with deckle edges on all four side (usually rather expensive)
  • Mold-made, although done on machines created with deckle edges on two sides (reasonably priced)
  • Machine, may have deckle edge,but made by machines, using wood pulp
All good artist quality paper is made from 100% cotton because of its strength and longevity. There's a belief that the paper will last one year equal to the amount of cotton in the paper. Thus, good paper should last 100 years. There's evidence regarding this with the preservation of many papers from our human history.

By the way, there are some papers on the market that have only 25% cotton that I like, especially for sketching. I often use Fabriano studio paper and Pentalic's Nature Sketching sketchbook, both of which have 25% cotton. My rule of thumb is that I don't spend a lot of money for sketching paper--it's not usually for a final, frameable  project. 

Beside the fiber content of your paper, you should always buy paper that is acid free which may not be the case with wood pulp paper. Let me tell you why. I once spend hours on a colored pencil project using newsprint paper. Today that lovely drawing has not only yellowed, but the paper is also beginning to disintegrate (another early days mistake). 

The surface of your paper is a major consideration as well. You can get cold press, which is a bit more textured or bumpy as I refer to it or you can get hot press, which is a very smooth surface, also called plate. The cold press paper is used worldwide by watercolor artists. The hot press can be use for ink, watercolor wash, water-soluble pencils and even colored pencils. I love the hot press paper that Saunders-Waterford create. And one thing, there is the rough surface, which is exactly what is sounds like--rough, toothy, gritty. It's hard to work on (for me).

Weight
As I said above when working with a wet medium, you need good sturdy paper. That's when paper weight comes in. You can buy paper of course as thin as your ordinary copy paper at 20# but I can assure you that if you try to use copy paper with watercolor, you'll have a wiggly, wobbly paper after you're done.

Papers come in higher weights but what you want to hone in on is at least 90#. This is the least weight that can hold wet, but it will have to be stretched. In other words. wet paper taped down on all edges to a board to keep it from causing hills and valleys. The same is true for 140#. I often buy papers in blocks where the paper is pre-stretched and glue to the edges. I used to love stretching paper, but have found it easier just to buy the blocks.

If you go higher than 140#, such as 156#, 200# and 300#, you'll find that you can eliminate the stretching, but I have to warn you, if you are going to use a lot of water on even the heavier papers, be warned, the paper can still ripple. In the end. I usually use 140# paper for my water-soluble pencil on hot press. I don't work on massive projects, so this combination really works for me. 

Paper colors
In recent years there have been two types of white watercolor paper introduced. Along with traditional white, you will see bright white or high white. The latter has such a brighter white that enhances vivid colors and brighter highlights.


I did some experimenting this past spring while preparing for a workshop and I found that Stonehenge (drawing) lends itself nicely to water soluble pencils, as you can see below. The colors went down beautifully and wetting never caused a wrinkle. Having said that though, I do not believe this paper would tolerate heavy washes; that's where the Stonehenge Aqua would a better choice.


Experiment using Stonehenge paper (drawing) for
watercolor pencil. Worked well.


How papers are sold: pads, blocks and sheets
As I mentioned above, you can purchase a lot of watercolor paper products in pad form or what’s called block. That’s when several papers are glued together, all way round the edge to avoid stretching. Although if you use heavy watered washes, you’ll still experience buckling.  The other way to purchase paper is by buying big sheets, usually 22” x 30”. I have a tendency to buy paper this way. I simply cut the paper to the size I want. Sometimes you can find real bargains on line, but generally, you can expect to pay five dollars or more per sheet.

A word to the wise 
Don't be like me (in my early art career). Buy the best paper you can afford. There's simply no substitute for using the right tools for the right job.

---------------------------------------------------

What's coming up this Fall!

Fall Classes begin last week of September
Weeks of 9/24-10/22
Come join the fun while learning how to draw and/or paint in the Glastonbury Studios classes. Five-week term; limited to six students per class. Pre-registration and payment to secure your seat.To sign up for classes in my studio, please email me at jjgoodell@gmail.com

Pencil to Brush  
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Tuesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Full

The Evening Draw
Sketching with pen and ink
Every Tuesday evening
6:30 pm to 9 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Morning Draw
Sketching with pen and ink
Every Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Full

Pencil to Brush
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term

For more information email: jjgoodell@gmail.com














******************************************

Upcoming 2018 Sketching Cruise

Sketching Fall Colors 
7-Day Sketching Cruise
New England and Canada


Friday, Sep 14 - 21, 2018

Cruise $799 (PPDO) plus fees & taxes*
Workshop Tuition: $700


*Rates subject to change.

For more information or to register please email:



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Reading Anyone?

I love to read about artists. It’s good to learn about their struggles and successes. Often I find myself more inspired than ever. So I thought that perhaps it would be fun to cover a few books I have read in the past. Perhaps it can help you with your summer reading list.


Lust for Life (1934) Fiction
by Irving Stone
I never really understood Vincent Van Gogh until I read the biographical novel, Lust for Life. Irving Stone went to great lengths to make this story accurate, using Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo and even visiting Holland, Belgium and France for "on-field" work. 

I loved being taken back through time to enter the life of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists years. You can almost feel Vincent’s pain and madness with an ending that was much sadder than the film, starring Kirk Douglas.

By the way, Lust for Life was Stone’s first major publication. The book was rejected 17 times over three years. Hope you’ll enjoy the journey

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) Fiction
by Irving Stone


Another great work by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy, is the story of Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famous sculptor, painter and architect. Stone researched for this book over a period of six years, first having the artist’s correspondence translated as well as doing his “on-field” work  in Florence, Rome, Carrara and Bologna. 

What I admire about the author, other than his descriptive writing, is his dedication to detail, even visiting the quarry where Michelangelo chose his stone.

Stone does an absolute job of bringing the Renaissance era to life and recounting the struggles the artists of the time experienced not only to accomplish what they wanted but to serve (and sometimes battle with) the aristocracy and the church.



Depths of Glory (1983) Fiction
by Irving Stone
Yes, I’m a fan of Stone. There’s another book he wrote, Depths of Glory, that covers the life of Camille Pissarro. Not known by a lot of people, Pissarro was the oldest of the Impressionists by as much as ten years, but was highly influential on the group. He never really earned a lot of money, usually poor as dirt, but very prolific. 

The one story I remember most from this book is when Pissarro returns to his countryside home from London after seeking safety for he and his family during the Franco-Prussian War. 

Upon arriving home he learns that twenty years' worth of his work has been destroyed. Only 40 paintings had survived because a neighbor had saved them. The Prussians had used his house as a stable and his painted canvases as aprons when butchering the pigs and as floor mats in the garden walkways.

Depths of Glory is another wonderful book where Stone takes you by the hand and leads you on a fantastic journey through yesterday’s artists and the history that surrounds them.

Van Gogh, The Life (2012) Non-Fiction
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
While we’re on the subject of Van Gogh, I highly recommend another book that hit the New York Times Best Seller's list: Van Gogh, The Life. Complete with a family tree, illustrations and maps, this volume gives you an all-encompassing account of Vincent’s life and his relationship with his family and friends. What’s most interesting is the appendix that talks about the peculiarity surrounding his death. Although lengthy, nearly 1000 pages long, the book is rather entertaining and easy to read.

Sacré Bleu A Comedy D'art (2012) Fiction
by Christopher Moore

What a fun, strange and interesting book. A student recommended this book to me, and I’m glad she did.

You’ll learn more about Van Gogh but more importantly about the mysterious Colorman. Part mystery, part love story, part art history, Sacré Bleu is well worth the read.















Here are some others:
Claude & Camille: A novel of Monet  (2011) Fiction
by Stephanie Cowell
Wonderful love story

Private Lives of the Impressionist s (2007) Non-Fiction
by Sue Roe
One of my favorites. Superb account of the Impressionists, learning history, struggles, very inspiring


Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O’Keefe (1997) Non-Fiction
by Laurie Lisle
Good story, interesting read. Helped my understanding of O’Keefe’s artwork and life.


American Mirror: Life and Art of Norman Rockwwell (2013) Non-Fiction
by Deborah Solomon
Great story. But disappointed when I learned that as a commercial artist he was forced to trace everything. Deadlines wait for no man!

By the way, to learn more about the Impressionists and other artists go to the left hand column to the Blog Archive Links. I have covered many of the artists mentioned in this article.







What's Coming Up

Glastonbury Studios One-Day Workshops
All studio workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes supplies and lunch. The cost is $85. Class size is limited to ten students. Pre-registration is required. Only payment reserves your seat.
For full description of workshops see: 
Workshop Catalog

Drawing with Pastels/Oil and Soft
August 5

Beginning Acrylics
September 30


Stippling with ink and markers
October 14

Register by email:
jjgoodell@gmail.com


====================================


Fall Classes begin Last week of September
Weeks of 9/24-10/22

Come join the fun while learning how to draw and/or paint in the Glastonbury Studios classes. Five-week term; limited to six students per class. Pre-registration and payment needed to secure your seat. To sign up for classes in my studio, please email me.

Pencil to BrushWe will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Tuesday morning*

10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Evening Draw
Pen and Ink
Every Tuesday evening*
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Morning Draw
Pen and Ink
Every Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term 
Full

Pencil to Brush 
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term
For more information email:
jjgoodell@gmail.com

Monday, June 26, 2017

July 2017 newsletter: WC pencils techniques

Drawing a frog with watercolor pencil
For weeks now I’ve been working with watercolor pencil. It’s not easy. Sure there are some books (not many) and YouTube videos out there, but nothing that can prepare you for the patience needed to really create a believable picture.

While creating the rendering below, I found that the best method was drawing the entire frog as if it were a colored pencil project. After that, I gingerly added a light layer of water, melding the colors below--very much like adding solvent to colored pencils when blending. When everything was dry, I added more dry color and details. 



Layering: Color, Wet, Dry, Color At first, I went along with other people’s recommendations (authors and presenters). I added water to each layer of color, let it dry and then add another layer. I found this to cause a real mess for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good method, but I just found it to be difficult as well as tedious—color, wet, dry, color. I also didn’t get the best results.


Using lines, not so much color
Some folks use a lot of lines, hatch marks and cross hatching. I didn’t like that either 
because the marks would remain after the water was added. This may be cool if I were doing perhaps a grassy area and wanted green lines ghosting in the background. But aside from that application, I prefer to “color” in my subject using closely spaced lines or the side of my pencil.

Heavy outlines, then color
If you prefer to have your subject look like a drawing, you may opt to use heavy lines in an outline fashion. Some artists like to use this method for flowers that have dark edges. But be aware that it may be hard to pull any color away from the lines. And more importantly, you may not be able to change your mind.
 Yes, you can erase your watercolor pencils, but no matter how much you try, you’ll always leave a bit of residue and it gets worse when you use a hard line.

The picture below, which is from one of my test pages, shows how you can create a mess with heavy outlines. Unlike the garlic drawing above where I used dainty lines and light washes, these edges on the flower are hard and when water is applied, it can cause a blurry result. Notice though, that I accomplished something similar by first drawing two lines (in this example in ink, but can be laid down in pencil) and then "coloring" in between the lines. Voila! Blurry has been diminished. 


Layering: Drawing, Wet, Touch Up
While I vary my technique, sometimes adding water as I go along, I have found the best method for me, as stated above,  is to draw the object just like I were working with colored pencils. I apply all the color I can and then lay down water to blend. I let it dry completely, and add final details as the last step.


Making notes
Along the way, I've been taking notes on all the projects I've worked on. It helps me to remember what I did, what I learned and hopefully what I will or will not repeat. It is hard learning a new medium and this one is especially challenging. But once you get a handle on how these pencils work, it actually becomes a lot of fun.
I keep notes of all my experiments with watercolor pencils.


And finally
I created a pencil chart of several different manufacturers which is going into my watercolor pencil workbook. I thought it might be handy for you when you shop. Hope you find it useful.


Click on the above chart to make it larger

What's coming up!

Studio Classes and Workshops
New classes begin week of July 2, 2017*
Come join the fun while learning how to draw and/or paint in the Glastonbury Studios classes. Five-week term; limited to six students per class. Pre-registration and payment needed to secure your seat. To sign up for classes in my studio, please email me

Pencil to Brush
We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Tuesday morning*

10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Full

The Evening DrawSketching with pen and ink
Every Tuesday evening*
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term

The Morning DrawSketching with pen and ink
Every Wednesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Full

Pencil to Brush We will draw then paint a subject every two weeks (pencil and acrylic paint). Final week will be special project.
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term

For more information email:
jjgoodell@gmail.com
*July 4th Tuesday evening class will meet on Wednesday evening, July 5.

**********
Glastonbury Studios One-Day Workshops
All studio workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Includes supplies and lunch. The cost is $85. Class size is limited to nine students. Pre-registration is required. Only payment reserves your seat.
For full description of workshops see: 
Workshop Catalog

Drawing with Pastels/Oil and Soft
August 5

Beginning Acrylics
September 30

Stippling with ink and markers
October 14

Register by email: jjgoodell@gmail.com