Friday, October 30, 2009

Would you like to win a free Rhodia Webnotebook?

Most of you probably know that I am also the voice behind Rhodia Drive but for those of you who don't, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to the blog by inviting you to enter to win one of fifteen large 90g Rhodia Webnotebooks. These journals are in high demand as their smooth 90g fountain pen friendly paper is a dream to write on. Visit Rhodia Drive to enter to win!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My short lived relationship with Prismacolor Markers

010607 Breath, Mind, Spirit

Admittedly, I was probably using them on the wrong paper. Paper that pulled the ink from the pen faster than a slot machine eats your hard earned paycheck. At the time, this was one of those, "I have to have a set!" situations that drives me bonkers until I have the item in my grubby little hands. I had heard good things about these markers and had seen a lot of great art created with them but they just never really did anything for me. I didn't know how to blend, and I didn't really know how to layer without one running into another in a less than pleasing way.

I no longer have the markers, but I do have a few pretty cool pieces of art that I created with them including my first ever - you heard it right, my first EVER mandala

010607 Prismacolor Meditation Mandala

Friday, October 23, 2009

Painting it Mine...

Painting a plate
Colors below the black are dry - black is starting to dry from the middle outward.

This is the finished piece I left behind tonight to be firedat my local Color Me Mine shop. Color Me Mine is one of those places where you go in, select a piece of pottery, paint it and then go back and pick it up once it's been fired. I had been wanting to try this for forever and a day.

A billion years ago, I used to paint ceramics when I was a member at the local Girl's Club. I remember that you had two painting options. Paint it with one kind of paint where you had to wait for it to be fired, or paint it with a different kind of paint (I think it was acrylic) where you could take it home right away. I remember the "right away" paint as being incredibly vibrant and that's the look I was hoping for when I stepped into the shop.

Painting a plate
Colors in this picture are still drying. I sped up the process by using a hairdryer.

Unfortunately, these paints didn't work like I had imagined. You had to paint from light to dark, and you had to do at least three coats if you wanted the colors to be somewhat opaque. The paints were thick and chalky and were difficult to apply. They would go on thick and you couldn't work them too long or they would start to dry. To avoid showing the brush marks, I sloppily slathered on coat after coat of this paint and to be quite honest, I was a little frustrated at how long it took. And the colors? They are close to impossible to tell what they will look like until they are fired. They had samples of the finished colors, but I still had to do my best to guess at how this will turn out. I used my "typical" palette of pinks, oranges, reds & burgundy. That purple in the image? It will be burgundy, not purple. My favorite part was adding the black, which was applied using a little squeeze bottle with a needle tip. In fact, I liked doing that part so much that once the above piece was finished, I selected a smaller plain plate and just did a simple black design.

Painting a plate

The total cost? About $30. The sitting fee was $10 (and you can sit there and paint all day if you like...) the large plate $12 and the small $8.25. It will take 7-14 days for my pieces to be fired because the kilns are off site.

I was lucky to pop in on a Thursday night - I was the only one there and I appreciated the solitude. Will I do it again? Not sure. It depends on how that top piece turns out. if it's spectacular, I might do it again. If not, maybe I'll buy some acrylic paint and paint on some of my old record albums instead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inside Out Mandala on Clairefontaine Laid Paper

Inside Out Mandala

Working larger than usual, this was done on 12 x 15.5" Clairefontaine Ingres/Pastel White Laid Paper. I have absolutely fallen in love with this paper for all things marker, pen & ink. This time I first outlined the mandala with a Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pen. I then used watercolor paints in the center, but was a bit disappointed at how they came out. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. This isn't a paper that's designed to be used with water but ironically, a similar laid paper (but in a heavier weight) made at Clairefontaine's Schut Mills in the Netherlands is used in the Exacompta Sketchbook and that paper does seem to take watercolor paint better than this lighter paper which is designed for pastel use.

Deciding that the center color wasn't up to my standards, I colored over the watercolor with colored pencils. Forgive me, but I can't remember which. I think it was regular Prismacolor.

I have to be honest & tell you all a little secret about this piece which is that I don't really have a lot of patience for filling in my designs with color. I can only go so far and "that's enough." And then I move onto something else. :o)

Thursday, October 15, 2009



It's unusual these days for me to have this much patience to work on a single piece but I'm glad I stuck with it because I'm really happy with how it turned out. Not sure which black pen that was... maybe a Black F Pitt Pen? Red is Diamine's Poppy Red - in a cursive italic Lamy Safari fountain pen. This piece was created in a Fabriano Classic Artists Journal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Photo Editing Frustrations

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - no manipulation

As I really like to maintain copies of my original artwork, I usually photograph them with my Canon PowerShot SD 1000 7 megapixel Digital Elph. While I have been doing this for quite a while, I can never seem to get it right. (On a consistent basis) This top image was taken in full sunlight. I try auto mode, manual mode, macro mode and several different white balance settings and this is what I often end up with. This image is completely unedited and unusable as is.

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - Picasa Auto Contrast

When I got my new computer, I decided to forgo installing the resource hog that is Photoshop and started editing everything with Picasa - Google's free image editor. Usually it works out pretty well for me, but in this case, it's not. My usual routine is to balance the image by using the neutral color picker by clicking on a white area in the image, then use the auto contrast function, then add a bit of sharpness. In the above image, all I used was the auto contrast. Further tweaking with the Fill Light, Highlights, and Shadows sliders couldn't do the image justice. It still looks dull & flat. Unusable.

Taken in bright sunlight with Canon Elph - Picasa I'm feeling Lucky

For grins, I try the "I'm feeling lucky" button. Um.... No. As far as I'm concerned, I can't get a usable version of this print so I will need to try photographing it with late afternoon sun to see if it will come out any better. What irks me is that the images always look good in the viewfinder - even when I zoom. It's not until I put them onscreen that I see how horrible they are.

Scanned - no manipulation

This time I try scanning it with my Canon D660U scanner - but I already know what's going to happen. It's going to blow out. White paper always seems to create a blown out image such as this and I have tried & tried to adjust any and all settings in relation to my scanner & it's software & this is what I get. This is an unedited 180spi scan. Unusable.

Scanned - Picasa Auto Contrast

I give Picasa's Auto Contrast button a go and no way... Completely oversaturated with no detail on the rough surface of the watercolor paper. No manual tweaking can better this image.

Scanned - Picasa I'm feeling Lucky

Once again, I hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button and no better. Still oversaturated & blown out.

I feel like I'm missing something obvious. Is it the camera that just can't handle the white paper in bright light? Is the white paper going to always make my scanner go bonkers?


Any suggestions? I've already decided to pick my "favorite" images and have them (high-res) scanned at a local camera shop but I wish there was a way I could do this by myself with consistent results.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Happy Birthday Gram


When I was maybe 12 years old, Gram and I would walk downtown for lunch at the local department store. Yes, you heard right. Department stores used to have their own built-in restaurants. Ironically, while that store is now long gone a restaurant is now housed in that same location and whenever I eat there, I can't help but think, "This used to be the shoe department where I would throw a fit and kick the salesman whenever he tried to place a shoe anywhere near my foot."

I can remember us walking past a deli and I saw something completely new to my young eyes. Giant strawberries the size of my 12 year old fist covered in chocolate. "Gram, can I have one of those?" Dipping into her pocketbook, (the one that always had a few fuzzy butterscotch candies at the bottom) she bought one for each of us. Taking a huge bite, she must have seen my eyes widening in delight because she said to me, "Next time, I'll make these for you." And that she did. Every year she would buy all of the leftover chocolate Easter bunnies from the drugstore down the street and melt them over a double boiler on her stove. She'd dip one strawberry after another and place them wax paper then into the fridge to cool. Not long after, I'd pull the plate from the fridge and she would let me eat every single one.

Gram loved me and I loved her.

She would have been 87 today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Green and Blue Mandalas

Andy's Mandala

This first mandala was a special piece that I created for my friend Andy. I created it on Clairefontaine watercolor paper first by painting it with artist grade watercolor paints and then adding the design with marker. The mantra surrounding the mandala is one of illumination - the Gayatri mantra.

Watercolor Mandala

Another watercolor mandala on Clairefontaine watercolor paper.

Blue & Green Mandala

This mandala was drawn on off-white laid Fontaine pastel paper with marker and then colored in with Prismacolor colored pencils.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Trip to NYC: Exaclair, Art Brown, Mr. Nagahara Pen Tweaks & the new Sailor Realo

Me & Karen at Exaclair

Last month, I took a trip into Manhattan to meet with Karen Doherty at Exaclair to discuss Rhodia Drive. I know many of you have communicated with her and isn't it nice to finally put a face to a name?

Karen's "Stash"

Karen's office stash of Clairefontaine, Rhodia and Herbin goodness.

Art Brown in NYC

We took a trip to Art Brown International Pen Shop because Mr. Nagahara from the Sailor pen company was going to be there doing pen clinics and we wanted our Sailor pen nibs tweaked by the master. (Kind of like having Gordon Ramsey sharpen your kitchen knives.)

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Mr. Nagahara examines the nib of my Sailor 1911.

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Mr. Nagahara perfecting the surface of my pen nib.

Mr. Nagahara tweaks my Sailor

Adding the finishing touches. I had him tweak my 1911 and my Sapporo. Each tweaking took only minutes to perform and it was free.

Karen having her Magellan tweaked by Mr. Nagahara from Sailor

This is Karen having the nib of her Sailor Magellan tweaked while Exaclair intern Max watches.

New Sailor Realo

It appeared that there were Sailor sales reps on hand to demonstrate the new Sailor Realo - Sailor's first fountain pen utilizing a piston filling system. (That woman should be a hand model)

New Sailor Realo

The Sailor Realo up close and personal. It appeared to be a very large pen. As I was pressed for time and since there were people looking at it that seemed to be interested in buying it, (at $400) I decided to not interrupt a potential sale with questions or additional photos..

All in all - a glorious day which included the BEST falafel EVER from a place in Chelsea called Pita Pan. I need to get back to the city fairly soon so I can spend a little more time at Art Brown and maybe also New York Central Art Supply. NYC has so many glorious old fashioned specialty stores and I could spend all day there!
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