Sunday, November 30, 2008

Re-Purposed Van Gogh Watercolor Travel Kit

Re-filled Van Gogh Watercolor Palette

Several years ago, when I decided I wanted to try painting with watercolors, I bought the Van Gogh Travel Kit shown above. I always loved the design of the kit because it's small and I could hold it easily with my thumb through the middle hole while I painted. I later learned that there was a big difference in quality and performance between student and artist grade watercolor paints. Since these were student grade, I soon lost interest in this kit and started buying artist grade tube paints and filling them into the palette shown below.

I started to feel like I was using too many colors and also wasn't thrilled with the design of the larger palette. I couldn't easily hold it as I painted and so I removed all of the original Van Gogh paints from the above box and re-filled it with my favorite Holbein, Daniel Smith and Schmincke watercolors. I am much happier now.

You can find similar sets on

My watercolor palette.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mandala for Self Motivation and Exploration

Self Motivation Mandala

This was my first time putting brush to paper in a long time. It was a series of concentric circles, one color blending into the next. I looked at it, and felt like something was missing. I sat down at some ridiculous time of day, maybe 1 am? And started working on this mandala - at the center, always at the center.

The meditation of creating this mandala was quite powerful and all these positive words and thoughts came to me as I was finishing up, so I felt compelled to include them as part of the piece.

Monday, November 17, 2008

If I had to do it all over again....I'd buy different watercolor paints

Watercolor Palette

I pulled out my watercolors today- something I haven't done in a long time. As I was painting, I remembered back to when I was trying desperately to build a basic palette of watercolor paints. Every site I visited suggested something different. Contrary to popular belief, every color of the rainbow cannot be created through mixing the three primary colors, (red, blue & yellow) with black and white. It's a little more complicated than that. There are warm and cool versions of each of those three primaries. Mix a warm red and a cool yellow, and you might end up with mud - especially if you are using the inexpensive student grade paints.

I also never realized how much difference there was between student grade and artist grade watercolor paints until I broke down and bought some. Student grade paints contain more binder than pigment and they are often frustrating to work with when you try and mix them. This IS one of those situations where you will get what you pay for. I know quite a few people that gave up on painting with watercolor because they could never get the colors to mix right, often resulting in muddy dull colors. Chances are they were probably struggling with student grade paints.

111407 Watercolor Flower Sun Eye Mandala to lift my spirits
(One of my all-time favorite paintings, I did it almost a year ago to the day.)

When you start deciding what colors to add to your palette, don't do like I did and build a set of colors that might not suit your needs. Think first about what kind of painting that you want to be doing. Me? I am all about the abstract. I just don't do realism. Ever. And I lean more towards warm bright colors than cool ones. So what I'm saying, is that I have way too many colors on my palette- especially in the realm of blue. I don't use half these colors, and artist grade tube paint ain't cheap.

My watercolor palette.
(Click on the palette image above to go to my Flickr page where the image is noted with which colors are which)

As I bought different brands of paint, Holbein, Windsor & Newton, Schminke and Daniel Smith, I began to realize that even if the name of the color on the tube was the same from one brand to another, often times the colors were not. Some were brighter, or maybe the hue was off, and in some cases, some paints were much more pigmented than another.

So if I had to do it all over again? For me and my brightly colored abstract watercolor paintings? I'd buy all Daniel Smith paints. Super pigmented and bright as heck. They are comparable in price to the other brands, and the more you buy at a time, they give you discounts and free tubes of paint. Shipping costs are a little high, so I don't recommend buying just one tube of paint. If you want to try their paints with a relatively low investment, I suggest trying one of their Triads. 3 complementary colors bundled together and shipped for free. Nice, right?

So anyway- it's all good. But if you will excuse me, I need to go and rinse out my brushes from this morning's painting-palooza. :o)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Moving on to his next journey...

Michael Crichton, 1942-2008

After a long battle with cancer, Michael Crichton died today

As plain as day, I can remember standing in Barnes & Noble in front of the travelogue section reading the back of Michael Crichton's book Travels. That memory is most likely etched in my mind because that book was to become one of the most influential books on spirituality and soul searching that I have yet to read.

At the time, I was fairly new to the genre of travel/memoir writing, and having just finished Pico Iyer's "Falling off the Map" I went to my local bookstore to see if similar books existed. So there I was, standing in the bookstore, perusing all of the travel writers I would eventually read: Bryson, Greenwald, Iyer, Halliday, O'Hanlon, Mayle, Greenlaw, etc., when my eyes happened on the cover of "Travels" and saw Michael Crichton's name. I knew of him because I had read a number of his books, (my favorite being "Sphere") and was also very familiar with the movies that had been made from his books. I remember standing in line outside my local theater to see the very first showing of Jurassic Park....

So I picked up the book and on the front cover was a quote from the Washington Post Book World that said, "Travels is about getting unstranded, about going to the ends of the earth and the edges of experience in order to experience oneself for the first time."

I just knew, that I had to buy and read this book.

Each chapter in the book tells of a different experience, and while some were specifically physical journeys to various remote locations in the world, there is a huge element in each piece about the spiritual journey that he experienced on each occasion.

In sharing his own experiences, they began to validate many thoughts and feelings I'd about my own life, and I can't help but credit him with helping me to move along on my own spiritual journey.

My only wish is that I would have thought to send him a short note thanking him for being such a source of inspiration. I got quite sad when I read that he passed today, and after I was able to pull myself together, I realized that he isn't gone forever, but that he is simply on another of his life's journey's.

So if you are a spiritual soul-seeker like myself, I highly recommend reading Travels and seeing where it leads you.
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