Category Archives: art and related

Let’s go exploring

About 4 years ago, I was prepping to leave a job which I had been doing for a  *long* time. It still represents well more than half of my working life.

Anyway, one of the last things that I did was write a note to my soon to be ex-colleagues thanking them for their friendship and cooperation over the course of the previous N years and I closed it off with a comment a long the lines of

In the meantime, I leave you with the words of the greatest philosopher, Calvin, of all time, on his final public appearance.

 “It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy….Let’s go exploring”

 (citation: The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, Bill Watterson, the final Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, 31 December 1995)

The comic strip is all over the web.

Anyway, one of the things which stunned me at the time was it taught me that there were people who had never heard of Calvin and Hobbes. I could not believe this. I mean, it had already been a shock to realise there were people working in IT who had never heard of xkcd.com but Calvin and Hobbes? Are you kidding me?

I was reminded of this because a recently acquired skill which might have been kind of useful when I was at school and totally unpopular, and considered weird because I liked Jean-Michel Jarre whom no one had heard of (which means they didn’t pay attention in French class) has suddenly seen me drawing cartoon characters. I’ve done the Pink Panther, the Roadrunner, Yogi Bear. Every once in a while I pop up and have a go at another childhood memory – I suppose it is revealing that I have no interest whatsoever in trying to do any of the Frozen girls. Amongst the characters that I have done are both Calvin AND Hobbes. And people seem to want them.

I find myself exploring anyway, a place which was not on the schedule at all 4 years ago but you know it’s been fun. And I learned to draw along the way.

Getting away from it all

Don’t be fooled. This is about art supplies. If you are not interested in art supplies, look away now.

But first

 


I draw.

This is a piece done in a Moleskine sketchbook with black India ink, unipin fineliners and Faber-Castell pitt pen for the bit of colour. It’s one of a planned series, which I had trouble figuring out how to realise until I found someone else using black India ink to create jetblack night skies. I could not get water colours to do this, and it was tedious and not very pretty trying to do this with black brush pens. It didn’t work on black paper. So that’s the mystery solved and now, there’s another in the pipeline as soon as I stop prevaricating about it. After that, who knows what I will fill the sketchbook with.

Today’s subject is fineliners. I own quite a few, and I’m going to talk about them all now. Like I said, look away:

  • Unipin fineliners 0.05, 0.1, 0.3. In truth, I probably have some 0.2s in a box somewhere as well but the house move has made chaos of my art supply organisation.
  • Copic Multiliner SP 0.03
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Pens SF, F and S
  • Staedtler 0.3 and 0.1
  • Pigma Microns, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3
  • Dip pen with black India ink

Because I used to live in Ireland, and because in Ireland the choice tended to be limited and, initially, quite undependable, I have tended to buy lots of spares. I am swimming in fineliners. I have tried them all at this point. What follows are some comments.

Mostly, the easiest pens to get in Ireland are the unipins, followed by the Staedtlers. The F-Cs come in close. After that for the Copics, I only know of one reliable dealer in Dublin, and the Pigma Microns were starting to appear just as I left as part of the mandala and zentangle drawing trend. I don’t really want to say fashion because who knows how long it will last and whether it will be a gateway drug to other drawing. Most often I have seen the Pigma pens available as kits for zentangle drawing. However, I was motivated to get them because all over the web, they were announced as the best, and archival and brilliant. I’m not sure I agree.

The Copic Multiliner SP I only have in 0.03 and the main reason for that is, really, as far as I know, it is the only producer that produces a 0.03. It isn’t, as far as I know, available in Copic’s standard Multiliner range in black. So, basically, if you want a really fine fineliner, this is it. It’s a very decent fineliner whose primary downside is that a) it’s hard to get in my experience and b) it’s more expensive than all of the others. On the plus side, they are refillable.

The default available fineliner in Ireland, although currently unfound in either Luxembourg or Germany are the unipins, and to be honest, if someone told me I could only have one lot of branded fineliners, it would be a fight between this or the Pitt pens. The finest of the range is the 0.05 and if you follow Olivia Kemp on Instagram, you’ll know that she favours these plus rates their non-fadability higher than that of the Faber Castells. At any rate, the linework in the caravan above was done using the Unipins that I have with me here.

The Pigmas Microliners I had a yen to try because I thought the product design and appearance was very attractive, and while I still think it is, the fact remains that I’m less overwhelmed with the pens than I expected to be. I’m not seeing how they are spectacularly better than any of the other items I have tried. There’s one linked to my handbag sketchbook which will soon be due for release.

In Luxembourg, the most common fineliners as far as I can see are the Staedtlers followed by the Faber Castells. This probably has something to do with proximity to Germany. My view of the Staedtlers is somewhat nuanced. Basically, I like drawing with them. I like the way the lines appear although I’ve only drawn 0.1-0.3 lines with them (I don’t think I have seen a finer tip available but I am open to correction). My primary issue is that the tips wear out or bend faster than any of the others. But they are a beautiful looking pen, and I have a couple of them in the drawing tool box all the time.

In general, for lining drawings which will be later painted or coloured with Pitt brush pens, I tend to prefer the Pitt pens from Faber Castell, particularly their SF which I think is Super Fine (but who knows) which, owing to problems getting both it and its big brother brush in black, I have a shocking tendency to hoard. Again I have heard there can be issues with the ink fading (which surprises me as I understand it is India ink) for display pictures. Since most of what I do goes into books, this is not an issue for me.

Dip pens with black India ink are…something which I have seen a few artists recommend, particularly Mary Doodles on youtube. My experience is mixed. It provides a completely different drawing experience (scratch, scratch, scratch) but it also has a slightly three dimensional effect leaving a raised line which can, provided YOU WAIT UNTIL IT IS ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY DRY, have quite a tactile experience. It takes ages to dry. Ages. And black India ink is a risky process to engage in as it is indelible I am hoping never to spill any.

In terms of my preference then, I’d tend to choose either the unipins or the Pitts first – and in fact, my painting kit has unipins and my marker kit has Pitts, and then after that, probably the Staedlers. I would not necessarily worry if I never bought another Pigma Micron but I seem to have loads of them anyway. And I would ensure I have a few of the Copic Micro SP 0.03s purely because they are the finest available. If Unipin started selling 0.03s, I probably wouldn’t worry about the Copics any more. Despite the fact that the Copics are refillable.

The dip pen, for me at least, is not really for general use. But you can do interesting things with it from time to time.

Urban Sketching in Luxembourg – MUDAM

One of the things which happens when you move somewhere is that you have to build a new social circle. I have plenty of hobbies so I have options on this front. The first Sunday in January I joined the Luxembourg urban sketchers who were going to the Museum of Modern Art, otherwise known as MUDAM.

Given how cold it was, it was useful to be inside.

I am not really the biggest fan of modern art – it doesn’t speak much to me, so I suppose it’s not surprising that when push came to shove, I found myself sketching a piece of an older building instead.

However, people took many different views.

This is mine:

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And this is the group shot:

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That being said, while the actual exhibition in the MUDAM left me a bit cold, the building it is in is actually stunning. The following Sunday I went to the exhibits in the Villa Vauban which is, I suppose, a great deal more traditional. I much preferred it. This probably says something about me.

den Atelier: Divine Comedy in concert

Monday evening last, I was perusing Facebook for family news as you do when, underneath a picture of my sister was an ad telling me The Divine Comedy were playing in den Atelier Luxembourg on Friday night.

Ooops Somehow I failed to know this.

I had, at some point, last year, done a search of concert venues in Luxembourg and come up with a) the Philharmonie and b) Rockhal. And that was it. But there’s this den Atelier place and it had the Divine Comedy lined up. The Divine Comedy. Seriously, how the hell did I miss this?

So a ticket was procured. The internet is a wonderful place.

 

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He hasn’t changed. Still the utter showman.

They are touring a new album so we got quite a bit of new stuff. But also, we got quite a bit of Fin de Siecle which is one of the best albums of the 1990s and should have sold many, many more copies than it did.

About 7 gig photogs showed up when the band arrived, all brandishing shiny DSLRs. My DSLR is somewhere else, plus, frankly, I’m not in the mood for carrying it around much. What I have here, I took with my mobile. I also took out my sketchbook but you’re not going to see those.

Favourite song of the night, definitely Certainty of a Chance which I think is my favourite Divine Comedy song anyway. But we also got National Express, Generation Sex, and from the rest of the canon, yes, Songs of Love and Something for the Weekend and pretty much every hit he ever had. And an Abba cover.

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The thing about Neil Hannon is from the audience point of view, he looks like he is having a ball on stage. Like he loves playing, loves singing. And while every piece I have ever read about him interviewing him, reviewing his stuff has always focused on his writing which is sharp and extremely witty, the fact remains that he has a stunning voice as well and is well capable of pyrotechnics with it.

I loved every minute of this concert.

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Great band with him as well.

Notebooks and sketchbooks (again)

I’m just back from my holidays during which time I visited three countries, two capital cities and an ancient Roman ruin.

I’ve realised that the internet, and the always on internet at that has changed how I pass my free time. So while I was away, I did not get much written in my journal which goes everywhere with me, and as for the painting, well despite the fact that I packed 24 water colours, the fact is I spent most of my time doing my marker journal instead.

At least I did that.

When I got home yesterday, I made a start on the travel journal and during the course of a conversation – online – with a friend, I realised that I did not actually know how many active sketchbooks I had at the moment. When I say “active” mean “not finished, and currently being used for some purpose or other”.

Back in the day before I started drawing, painting, using markers, I used to carry around my journal. That was it, Mostly it was an A5+ Clairefontaine or, since I settled in Ireland, as likely to be a Paperblanks journal. I also used to have a total of 4 good ballpoint pens and about the same number of fountain pens. They’ve all been engaging in serious orgies in the last few years so I think i have about 8 amazing ballpoint pens (used to be classified good), as many again good ballpoint pens (less expensive Caran D’Ache pens in other words), at least 14 Lamy fountain pens, two Caran D’Ache fountain pens, and a bunch of good Faber Castell ballpoints with matching mechanical pencils plus loads of other mechanical pencils, mainly Kuru Togos or Pentel Graphgears. I think there are a bunch of Caran D’Ache mech pencils of various flavours too. I’d like a Rotring or five but being honest, I can’t manage what I have at the moment. Usually I call this having a stationery problem. Today I’m inclined to think part of it is a living in Ireland problem. Anyway.

Back with the whole travel journal thing leading to musings about sketchbooks, I have the following in operation that I know of:

  • Stillman and Bern was supposed to be a general sketchbook but somehow isn’t. Should take watercolours and markers but doesn’t
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, handbag, basically the “so I always have a sketchbook” sketchbook. I drawn into it with a fineliner (currently a Pigma Micron and we will talk about fineliners later)
  • Rhodiarama webnotebook, homeless, markernotepad and “mixed media” where mixed media includes “stamps I like”. Somehow travel stuff sneaks in here too because of the whole stamps things.
  • Moleskine WC Travel journal: this is supposedly my travel journal but I somehow tend to draw into it from photos on my phone after I get home.
  • Moleskine WC TravelMemory journal for those trips I did before I started drawing and painting
  • A3 cartridge: bought to do detailed architectural drawings and detailed pencil drawings. Currently there is a bit of a lighthouse in there.
  • A4 cartridge: bought to learn in
  • A4 Hahnemuhler sketchbook: houses last year’s Inktober, was an attempt to find a nice journal that handled watercolours. It’s not bad with water colours per se, it’s just not excellent either.
  • Square Hahnemuhler: visual diary for personal stuff. Not sure where it is
  • uhem
  • A5 cartridge: bought to learn in. Mainly pencil stuff
  • Provence journal: this is a Fabiano Venezia, bought to depict my imaginary life, the one I’d have if life was fair, in other words, as opposed to the one where Paris Hilton is fabulously wealthy and I have to work.
  • Craftpaper journal: this is the beige coloured paper journal
  • Moleskine black sketch pretend A5: this is the black paper journal.

That’s a useful census to have done; it’s almost certain I have forgotten.

One of the big, big problems with all this is that I now have sketchbooks everywhere because apart from the one which lives in my handbag, these things broadly have no permanent place. I don’t have adequate shelving or storage of any other class for these things, and not for the art stuff. The art stuff arrived very late into my life, at a time when I had developed certain habits and choices. It isn’t yet fitting in very well.

While I was on holiday, another set of notebooks arrived, a set I had backed on Kickstarter (I don’t usually do this but) and while it is exactly what I ordered, the truth is I backed it months ago and now, my life is still kind of not fitting it. I like the idea but I still need shelf space. The list above doesn’t include all the new pads I haven’t used yet, or the blocks which I use for “good” paintings, the ones which I haven’t found a way of displaying either.

I’ve spent some time looking online for how other people solve this problem and to be frank, it seems to me that they don’t. I see pictures of piles of sketchbooks, and piles of markers, and piles of paintboxes. I never had a reputation of being particularly tidy but I am organised (yes, that sounds contradictory) and while things might not have looked tidy, they were orderly in the way of “things had a place and that place was where they were kept”. As a result, despite apparently being untidy, I almost never, ever lost everything and I made a good fist of keeping things together that logically belonged together. I’m utterly failing to do this in rented accommodation in Dublin.

Mainly because I didn’t get much choice about the furniture here tbh.

So if I were going to say anything, I probably have a sketchbook problem. One of my friends told me the other day he likes how I organise the drawings across different sketchbooks. I like that he likes that because in a very serious respect, that’s how I like organising stuff. It’s just that on the actual physical side of many sketchbooks I feel hunted, seriously hunted. The sketchbooks are generally scattered across four locations and I tend to have to go moving stuff around the place to ensure all the art stuff I need is in the same place as I want to go painting, drawing or whatevering.

 

Coloured pencils and black paper

Learning with the coloured pencils. #bubbles #planets #pablo #carandache

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

I have quite a lot of art gear lying around the house (so much for the idea that it would take up less space in my life than camera gear did), and amongst it are coloured pencils by Caran d’Ache, from the Pablo series. For a long time, Pablo was their top of the range dry colour pencil (as opposed to their water colour ranges) until the eye wateringly expensive Luminance pencils came out. I have about 4 of those but they aren’t quite doing it for me yet. I like the Pablo pencils for stuff like the above.

Anyway, I had previously gotten some metallic Derwent pencils which weren’t really doing it for me so I passed them on to my small niece, but kept the black paper which came with them for “experiments” of which this was one of the first. I think it was inspired by something I saw somewhere or other on either instagram or pinterest and it was a huge experiment. I don’t think it turned out badly and I have a couple of friends who did double takes before realising it was drawing. I liked this drawing on black paper lark so I went and bought one of the Moleskine black sketchbooks, the 8×5 ones because I tend to prefer sketchbooks rather than loose leaf sketches. I am having serious issues trying to figure out what to do with them.

I’ve done a few things on the Moleskine paper now, mostly in coloured pencil, but some in gel pens and while I’m going to finish it out, it is unlikely that I will buy another. The pencils – while not shockingly expensive Luminances, are good soft pencils – but the white really struggles to stand out on the Moleskin black and the blue pencils just don’t feel right. I didn’t have this issue with the Derwent paper which I don’t hugely like because it’s on a gummed pad (and therefore is basically looseleaf) but it is easier to draw on.

The Moleskine sketchpads are not cheap. I have a handful of the watercolour ones which I would describe as being “mixed” in terms of how pleasant they are to paint on. It’s a pity they appear to be the default of their kind here. I think I have an A4 Fabriano black spiral bound pad floating around – I certainly picked up one and coveted it anyway – and if I am lucky, it will turn out to be better and I will switch in that direction.

Hyperrealistic drawing

Or, photorealistic drawing.

I am not saying I fully aspire to it (currently I aspire to “vaguely accurate”) but I came across a discussion online (where all the best/worst discussions take place) in which the skill required to do a hyperrealistic pencil drawing in graphite or charcoal (I’m equally bad at both) was basically denigrated as not being art.

I love drawing. I love painting. While I was in London lately I bought more pencils to draw more dragons with, and more paints because they were good paints with a near 80% discount (always welcome). I remain completely impressed at people who can do the whole hyperrealistic thing because they clearly have very strong drawing and value skills.

I sometimes wonder if denigrating people who apply their skills in that way is based on envy more than anything else.

How to draw dragons

I drew a dragon yesterday evening and you can see her here:

 

#dragon #coloredpencils #dailysketch #carandache #pablopencils #craftpaper.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

It has shown me two things 1) I have gotten better at drawing in the last 2 years or so, and 2) I’ve a bit to learn about coloured pencils. Either way, I am not here to talk about how to draw dragons directly, but more…metaphorically.

Most days when I am talking to people, we talk about stuff with a small s and Stuff with a big S. Rarely, however, do I get a 10 minute speech from any friend along the lines of “You have to listen to this for 10 minutes because It Will Change Your Life”. But lots of my friends post such screeds to me. Yesterday, I had some time tossing up between doing housework and drawing dragons. I find drawing challenging. I wasn’t really taught how to do it properly as a child and we tend to assume the ability to draw is innate rather than a teachable skill. I can only hope this is changing. Anyway, the net result is that I’m often wanting to draw something but too terrified to start. Every time I lift a pencil or pen, it takes an enormous amount of motivation. I liken it to the motivation required to starting to get exercise.

Since I started doing this, and since I started summoning up the courage required to try and, probably fail at something, I have seriously started to question the reasons why certain things go viral, why many of the advice pieces on making your living blogging and related items seem to focus not on creating something, or even teaching someone to create, but on telling someone how to live their lives, and to explain to them, they’re really not happy.

I’m really not happy about a lot of things but a ten minute video exhorting me to think about someone else isn’t the solution. This morning’s one – before I bailed on it (it helpfully had subtitles so I did not have to listen to it) went on about being caught by your dreams and risking all for it. Like many of these things, it ignores circumstance and has an unspoken message of if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault.

In a way, it’s part of the trend we have of over simplifying life. This guy was prancing around some nice landscapy place and the overwhelming message I was getting was that we were sheeple who hadn’t seen truth the way he had, and frankly, we should all be living our dreams. It is the sort of message that I look at and think, you know, this guy has no idea how privileged he is. I used to use the word “lucky” there but I’m not sure how much luck has to do with it in the end.

The thing is, the dragon turned out (in my opinion) quite a lot better than I expected. It’s not getting loads of social media love but I’m coming to the conclusion that’s not why I do this anyway. The key point is that while it is far from perfect, it is far less of a failure than it might have been 12 or 18 months ago. I’m not in favour of the try/fail paradigm of making progress particularly as it frequently doesn’t include the bit that goes try/fail/learn. In the tech work, the whole try/failure thing is often presented as a success in itself. It becomes party of the myth and narrative of successful founders.

I find that just a little bit toxic. The whole try/fail thing really doesn’t work unless it’s try/fail/learn and I suspect any founder who eventually makes it would probably agree.

Anyway, back with the dragon. I spend a lot of time looking at other people’s art, and especially, decomposing what they do into lines because I can draw lines and the whole problem for me is drawing lines together successfully. Sometimes, I wonder, if we do take enough time to decompose what other people are doing, when they are doing something we want to do. The whole

  1. idea
  2. ??
  3. profit thing

really does not work with drawing dragons. But I will say this. It’s a metric tonne easier if you have a battery operated eraser for dealing with those little slip ups.

I suppose the lesson I’m hoping to give away for free here is “use the best tools you can get, and use them properly”.

For my next trick, there will be more lighthouses.

 

Blavet

My mother spent years trying to get me to paint and I think she had oil paints in mind. When push came to shove, I went for water colours instead and now I have discovered that actually, art supplies are a much greater problem in my life than camera gear ever was.

Anyway. It’s pouring in Dublin today and I am feeling somewhat lethargic, so I am whiling away the time by occasionally doing some tidying and cleaning, and by reading a new drawing book (which is tempting me to buy even more drawing supplies) and doing some painting and drawing. I do not know how many sketchbooks I have on the go at the moment but I think 6 is not an over estimate.

I usually have no difficulty in identifying things I want to draw or paint when I am driving,. When confronted with a sketchbook and some of my art gear, it’s a different matter. The fear takes me.

For some reason, because I was traveling in my mind, I suppose, I decided to draw (let’s draw first anyway and see how I get on) and possibly paint one of those soul food places. Everyone has them. Mine include the point in Doolin (which was really gorgeous the last time I was down there), the Pointe du Raz at a pointy bit of Brittany and the boat graveyard on the Blavet river outside Lorient. I’d love to give you directions but I absolutely get lost every time I go looking for it. And I can’t remember the last time I was there but I have a nasty feeling it is at least five years.

Lorient is a fine big city so it comes as a surprise that you can be really near it – up the river from it more or less – and be completely immune to the feeling that you are anywhere much near civilisation. The Blavet is very wide at that point, so that probably explains why it became a place to come and scuttle boats. Most of the boats there are wooden and in varying states of decay. For me there is one iconic boat which, at high tide just has its prow sticking up out of the water. This part of the Blavet is also tidal.

Most of the time I’ve been there, I’ve been either on my own, or there has been at most 1 or 2 other persons there. I brought my mother once. There is reasonable amount of parking, and that is probably less to support the beauty spot that somehow, illogically, a dumping ground for boats who have outlived their usefulness (most of the boats if not all were working boats and the tuna fishing fleet was dumped there at the start of the 20th century). Really it should look like a scrapyard, and, somehow it doesn’t. I suspect the reason for that is that the overwhelming majority of the boats are not made from modern ship building materials like metal or fibre glass. There are a few, and yet they seem curiously out of place. The river side hosts an open air theatre and I suspect that is why there is sufficient parking there. It’s in a beautiful location.

I don’t know that we really have places like that, and where boats have been abandoned in harbours, they have often been cleaned up or taken away and broken up.

The boat I elected to draw was the sticky up prow which has a comparatively modern look about it in terms of having a reg number. But like all the others, it’s made of wood for the most part, with some metal that is gradually rusting away. Ironically, when I sketched it, I got the prow wrong (I call these learning experiences) but otherwise…I’m happy with it.

 

Somehow, the fact that it’s still raining in Dublin seems hardly relevant.

Other things I learned today – titanium white in the Sennelier half pan set is not fun to work with. I must see what WN has to offer on that front. I need something that doesn’t turn other colours into what looks like pottery clay.