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A Review of Watercolor Brushes: What Type of Watercolor Brush is Best?

With so many choices available on the market, how can you decide on the best brushes to use for watercolor? First, watercolor is a transparent medium. It goes on in thin layers of color and lets the white paper act as a white light source for your hues. How you want to put down those colors is as much personal choice as it is functional device. So, you want the feel and comfort of the brush to help guide your decision.

From a practical perspective, you want a brush that loads up with paint well to eliminate constantly dipping the brush into the paint or water. You want a brush made with natural hair that has a nice "belly", wider in the center, that tapers to a good point. Some natural hairs do this better than others. The best, in my opinion, is pure Kolinsky sable. Its large belly and long, tapered hairs hold a lot of fluid. These hairs, in the finest brushes, come from only the tail hairs of the male. So, for a truly fabulous watercolor painting experience, splurge on a Kolinsky sable brush at some point. These are the finest brushes for watercolor. But, keep in mind that pure Kolinsky sable was banned in 2014. Pure red sable from the sable marten is no longer available. Hence, today's Kolinsky sable comes from the tails of Siberian weasels. Still, they are fine brushes.

You can certainly find good watercolor brushes without going all out for pure Kolinsky. These are squirrel, goat, horse and "camel" to name the rest of the naturals. Then there are the synthetics such as nylon, silicone, and faux this or faux that. Try as many as you can until you find what works best for you and your personal style. By the way, earlier you saw that I put camel in quotes. That is because camel hair brushes are made from other critters' hair such as horse, goat, or squirrel. Also, many times these mixed hair brushes are just marketed as natural hair brushes. There is also ox, which comes from inside of cows ears. Sabeline is ox hair that has been bleached, then dyed to look like red sable.

Other considerations when buying brushes include a well-made ferrule (the metal thing that holds the hairs), short or long handle (short is usually preferred by watercolorists), and handle material (wood or plastic). The ferrule should be put on, as well as the hairs, with waterproof glue. The handle should be sealed well if made from wood.

Your brushes will last for many years if you buy good quality and take good care of them. One more tip: brushes last far longer if you always pull, and never push them across the painting surface.

There are several brands of good quality brushes. In better art supply stores you can find Winsor & Newton, Grumbacher, Princeton, Simmons, and Liquitex, to name a few.

In our store in Hamilton, Ohio, you can see many of these brushes and touch before you buy.


Art Pencil Drawings with Watercolor and Ink

One of my favorite ways to make art is by using pen, ink and watercolor. I learned about this method from Claudia Nice, who holds workshops at her studio in Oregon. Claudia has a lot of animals at her place, and workshop participants are able to see exactly how a horse's fur should be drawn by looking right at the horse!

When starting your drawing, you will first choose a subject or scene that you want to draw. If you're new to drawing or to this form of art, choose something simple, such as a flower. The first step is to work up a pencil drawing sketch. You can use art pencils or just a regular pencil to do this.

By now you're probably telling yourself that you can't draw and we want you to keep reading to see why this just isn't true! Anyone has the ability to draw or sketch using a piece of paper and a pencil. You can start by tracing your subject onto the paper using a picture or photo. Another way is to look at a picture in a book and rough sketch it while looking at it. You can also create abstract art by drawing shapes on your paper -- just whatever comes to mind.

Some supplies that you will need are:

A pencil Watercolor paints, watercolor sticks, or watercolor pencils A small paint brush and some water Ink pens -- the ink must be waterproof, smudge proof and archival Watercolor paper - 130 lb is a good choice A picture or an idea of what you'd like to draw

Once the pencils drawing is complete, the ink work is added next. This is simple to do by just tracing over the pencil lines you've just drawn with the ink pen. Adding depth and dimension using extra ink in areas to darken can be done by looking at your original photo or picture and adding shading where needed. If you're drawing an animal, you can add lines or strokes of ink to darken the fur around the eyes and ears.

The watercolor is next so it's time to choose the areas where the color will be added. If you're using watercolor paint, get your small brush ready and some water. Be careful not to put too much water on your brush so that the colors don't all run together; that is, unless you want them to! You're the artist so experiment and have fun. Remember there is no such thing as bad art and you can keep your work all to yourself if you want. Feel the freedom that comes from making art.


A Review of Art Paper Terms and Types: What are the Best Paper Types for Artists?

Paper surface is affected by a number of different factors. The type of fiber used to make the paper, the moulding or manufacturing process, whether made by machine or by hand, and screens used in finishing the process. Surface texture is referred to as "tooth". Tooth is determined by the texture of the screens used in the process. Let's review some paper terms and uses:
1. Acid-Free---paper made with a neutral PH giving it higher resistance to yellowing and becoming brittle over time.
2. Grammage---the weight of the paper measured in grams per square meter of paper (gsm). The higher the grammage of paper the more it can endure coats of paint or amounts of water.
3. Pounds (lbs.)---the weight of the paper measured in 500 sheets (ream) of a particular size. For example, standard 22"x30" ream of watercolor paper that weights 300 lbs. is a 300 lb. paper. Even if that paper is in larger than standard sheets and weighs much more, because a standard 22"x30" ream weighs 300 lbs., it is still a 300 lb. paper.
4. Hot Press (HP)---paper that has been "ironed" by going through steel rollers. This creates a very smooth surface preferred by artists doing detail work in ink, graphite, or markers, for example. Used by portrait artists.
5. Cold Press (CP)---sometimes referred to as "Not" meaning it has not been pressed by warm rollers. This paper has a light texture and is the paper surface most used by artists. The 140 1b. and 300 lb. weights work well for watercolor and printmaking.
6. Laid---Laid papers have a very subtle line texture created by the manufacturing process. Ideal for softer mediums such as graphite, colored pencils, charcoal, and pastels.
7. Rough---papers that are close to some handmade papers with a heavy textured surface. It produces textural qualities in drawing, pastels, and charcoal valued by some artists.
8. Vellum---very smooth surface found in bristol board and papers and tracing papers. Excellent for highly detailed drawings.
9. Deckle edges---the untrimmed and irregular edges of machine-made papers that are made to look like traditional handmade papers.
Papers made by hand produce unpredictable and uneven textures that are desired by many artists. Fibers and plant materials can be pressed into the paper during its production that creates interesting visual effects and possibilities. The most common handmade paper is made with 100% cotton fibers. These papers have good resilience and can absorb water well making them good for watercolor, acrylics, and ink washes.
Machine-made papers are moulded on rollers and are less expensive than most handmade papers. They also tend to be smoother and depending on certain types of rollers, the papers are quite smooth and less expensive.
The heavier papers like 140lb and 300lb take water well and are good for watercolor and washes as well as printmaking. Some artists also prefer to draw on the smoother surfaced papers in these heavy weights like vellum or smooth finishes. Lighter weight papers like 90lb and under work well for most drawing needs in pencil, charcoal, markers, etc.
Quality papers made by Strathmore, Winsor & Newton, Arches, Canson, and Stonehenge, to name a few, are readily available both in pad and sheet form in better art supply stores.
You can see many of these papers in sheets as well as pads in our store in Hamilton, Ohio.


Watercolor Painting - How to Create Watercolors That Reach Beyond Reality Into Poetry

Watercolor Artists Who Paint Landscapes Share a Special Bond with Poets

Artists and poets are united in their love of nature. Nature sustains them, and creative individuals can never get enough. Watercolor artists depict a scene with a paintbrush loaded with color. The poet carefully selects words to evoke a picture in your mind's eye. It's for you to supply memories and associations that make the painting or poem a touchstone you simply must have.

"When a painted summer landscape can capture the warmth and restfulness and grace of this season, and perhaps even the rumble of distant thunder, then it begins to approach that tenuous edge of reality where poetry resides. When the voices of other summers whisper through a canvas to the viewer, it has hit the mark". Elizabeth Mowry

A poetic landscape will draw you in until "you hear the voices of other summers whisper through the canvas," as Elizabeth Mowry states. Many times you encounter a "quiet space" within a painting - just enough spaciousness to intuit the artist's true intention. It might also be compared to a "still point" of inner balance while meditating.

The sensed stillness in a picture speaks volumes within the painting and about the artist. Colors used by the artist may be warm and inviting, for example, depicting the light of a summer morning, with mist rising and the pine trees still... not even a tiny breeze. Looking at a painting such as this, you just know it's going to be a hot, country day!

Artists and Poets Evoke Mood by Expressing Their Bliss

The artist uses color and brushstrokes to soothe your soul and inspire peacefulness each time you view the painting. Poets choose words that express their serenity and joy. Poetry and art paint with words and color in ways that defy logic yet deeply nourish the spirit.

The watercolor landscape artist loves to portray the woodlands, paths, meandering creeks mountains and farms. This is poetry for the artist's soul. Painting nature as they see it, they become absorbed in their painting and forget of troubles and cares of the day.

Poets paint their pictures with the color of their words, the sweep of their expressions and re-creations of their inspiration.

Many times as I encounter scenes of the countryside, I'm reminded of my happy childhood in the country on a small farm. My paintings reflect lessons taught by my parents, who were deeply attuned to nature and the seasons. I have learned first-hand that inspiration can come from many things.

So if you are moved by nature, I warmly encourage you to create watercolors, poems or any other expressions of your joy, so that others can join that enchanted realm of inspiration where you find yourself.


The Watercolor Paintings of Elizabeth Sullivan

Ten years ago artist Elizabeth Sullivan moved into a studio apartment. That little event sparked a career as a watercolor painter. Although she had been painting, drawing, dying fabrics and doing sculpture since she was very young, Ms. Sullivan was forced to take up watercolors in her small space, because there was no room for other media.

She found out that she liked watercolors best, and although the tiny home in a studio apartment has been replaced with a house and studio in Elgin, Texas, she still excels at watercolors. Art prints of her paintings are published in Sweden and distributed internationally, and her work has been used by other companies to adorn coasters, cards, area rugs and more. She is best known for her southwestern watercolors of horses and wildlife, but her recent paintings of dogs and cats have become wildly popular.

Sullivan acknowledges that one of her inspirations is cave paintings and pictographs and the vibrant hues of the southwest. She uses an interesting technique to achieve the yellows, reds, oranges, browns and turquoise, which used a characteristic of watercolor, but is not an ordinary watercolor technique. Watercolors are transparent - so by layering one color on top of another in several stages, brilliant color pops off the page.

Another aspect of her paintings is paint that flows across the page. "The tendency of water is to flow," she says, "and I just add more water and let it flow. Of course the trick is to get it to flow where you want it to go, in the proper amount."

"I used to paint a lot more realistically," remarks Ms. Sullivan, " but what I really wanted to express was the graceful and powerful motion of the animals, so as time passes my paintings become more and more ethereal in that expression." Motion is a key concept in her paintings - horses, buffalo, longhorn cattle and even armadillos and horned lizards actually seem to move in her paintings.

She catches other animal motion, too. The armadillo mama with her four babies waddles along searching for someone's garden to root around in. The horned lizards circle each other, deciding their next moves.

The subjects of her paintings are subjects familiar to the artist. Horned lizards are a recent addition to her subject matter, and after a patron expressed interest, Ms. Sullivan recalled her own childhood fascination with the little creatures. If you make your home in Texas, armadillos are part of the scenery - often found digging up your garden. She has worked around horses for most of her life and studied the animals exhaustively. Each new subject she takes up requires much study and sketching to narrow down the essence of the animal. Then a painting can be begun.

With her four cats sleeping at her feet or walking across a fresh painting, Elizabeth Sullivan loves spending time in her studio or on a ladder working on a new mural. You may also find her at a gallery or art show.

Visit her website www.ecsullivan.com and feel free to contact her by email at ecsullivan@aol.com


Artists - Use a Day Planner to Quickly Achieve Your Goals

Organization Boosts Your Creativity!

Using the artist day planner and achieving your artistic goals faster can go hand in hand. What better time than right now to begin using this wonderful organizational tool?

Day planners are enormously helpful if you want to stay organized. It's quite a challenge for me to store and remember appointments, daily events, and all those chores that just have to be completed. I would much rather be able to direct all my attention to creating my art while I am painting. And then, when I am done, I know just where to look to make sure my day doesn't get away from me.

More Is Not Always Better.

Personally, I've tried the new, wonderful electronic versions, but I haven't had good results. The mental and physical process of keeping appointments, goals and personal information in electronic devices, while quite common today, just doesn't seem like a good fit for me. It doesn't seem to flow. Is this true for you, as well?

I wonder if artists sometimes appreciate having the tactile sensation of writing in a book, seeing their own handwriting, and being able to turn pages. Because I love the natural world, I love the natural feel of the day planner I use.

It used to be different when I was not working professionally as an artist, and I worked in the corporate world. A large desk calendar held all the appointments, meetings and vacation/sick leave time. Now that I'm working from home, I'm happy to be able to reduce my calendar size.

Which Page Layout Is Best for You?

Many years ago, I received a brown, leather day runner. Ever since then, I've used it to keep appointments, etc. Choosing the type of day planner page is important. There are many different types, so you may want to compare them. My personal choice displays 3 days on one side and 4 days on the other side. This type of planner is flat, so you can see the whole week at once on the open page. Also included in this type of day planner are calendars of the present month, next month and year.

I like that they also feature pages for personal notes, where I can keep information from sizes to grocery lists at my fingertips. This type of day planner is all you need to become more efficient, keep your goals on track and achieve the organized life you want to live.

Although the paper day planner is probably the oldest way of planning, I believe that it is the fastest, easiest way to keep your day, week, month or year moving in an orderly fashion! It certainly is for me.

I welcome your comments about your favorite ways of keeping your artistic day running smoothly.


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