Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Winsor Newton Bockingford Watercolour Paper

Rain Clouds over Hill
5' x 7" Winsor & Newton Watercolour Marker
on Winsor & Newton 140lb Not surface Bockingford Watercolour Paper

I went out today for an appointment and decided to bring the Travel Set as my main art supply, just leave my usual backpack home. Filled the water bottle. That is one generous water bottle! Big as a pack of cigarettes, it'd be good for very sloshy washes and such techniques. No running out.

I packed some extras into it, my trusty Niji water brush and three Pigma Micron pens - size 01, size 05 and Graphic size 3 (chisel tip) which are all non soluble pens. Fit very nicely across the extra pocket. I'll be testing the Bockingford paper today in the waiting room, so stand by for another image and more about these fascinating artist grade markers!

Truth to tell, I have never actually ordered and used Bockingford paper, so this is another new experiment. I've also got my Winsor & Newton Artist's Field Kit in my pocket so it may turn into mixed water mediums.

Turned out I didn't need any extras. On the way, it rained. I got several good photos of reflecting wet streets and then we wound up at the top of a very tall hill looking across at another hill silhouetted against a cloudy sky so light it was white haloing the trees - and lowering clouds above it.

I loved those clouds. The camera wouldn't register the sky as anything but white. So I sketched fast with W&N Watercolour Marker, Ivory Black, hoping the water brush would dissolve it to get something like the cloud effect. Working fast, it did. In only two minutes I got the effect I wanted.

Something in me said Stop. You're done.

So I did, stopped, signed and dated it carefully at the next traffic stop. All this took place at one stop light. I was letting it dry before the van moved. I was just lucky there was a bit of traffic to slow us up so I could get it done.

Bockingford paper has a Not surface. I usually expect that to be a bit like vellum drawing paper - toothy, a little coarse but still something fine enough for the usual sorts of drawings. I was dubious about this paper once I stripped the plastic off because it seemed to have a weave texture like the rough side of Canson Mi-Tientes. It's not as harsh though.

The surface of the paper is strong. It took some scrubbing to turn the hard-edged black marks of the Ivory Black marker into those loose shifting grays but there is no texture deformity in the wash. It's a tough paper, high quality, designed to stand up to serious watercolorists' propensity for heavy washes, razoring, scrubbing, spattering. I'd meant to try spattering on it since that happened by accident onto the plastic but there is no right place for it in this painting.

The weave texture is small enough to give some bumps and valleys to broken color. As the brush dried, I got a good irregular edge at the bottom where the gray met dry paper. Within the clouds, other light passages appeared at random as I scrubbed out or as the brush skipped between broad marks. A watery splash at the bottom of the shading on the left hill (far hill) broke in some very interesting ways because of the texture and sizing. This is paper made for an expressive painter. It handles in some ways like rough, but I was able to get quite small details with the brush tip of the marker on it.

I have always liked and trusted Winsor & Newton watercolours for their strong, pigment-rich consistent high quality. They are the first of three artist grade brands I've loved and this is an old company from a country that loves watercolor. I shouldn't be surprised the Bockingford watercolour paper is that high quality too. It handles wonderfully.

Winsor & Newton also makes a less expensive student grade Cotman watercolour paper in 90lb or 140lb weights and an Artists' Water Colour Paper that is 100% cotton linter in 90lb, 140lb and 260lb. Bockingford is the mid-grade paper, suitable for artists, better than Cotman but not the top drawer all rag stuff.

Even the Cotman is acid free. Bockingford is internally and externally sized, which is probably why it performed so well in my wet and dry dashing crazed painting madness. Full sheets of Bockingford paper are also available in several tints if you want to experiment with Blue, Cream, Eggshell, Gray, Oatmeal and White. Cream looks decidedly pink-peach in hue and Oatmeal a little darker and slightly yellower. With this example for the texture, I know I'm going to enjoy the tinted Bockingford as well.

Dick Blick carries the Bockingford Tinted Paper full sheets of 22" x 30" Not surface 140lb paper, so the next time I order I'll try their different colors and review how this handles for pastels. With that broken color texture it should be interesting for dry work too. Colored pencil artists may find it easy or difficult to deal with the texture but it felt soft, as if serious burnishing would bring it down to a polished smoothness.

I'd recommend this paper for watercolorists who like to play and experiment. Winsor & Newton's products are usually a step up from their category and even though this is the mid range paper, its working qualities are great. It's very responsive, maybe that's the sizing or the recipe but it has a beautiful texture that actually improved my painting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers Travel Set

Ari Cat posing with the W&N Watercolour Markers Travel Set
For scale and because he's beautiful.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers are a new product. Pigmented and archival, they join pan and tube watercolors plus their brand of watercolor sticks as another form of delivering artist grade watercolor. With 36 open stock colors, the range is small as markers go but very good as watercolors. Colors include a lot of hues, which suggests to me that modern pigments like quinacridones that are lightfast, transparent and vibrant form the backbone of the color mixes. Pigments are not listed but the color names with "Hue" suggest it.

Cheap Joe's has a sale on these for the holidays including tin sets of 6 and 12, open stock, sets of 24 or 36 and the 8 color Travel Set. Open stock is about $5 a marker and my Travel Set was $39.99 - the usual big discount at an online store. 

I have a great fondness for travel sets and portability. So with the case, two good if small W&N Sceptre brushes size 0 and 4 rounds, water bottle, clear folding water bucket and 7" x 5" Bockingford watercolor paper pad essentially free in the sale, I decided to go with this range rather than the 12 color tin. 

Case and accessories are all good. I'll review the paper later both with markers and with other watercolor techniques. The water bottle is generous, so is the bucket and the case is deep. There's plenty of room to add other markers and a small pocket between the water bottle and brush loops to add Niji water brushes, pens, or a candy tin with other supplies. There's room above the markers to put in a Sakura or other pocket watercolor pan set or any other self contained small field supplies you want. Pigma Micron pens fit across it neatly. So this case is a good choice to contain all your field supplies in one unit as many of my friends do for their journaling adventures. Small oblong art journals would fit in the paper pocket depending on flatness or width. Very useful zippered case with nylon over a sturdy stiffener.

Colors included are Alizarin Crimson Hue, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Dioxazine Violet, Prussian Blue Hue, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber and Ivory Black. Color swatches on the website seemed pale both on the Winsor Newton site and at Cheap Joe's but came out stronger in person although Alizarin Crimson Hue doesn't go as deep dark as I'm used to with Permanent Alizarin Crimson let alone the original pigment. 

The markers have a bullet tip with a pointed cap on one end and a brush tip with a blunt cap on the other. Warning! The blunt tip has to go down when you put them back in the case. If you put it in upside down with blunt on top and pointed cap downward, you can't get the marker cap out again. It gets stuck in the pocket and takes needle nose pliers to wiggle it loose to get it out. This is a weird, mildly annoying thing about the case but irrelevant in tins or other cases. Just remember that if you get the Travel Set, the case won't let you put them brush tip up even if you use it more. 

My first test was a monochrome sketch in Prussian Blue Hue.

Monochrome Prussian Blue Hue Skyscape and Mountains

Wow! Unlike my first color tests on printer paper, the color washed out beautifully. These perform well for pen and wash sketching using the bullet tip. I experimented with some techniques to gradate a sky using a very dark blue pen-wash and it worked well. Some lighter areas I just pulled color out of the darker ones or used what was on the brush after blending. I love how they wash out.

On the packing slip I tested each color to see if the markers all worked. I always do this with any set of markers, they can be factory defective even from the best companies. The color didn't wash out well on that slip so but both tips performed beautifully. The brush tip reminds me a lot of the Pitt Artist Pen Big Brush tip - pointed, springy, very sharp point good for precision and juicy.

I found out by accident knocking around one of them that they're juicy enough to splatter some tiny droplets of Alizarin Crimson Hue on the plastic coated cover of the Bockingford pad. So using a pencil and tapping the marker on it to do splatter effects will work, at least while the markers are new.

Sketches with W&N Watercolour Markers
Mixing and Blending

Next, I started testing overlays, color mixtures and wash textures. I had a lot of fun creating both mixed violet and dioxazine violet passages in the daisy. My life sketch of my sleeping cat worked well, similar to pen sketches of him but the soft wash on his brown back added another dimension plus gave me some brown on the water brush to darken the shadows on the pillows. I played with different colors on the pears, oranges and persimmon to see what kind of hues I'd get mixing and washing.

Sap Green is actually a vibrant, very bright neon green. I knocked it back with Alizarin Crimson Hue, Burnt Umber and Dioxazine Violet and it's still very saturated. If you're doing underpainting, this could be great or you may want to start off with Yellow Ochre and just bring in a little of the green on it. You'll find your own favorite combinations and techniques.

I easily pulled color off the tips with the waterbrush when I wanted to gently modify a wash without mixing as drastically as I would putting marks of another color or to make light marks. I've been using my Niji waterbrush for convenience but the included Sceptre brushes, water bottle and bucket would do the same thing. Mixing colors was very easy and on the brown-gold pears I was able to soften fresh marks and work them into the area gently. It takes a little getting used to, washing out marker lines and dots.

I love using a brush tip marker. That's one of my favorite sketch modes. My favorites to date were Tombow dual tip markers and Pitt Artist Pens Big Brush as well as their smaller Brush Tip. But the Tombow Dual Tip brush pens are not intended to be lightfast. They're fugitive design tools. Not something I'd feel comfortable underpainting a pastel sketch with or using for a painting on good paper for fine art or mixed media fine art.

Winsor & Newton has filled a big gap. Handle them as you would brush tip markers, but be aware this is real watercolor, strong, mixable and more lightfast. They have a few quirks but overall I'm glad I got them beacuse of that big gap.

Pulling the Ivory Black out and taking the cone cap off the bullet tip, I pulled the bullet tip right off once, but was able to put it back in place. It seems to be working right now. So handle them a bit gently, if they come apart put them back together and always put the blunt tip down if you're using the Travel Set.

These are not markers like Prismacolor markers or Copic or other design markers. You won't find a range of hundreds with gradated tints and darks to use individually, tints are created by wet brush pulling color off the tip or by pulling tints out of darker marks. Or by scribbling some color somewhere else and pulling it up out of that.

It's very easy to mix colors back and forth between areas, An accident putting violet into the green pear to mute it brought some green back to mute the violet shadow, so I started doing it deliberately to all the shadows to mute them a little. If handled delicately, the bullet tip can make very small dots. For the oranges in the back, I covered them with Cadmium Yellow Hue solidly and then dotted Alizarin Crimson Hue over it, then washed, giving a suggestion of orange peel texture while creating a good bright mixed orange. I could have smoothed out the persimmon but didn't because this is a typical quick sketch, not a refined painting.

In conjunction with other watercolor forms this can be a very powerful tool. They're fast for sketching, the tips are high quality, the paint's good and they're worth the money. Just be really careful about mechanical problems like putting them in upside down or pulling the cap off too hard. They're not quite as sturdy as other markers I've owned but those were all fugitive except the Pitt Artist Pens. Those really did need tint markers because there was no thinning out the colors once down. 

I bought these largely to use for underpainting field pastel paintings but with how they handle, sketching and painting is irresistible. It'll take a while to discover all the techniques possible with this new form of watercolor. I've often thought some of my Tombow sketches could be taken seriously as paintings but it's frustrating that they're fugitive. 

As a combination with Pitt Artist Pens it's great. These are watersoluble, the Pitt product is also archival but permanent and nonsoluble. Marks you don't want to move go in Pitt, marks you want to be able to soften in Winsor & Newton. I may invest in the full range eventually or not, but this set is going to prove very useful. The travel kit is a good bargain and can become a carryall for assorted small field supplies.

EDIT: 11-19-2014

Went out, decided to make the Bockingford paper a new entry.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rembrandt Pastels

 Rembrandt 60 half sticks 

Back in 2004 or 2005, an oil painter friend gave me a box of 60 vintage Rembrandt pastels. He got the set from an oil painter who tried the medium and didn't like it. He'd tried the medium and didn't like it. The box dated back to the early 1950s or earlier, it might even have been older than I was! The pastels were wonderful, just as good as the 30 Grumbacher assorted and 30 Grumbacher Skin Tones that I originally started with back in 1992 when I became a street artist in New Orleans. I soon found myself taking up pastels again.

I didn't review them because they were antiques. Rembrandt had changed its formula more than once since then, some pastel artist friends warned. There'd be no way anyone would be sure of getting vintage ones. So I went on trying other brands, got Senneliers, got Art Spectrum, got a number of hard pastels sets and other brands and samplers. I didn't think of writing about Rembrandt.

Friends and teachers including Charlotte Herczfeld described Rembrandt as "Good workhorse pastels." She used Rembrandt color numbers for her listed Colourist palette in her free class "Still Life the Colourful Way" on WetCanvas, which completely revolutionized how I paint and view color. Still, I used my old ones as part of a mixed brands set and didn't think about getting more until recently.

Rembrandt like many other brands came out with a good 120 color half sticks set. This makes them great for beginners. You can get a good large palette at half the price with twice the colors. Moreover, Rembrandt's palette is extremely well balanced! They were sold out on the big half sticks set when I ordered. I'll still get it sometime to have a nice big studio palette. What I realized was that I could do far worse for plein air than to get a good 60 color half stick set in a sturdy compact set box and a trusted artist grade brand. Maybe "Workhorse" medium texture pastels were just what I needed!

I looked over the pictures of the 60 and 90 color palettes and discovered to my pleasure that everything essential is in the 60 color range except one stick. I can easily transpose one stick in later on and plan to - it could be improved by swapping out one of two gray-browns I rarely use for a deep dark violet that I often use in landscapes. That's personal. Someone who used gray-browns more than I do might not want to.

 Rembrandt 60 half sticks colors

This is one of the better balanced 60 color sets I've ever seen. Important hues like violet, turquoise, magenta aren't just there but there in values too. I've got a selection of darks, brights, neutrals, lights around the spectrum and that slightly toned stick at upper left is actually a white. It's just a little smudged.

Because I used this box so much last month!

Once in a while an art supply comes along that is so useful it literally changes my habits. I wound up painting in pastels more thanks to the compact palette and versatile textures of the Rembrandt 60 Color Half Sticks Set. I'd recommend the full range if you want an anchor set of medium-soft artist grade pastels with good lightfastness, open stock easily available for replacements, moderately priced and available in places around the world that don't always enjoy the variety we get in the Continental USA. Rembrandt is a solid value. 

Their texture is medium soft. They're firm enough to create hard pastel effects, linear strokes, tiny details with edges of sticks. They're soft enough to scumble or do some basic impasto strokes though they won't go on as juicy as Sennelier or Terry Ludwig. You can use them from beginning to end and have a good painting on sanded or unsanded paper.

Marigolds artwork with Rembrandt 60 half sticks pastels
on Aquabee Hemp Draw unsanded paper 9" x 12"

I wound up doing eight pastels the month I bought them and 13 pastels this month. That's how much this little set affected my habits. From doing pastels perhaps once or twice a month I went to prolific sketching and painting. Something about the sheer convenience and flexibility of this bright little range made them much easier to use than specialty pastels I bought in smaller ranges or very large sets that took more setup and cleanup.

I admit some of that is personal and has to do with my life situation. If it's next to me and I don't need to get up, I'm more likely to use an art supply more often. I collect pocket sets and field kits not because I go out to paint every day, but because at least nine times out of ten I'm using it to set up in a very small space and do not have room to spread out something like my full range Pan Pastels or 200 Winsor & Newtons. I bought those knowing they were discontinued for a bargain - and trusted I could use Rembrandt similar hues to replace any I used up. So why not get an actual set of Rembrandt too for convenience?

It worked. A half stick set this size and this well thought out in palette can help anyone who paints with limited space. I cut pieces of sanded paper to size 9 x 12" or smaller, painted on Uart and in my pastel journal as well as on the Aquabee and Canson Mi-Tientes pads.

Pacific Wave, 5" x 7"
Uart 600 grit sanded paper, Rembrandt pastels

On sanded paper I got all those textures and varied effects entirely using this set of half sticks. The best seascape I've done in my life happened on impulse when I saw a reference that brought back memories of the Pacific coast. I was able to get tiny ditails of spray, heavy impasto strokes in the foam, linear marks, side strokes, scumbling, layering, stick-mixing, every technique I know worked in that quite small space with these pastels.

Pigment rich, consistent in texture, reasonably priced and well organized for hue and value, these are the first artist grade pastels I would recommend for any beginner. I'd also recommend a 24+ color set of hard pastels for sketching and underpainting and a 20 or larger set of Sennelier half sticks for finishing marks when you've filled the paper tooth - also to give the beginner a feel for different softness of pastels and how to use different textures. The finishing ones don't need a full palette, they need darks and lights and some accent colors. 

Some beginners get confused at a very large range and choke on making so many choices. Others like me thrive on a big range and love having many choices available. This has all the necessary colors and some very useful convenience colors. Thanks to Charlotte Herczfeld, I think of neutrals as convenience colors now but there are many useful ones and good earths in this range.

The rich textures of these pastels are very different from the standard super soft student grade pastels. Uncrushed pigment crystals shine if you don't finger blend them, soft gradients can be achieved by stick blending as well as finger blending. You can learn on these - and then rely on them over the long run, building up earlier layers and using more expensive pastels in final layers. 

One warning for Rembrandt buyers. The first time you try to make a side stroke with a half stick or peel the wrapper off a full stick, you may find it hard to make a mark at all. There is a "coating" on the outside of the sticks. The tips don't always have it or it comes off on the first mark, but it can be very frustrating. Sand that off with a sandpaper paddle. Just the kind you'd use to sharpen pastel pencils or soft graphite leads. It doesn't take much to remove it. I was swiping it off on the borders of paintings on sanded paper or even scrubbing through it on margins of regular paper to get a smooth plane to paint with because that coating also kept my fingers relatively clean. Your choice to sand it all off or just sand down one side to paint with.

I think the "coating" comes as a side effect of the extrusion process, compacting the paste as it goes through the tube before it dries. It's there on almost all colors, it's not a big deal to remove and no great loss of pigment. Just be aware of that and don't think yours are defective if it occurs.

The box is excellent - a sturdy heavy cardboard box in black with the R logo swashing across it gloss on matte, very elegant, and a cardboard sleeve that keeps the box firmly closed. The lid flips over and slides under the bottom with the top tray in it and a little pamphlet about the product with the entire color range listed by color number is included. The cardboard sleeve includes tiny swatches with color number for every pastel included in the set. Very useful for reordering or for customizing - if you'd rather change out several colors for those you use more often, it's not difficult to get some full sticks from open stock and just store the displaced extras and other halves elsewhere in your studio. Open stock usually comes in padded small boxes good for storage or they can go in a mixed brands box for general use.

I seriously recommend 60 half stick Rembrandts as a plein air set, the palette is well balanced for any climate I've lived or subject I might run across. If I want to paint a woman on the park bench, the flowering bushes in front of the fountain, a colorful city street here in San Francisco or a bunch of palms near the ocean, I can do it. I could manage a decent Southwestern painting with this range. For a general use palette it is superb. I can't praise it enough.

But then, my varied subjects for the past few weeks are why I can say that. In convenience, it really does matter what colors go into the small portable sets - sometimes so much they blow all the rest out of the way!

Autumn Sunset 5" x 7"
Rembrandt on Canson Mi-Tientes orange paper smooth side

I was able to get the impression of frost on the fields in that little sunset and the fine details of those receding distant trees. Not just the bright sunset colors I wanted but the subtler hues on the land were easy with very little layering since I was doing it on unsanded paper.

These are the ones to learn on and the set to have with if you feel like painting outdoors. If you don't want to put together a custom plein air set with multiple brands in a Guerrilla Painter pastels tray box and build a personal palette, you'll still get good use out of these and be able to start right away. The beginner's artist grade pastel is just what Charlotte Herczfeld said: a good workhorse.

We go off in many different directions but this old friend keeps on being a good friend. Also for beginners - 60 is a good manageable number. Bigger palettes are easier but smaller palettes may prove difficult or specific to subject, 60 will usually be about right for general use. 

Yes, I'd buy more of these and I'd even get the full range along with my W&N set given more studio space. This old friend still pulls through and opens up so many possibilities. Besides, I still have vintage colors to add to it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stillman and Birn Zeta Journal

Stillman and Birn have done it again! I love their journals. All of them have great paper, good bindings, archival quality and spectacular performance. The newest S&B journal is no exception. It's a dream come true for anyone who wants to paint and draw in the style of Claudia Nice. This journal is perfect for pen and watercolor.

Stillman & Birn Zeta paper is as heavy as the Beta and Delta. It's pure natural white 180lb smooth paper. A little less absorbent than the Rough paper, its smooth hot press surface gives absolute control of pen textures. The above illustration is a page of life drawings in pen and watercolor from my 7" square wire bound Zeta journal. Zeta comes in both wire bound and hardbound versions, the hardbound Zeta has the fold-flat binding that allows perfect two-page spreads if you're fonder of a hard binding. But I still like the simplicity of a wire binding and the 7" square journal is a convenient size for me to carry with a pan set of watercolors for life drawing excursions.

I first tried out my Zeta with a pure pen page, lots of text and some pen drawings. I was thrilled with the level of control it gave me. The paper is gorgeous and takes pen textures perfectly. I penciled first and it does have enough tooth to allow delicate graphite values, it also erased clean without destroying the texture at all using a kneaded eraser and a white vinyl eraser. I've taken to penciling every page in it because this heavy, elegant paper gives precision to my pen drawing and allows the best of fine details to come through exactly as intended.

On color pages, the effects are a little different. Some artists find them disappointing, because the paper is naturally a bit less absorbent than cold press or rough paper. The smooth plate texture will let your paint float and puddle on the surface longer than it would on a rougher paper. That's something to get used to, but it's nowhere near as difficult as painting on Yupo. Watercolor on the Zeta paper takes a little more thought and planning to get your best effects with it. The apple in my first illustration was painted with a nearly dry brush effect. Strokes will be distinct and mingling takes carefully controlling water quantity and tilt of the journal. So it takes a bit of skill to get exactly the effects you want on the Zeta, but it's well worth it.

The more often I paint in my Zeta journal, the easier it is to get used to the paper's texture and control wet in wet applications. The petals of the top flowers were painted wet in wet within the paper area. I started with a medium-light wash of Rose per petal, kept the edges to the pen lines and then charged in more Rose where the shaded areas were on my photo reference (my own photo) and where I'd accented with pen shading. In the leaves I washed the entire area and then charged in some stronger green, waited for a dry area to get some darker details, played with the values. It may take a little practice to gain control of your watercolor on Zeta paper but the color and values will come up strong and bright on it.

A little goes a long way. Notice that in both pen watercolor pages, the darks come out really dark, the brights come out really bright. The same smooth texture that makes it difficult to control wet in wet applications also keeps more of the pigment on the surface, so a little watercolor goes a long way in a Zeta.

I would recommend if you've never used hot press watercolor before, to start with the last page of your Zeta journal and make a color chart of your watercolors. Mark off shapes or squares with a waterproof ink pen like a Pigma Micron (my favorite waterproof technical pen) and then draw out a shaded patch ranging from very light to its deepest tone for each color. This will also give a sense of how much water to have on the brush while painting.

I used a Niji waterbrush for most of these paintings but have also done some with a squirrel mop along with artist grade watercolors.

This page, painted with the squirrel mop, gave me much more control of the amount of water in each application. I did some objects and portions of objects wet in wet, the first layers on the marble and shell were wet in wet, also some areas of the rock and feather. Later I overlaid color with a damp brush into damp areas, finally some last details were with a nearly dry brush effect on thoroughly dry paper. I got a variety of soft and hard edges on this page with the squirrel mop and a finer point to the mop for getting into details than with the Niji water brush. So I would seriously recommend trying different brushes with your Zeta journal to discover what techniques best suit your work.

The 180lb paper is so heavy that even the wettest areas did not distort the paper or create problems on the other side. On the first demo page, the apple dried with a slight dip in the page on the previous side which was entirely pen work, but none of the ink lines ran because I was using a brush tip Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen for the sketches on that side. If you put a very loose, heavy application of water there will be a little cockling, this is true for any paper. But it was very minimal and didn't bring any color through at all, as happened in other journals where I had heavy watercolor applications on one side that carried color through to the other.

I don't do many marker paintings but I'm pretty sure this paper will perform well with markers, the Pitt Artist Pens deliver about as much liquid as most alcohol based markers and I had no trouble with dark heavy applications going through or distorting after they went on. There was no distortion on the watercolor side of this page when I went back and did the apple, more that the water seeped through to slightly distort the surface under the can of spray fixative sketch.

Stamping, collage, glitter, special effects and Pan Pastels would all work fine on a Zeta journal, though with its hot press surface you probably won't be able to layer much with Pan Pastels. Use Pan Pastels on this more as an accent and definitely put some fixative over it if you want to layer the Pans. You might have some trouble getting opaque layering with Pans because of its smoothness. For pastels and Pan Pastels my favorite journal is the Beta, right now I've turned my current Stillman & Birn Beta journal into a Pastel Journal with Art Spectrum Multimedia (Colourfix) primer on some of its pages - and not on others, the rough surface of the Beta paper holds pastels and Pan Pastels better than most unsanded pastel papers.

However, a few accents over watercolor such as a dab of Pearlescent Pan Pastel or Metallic Pan Pastel could definitely work, I'd still try multimedia paintings in a Zeta. I might specifically use a sanded primer like AS Multimedia or Golden Pumice Gel if I wanted a pastel passage in a Zeta journal especially. Texture can be created where the paper doesn't have it. Acrylics and inks should work fine in this journal with the same way that watercolor adheres. The paper is very good at holding paint once it's dried!

I wholeheartedly recommend the Stillman & Birn Zeta journal, especially for pen drawing and pen/watercolor painting. Other multimedia and different mediums may work well or poorly depending on how well those mediums behave on a smooth surface. Zeta paper is smooth but absorbent, a thousand times better than Yupo and still has the Yupo Effect of brightening watercolor applications!

When you're feeling detail fussy and a super-fine pen point is calling to you, whether that's a crowquill, a .005 Pigma Micron or even a 6x0 Rapidograph technical pen, reach for a Zeta journal. You won't regret it! Watercolors will float on the surface, giving extra strength and brightness to your wet washes. With watersoluble colored pencils and other colored pencils, treat it as smooth paper. Think detail and careful applications. That's what the Zeta is all about.

I recommend Zeta for all water media with that caveat - it's smooth and it won't act like anything else without a primer or some other way to rough up a section. Its greatest strength is the clean, perfect pen line and minute detail, fantastic control of small details and strokes. Definitely the pen perfectionist's journal!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pearlescent Pan Pastels and Mediums

The folks at Pan Pastels are at it again with gorgeous new products! Of course I had to get the full set of Pearlescent Pan Pastels in a tray with some new tools, couldn't resist a few new tools along the way, and all five Mediums at Dick Blick. That's usually where I get my supplies. Mediums came in a stack of five Pans with Colorless Blender, White coarse and fine pearlescent medium and Black coarse and fine pearlescent medium.

Last month's Blick swag
includes Pearlescent Pan Pastels and five Mediums stack

The first day I got my swag, of course I had to try out these new Pans! So I used my Stillman & Birn Beta journal, which with or without sanded primer is my pastel journal, to paint a pearl using all the Mediums and all the Pearlescent colors. These Pearlescents come out as light as tints of their spectrum colors, they are convenience colors with hue and Fine Pearlescent White Medium. Mixing the black Pearlescent Mediums creates a shade with a hue.

Pearl in Pearlescent Pan Pastels and Mediums
7" square on 180lb rough white watercolor paper.

Oh these Pearlescent Pan Pastels performed so beautifully! I did the background around the sphere with red and violet Pan Pastel, then swept Coarse Black Pearlescent Medium into it at the top and shaded through to Fine Pearlescent Black Medium at the base, using a gradient of value and texture to flatten the dark reddish glittering cloth under the pearl. Within the pearl, I used Fine White Pearlescent Medium and all six Pearlescent Colors to shade it to the lights and darks of a pearl I had on my desk to model - much smaller than the painting, the real one was only 1/4" across. To get the deepest darks I swept a little Fine Black Pearlescent Medium mixed with Blue Pearlescent Pan Pastel across it over a heavy layered application of the others, so it blended nicely and worked as a "black" to bring it down to medium value shimmering gray.

The glitter effect of Coarse Pearlescent Medium is visible at the top where light catches on what looks like mica flecks - it's a gorgeous effect and sparkles wonderfully in person. The photo captures it but the iridescence is much more visible in person. I swiped a touch of Coarse White into the lightest highlight on the pearl and blended it in too. Beautiful and subtle effect. 

Art journal artists take note, these mediums mix with any Pan Pastels you already have and will modify the colors the way white or black do, but with a shimmering zing. Wonderful special effects. I used them again today in a skyscape to see how they'd work in a different setting - and I am very happy with the luminescent sky in this painting.

Shimmering Dawn Skyscape
8" x 10" horizontal
Aquabee Hemp Draw multimedia paper
Photo reference by DAK723 on for 
Oct. 2014 Pastel Spotlight Challenge

Pearlescent Pan Pastels have the value of tints in six spectrum colors. They are convenience colors, just as the Tints are - but oh they are so convenient! It was very easy to get a luminous sky effect sweeping hue after hue into the shapes of the clouds, building back and forth and blending on the paper with light applications.

The foreground is entirely in regular Pan Pastels, trees in Deep Dark green shade and land in Violet with green, violet and blue Tints over it. The violet is a bit stronger in the photo because I adjusted the color to make the sky read true, its effect in real life is closer to a grayed green with violet undertones and shadows except on the left where it's a field of lavender. 

Definitely pick these up if you enjoy using Pan Pastels. If you've never tried Pan Pastels before and enjoy Art Journaling, the Pearlescent Pans set might be a fun starter to decorate pages with swift pearlized color easily controlled. Definitely get the tray set if you do, since that includes good tools to get you started and a tray to use them easily. The Pans trays are very convenient too, I put my four Mediums in with the Pearlescent colors. Stand by for a review of the Colorless Blender. I still need to see how well that works, if it's transparent or opaque, if extending colors with it lightens them or just lets the surface color show through. I might try it on black mat board for that experiment.

If you just want the effect and already have some Pans, the Mediums set of five is a good bargain. You can mix all six Pearlescent colors yourself with a Sofft sponge and of course get Pearlescent Shades using the black Mediums. Both of these products are well worth  the money. Yay, I have a full range of Pan Pastels again!