During a routine dental check-up some years ago, my Greek dentist once caused me some alarm by announcing that he was going to begin his autopsy. Noticing my rabbit-in-headlights expression, he calmly explained the etymology – the Greek translation of the word is something like ‘seen for myself’. I’m not the most relaxed dental patient and it was helpful to have this (slightly nervous) laugh at the time.
And of course, seeing for yourself is always the best way to learn. I drew some masking fluid on a page of my colour palettes sketchbook before adding watercolour. And – surprise – it doesn’t work.
You can see where it was, and it does act as a resist of sorts, but it doesn’t rub off in the normal way when the paint is dry. It lies underneath as a separate layer and sinks into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. I’ve added some pen marks over the top to enhance the effect here and there. I don’t know if it’s because this paper hasn’t been sized, or whether the surface is just too soft. The reason doesn’t really matter; the fact is it doesn’t work as I’d expected. But now I know, having seen for myself.
As always, I can see some of these designs working in textiles with stitch, but for now it’s just an exercise on paper. It’s been a hectic week, and paint on paper is one of my best ways to relax and recover some equilibrium.
I use a separate small square sketchbook for testing paint colours before committing to the thing in progress, and I really like the little abstract compositions that happen purely by accident:
Another long bank holiday weekend here in the UK – whatever your plans are, enjoy some time out.
Sketchbook-making, obviously. I prefer to make my own because I like to vary the paper content and size of the pages. Readymade sketchbooks are usually variations on A4 and I don’t always like the proportions.
The little book with the wraparound cover below is for experimenting with various forms of ink. I have acrylic ink, ink/stamp pads, inktense blocks, and a few distress crayons, plus the more obvious drawing pens etc.
Just somewhere to try dripping, blotting, stamping, stencilling etc with various kinds of ink. My favourite thing so far is drawing with a little twig dipped in ink.
The spread below was made by sponging yellow/purple ink onto damp paper and then using the twig to draw in the green marks. A few random splatters is always very satisfying.
I also quite like the distress crayons, which you can smudge with a bit of water. This is the wrong kind of paper really (it’s very soft cotton rag), as it won’t stand up to too much rubbing. I’ll probably try this again on more robust paper.
I made more sketchbooks than I will use, so I’ve added a handful or so to the shop.
In my new life of freedom from the nine to five treadmill, I’m trying to set aside Fridays for research and development (AKA playing).
I was given these beautiful super-granulation Schmincke watercolours for Christmas but have been really busy since January and I’ve been trying to set aside some time to try them. It turns out today was the day.
I’m no great watercolourist but what I like most about watercolour paints is that it’s quite hard to make anything look ugly. I really like the granulation effect.
Apart from splashing a bit of paint around last week while on annual leave, I’ve also made a start on setting up a shop on RedBubble. It’s a print-on-demand site where you upload your work, then people can purchase it in various forms (stickers, T shirts, phone cases, etc), and you get 10-20% of the sale price.
It’s still very much a work in progress, and I will be adding to it/tweaking it over the next few weeks and months. Just dipping a toe in the water to see how it goes. It may work and it may not, but you never know unless you try these things.
I’m also teaching myself to use Procreate, a digital drawing app. It is fun and frustrating, as well as surprisingly absorbing. I have probably had too much screen time and not enough stitching time recently, but it will balance itself out eventually. New things always take longer than you expect.
My shop banner is very simple but I quite like it.
Most of all this past week I have enjoyed the freedom of not having to go out to work, and the luxury of time to do some of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Time is one of the most precious things we have and last week it was all mine.
I’ve been taking some time out this week, just to look and think, and it’s been immensely restorative.
I like playing with watercolours, though with no real expertise. I normally use a student-grade Cotman set, which I’ve had for about twenty years, and they are generally fine just for rough sketchbook work. I also have a small portable set of Sennelier professional half pans, which are better quality than the Cotman. I think tubes are better than pans for larger or more experimental work, so I thought it was perhaps time to invest in some professional quality tubes. I bought a set of Daniel Smith dot cards, which are basically a small but useable dot of paint in every shade that they make. You just add water so you can see and feel how each colour behaves. You can see the dots of paint in the photo, and a little goes a really long way, so there is plenty left. I have spent two entire days looking at them, and they are beyond beautiful.
Colour is really magical. It lifts the spirits, it calms and soothes, and it energises. The science of it is baffling. We are capable of seeing only a tiny fraction of the whole spectrum, in which objects absorb some wavelengths of visible light and reflect others. What we see is the reflected light that hasn’t been absorbed by an object. You could say we see the colour it isn’t.
I had assumed that Daniel Smith paints were going to be much the same as any other watercolours but my (admittedly limited) experience is that they are far superior to any other professional colours I’ve tried. I think watercolour is quite a forgiving medium anyway, in that it’s difficult to make watercolours look ugly. These paints are a dream to use, even for a novice like me. They dilute immediately, they are beautifully smooth, and they are really easy to handle. The range and quality of colour is amazing. I made some swatch cards, and then I made lots of samples on 300gsm watercolour paper cut into 2” x 3” pieces.
I even like the newsprint drop paper that I used to protect the drawing board.
I completely love these paints. Whether they will make me a better artist is absolutely debatable, but the pleasure of using something of this quality will far outweigh any disappointment in the results. The joy is always in the doing rather than the having.
Several of the samples are iridescent. They are interesting but I’m not sure I would use them – though of course, never say never! I’ve cut them out and threaded them onto a bit of cotton yarn just in case. There is also plenty of useable paint on these, so I will hang on to them and wait for an opportunity to present itself. You can get watercolour iridescent medium, so really you could make anything sparkly if you wanted to.
I will probably cut the others up into little tags when I’ve exhausted all the paint. Now I just have to narrow it down and choose some colours…
I did a little experiment yesterday. I imagine lots of people have done this before, but it’s the first time I’ve got round to trying fabric paint to colour thread. I used Jacquard dye-na-flow liquid colour, which behaves more like dye than paint, and applied it with a brush to create a space-dyed effect.
I only used three colours – lemon yellow, turquoise, and purple – with a little black to ‘sadden’ rather than darken. I soaked the threads first in water and squeezed out the excess before painting. They dried outside on the washing line. Fabric paints generally need heat to set them, and I figured if you can iron fabric, which is basically woven thread, then you can also iron thread so I gave them a quick steam with the iron when they were dry. I think I’ve read somewhere that these paints will cure in the air as well if you leave them a few days.
I quite like the pastel/watercolour effect but maybe wouldn’t water the colours down so much every time. I wondered if painting the thread would change the hand, and it does, slightly – they are still soft, but maybe not quite as soft as they would be if I’d used dye. On the whole I think I prefer dyed thread, but I found there is slightly more control over the colour with paint. It will be interesting to see how colourfast and lightfast these threads turn out to be over time. I road-tested a bit on today’s stitch journal block: