Greenhouse Sketch


Sat in the greenhouse today. It was actually too hot to stay in too long. So this was a short sketching session to try out my new homemade mini palette, lapboard, and travel kit.


Last time I sketched outside I had trouble balancing everything in my lap. This setup works great. The little lapboard is made of 1/8 inch craft plywood and is 6 x 7 inches. I can clip my mini palette to it with a small piece of paper for color and pen tests and it stabilizes my other items as well. No more balancing act. The lapboard travels nicely on top of the Moleskine watercolor notebook tucked under its elastic band. I clip the two binder clips to the board for travel.

I made the mini palette out of a small plastic hinged saffron container that I modified with some InstaMorph to create the divisions. The lid makes a small mixing area. I squeezed some Lucas watercolor tube paints into the palette divisions and let it dry overnight. I add a drop or two of water to the colors to bring them back to life just before painting. Works great. The six colors I used are Payne’s Gray, Burnt Sienna, Colbalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Light Yellow, and Viridian.

I found an old black velvet zippered bag that holds a few pens, pencil, waterbrush, and eyedropper bottle filled with water. The pencil is a Pentel mechanical 0.5 HB with a retractable white eraser. The pens are all waterproof. They include a Pigma Micron 02 for fine lines, a Pentel Hybrid Technica 03 for very fine lines, and a Super Fine Zebra disposable brush pen for making variable width lines. The waterbrush is a Petit Kuretaki Waterbrush Pen. I may add a small sponge, a white crayon or piece of candle wax (for masking), a little bristle brush for lifting and splattering, and perhaps a piece of waxpaper for making textures.

I like this kit. It only takes about 30 seconds to set it up or put it away. It’s extremely lightweight and portable. It’s easy to grab when I’m going out and I know I’ll have everything I need to do a sketch on location.




Houses on High Street

Here’s another watercolor done on location. I sat on a bench in Bush Pasture Park near the rose garden and looked across the street. It was late afternoon. I experimented with using a white crayon to block out some areas in the sky and houses.

Pencil and watercolor on 3 x 6 inch paper. About 30 minutes. I used a combination of my pencil palette and the Daler-Rawney travel palette. I pre-wet the travel palette colors with a drop of water in each pan.

I took the reference photo with my cellphone and cropped it on the computer.

It’s hard to get a full contrast range while sketching on location. You should wait for the paint to dry before going back in with darker colors, but you don’t have time so the darks bleed. Next time I’ll try doing a grayscale sketch with pen and waterproof ink and then add color. Ink dries a lot faster.



Salem Hospital

Yesterday I drove downtown for a doctor visit. Afterwards I stopped in the Bush Park parking lot to eat some lunch. I looked across the street at the Salem Hospital as I ate. I had a sketch book in my pocket and spent about 30 minutes drawing and painting the scene. I also took a reference photo with my cellphone. This is the first painting I’ve done on location using my new light weight travel kit. I made it from an old leatherette day planner cover. I cut a half sheet of 9 x 12 inch watercolor paper and folded it into thirds. This makes 6 “pages” if you use both the front and the back. Each “page” is 3 x 6 inches and fits nicely into the pocket that used to hold the calendar. I can also carry a Pentel mechanical pencil clipped to the inside cover and a paper palette which I made by scribbling squares with Faber-Castell watercolor pencils. The top two rows are 14 pure colors and the bottom row of three are two colors each mixed. I carry my Kurataki Mini Waterbrush in my shirt pocket along with various pens.

I first made a pencil sketch. I then lifted color from the paper palette with the waterbrush and applied it to the sketch. It worked really well. I like the size. It easily fits in a coat pocket. You can’t paint unless you have your materials with you. This is convenient to carry all the time.

This is a good example of how art can create a reality that can’t be captured in a photograph. I think it has to do with a number of things. First is technical. Each medium can reproduce a certain range of contrast and color space – a photo is different from oil paints is different from watercolor is different from what the eye can see. Also, you can achieve different effects in different media. For instance in a painting you can juxtapose dabs of complimentary colors on the edges of objects to create a vibrancy that you can’t get in a photograph. Next is lighting. A bright sunny day looks very different than an overcast one. Most importantly is artist’s choice or intent. An artist can choose to highlight certain subjects or leave them out entirely or move them over to help the composition or use different colors or change the contrast to alter the mood or add a more interesting sky. An artist doesn’t need to be a slave to either the scene or a reference photo. This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn coming as I do from a long history of taking photographs. Finally is artist’s skill. I didn’t draw the building very accurately and I didn’t capture the true contrast of the scene. But what the hey, it’s just a sketch and it was fun to do.



Garden Watercolor


I got a new #8 Round Princeton Art watercolor brush for Christmas. I like it. It does nice washes as well as detail. This painting is about 6 x 8 inches. I used a photo reference. I took this photo of the Oregon Gardens last Spring.


I’ve tried a number of ways to use the iPad as an aid to drawing and painting. On this painting I used a grid system. It’s easy to overlay a grid on a photo on the iPad. I used the Inkpad app. Notice the grid is in one layer and the photo is in another and that the grid lines are one inch apart. I lowered the photo’s opacity to 61 % to make the grid lines show up better.


I used a colored grid to make it easier to identify and track particular squares. Here’s the full image that I used on the iPad as a reference for the drawing.


I made a 6 x 8 inch grid out of matte board and colored thread that I clipped to my sketchbook. I placed the iPad below the sketchbook while I worked and lined them up vertically so that it was easy to glance up and down and keep track of where I was while drawing with a pencil. Here’s the setup on my lapdesk.


The threaded grid is a great innovation. You don’t have to draw and later erase the grid on your piece of paper. The thread has enough “give” to it that you can draw underneath the lines. Roughing in the basic shapes and perspective goes quickly. It’s faster than other methods (like using transfer paper) because you only have to draw the scene once. It’s more convenient than a projection system because you can use it in full light and it doesn’t require power. Also, it’s lightweight so you can carry it for use on location.

Usually I remove the grid and clean up the drawing a bit before painting. In this case I just needed a quick drawing to test out the new brush. So, I didn’t bother. Here’s a close up of the pencil drawing with and without the grid.


I also used the iPad as a reference while painting. I set it up on a tripod mount, positioned it in front of me, and displayed the original photo.


I did the painting in one sitting. It took about an hour. I let it dry over night and then scanned it to my iPad and used Photogene to rotate, crop, set the white balance, sharpen, and resize the image for display on the web.


Salinas Station


This is the train station in Salinas, California. I photographed it a couple of years ago on my way to visit my Dad. Can you see the train? It’s reflected in the window on the right. 

I started this painting on the iPad in ArtRage using the photo as a reference. I made a pencil drawing. I then printed the drawing onto 9 x 12 inch watercolor paper using my Epson Stylus NX430 wireless printer. I did this directly from the iPad. Next I painted with watercolors and let it dry over night. The next day I scanned the painting on the Epson printer (it’s an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier). I did this from the iPad and saved the scan into the iPad’s Photos. Finally, I brought the watercolor scan back into ArtRage to do some touching up. I cleaned up the sky a bit and defined the roof line. I also worked some on the large window, touched up the brick in the upper left corner above the doors, and fixed the right side of the drain pipe below the overhang. 

I really like this workflow. It uses each medium to its strengths. It’s easy to make a pencil drawing from a reference photo on the iPad. Real watercolor provides textures and color effects that just aren’t available yet on the iPad and happy accidents happen when you paint in watercolor. Corrections, while difficult in watercolor, are wonderfully easy on the iPad. 

Art Notes:

I used the Ink Pen in ArtRage set to a light gray to draw the pencil sketch. 

Epson Durabrite inks are waterproof. You can paint right over the lines without worrying about smears or bleeds. The downside is they cannot be erased like pencil.

It’s best to slowly build up watercolors from light to dark. You have to let each pass dry before adding more color. Otherwise the colors become muddy.

I got a memory error when I tried to scan on my iPad 1. I had to close all other open applications. Then it worked. 

I used Photogene to correct the scan on the iPad. I used curves to brighten the whites. I also did a bit of sharpening. I resized the scan down to 1400 pixels wide when I saved it back to the Photos. That’s the largest size ArtRage can handle on the iPad 1. 

I did the retouching in a seperate layer above the scanned image in ArtRage. I used the eye dropper to sample local color and then painted with the oil brush set to a small size. I then used both the wet and the blur palette knife settings to blend the color into the background painting. Occasionally I used the eraser tool erase out some of the color I applied. 

I like retouching on the iPad. It’s much more direct than using a tablet and pen with a desktop computer. 


Sent from my iPad



Watercolor Pencil Test


This morning I painted this test image using Faber-Castell watercolor pencils. In the past I drew with the pencils first and then added water with a brush smudging out the color on the page. This time I applied a wet waterbrush to the tip of the pencil to pick up pigment and brush it on the page. It works much better.

I didn’t have anything in mind when I started. I just wanted to test the technique. So I didn’t do a pencil sketch first to lay out a composition. I began at the top using Prussian Blue. It turned into sky. It worked so well that I tried adding some Light Chrome Yellow to the waterbrush to see if I could get a green. I painted the hills. I picked up some more yellow and painted beneath the hills. I went from there down the page experimenting with various colors and mixes. After it dried, I then went back in and added some detail. I wanted to see how fine a line I could get with the petit waterbrush. I did the trees and brushes. I did the splatters by flicking the brush against the tip of the Ultramarine pencil close to the paper.

Finally I used the pencils to draw some fine lines. I did the grass in the foreground and lined the far shore of the river with a Dark Sepia pencil.

I worked on a lap desk. Here’s the setup from my point of view.


The lap desk is a white plastic one with a bean bag on the back. I used drafting tape to hold the corners of the paper down. The brush is a Kuretake Waterbrush Pen – Petit. It used only about a quarter of its water reserve to do this painting. The paper is 6 x 9 inches. I cut a half sheet from a 9 x 12 inch pad of Strathmore Bristol vellum, 100 lb. I used a piece of paper towel to clean the brush. You just squeeze out some water and wipe the brush on the paper towel to clean.

I’m right handed. I found it convenient to hold the pencils in my left hand with the tips pointing up. I could easily pick up color with the waterbrush in my right hand and then paint. It was like holding a palette of colors in my left hand, but without a mixing pan. It occurs to me that I could hold the case and tuck a piece of paper in the front of the case to test colors and mixes. By the way, I made that self standing case from a piece of card stock. I patterned it after the original pencil box, but pared it down to fit 12 pencils instead of 24.


New Pen Tests

Testing my new pens.

    1.    Kuretake Zig Cocolro pen with sepia ink

    2.    Zebra disposable brush pen – extra fine

    3.    Pentel Aquash Waterbrush pen

    4.    Kuretake Waterbrush Pen – petit set


I tried the Zebra disposable first. It has a nice fine tip. You can also use it on its side for a broad stroke. I touched the Kuretake Petit waterbrush to the tip of the Zebra and found that it deposited some black ink to the brush so I could do an ink wash. Worked great.


Next I touched the Kuretake Sepia pen and found it did the same thing and that I could do nice brown tone washes. The waterbrush draws most of the ink off the tip of the ink pen. So, you have to tap the brush on a hard surface to get ink to flow again in the pen.

Next I wrote a note on the right hand side with the Kuretake sepia pen. Notice how it gets faint about half way into the note. That’s because I did another wash and drew more ink off the tip and discovered that I had to tap the pen to get the ink going again.

I tried some watercolor with both waterbrush pens. I used the Grumbacher paints in my larger travel palette. I also tried Portfolio Series water soluble oil pastels. It’s the light blue down in the lower right hand corner. Water hardly smudged the pastel at all. So, that’s a disappointment.

I found I could do splatters by flicking the waterbrush across the tip of the ink pen.

Finally I used a white gel pen to make some fine lines across the watercolor. It works but you have to do it in single strokes. If you scribble back and forth it gets muddy because the gel ink is water soluble. It picks up the underlying color.

I wrote my artist’s notes in Notability on my iPad. You can export your notes as a PDF. Here’s the PDF file in case you want to download a copy and open it in iBooks on your iPad.

New Pen Tests.pdf (285K)


Sent from my iPad

Daler-Rawney Watercolor Test

I was in Walmart the other day when I stumbled into a Daler-Rawney Watercolor set. I think it was $12. I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a small set of 12 student grade watercolors in a convenient pocket size palette. It’s about 5 3/4 inches (14 cm) long. The colors are in individual half pans which can be replaced easily with professional paints, but before I did that, I thought I’d test out the colors and see what they could do.


I used a Niji flat waterbrush to lay down each color. I then did a few blends and mixes. Finally I did a little sketch to see how the colors worked together and how easily they could be lifted by blotting or brushing.


They’re not bad. It’s a nice combination of colors in a handy size. There’s not much pigment in the paints, but that’s to be expected.

Watercolor Test


This is my first watercolor test with a new kit. The left side was done with watercolor pencils and the right with paint. I also used brush pens for the blacks and grays. Done on 6 x 8 drawing paper.


The main thing I was testing was my new Niji waterbrush. It was very easy to use. I look forward to painting with it on location.


This post was made in Blogsy on my iPad.