Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blue Star: Start to Finish

Here are some in-process photos of a painting I recently finished.

Some guidelines drawn with light blue colored pencil.
They don't call it non-photo blue without a reason.

Some of the lines now inked with a nice waterproof fountain pen ink -
Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher cut with some of their
Whiteness of the Whale ink to lighten the shade considerably.

Adding some watercolors.

A few more sessions and all the blocks are now filled in.

Completed painting. Ta da.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Trying out some new ink today. I've been playing around with different inked line colors in my watercolor mandalas and wanted to try some lighter shades, so the outlines give a different effect because they don't contrast so much.
The green inset at the top left uses light green ink lines;
the top inset at the right uses pale grey lines;
the bottom picture uses grey straight from the bottle.
The samples above were all using Koh-i-noor Trans-Mix inks, which come in about 20 colors. I really love the way they work in technical pens, and had collected all the colors over the years, although the white had sat unused until recently. I'm not sure if the ink being a decade old or more was the problem, or if white is just problematic, but the white ink was thick like cream rather than the nice inky consistency of all the other colors. Brighter and darker colors can get away with a thin medium and their staining effects, but white needs big pigment particles to stay on the paper surface and make it opaque. Thick ink quickly clogs technical pens, which rely on a very skinny metal tube with a wire running inside that to convey the ink from the barrel to the tip.

Online reviews spoke favorably of Daler-Rowney's FW Acrylic white ink, although most people were using brushes or dip pens for their work. FW inks seemed a lot easier to find online than Trans-Mix, offer a number of colors, and claimed to be safe for technical pens. So, click-click-click and two days later Amazon had sent me a bottle for about $16. I optimistically opted for the big bottle, but it comes in a one ounce size too for about half that price.

I was really glad to have a syringe on hand for filling fountain pen cartridges and converters, because there would be no other graceful way to transfer my mL into the ink reservoir. Koh-i-noor makes an entry level technical pen set that I chose to use so I could see what was going on inside and to minimize losses if something bad were to happen. I picked the boldest size, with the biggest steel tube.

I filled the reservoir with white and added the smallest drop possible of a Trans-mix color, one experiment each with Vermilion and Sepia inks. Trans-Mix + FW seemed to go well into the pen. The FW white was a lot thinner than the Trans-Mix white, so one problem has been solved. I used a toothpick to thoroughly mix the ink, then tested the outcome on white and black papers.

Both were suitably pale, but not as opaque as I'd hoped. When used on top of pencil lines, it seems to seal the pencil lines in and let them show through, rather than cover them up. I was pleased where the pen strokes overlapped that the area didn't show as being doubly dark. The mix was fully waterproof, which is an important essential quality, and was expected since both components are waterproof. With the Sepia mix, I initially had some issues keeping the pen primed. It required a fair amount of fussing to make the lines solid. The Vermilion was better, and since the Trans-Mix part was so minimal, I'm writing it off to the pen itself and not the ink. It was also the same pen I used the Trans-Mix white, so it may have left some internal clogging. Time for the ultra-sonic bath!

Most of the color tinting is lost on black.
You never know what you get when you mix two different brands of inks, even though one was in the merest quantity today. Leaving the pen sitting capped for about 30 minutes, things became a bit unmixed. Nothing that couldn't be gently agitated back into submission, and nothing that became evil (gummy and globby.) 

The final test will be drawing something and painting it. I need to buy a few colors of FW inks for mixing to follow up this review, so stay tuned for a part 2.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Avoid being a crumby artist

Practicing your art is key to becoming a better artist, but this simple tip will instantly keep you from being a "crumby" artist. This will not be a newsflash to anyone who did any drafting in the Pleistocene pre-AutoCAD era, but it may be news to some of you just picking up that nice new set of colored pencils to work in your new adult coloring book.

This is the way the cookie crumbles.
Your color blending technique may be spot on. Maybe you use a burnisher or a colorless blender pencil to smooth out the area so no white spots show through. But, invariably, these little crumbs of color appear. Some combinations of pencil brand and paper brand will make it worse, some less so.

STOP. Do NOT blow them off.

Your breath has tiny moisture particles (remember, if you are reading this, you can "fog a mirror".) This can be disastrous, especially if you are using water soluble color pencils (unless you are going for some pointillism effect.)

STOP. Do NOT wipe them off with your arm or sleeve.

The slight downward pressure may (Murphy says "WILL") be enough to make them leave little colored comet trail streaks.

You need one of these: Drafter's Brush

Tool from back when drafters had to touch things other than their computer.
Simple, elegant, and designed for the exact purpose of removing pencil crumbles and eraser stubble. Draftsmen figured this out decades ago. Horsehair drafting brushes are cheap and easy to find now that you know what to look for. Find them in the art department of stores like Hobby Lobby or grab one here on Amazon with about 3 clicks. They come in different sizes, and unless you are a power-crumbler, the smallest size 10" (pictured) is all the brush you need.

Happy coloring, and may your white areas stay ever white.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Give it a try

The Ink Circles coloring book "Peace of Art" has been out for a few months now and people everywhere are taking up coloring as a relaxing, enjoyable hobby.

I've created this new mandala frame (not a repeat from the book) as printable page for you to try. You'll be able to download it and print it. You're welcome to repost and share it, as long as you keep the text info on the page.

 Visit my site to download the high res version
Clicking the picture will take you to my website where you can
download a high or low resolution version.
 The book is available from and on Amazon. It has 20 different mandalas in this general style, printed on cardstock and wire bound at the top.