What About Sketchbooks?

A Watercolor Sketch Near the Walloon Boat Ramp
In the previous post I talked about watercolor paper  -  answering some questions that had come up in class.  In the same class, we also talked about different kinds of sketchbooks suitable for watercolor.  Just as the quality of watercolor paper depends on the sizing, or finish, the same is true for sketchbooks.

For many years I used Aquaee sketchbooks as my watercolor journals.  The paper is pretty light weight, but I like the way it takes the color.  Pigments stay bright and it doesn't buckle too much with the application of a little water.  All of the paintings in my Petoskey Watercolor Journal were done in Aquabee sketchbooks.  What I really like about them, especially for beginners in watercolor journaling, is the fact that you can't play around too much with watercolor technique  -  you have to get in and get out.  The paper isn't tough enough to keep trying for perfection  -  put it on and call it quits.

I became interested in different kinds of journals because I wanted something pretty and bright (sorry Aquabee, but you are not pretty and bright) and wanted to try out some different paper.  That, of course, led to making my own.  I started out having various papers spiral bound at the copy shop.  Then I started binding my own hand stitched round back spine books.

My favorite paper for books is Strathmore Aquarius II  -  it folds and stitches easily, and doesn't buckle with the application of watercolor.  I also like to throw in some drawing paper, some colorful mi tientes (pastel paper), nideggen (light brown), and anything else I might want to try.  That's the fun of binding your own books  -  anything goes.  And I love being able to paint right across the two facing pages as if they were one  -  no spiral.

Does anyone really read a blog post that is this long? Does this sound like a sketchbook lecture?  Don't we want to just look at the pictures  -  or is that just me? The main thing is  -  find paper that you like for your style of painting and sketching.

Have a great weekend  -  it's a long one for us here in the USA.   Take your sketchbook wherever you go.


What About Paper?

A Little Sketch from the New Park in the Village of Walloon

Such a beautiful day to be out painting with friends!  Perfect.
Wednesday wrapped up my summer classes. Bitter sweet.  My friend and co-instructor, Cathy, and I have book binding workshops coming up, starting Monday morning.  After those I will start my regular weekly watercolor class.

In the last journal class I did, there were several questions about paper, sketchbooks, and brushes.  I am not an expert on any of these, but I do know what I like  -  does that ever really count?  Also, I love to give my opinion.

When I first started to do watercolor, I was lead to believe that it was unprofessional to use anything but 300 lb paper.  I wasn't crazy about it.  I really liked the way 140 lb paper took the paint.  I have always preferred Arches watercolor paper to any other.

I think the main difference between brands of paper is the "sizing" or the finish.  Sizing is what gives it the properties that make it suitable for watercolor  -  some brands more suitable than others.  To me, the sizing or finish of the paper is more important than the weight.  There are some pretty bad 140# watercolor papers out there.

Practicing on cheaper paper isn't practicing at all.  You will never get the hang of what watercolor can do if you're using an inferior paper.  I think "getting it right' is worth the price of a good piece of paper. I suggest going together with a friend or two and ordering 25 sheets of Arches 140# from Daniel Smith or Cheap Joe's.  A 25 sheet pack of Arches 140 cold press will run a little over $100 plus shipping.  Get on their emailing lists and get notifications of sales and reduced shipping.

Fabriano Artistico is a pretty popular paper too.  I haven't tried it, so I really can't say, but I do know some very serious artists that use it.

Watercolor paper comes in different textures;
     Cold press  -  has a nice texture that gives a little sparkle of white paper when you drag your color over it.
     Hot press  -  is smooth, but not slick.  It's pretty unforgiving  -  the color just does not move around on it.
     Rough  -  is just that  -  a rough texture. That's not a bad thing.

If you're not bored to death yet, I'll say a little something about watercolor blocks.  They come in various sizes from very small to pretty large, and they are edged with a glue/tape binding on all four sides.  This edging holds the paper flat so it doesn't buckle (it still does a little bit) while you are painting on it.  Each sheet is left on the block until the painting is finished, then removed, exposing the next clean sheet of paper.  With their heavy backing, they are convenient to take on location or to class.

Don't confuse blocks with watercolor tablets or spiral pads.   I really have never seen a tablet of good watercolor paper.  That, of course, doesn't meant there aren't any just because I've never seen one.

Maybe I pushed Arches paper a little too hard.  I don't have an interest in the company, or in Daniel Smith or Cheap Joe's.  I recommend Arches because that is what I have always used and I like the way it handles. I told you I like to give my opinion.  For what it's worth, huh?

Okay  -  this house is a mess.  A summer's worth of dumping art supplies here and there.  Oh, my gosh, it was fun!

Have a great weekend.  Take your sketchbook sketching.



A Perfect Summer Afternoon

A Watercolor Sketch in my Journal
on an Absolutely Perfect Summer Afternoon
The sun was spotlighting these flowers in front of a very dark background of foliage.  Too good to pass up.  It's a sketch  -  keep it simple.  I reminded myself I didn't have to do the tree to the edge of the paper, I didn't have to show any detail of the cottage, and I didn't have to show any more dark background  -  it was all about the flowers in the sun.  Everything else just supports that.

We were talking about sketchbooks in class this morning.  What happens in your sketchbook, stays in your sketchbook.  It is your own private space for experimenting, learning, note taking, making little masterpieces or NOT.

What do you use your sketchbook for?


In Karen's new Garden

In My Sketchbook
My friend Karen has a new backyard/garden area. After years of gardening in her small yard, she had the chance to buy part of the yard behind her house.  In no time at all, she has it looking like it has been hers forever  -  vegetables, flowers, a beautiful garden shed, a picket fence, a wonderful pergola with wisteria growing up it already.  It makes my yard, and my attempts at gardening, look pretty sick, but instead of worrying about it, I am enjoying her garden now and then.  I suppose that time could be spent spiffing up my garden ,but  .  .  .  .

The California grandkids have gone home.  Sad.  One of them stayed for almost six weeks, and the other for almost her entire summer  -  they go back to school in about ten days.  They have come every year for awhile now, but this is the longest they have stayed.  I miss them when I go to the grocery store.  When we go to bed and there is no one with a light still on, reading.  I miss them when I water the garden, get ready to go to classes, or eat dinner on the porch.  It was absolutely wonderful having them here, and I am SO glad it happened. Being SO glad makes it less sad.

Okay.  Now I'm going to go out and deadhead in my garden, and see if I can make it as nice as Karen's. Yeah, right.  I'll cut a couple of nice bouquets of flowers, and see how my new method works to keep Rudy the cat from eating them.  I bought a couple of mesh wastebaskets at the dollar store, and I'll try inverting them over the vases of flowers, so I am not running the flowers in and out  -  wherever Rudy ISN'T. 

What are you sketching today?


Beverly's Gate

A Journal Class Demonstration in my Sketchbook
This was done in one of my favorite gardens.  Whatever the season, what ever is growing on it at any given time, I love this gate!

I don't have any classes today, and I am home, catching up on paper work.  My studio/classroom opens on three sides to the breeze and summer air, so it is very pleasant in here.  Filing and going through notes after several busy weeks of classes is kind of like cleaning up after a party - taking my time, savoring the memories, recapping some of the workshops .  .  .  It's not over, but this seems to be a good place in time to catch up a little.

It is so quiet in the neighborhood today.  Why can't it be like this all night?  It comes alive after dark  -   dogs, people, cars, wild animals, music, firetrucks.  While our daughter was visiting a couple of weeks ago, she heard people walking in the street in the middle of the night, and the guy says, "Babe?"  The girl says, "Yeah?" The guy says, "I have to go to jail on Friday."  The girl freaked out, and they walked on out of earshot.  What the heck  -  this is not the inner city.  This is a quiet little neighborhood (maybe not) in a quiet little resort town, on the banks of a beautiful bright blue bay.

We are still wondering what that wild animal screeching was in the middle of the night.  And that bird flying over this morning at dawn that sounded like a cross between a Canada goose and a loon.  And I'm wondering how Babe is getting along while her boyfriend is in jail.