Category Archives: art and related

Thread journey



This is The Doily. 

I bought the pattern and the thread when I was on holiday in Nice in the South of France in 2010. I bought a load of thread at the Bergere de France shop – they’ve discontinued the product since which is a real pity. The doily has been under production since about then as I probably started it while I was still in Nice (bored, hotel room alone in the evening). It went through about 5 house moves, and was lost across one (so I started another one, from a pattern also bought in Nice with more thread also bought in Nice). I finally finished it about a month ago. 

I’ve always loved the colour – I call it ballet pink and I like those pastelly shades for some reason. I wasn’t sure I’d have enough thread in the end (but I did, and have some left and now don’t know what to do with it). 

I’m really proud of it because it took a lot of work. It’s not the first doily I have finished (there are two others, one of which I’ve lost so I hope it turns up in the storage boxes still in Ireland. In a way, I find it hard to believe that almost 9 years have passed since I bought the thread and started it. Life seems to be flying. But most of all, I love that it represents a simple truth: if you work at something, you will get to the end, at some stage. 

Pencils and Sharpeners

I bought a pencil sharpener today. 

As my sister pointed out, I probably actually have a pencil sharpener already (just a few) so…uh? 

This is an antique/vintage one. It is an FTE Modell 120 – no idea when it was built, but late 1960s is favourite. It is manufactured out of Bakelite. It reminds me of an old telephone. It looks nothing like a phone. 

FTE Sharpener


[oh god the new editor is killing me here]

I like the shape of it. 

I have a lot of sharpeners. There are various reasons for this a) finding myself caught in flagrante delit of needing to sharpen a pencil, b) losing them and c) hoarding good ones in case I lose them. My definition of good tended to be “Faber Castell”. 

This was fine except I have now a lot of pencils and they aren’t all the same size. There are a bunch of pencils which are slightly larger than standard. I could not keep track of which pencil sharpener fitted which pencils but often, it was very much “whichever one fits this pencil is not one of the 7 sharpeners I happen to have to hand”. As an additional problem, I could not sharpen charcoal pencils in any of my handheld pencils without killing both blades and pencils. So in desperation one day I bought the Staedler rotary sharpener. Sure, it was more expensive than the hand helds I had, even the brass ones with the killer sharp blades, but then, so were the charcoal pencils that I was going through like they were going out of fashion. The only other rotary sharpener I could find at the time was the Caran d’Ache Matterhorn, either standard or limited edition, and being Caran d’Ache and solid metal, they were way over the odds for testing. 

The Staedtler worked nicely. It’s plastic which I wasn’t so lost on but there’s decent capacity for shavings, and it sharpened the charcoal pencils. A month later I bought a limited edition Matterhorn for no other reason than I liked it. I refuse to sharpen the charcoals in it which is why I have two mechanical sharpeners on my desk. This brings us to today’s purchase of an FTE. I use pencils at work and I wanted a rotary sharpener. I wanted it to be a bit more solid than plastic, but not as expensive as the Matterhorn (which is jewellery level pricy). The vintage fair seemed a possible source and the FTE rocked up at it. The seller knocked 5 euro of the price, and it was much less than the cost of a new Staedler, so I bought it. It works. I’ve sharpened a Blackwing in it. So the FTE is going to work. 

FTE was a manufacturer I wasn’t familiar with, so I looked it up. It was a factory in the GDR – and apparently when the sharpeners were sold in the 1960s they cost 13.50DM which by the standards of the time was not cheap. 

I see a lot of them on eBay.de and they aren’t uncommon as such – the ex-East block seemed to make a lot of mechanical sharpeners as I’ve seen Czech models on sale too, nearly all Bakelite. I like the shape of this and it put a reasonably decent point on the pencil so I’m happy enough about it. 

But

god it is a rabbit hole though, these mechanical sharpening machines. The standard colour of the Matterhorn is grey. I want it. I also want the Red limited edition (no longer available) and the Black limited edition (no longer available). And there are a couple of really nice AW Faber ones of which I want one particular one. I have visions of a shelf of about 8 mechanical sharpeners… and a lot of people going “what is she like?”

Art live

I don’t own a television and mostly I don’t miss it. This is because I spend more time watching stuff online, on my phone, than anywhere else. 

One of my treats are living sketching videos on Instagram and especially, Alex Hillkurtz’s channel. I did two workshops with him last year and basically he is great. 

His live sketching evenings are lovely to watch, lovely to listen to and his output is always gorgeous. I’m envious although to be fair, he puts in a lot more time than I do. 

His website is here. His instagram is here

Paints and stuff

It’s a reflection of how the last few months have been that today, I finally got around to swatching out a paintbox which I bought in London on 8 September. The paintbox is an 18 pan quarterpan box from CassArt. They don’t say what paint is in there which is a pity; it would be nice to know whose paint they do use. I’d guess Daler Rowney though as their set looks almost identical.

Anyway, I don’t know why I wanted it only Shiny, I guess. I like the idea of the little quarterpan box; it’s an enamel box and I have carefully been avoiding buying it. I also own a lot of other paint boxes and mostly use my 12 pain (with three extra added) Sennelier box lately. The fact that it was there, and was instant gratification, was probably a factor.

I haven’t done any sketches with the little Cassart box though. I did manage to make a mess of it, ironically, while cleaning it after doing the swatching but past experience has taught me that’s no big deal.

Quarter pan set

You an see the swatch that comes with the box, plus the little swatch I did as well. There are a bunch of the colours which look a little different for me – the permanent rose and the viridian green for example – but I can see use I would get out fhtme. The Prussian blue is a bit deeper than I am used to with my Senneliers. The selection of colours is not bad at all.

The palette comes in a little case (to the left of the picture above) and a small sable brush which is a bit bigger than the travel brushes which Winsor & Newton include with the sketchbox.

I’m not totally sure what I am going to do with these though. It’s only ever going to be used for small stuff because the pans are so small; so more likely than not, things into the A6 sketchbooks, or postcards, or even the artist trading cards. But it’s probably too small for most of my brushes – I already struggle with the half pans in some cases.

For comparison, here are my three main commercially available small watercolour palettes:

Small watercolour boxes.

Clockwise from Left:

  1. Sennelier 12 half pan set with added quin gold, quin red and light yellow ochre.
  2. CassArt 18 quarter pan set, as delivered.
  3. Schmincke 8 half pan set – in fact I own this and the waterbottle version of this – colours as delivered.

The Sennelier is in my toolbox but my toolbox is causing me trouble as it has missed the original plan for being a toolbox – ie, being portable. The Schmincke is in a small travel kit with a couple of liners and pencils.

Quarter pans are not available so the question will be what I do with the 18 pan set if and when I get to use it – and the speed with which I am going through pans in the 12 pan set suggests this will not be long – the obvious answer is tubes. I own the Schmincke granulating tube set and I use tubes when I am painting with gouache. But I cannot see myself making a wholesale switch to tubes – I simply have too many paints in half pan format that I want, for environmental reasons, to start using.

little idiosyncracies of mine: Mappa Mundi sketches

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This is from one of the 17th century globes in the Museo Coreo in St Mark’s Square in Venice. I took a lot of photographs of what I could find on what are basically hard to read 17th century globes.

These things fascinate me. They are remarkably beautiful but simple illustrations which you find on a lot of maps and globes of the era. We don’t put much effort into making our tools look beautiful these days I think.

 

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Anyway you’ll find an album of them in various stages of bluriness here.

Concerto in C Minor – the piano site

I set up a new blog during the week – it isn’t like I have the time to maintain a load of content across several sites – but I also see the risk of flooding this site with a lot of things I wanted to write about which are more for my own self indulgence more than anything. Pianos in other words.

The site is here. There, I will ramble on about pianos, practising the piano, books I have read about practising the piano, music, sheet music, youtube videos of interest, concerts and things that annoy me on youtube and Facebook piano groups. You may find it interesting if you are interested in pianos. Otherwise, possibly not.

I’ve also thought about spinning off the art stuff but as there are background things around photo posting site changes and hosting of imagines, I will leave that for the time being.

Updates to Flickr

Flickr announced some changes lately. I have been a Pro subscriber for years and I have more than 13000 photographs on Flickr. Most of them are kitesurfing photographs.

The subscription cost for Flickr is going up (looks like it is about doubling) but against that there are some interesting looking deals. I’m not totally sorry to see the changes to the free product – I didn’t agree with some of Yahoo’s product decisions. One of the biggest hassles that Yahoo forced on the flickr community was Yahoo login. I hated it. Flickr tell us that will go away early next year. If I had to pick any concern, it is that I worry that Flickr will not support the community of artists and urban sketchers that use flickr as a shop front.

For a good chunk of the last 10 years, I used pix.ie until it effectively vanished, and then for the drawing stuff I tended to use Instagram mostly despite severe misgivings about the difference between their desktop product and their mobile product; issues around password retrieval and today, I couldn’t find embed code so I went to Flickr and uploaded the piece of artwork there [too].

One of the main reasons for this is Instagram’s algorithmic timeline and inline advertising. The downside of this is that I regularly miss posts by people I like and yet see the same ads multiple times. There are a bunch of artists I really like on Instagram but some of them are on behance and deviantart, and a good few are on flickr as well. I’m wondering how tied I am to the instagram community when there are communities which are more art and photography focused and less social network/data collection focused.

So as part of that, I’ve started the horrific job that is reorganising the flickr account – it is chaotic – and will start look at rebuilding my life on deviant and will see if I can get at my behance account. After that, I don’t know what will happen with instagram. I don’t know

Painting Paris

I went painting today. I need to get hold of the idea of putting these things up on flickr rather than instagram but I will get there. I pay for Flickr, after all.

Dream Paris

This was from today. It was inspired by a bunch of things in different colours which I saw on pinterest and so I decided to have a go, and there we are. I like it. This was in an A6 sketchbook which I use on and off as a sort of art journal but which has been neglected lately. But I like the idea and the result is, I will probably try and find time (difficult lately) to scale it up and do it in a wall framable size

There seems to be something about Sunday that causes some randomer on FaceBook to decide that today is the day they will troll a watercolour group on FaceBook. Today, we got lectures on how if you used masking fluid, you weren’t a master (well…) and it was cheating (well…) and it wasn’t really art (well…). It caused a lot of discussion, which could be summed up as “You’re a troll” and “You are so wrong, you are wronger than a wrong thing”.

People get irate quite easily on FaceBook. But I cannot blame them when someone wanders in, to put it mildly, to cause trouble in a special interest community. No one really cares for the most part whether you use masking fluid or not (well no one sensible anyway), and yet one person going on about how it isn’t art, and how you haven’t mastered watercolour (while not showing their work) can cause major hassle. I wonder how communities can guard against this, and whether it is really desirable. The question of masking fluid in watercolour is fairly meh, but really, a group of people who think that women should, for example, not be allowed have jobs, might benefit from being challenged a bit.

But that causes ructions too.

Anyway. to the above, the under drawing was down with a PIlot 0.3mm mechanical pencil, the line work was done using a unipin 0.03mm fineliner and the paint was mostly Quinacradone gold from my 12 pan (allegedly – it had twelve when I bought it but I think it now has 15 pans squashed in) Sennelier kit. The exceptions were a little quin red, French Ultramarine Deep for the windows, Paynes Grey and sepia or neutral for the rooves and probably alizeron crimison for the blinds. I used Molotow masking fluid to cover the windows while I painted the buildings. I like their pens and I don’t think I have enough spare so I’ll probably bulk buy them the next time I am in an art supplies shop that sells them.

The 0.03mm fineliner is new. Up until very recently, Unipin’s finest fineliner was 0.05. Copic had 0.03 which were finer, and I liked them for fur but my god they were fragile. You can buy replacement tips. which is handy enough.

The Unipins feel a bit more robust and today’s one at least was really well behaved for the paint. The colour feels a bit darker as well. I haven’t really had time to do a side by side test – I have very little free time and have not had much time to paint at all; the daily kraftbook diary sketch has had to go into catch up mode a lot lately (and I’m about to start a new one there again. I have two months’ supply or so). But at some point I will sit down and do a comparison of the 0.03s –

  • Unipin 0.03
  • Copic 0.03 (I think I have one)
  • Copic 0.03 SP (expensive Copic of which I have half a dozen)

and I might do a side by side comparison of those with whatever 0.05s which I have (definitely Unipin and Molotow) and the XS Faber Castell

About a pencil

I went to a stationery shop in one of the retail parks the other day to buy a couple of gel pens which I had not found in the city centre. It’s a great shop; it just costs me a lot of money every time I go there. I’m swimming under Pilot G2 gel pens and because I have a collection of ball and fountain pens to write with that would be the envy of the average person on the street, I’m not tending to write with the Pilots so much. But I use their G-Tec Cs to draw with, when I can find them.

This is one of the things I loathe about myself. I can’t just use a Bic crystal like a million people on Instagram to do monochrome pictures. No, I like to chose a pen that is…difficult to get. TBH, if I had any sense I’d buy a box of black, brown, turquoise, red and violet off Cult Pens and then that’d be it. The problem is Cult Pens now has Sepia unipins and frankly about 150E worth of other stuff I didn’t know I wanted and now I have to have and I already did serious damage on Friday buying 4 gel pens and a pile of other stuff including some ore G2s.

When I lived in Ireland, there were issues around getting the kind of mechanical pencils I wanted. My favourite at the time were Uni Kuru Togas but you could not then get them in Ireland (just as I left, ArtnHobby discovered them  The net result is I tend to panic buy stuff that historically, I have found very difficult to get a short notice. Between Friday and yesterday I bought about 10 more mechanical pencils

Today I was actually drawing with pencils. I have a couple of personal sketchbook projects on the go, one on kraft paper, and one on white paper. They are in side stapled sketcbooks, That’s not really important.

I have a massive and overwhelming choice of pencils available to me. I wanted to draw here so I tend to favour the finer pencils to do that with. Most of the brands do 0.3 although I have not yet got my hands on a Kuru Toga 0.3mm mechanical pencil. But I have some Pentels, Pilots and Staedlers Argubly, I probably don’t need any Kuru Togos given how many Pilots and Pentels I have.

This isn’t a pencil review per se. This is more, just after I finished today’s drawing it occurred to me that the mechanical pencils were a bit chaotic The new ones I bought, I haven’t space to fit in the drawer and anyway, I wanted to set up some drawing kits. I’m drowning in drawing toolboxes but that’s another day’s story. I dragged out the drawer of pencils and sorted it according to size. I was a bit surprised by the outcome. Pencil size wise, I have 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7. After that I’ve a bunch of 2mms and what look like 4mms. Faber Castell have a couple of odd sizes as well.  But I have a frightening quantity of 0.5mm pencils, and the bulk of them are Uni pencils, either Kuru Togas or Shalakus. There is an array of others but I dared not count.

After that, I’m really kind of good on 0.3mms as well. What surprised me was that I didn’t have a whole lot of 0.7s. I tend (at the moment) not to buy 0.9s as they are probably a little too broad. I don’t own any for now and I’ve tended to manage to avoid buying any in the last few panic buy of pencils. After that, there aren’t a whole lot of 0.2mms and the ones that I have are all Pentel Orenz. I think, again, there is a Kuru Toga that narrow but like the 0.3s, I haven’t found them.

I sorted out two sets of pencils – a full set of Orenz from 0.2-0.7 and a set of Pentel P20s from 0.3-0.7. Then I sorted out some of the pencils I tended to want to use more often and instead of shunting them back to the drawer, I have them in a pencil cup.

If you asked me 2 years ago what was my favourite pencil, I’d have said Kuru Toga. Given the constraints I was working in, they were for a long time the narrowest pen I could find until I eventually tracked down a Faber Castell 0.35. I still love them and where I need a default pencil, like in my stationery drawer at work, or in my handbag, there  is usually a Kuru Toga there, or a Shalaku. For a long time I struggled to lay my hands on Pentel Graphgear 1000s – they are gorgeous pencils; I have them from 0.5-0.7 and I think there is only one 0.5 although there were two of the other sizes. Mostly I stopped buying 0.5s for the most part as I had loads of them. The pencils in my tool box are all Graphgears bar one Orenz 0.2.

I can’t answer the question “what is your favourite pencil” at the moment. Most of today’s drawing I did with Orenz pencils in various sizes – 0.2,0.3 and 0.5, and while it takes a lot to get used to the way the lead is hooded, I had a lot of fun with them. I only have 0.5mm Orenz though as I tended not to buy them because I have loads of them. Same is true for 0.7 although I have fewer 0.7s than I thought. But I like the Tombow Mono shaker too, it’s just, I don’t have a lot of them so I hate risk losing them and there’s nowhere to buy them locally so I tend to hoard the two I have.

I could put different lead weights in the pencils – I’m not short of lead either – but only some of the pencils have lead weight markers and I find with the Orenz pencils that I was using today that the weight broadly doesn’t matter when I am using the finer mechanical pencils – this is probably because I draw with fineliners a lot and it’s the width rather than the colour depth that I focus on.

I have wooden case pencils as well; a full set of Caran d’Ache Graphwoods, a near complete set of Mars Lumographs including the extra black and aquarelles, and I’ve a few other randomers from Faber Castell, Tombow and Uni Mitsubishi. One of the reasons I am not allowed go near Cultpens is that if I did, I’d buy a full set of both the Tombows and the Unis. They are gorgeous pencils to draw with. So are the Caran d’Ache pencils.

The tl;dr version of this is that Treasa has too many pencils.

Je t’aime

I’m a fan of the artwork of Pascal Campion on instagram, not necessarily because I like the basic techniques he uses, but because every single one of his pictures tells a story, and you can get a very strong feel for the story. I love it and while I haven’t done anything about it, I would, at some point, look at acquiring a print or two. I say the same about Iraville too. I will get this one when her shop is open again and if she makes it available.

Both are very different to the stuff I tend to do.

Anyway.

Today’s piece of work was a watercolour. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. In a way, I struggle with painting lately because I seem to need work space and I don’t always have it.

When I started painting I used to do it anywhere. Including bed. Watercolours in bed. Madness. I don’t do it any more, although that’s mostly because I don’t keep the art stuff by my bed any more. And I don’t use waterpens as often any more which means it’s a far riskier activity.

Anyway, here is today’s piece.

Watercolours

First the technical stuff – because I look for it so I assume other people probably will – I used Saunders Waterford rough white paper because it was the top of the pile of watercolour paper – and then for this version of it, I used Winsor & Newton Artists colours. The brushes are mainly an Escoda Number 8 and a Raphael Number 4. Not sure where I picked that up actually but it’s a nice size.

I did two versions of this and while it’s not so obvious in this version, I had a lot of trouble with the blue of the sea I used French Ultramarine which is a granulating colour and I struggle to control it. The first version, I used my beloved Sennelier paints. Second round I decided to have a go with the WNs. Neither was easier or so than the other and I seriously screwed up the sand above. So this painting will be redone at some point.

But it caused me to think about paints. I have a lot of watercolour media – the standard European paints, Japanese gouache, watercolour pencils, watercolour pastels. I will also buy an Inktense travel set whenever Derwent eventually start to sell them because their pencils are quite intense and travelsets tend to be easy to lug around.

When I started painting, I started with the Cotman sketch set. It’s a small set that has 12 Cotman pans in it. If you read any of the online watercolour forums, like wetcanvas, you’ll probably come across conversations about buying the best you can possibly buy. I’d temper that by saying buy either the Cotman sketchset or the Sennelier 8 pan travel kit. The Sketchbox in itself is incredibly usefully sized which is why I own two of them although the second one mainly has WN artist pans in it because you could not get the Cotman pans individually in Ireland when I started. I don’t know if you can yet. They were small and handy. They explained why I could paint at lunch hour (Sennelier) or in bed (Cotman box). After falling in love with the Sennelier set, I had to make a decision about a bigger paint box and it was down to WN, Sennelier or Schmincke. In all cases, I was going to buy a 48 pan set and I chose Sennelier. It’s a great box but it’s not conducive to painting in bed. Painting has become a bigger production than it used to be. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I bought a WN 24 pan Artists kit in London about 2 years ago in a sale – we are talking a serious chop in price at a reputable art shop – and have occasionally considered passing it on to my niece who was using mainly Cotman paints at the time I’m sort of glad now I didn’t The kit is smaller, takes up less space than the Sennelier, and means decisions about colours are quicker. I think it’s part of growing as a painter that initially you want ALL TEH COLOURS and then you start thinking meh. So I am considering buying a Sennelier 24 pan set. I don’t live in Sennelier country but Schmincke country so yeah, that’s going to be an online thing again. There is also really the problem that I don’t necessarily want Sennelier to decide what colours I get, but for me to get an empty tin and a list of the colours I want. You could argue that really do I need a 24 pan set when I have a 48 pan set and why don’t I just get the empty box and blah blah blah. I don’t know yet. I mean, yes, there is the 24 WN set but I also have a 24 pan set of Schmincke Akademie watercolours – that’s their student range but I bought it because frankly, the tin was gorgeous. Rather superficial but there you have it.

So, basically, not sure yet. I’m still not ready to move over to the whole tube thing mostly because pans are easy to organise and tubes interfere with my need for order.

I’ve realised I sort of hoard stuff and this is obvious in that, you know, some people they spend their art life doing everything with a 2B pencil and an eraser. I have ooh, with me here in Luxembourg ca 7 paintboxes plus watercolour pencils plus watercolour crayons, I have several million different pencils, I have both uni Posca and Faber Castell markers I have pastel pencils. I have art tools. Arguably, you could say I wouldn’t notice another paintbox or more to the point, mainly I don’t need another one. I will go to the art store on the quays in Paris the next time and think deeply about it.

The second piece I did this weekend was a marker piece, or more mixed media. I used dry coloured pencils as well

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I wanted, at some stage, and still do sort of, to do the occasional comic. I already, somewhere, have a piece involving sheep acting as ramp agents in Galway Airport but I think it needs to be redone and lined properly. I also suspect they should probably done using the uni Poscas rather than the Faber Castells. But anyway, these are two sheep in the market for a country pad. It grew out of a conversation I had with some friends and the main reason I don’t develop them as characters is that there are some wellknown sheep characters around. Shaun the Sheep for example, and there’s a whole gamut of Irish tourism merchandise that is sheep focused. So if I were to do anything with it, I’d need to be thinking very carefully about it. I’ve looked at building a Surfing Annie character but the big issue with that is lacking the drawing skills.

When I was a photographer, I came to the conclusion that effectively, a massive change in the photography world coincided with my getting interested in it. Maybe it caused the interest, maybe not. I’ve never worked out. But just at the point where I wanted to do certain things, digital SLRs made it possible for me to do it without bankrupting myself.

I sometimes thing that there is an element of that with the drawing stuff. I struggled big time in the early days discovering I wanted stuff that I could not easily get. There are still things I find it difficult to get – I own 3 0.03mm Copic fineliners and blood will spill if anyone other than me touches them. Such fine tips are extremely difficult to find here. I used either Faber Castell or Uni Pin fineliners otherwise. I have bulk bought Uni Signo white gel pens in bulk because they could not be got in Ireland. One of the most useful pens in the world – a white gel pen – could not be bought at all. But over the time from where I started to when I left Ireland, I noticed it getting easier to get stuff. Some of the other stuff I only need to buy once – but the consumables, choice of paper. It could be very painful. But I love the Faber Castell Pitt pens now. It took me a while to get used to their brush tips and now they have softbrush tips in the greys and black range and I love them (and want them in the rest of the range. But the stuff I do, I probably couldn’t really do without them and 10 years ago, they weren’t really there and markers weren’t something that people lauded per se.