Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentines Day Love....

...Art Journal Love!

February the 14th... 45th day of the year... commemoration of Saint Valentine... celebration of love and affection... and Art Journal Love Day at the Dirty Footprints Studio!

This morning dawned bright and clear and the valentine fairy had been... leaving me a lovely card and chocolates (before he left for work!) on the kitchen countertop for me to find... and so the day started well, in fact it put me in the mood for a spot of Art Journal Love!

Opening the blinds wide to let the sun stream in and grabbing my Moleskine journal, I set to work! I gesso'd over an old page and used Caran d'Ache Neocolor II watersoluble wax pastels to create a bright background...

... and if you want to see the page being made, well here ya go!

If you want to see some more Art Journal Love... then pop over to Dirty Footprints Studio where Connie is hosting a party!

Share the love!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Inktense... in blocks!

Just what are Derwent trying to do to me?!?

Mere days after my Coloursoft pencil investment, I see that Derwent are announcing their new products today! And what do we have? Only Inktense in Blocks!

I can only begin to imagine using these... and my head is buzzing with ideas! Can you imaging laying down huge swaves of ink-like rich colours on your Art Journal pages? Adding water and then working the layers over them? Ohhh I am dreaming of using them over a collage pieces and making vivid backgrounds too!

Details from the Derwent Website:-

Inktense Blocks

Vibrant strokes of ink-like colour!

These chunky water-soluble ink blocks bring a new sense of freedom and colour to your drawing and painting!

Dry Derwent Inktense delivers pure vibrant colour but when completely washed out it is transformed into a translucent ink-like paint which, when dry, can be worked over.

The blocks are extremely versatile and can be used for a wide range of creative effects. You can use them like pans of paint. Dip them in water and apply colour directly to the paper, use dry on their side of apply directly to wet paper for instant intense colour.

The blocks complement the Inktense range perfectly opening up an exciting world of endless possibilities. They can also be used on fabric to create stunning silk paintings and quilts.

I cannot wait to get my hands on these... and PLAY!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Ok Ok...I am a pencil addict!

After realising my distinct lack of non-soluble pencils, and hearing about the blend-a-bility and general wonderfulness of soft core pencils such as Sanford Prismacolors, Derwent Coloursofts and Faber Castell Polychromos from my online arty friends... I realised it was time for me to branch out from my water-soluble pencils and invest in a decent set!

Now I am an avid Derwent fan... for a couple of reasons:-

1. In my opinion, they make the best watercolour pencils.
A long time ago when the world was young and the barrel of Derwent Watercolour pencils was grey (that's before the light blue and new dark blue livery!), I bought a set of 12 Derwent (then Rexel Derwent) Watercolour pencils to use in general crafting... and I liked them... I was happy. I used to demonstrate them in my cardmaking classes and recommend them.

But then as I became more "arty" and my focus turned more to watercolouring rather than crafting, I heard good reports about Caran d'Ache pencils (particularly the Prismalo and Supracolor ranges). So I indulged my intrigue and bought an 18 set of each and I started making charts. I did different charts for laying down the colour and blending it out with a wet brush and taking the colour direct from the tip... and the more I experimented, the more I realised I still preferred my old Derwents....they just seemed to blend better with the water.

I then happened upon an artist called Charles Evans after buying his book about Watercolouring with Pencils and I noticed, in the book, he used Daler Rowney Pencils ... how could I not? The complete range was only 36 colours... and so I bought yet another set of watercolour pencils. I think, at this point, even my husband said, "haven't you got enough pencils?" - well we all know the answer to that right? - You never have enough!

More charts were made, again comparing them with the Derwents, as the Caran d'Ache pencils had fallen by the wayside... and I still found that the Derwent pencils washed out better, gave a more painterly effect. (I must note here that Charles Evans now recommends Derwent watercolour pencils too!)

And then the Derwent Graphitint and Inktense pencils arrived on the scene and I was in enamoured! I knew that my heart was with Derwent and their exceptional products. I replaced my old grey 12 set with a new, shiny, tin of 36, which I have slowly been adding to.

2. They are made in the UK
Yes, rare as it seems these days, Derwent Pencils are manufactured here in the UK, in the heart of Cumbria (the Lake District) since the 1800s. Being a Great British subject myself, I feel it's pretty cool to be able to 'Buy British', especially as I find the quality so comparatively good with other manufacturers.

Soooo... back to the non-soluble pencils... I needed to replace my pack of Crayola's with some artist quality pencils, but this time I was going to do some reading up before I splashed out on a variety of pencils... read reviews, watch videos... and then buy once, buy right! The choice was between the Sanford Prismacolors, the Derwent Coloursofts and the Faber Castell Polychromos.

First the Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils... and I kinda wrote these off quite quickly as I read that the Polychromos are a medium-soft pencil and not as easily blendable as Prismacolor or Coloursoft... that didn't sound inviting to me as I wanted good 'blend-a-bility'

As a lot of my arty friends are over the pond in USA and Canada, they presented a big case for Sanford Prismacolor Pencils. Not so easy to buy here in the UK, but if they are the best... I'd invest! I read as many unbiased reviews as possible, there were many both for and against, and one thing kept coming up over and over again, the fact that the Prismacolor cores broke easily... not something I would be particularly keen to experience. I also read about concerns regarding Sanford moving their manufacturing plant to Mexico and the quality of 'blend-a-bililty' seemingly (reportedly) being reduced as a result. Hmmm.

Then, more by luck than anything else, I was digging through an old pencil case and I found that I *actually* owned 5-6 Prismacolor pencils! RESULT! (I had bought a pencil case from a local charity shop at the tail end of last year and there was a whole mish-mash of pencils and crayons in there!) I had a play. They seemed ok. They were certainly 100% better than my Crayola set... but... well maybe it was my inexperience with non-solubles but I wasn't overly wowed.

That left the Derwent Coloursoft Pencils. With the positive reviews I had read, the ease of purchase in the UK and (although I had been trying to push it to one side) my love of all things Derwent, I bit the bullet... well in fact my husband did (oh yeah, he of the "too many pencil" comment! - Valentines pressie he said!) and got the set of 48 Coloursoft Pencils in the Wooden Box.

...and I *love* them. They are soft and creamy, they blend amazingly well and the wooden box is to die for! I've never had a Derwent wooden box of pencils before and was carrying it around like a baby before I realised just how clever that box is! The drawers are magnetised, so they don't slide out if you tip the box up (simple but ingenious!) and the pencils holders/separators are flocked and hold the pencils tight... so no slip-sliding here!

So, if you are in UK or not, and are in the market for some non-soluble, easily blendable, artist quality pencils, I certainly suggest giving the Coloursofts a try!

(This post was not sponsored by anyone, all views and opinions expressed are my own!)

Friday, 4 February 2011

Arting along...

Last week I blogged about Dede from Inkwell Studio and her amazing Ustream art-along programmes. Did you play along? I did!

I printed a copy of Dede's sketch on A4 Daler Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge Paper. It's a great paper for using for projects such as this, as it is 220gsm (135lb) extra-strong cartridge paper, with just the right amount of tooth. It's great for light watercolours as well as drawing and sketching, plus it has the added advantage of it going through the printer really well. I changed the opacity of the image to around 65% before printing (using Photoshop) to give a lighter sketch line.

The rose was then given an initial wash with acrylic paint, using just four colours; red and white (to create a darkish pink) and two shades of green for the leaves. I used a basic tube set of Reeves Acrylic Colours, mainly because I have not really experimented with Acrylics much (I prefer watercolours...)

Once the initial wash was dry, the pencil colouring began. Unfortunately, I am a little lacking in the coloured pencil area; whereas I have a big collection of watercolour pencils from both Derwent, Daler Rowney and Caran d'Ache (including Graphtints, Inktense and water-soluble drawing pencils) my non-soluble collection of pencils are limited to a kids pack of Crayola! However, with Dede showing us how to shade and where the highlights and shadows should be, the rose started to come to life, even if the pencils I were using weren't the artists variety!

All in all, I was pretty happy with the outcome and if you want to see me "Arting Along with Dede" in realtime... then here you go!

(The first 1m25s is Dede's introduction from the Ustream show,
and then it's me sped up and arting along!)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sharing knowledge... and art

...not mine I hasten to add!

A month or so ago I discovered some lovely ladies on Ustream. These ladies stream live on the internet from their homes and studios (via while they create and make art. There is no editing, there are no retakes, it all happens live and its a great way to watch and learn and see other aspiring artists at work (or play!). Plus its a true interactive experience; if you have a question you can ask it in the chat window and the host will answer you... just make sure you create a ustream account/username (its free) before you start and true interaction with the artist on screen is yours! (Chat is fairly moderated, so like minded people are encouraged, trolls and spammers are not!)

Since finding "The Stream Team" I have found myself quietly addicted to their shows and as such relinquishing the TV remote to the hubster of an evening while I watch like-minded souls create art, most of them on the other side of the pond in USA and Canada.

And there is none more lovely than Dede, who is an ├╝ber talented mixed media artist and has two regular weekly shows; 'Coffee and Art in the Morning' on a Wednesday & Thursday at 2pm GMT (9am EST). During these shows, Dede creates art... in a variety of different ways, it may be a collage piece, it may be a painting, it may be a murial... either way its always inspiring, always entertaining.

And if it can't get it any better... well it just has. Last week Dede undertook her first live "follow along class". By posting a sketch on her blog, we were encouraged to print it out and follow along as we learnt to colour and shade the sketch using watercolour pencils. And this week there is another one!

Visit Dede's blog to print out the Rose Sketch and then why not play along? The show is on Thursday 3rd February at 2pm GMT (9am EST) and I'll be there!