Category Archives: Art Explorations

Peerless Watercolors in the Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Not too long ago a friend gifted me with a sampler set of six Peerless Watercolors. What are they? Forget about tube or pan watercolor paints – Peerless Watercolors are these awesome PAPER-BASED paints that when activated with water perform like any other watercolors.

Here is the 6-color sampler set my friend gave me:

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Peerless Watercolors are available online from Amazon and other retailers. I was lucky enough to find them in person this weekend when I was visiting a local store, Two Hands Paperie in Boulder Colorado. I found the Peerless Watercolor Papers Bonus Pack (Small), a set of 40 different 2×2″ square watercolor papers.

The bonus pack was arranged in order, as was described on the packaging – important because the individual color swatches aren’t labeled. Once I got it home, I was so excited to show them off and test them I got them all mixed up, and couldn’t put them in that same order again.

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They’re really fun, vivid bright watercolors. And so travel-friendly and portable! So I have this laminated “dashboard” for my fauxdori / midori traveler’s notebook planner. I bought it from ToDie4Planning on Etsy. Dashboards are used to hold sticky notes, washi tape, images, basically a more solid surface for whatever you want to use them for. I picked this one because it’s a glittery seafoam green color called “mermaid” on the outside (just plain white on the inside) – a perfect match for my planner cover.

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Problem is, I really didn’t use it. Like, at all. It was basically pretty but pointless, sitting there in my planner. So I was posting pics of my new Peerless Watercolors this weekend to Instagram, and in looking at the hashtag noticed a couple of people had cut up the sheets into little pieces and made traveling palettes for their planners. And I thought, AHA!! That’s a perfect use for this dashboard – it’s a sturdy plastic base for these paints.

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I assembled some supplies. The watercolors, the dashboard, a composite wooden board I use to clip drawing paper to, a waterbrush, glue, scissors.

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First, I cut a sheet of watercolor paper into two pieces the same size as each half of the dashboard. This was to be my surface, because not only did I want to glue the Peerless pieces to them, I also wanted to dab a swatch of paint next to each one. And the laminated surface of the dashboard as is wouldn’t work for that at all. I rounded the corners of the outside edges, and glued them to the inside of the dashboard.

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It’s a little lumpy looking now, but that won’t be noticeable by the time I’m done.

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So then I had to decide what size pieces of watercolor to arrange in my palette. I had 40 colors total in the Bonus Pack, so knew I needed 20 per side, and needed a decent spot next to each to dab the actual color with the waterbrush. I cut a 1/2″ strip off each square, and then cut that into a 1″ piece – so each piece ended up being 1/2″ x 1″.

I was going to start numbering each mini piece to the larger square, hence the white numbers in this pic, but then figured eh, screw it. They were already hopelessly mixed up anyways!

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Arranging the colors. The thought was two columns of 10 colors per side. Problem was, all the handling of these pieces gets your fingers mega messy! And then the white watercolor paper I was going to glue to started to get all messy too. I had to move all the pieces off of my base and get them in the order I wanted and erase all the marks they left on my paper.

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So then I started gluing one by one, struggling to remember to glue the pretty painted side down, so that the actual transparent watercolor side was available for me to use.

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Problem is, the glue kinda seeped out over the edges of each piece as I glued it – and I soon learned that if I wiped it off, it either got glue all over the top, which I didn’t want, or would get color over the white spaces. Take a look at these close-ups.

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The next step was to take my waterbrush and make a sample of each color next to each Peerless Watercolor piece.

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I’m going to take some onion skin/Tomoe River Paper and cut a piece to fit over the watercolor pieces so they don’t rub against each other. Hopefully the glue sticks!! So far they haven’t popped off yet. I slid the old dashboard / new watercolor palette through an elastic in my fauxdori cover – my plan is to leave it as a standalone insert in the planner, and not piggyback it around any other refill – I want to see both sides of the paints in one glance. Here it is in my planner.

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I had extra pieces of Peerless Watercolors left over, 1/2″ x 1″ because of those strips from each square cut in half. So I thought I’d make another portable palette to use with my various sketchbooks. But I didn’t have any extra laminated “dashboards” left over to use as my base.

I did have some extra plastic cutting mats thought, the result of my plastic Circa planner cover experiments. Most of my sketchbooks are 8.5″ x 5.5″, so I cut a sheet into a 8.25″ x 5.25″ piece, rounded the edges, and cut a piece of watercolor paper to glue to it, following the same process as above. Then glued down the pieces and made swatches.

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Problem is, the watercolor paper top wouldn’t stick to the plastic cutting board base no matter how much glue I used! It’s already popped off. I have glue dots holding it on for the time being, but don’t think those will last very long – that’s what experimenting is for though! I’ll just slide this sheet into my other sketchbooks when I’m not using the planner palette.

Meanwhile, some other links on Peerless Watercolors:

Tombow Marker Color Chart, New and Improved

A different approach to the color charts I so love to make. This time as colored blocks done with a waterbrush to see how the colors blend with water, and with minimal white space, on the front cover and first page of my new hardbound Stillman and Birn 5.5 x 8.5 hardbound Zeta series sketchbook. Now every time I open this sketchbook I’ll see bright, glorious color.

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Tombow Dual Brush Markers, oh the pretty colors!

For my birthday last month I was lucky enough to receive the full set of 96 Tombow Dual Brush markers (with stand!), and they. Are. AMAZING.

Here is the box they came in (along with some Iroshizuku Yama-Budo fountain pen ink I also received):

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Just look at all the pretty colors!!!

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Such fun!

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So of course, first thing I did was try and organize them into an approximate ROYGBV order, because the color, it must be organized. It’s not perfect, but there will be several attempts in the future haha.

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I also had to do a rudimentary color chart of course! Just quick scribbles in my Stillman and Birn Zeta 7×7 series sketchbook.

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The color chart.

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Tombow Color Chart in Stillman and Birn Gamma Sketchbook

Because I have color charts in most every sketchbook, I thought I’d see how my new Tombow markers worked on my Stillman and Birn Gamma Series paper. Results? It took the marker pretty well, although the streak lines from the marker are more evident on this thinner, rougher paper.

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Stillman and Birn Beta Series Sketchbook

I have been a big fan of Stillman and Birn sketchbooks ever since getting my first Zeta Series 7×7 sketchbook. So recently decided to branch out and try the Beta series 7×10 spiral-bound since I’m getting into watercolors more. I was so excited, I even used the inside cover and first pages, which is rare for me as I usually make a few tentative scribbles in the back first.

On the inside front cover I decided to make a color chart of the watercolor tube paints I have in my Altoids tin sketch kit, using my Noodlers Ahab inked with Platinum Carbon Black.

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And on the inside back cover, I created another color chart of my Koi Watercolors Pocket Field Sketch Box.

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First Impressions? I’m really like the Beta paper, it is a nice thick paper that handles watercolor beautifully. I am eager to continue my experiments with it.

Fountain Pen Ink and Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook

Experimenting with how fountain pen ink and a waterbrush works in my new Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook.

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REALLY loving how these colors blend together!

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Coloring Books for Grown-Ups

Adult coloring books – so called not because of any questionable content but because of their intricate and time-intensive patterns – have become mega-trendy lately. Case in point, this excerpt from an article posted in The Guardian last month:

“The bestselling title on Amazon in the US right now is not Harper Lee’s hugely anticipated second novel, Go Set a Watchman, or George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, or even Zoella’s much-mocked but much-bought young adult hit, Girl Online. Instead, Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford is topping the charts, with her colouring books for adults taking top spots on Amazon.com’s bestseller lists.

Basford’s intricately drawn pictures of flora and fauna in Secret Garden have sold 1.4m copies worldwide to date, with the newly released follow-up Enchanted Forest selling just under 226,000 copies already. They have drawn fans from Zooey Deschanel, who shared a link about the book with her Facebook followers, to the South Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum, who posted an image on Instagram for his 1.6 million followers.

“I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug,” said Basford. “And it’s creative. For many people, a blank sheet is very daunting; with a colouring book you just need to bring the colour. Also there’s a bit of nostalgia there. So many people have said to me that they used to do secret colouring in when their kids were in bed. Now it is socially acceptable, it’s a category of its own. These are books for adults. The art in my books is super intricate.” ”

Source: Alison Flood, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/05/colouring-books-for-adults-top-amazon-bestseller-list

 

Coloring provides a fun, safe and creative outlet to those who may not have the skill or time to draw images and then color them in themselves. Coloring has also proven itself to be a good stress reliever and relaxation or meditation tool – one that is easily used by anyone with markers, crayons or colored pencils. And it’s fun!

I haven’t tried a particular coloring book yet myself, but have been researching the most popular, so I was excited to come across this link this morning. It’s about this new coloring book full of architecture and cityscape scenes. Which, since am a huge architecture and urban design fan, SOLD! I mean, how awesome does this look!?

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This beauty by Steve McDonald is available for pre-order on Amazon, and has a release date of August 11th.

Here are some of the other popular coloring book choices.

The Secret Garden by Johanna Basford (as mentioned in the quote above)

The Secret Garden Coloring Book

The Secret Garden Coloring Book

 

 

Balance by Angie Grace (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders, Volume 1)

Colored by Angie Grace - from Balance (Angie's Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)

Colored by Angie Grace – from Balance (Angie’s Extreme Stress Menders Volume 1)

 

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford:

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

 

Splendid Cities: Color Your Way To Calm by Rosie Goodwin:

Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin

Splendid Cities by Rosie Goodwin

 

Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns (Sacred Mandala Designs and Patterns Coloring Books for Adults) by Lilt Kids Coloring Books

Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns Colored Books

Detailed Designs and Beautiful Patterns Colored Books

 

Helpful Tip:

As I was researching these coloring books, I learned from reading the reviews on Amazon that marker bleedthrough is a big concern in some books. Some are printed on only one side of the page, which minimizes the concern of markers bleeding through – and can easily be combated by inserting a blank piece of paper underneath the one being colored. But in other cases – particularly the most-popular Secret Garden – the pages are printed double-sided, and if you are not careful with what medium you’re coloring with, the markers will bleed through to the other side. Lesson learned: always read the reviews first!

 

Art Journaling or Daily Planning?

I’ve been in love with planners and organizers for a long time now. But in all my planner geek experiments, I’ve never really considered combining planner functions with bullet journals, notebooks, journals, and art journals too carefully. I started to give it some thought after being asked to write a guest post about it, and realized that over time I’ve been trying to combine lots of different elements into my planner. And maybe that’s why lately my planners never seem to quite “fit” what I want them to do? It’s hard to put my finger on what that is exactly, but something is missing. I’ve been trying to carry around quotes notebooks, planners, art journals, sketchbooks, notebooks for ink samples and fountain pen tests …. and it’s so hard to pick and choose each morning what to take with, when I might want any, all or none of the above that particular day!

So I was reading this blog post from Hali Karla about keeping an everyday art journal, and these words really resonated with me:

I can say that deciding to carry an “everyday art journal” was a game-changer for me. It’s really just an art journal or sketchbook that goes with me everywhere… I actually broke up with my standard planner after getting to know my everyday art journal (it really never worked out between me and the conventional planner no matter how hard we tried anyway).

I use it to jot down ideas, sketch or doodle when I have time to kill or need to pause and be present, to tack in photos and fodder, or capture wise or inspiring words from others that may come my way. Sometimes I write prayers in it, or recipes. I even keep my lists in it. To-do lists, not-to-do lists, shopping lists, gratitude lists, travel itinerary details – all of which can be painted or glued over later if I feel the urge… It really isn’t just an everyday journal – it’s an everything journal for me.

The real beauty of it, though, is that having it all within one cover, over a period of time, makes it really easy to begin to see patterns in my life… I keep other art journals, too – and they often have a variety of styles and flavors within the pages. Yet, while the everyday journal isn’t the prettiest journal I keep, by any means, it’s one of the most precious to my journey.

So I think this might be the next step in my art journal/planner evolution – create an informal planner that’s an “everything journal” first, and a calendar second – instead of the other way around. It seems so revolutionary! But now I really want to try it. But it’s kind of an intimidating thought. I’d love to hear from someone who has done something similar – I can’t find many other examples online.

I’ll leave with this description of an Art Journal from Jane Davenport:

It’s a mix of diary, travel memoir, autobiography, art therapist, visual diary, notebook, scrapbook and sketchbook….plus more… It’s a place, YOUR space, to record and work through your life experience in images, words, colours and collage.

There are NO RULES.

Some links on other great blog posts about art journals, planners and commonplace journals:

“You may want to keep a commonplace book which is a notebook where you can copy parts of books you think are in code, or take notes on a series of events you may have observed that are suspicious, unfortunate, or very dull. Keep your commonplace book in a safe place, such as underneath your bed, or at a nearby dairy.”

Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

“In my Commonplace book, I jot down snippets, quotes, stanzas. They can be words from a novel, from a poem, from a picture book, from the side of a cereal box. Anything I read that causes me to pause and read again- to stop and savor the words or ponder the message- it all belongs in my book.

This is the heart of my book and what really makes it a treasure, I think.”

– Sarah Mackenzie , amongstlovelythings.com

“Their commonplace then became a kind of personal reading/life log, where they kept notes on anything they wished to remember.

What it’s not is a journal or diary. While some people did use their commonplace for both purposes, many kept them separate, and a commonplace tends to refer to a book of information, not daily logs.”

– Devon Henderson, Chirmer Graphics

“But writing original stuff is damn hard, and as if I needed another diversionary tactic I’ve found myself adopting a delicious little habit of collecting quotes from books and films, words, ideas, snippets from overheard conversations, phrases, epigrams and poems that I see around and about the place.”

Maz, Diving For Pearls

Somewhere, Beyond The Sea

I’ve been drawn to the Tombow marker medium over and over again in my Stillman & Birn 7×7 Zeta Series sketchbook. I love the bright white paper that gives my brightly colored markers that visual “pop” I’m looking for, cause I’m always about the color! I also like the smooth Zeta Series finish, as it works great with the markers and fountain pens I use, but is still sturdy enough to handle watercolor washes too, for whenever I get that urge. It’s really developing into the ideal combo for me, and as I do more of these sketches I feel like I’m developing a personal style – which is honestly kind of a cool feeling!

So this was last night’s creation. For this piece, I was inspired by artwork I saw that featured this idea of hiding fish in the curves of ocean waves, and thought it was so creative! I knew I had to do a similar theme in my sketchbook. But I had no idea what to do for the sky! So I just started making big random swirly clouds to fill up the space, adding color until it just seemed to complement the bottom half of the piece. I sketched a basic outline with my Lamy Safari fountain pen inked with Platinum Carbon Black ink, colored the areas in with layers upon layers of Tombow markers, and then outlined them with a black Micron brush pen. I’m never usually certain about the colors or when it’s “done” until I just decide I can’t do anything else with it. I quickly reached that point with the clouds after outlining them in, and was like that’s it! I’m calling it!

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Also, I’ve had the song “Beyond The Sea” stuck in my head EVER SINCE. I like the original Bobby Darin version best, but also my mind immediately thinks of Finding Nemo now too. Because, it is AWESOME.

DIY Altoids Watercolor Paint Box

Since I started exploring watercolors, I’ve come across the “use an old Altoids tin as a travel paint box” trick several times, and it’s always intrigued me. It just looks so easy to do! It combines being creative and MacGyver-y with materials you either already have on hand or that are easily accessible, so win-win right?

And also, regular watercolor tin boxes can get crazy expensive! Nobody said art was a cheap calling, but still – I’m just getting started and haven’t even graduated to all non-student-grade paints yet!

So I started reviewing all the different methods and suggestions people had for creating their own Altoids paint boxes, like in these links:

So, after perusing enough links to get an idea of how to get started, I decided to try using magnets to hold the watercolor pans in place. I assembled the following materials:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Assembling The Materials

Step One: Determine Your Box Arrangement

First lesson learned – these paint boxes are waaay smaller than I thought they’d be!! I ordered 6 half pans and 2 full pans, thinking I wouldn’t be able to get all them in. But actually I have room for more – at least 2-3 half more at least. I think I’ll be ordering a few more in both sizes to experiment with finding the perfect combination. Right now I have a weird gap on the side because I had too few pans.

Step Two: Attach The Magnets

Once you’ve found a paint box layout you like, attach the adhesive magnets. The set I found had them pre-scored into 1″ squares. Cutting each square in half worked perfectly for the full paint pans, and in quarters for the half pans.  They stick to the Altoids tin firmly, and even when the tin is held upside down and shaken, they didn’t fall out.

Step Three: Add The Paint

I chose the following pigments as my test paint palette – all Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor tubes:

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding The Paint

Step Four: Final Touches

The paint will dry out to avoid messiness when traveling, and can be reactivated with drops of water, or kept moist by adding a drop of glycerine. I didn’t have anything handy to add to it, so am just going to let them air-dry and add water as needed. Ideally, in the future I will find a waterproof or enamel paint to coat the inside of the lid, so I can use it as a mixing surface. But for now, I created a mini watercolor chart to show what combinations I can get from the palette I chose. I also added a square of parchment paper to put over the paints just in case they did fall out of the pans or get messy.

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Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  Adding Final Touches

Extra Step: Making a Watercolor Color Chart

Of course, whenever getting new paints I want to make a watercolor chart! So I made both a full (sketchbook sized) version, and a little mini version to keep with the Altoids tin. I think my beginner paint choices were good ones – I can get some pretty nice secondary colors like oranges, greens and purples from the 7 colors I chose. Some action shots of the color charting process, just for fun!

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The Final Result!

So, here it is in all its glory! It has some future tweaks – including coating the lid for a mixing surface, and adding some extra pans or a sponge or somehow using the blank space. But otherwise I’m really pleased with how it turned out!!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin:  The Final Result!

Making A DIY Altoids Watercolor Tin: The Final Result!