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Notes on Materials — Watercolor Sets

Wow that last post was pretty wordy, but the bottom line is, I thought I’d put one kind of watercolor paper in my Moleskine mod, but it was another. Still hot press, and still Fabriano Artistico, but bright white instead of off-white and 50% heavier. Good news is it still managed to fit in the book and it works fine.


On to the subject of watercolors. I have two Windsor & Newton sets. I bought the smaller one first, but then I bought the larger one so I wouldn’t have to mix colors as often.


The smaller one didn’t have any browns, grey, or black, and so I found myself mixing those pretty often [edit: it has two browns!]. The larger one has a good number of colors which still can be mixed if I choose, lending itself to an even broader spectrum and allowing me to work a tiny bit faster. It also has a good amount of palette space, which is nice. But when I took this to Sketchcrawl 15 on Aug. 25th, it was a little cumbersome. It didn’t fit in a pocket, and so I had to bring a bag, and it just made it a little more difficult to watercolor on the go. It was easier sitting, but standing proved more of a challenge. Picture this:


So when I went out to Santa Monica about a week ago, I took the smaller set with me and it was much easier to use standing up. Much much easier! See here:


And another plus is everything fit in my pockets! I was wearing cargo shorts, which helped some. If I were a lady or man-bag-guy, I could put it in my purse, but on that day I was cargo-shorts-guy. I also found that since I’ve been using watercolors more readily, I’ve gotten a tiny bit better at mixing colors, and so I didn’t mind mixing my browns, greys, and blacks. In fact, I felt those tones turned out a bit more interesting. A little richer maybe and infused with a little more color, so they could be warm or cool, depending.

So. Conclusion? I’m really happy with this combination of supplies for sketching out in the field. It’s my sketch-kit on-the-go.


(Shown here are my modified Moleskine Daily Planner turned Watercolor Sketchbook, Windsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box watercolor set, 0.9mm Pentel Twist-Erase mechanical pencil, and small Pentel Japan Waterbrush Pen.)


(The only things that would complete this picture are a few paper towels and my Kuretake Brush Pen)

I’ll still use my larger set at home and as I continue to be more familiar with colors, I may end up swapping out some of the pans in my small set for ones I like better. The small palette space may still be a bit limiting, but that can be remedied somewhat with the wipe of a damp paper towel and… practice.

Notes on Materials — Moleskine Mod


The modification has so far gone well. The stubborn curve is starting to come out of the pages and I’ve enjoyed the versatility and portability of this “frankenskine.” But shortly after starting to use it, I became aware that I did NOT refill this moleskine with the same paper I tested out in the weeks prior.

The paper I originally used seemed thinner and slightly off-white, whereas the paper I put into the book was a bright white and somewhat thicker (and as a result, stiffer).

See if you can tell the difference between the two in these photos:

Martha’s instructions at Trumpetvine Travels call for Fabriano Artistico 90lb (200gsm) Hot Press. So which one was which …and how did this happen? A trip back to Blick art supply (on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles) quickly answered that question when I took a look at their watercolor papers and saw what a mess they were! It’s no wonder I grabbed two different papers. They were totally mixed up, with at least three different kinds of paper shelved under each label. By looking at the item numbers penciled on the edges of each sheet, however, and comparing them to the numbers on the shelf labels, I was able to at least figure out which ones I had bought.
And it turns out that the paper I initially tested on was in fact Fabriano Artistico 90lb (200gsm) Hot Press (what Martha suggests) and the paper that I put into my modified Moleskine was a different one — still a Fabriano Artistico Hot Press, but Extra White and 300gsm. The paper is indeed a bright white and it is 150% the thickness!
This mixup explains why the bookblock was such a tight fit for the Moleskine cover. Fortunately, Martha’s recommendations allowed for some leeway, so the bookblock did at least fit and I’m finding it works well enough for my needs so far. One possible advantage is there’s less show-through when using ink, but the downside is I think the ink from my brush pen does not flow quite as smoothly on this paper, although the difference may be pretty slight.
More notes on materials in my next post, when I talk about the pros and cons of different watercolor sets (I bet you can’t wait! I know this is REALLY exciting stuff!).

Arachnid’s Ghost

Arachnid's Ghost
Seen in the Inky World.

Moleskine Modification

I don’t have much time to write this post, so I’m hoping the pictures will speak for themselves. Today I took a Moleskine small daily planner and reloaded it with 90 lb. Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolor paper (according to the instructions posted by Martha at Trumpetvine Travels). This is something I’ve been meaning to do for months, but with Sketchcrawl 15 tomorrow and only two pages left in my current Moleskine sketchbook, today was the day. Some of the watercolored sketches I’ve posted in the past couple weeks have been on loose pieces of Fabriano Artistico already cut and folded with the intention of binding, but I never got around to it. Well, at least now I’m sure I like this paper. It’s versatile. It takes well to pencil, ink, and watercolor. Everything I need in a sketchbook but in the Moleskine format. Anyway, here are the pictures! Sorry there are so many. I’ve sized them down to make them a little more manageable.

Dessert and Digestif

Dessert and Digestif
More from the Inky World.
I came upon this in a town square. An elaborate kinetic sculpture erected to honor the after-dinner partners, Dessert and Digestif. Balanced atop a melting mass of something sweet-looking, is a cherry with an exquisite stem. It contains parts that move and some that are even alive, such as a whole cherry tree. The kinetic parts of the sculpture include an elaborate cherry picking device which operates 12 hours each day, slowly and steadily picking cherries from the tree while with its other arms, it daintily sips a hot cup of tea and raises a sickle (an arm on another section of the sculpture raises a hammer).
What can be interpreted as the Digestif portion of the sculpture is composed of a finely balanced, swinging armiture, on one end of which is a large chalice containing an unknown bubbly black liquid which empties in a constant flow through a spigot and into a receptacle below. However, the armiture routinely swings about, spilling the liquid on the floor all around the sculpture. I got some on my shoe, which caused me to slip around a bit. I also have to admit to swiping a little taste of it with my finger. I found it to be quite good, although a little bit “tarry” for my taste.

Inky World

Inky World
This was drawn about a month ago on the inside cover of a new Moleskine sketchbook (small). Drawn with a water-brush pen filled with ink.

This is somewhat of a return to the sort of content I used to draw a lot more of. That is, somewhat abstract surrealistic landscapes. Play with line and form and composition and a sort of "growing" of what could be organic forms rising up from the ground and taking on shapes that are suggestive of things perhaps we’ve seen before. Take a look around. What do you see? Maybe a cactus, an onion or radish, a duck or a snail, a trumpet, a plume of smoke, a chimney, a balloon, a musical note. A unique scene can kind of evolve out of this stuff. I don’t really know what it is when I start out, but I try to follow my feeling and intuition and use the opportunities presented along the way. It’s nice when something more cohesive comes out of it. There can be a message, or a theme at times. Maybe just an aesthetic idea or something more literal or suggestive.

I’m not exactly sure what’s happening here, except that it is maybe some sort of microscopic city. These forms are a combination of the natural, organic, and the constructed. If you can see the tiny vertical lines in various places atop the forms, it was my thought while drawing that these are perhaps people of some sort. Possibly you and me, or possibly some microscopic life form. Like the Whos in Whoville. Anyway, that can give you a sense of scale and maybe what it might be like to live in this world.

Gumby and Pokey Share Some Laughs




What happened? I was posting almost every day for a good stretch there and then poof! Well, some weeks you got it, some weeks you don’t. However, since the start of the year, I’ve been trying to maintain a steady rate of one post per weekday. While it hasn’t been so steady, I have more or less kept up with my goal. That is, depending on how things go the rest of this month. The way I’ve been figuring this is I add up the number of Saturdays and Sundays in a month and maintain that as the total number of non-blog days I have available. I can then distribute them however I like. If I take too many days off in a month, it gets taken out of the following one. At present, with the number of consecutive days I’ve taken off, I’ll have to post every day for the rest of this month and then I will still be one day behind. Too much? Perhaps. Far more posts-per-month than anyone should be interested in viewing? Definitely. But it’s motivating to try to maintain this kind of schedule and it forces me to take the pressure off a little bit. I can’t come up with five masterpieces a week, so anything is fair fodder for the blog. The mindless, the profane, the inexplicable, and the sublime. So, more (most likely of the former categories) to come.


What can it mean?


Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts of 2006

Last weekend I saw a screening of the Animated Short Films nominated in this year’s Academy Awards ceremony (2006 films, 2007 ceremony). I planned to write a more critical analysis of the films here, but that plan has been causing a delay in posting so I’ve decided to scrap it. I’ll just say that all the films were great. Blue Sky’s No Time for Nuts and Pixar’s Lifted were both funny and well-crafted 3D-animation and it was refreshing to see Disney’s return to more traditional animation and storytelling with the painterly film, The Little Matchgirl. Interestingly, however, while all of these films are probably most akin to my own style both visually and in storytelling, it was The Danish Poet that impressed me the most and stuck with me the longest after viewing. Certainly, all the films are worthy of the award and it will be interesting to see who gets it. I’ll enjoy having a little more insight into this part of the awards show than I have in the past. My expectation is that one of the larger studios will win, but while I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for those studios, it certainly would be wonderful if The Danish Poet received the award.
Check your local listings. If you want to see these films on the big screen, pre-Oscars, your last chance might be Thursday, February 22nd, as most theatres run on a Fri-Thurs schedule. [UPDATE: Some cities have screenings extending into Oscars weekend and some opening later. Follow the "local listings" link above.] Both the live action and animation shorts are screening at L.A.’s Nuart Theatre until Thurs, Feb 22, distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
Incidentally, before the shorts, I saw a preview for Tears of the Black Tiger, a most surreally beautiful and amazing looking Thai Western!

Lost Handlebars

I woke up yesterday morning with this image in my head. I sketched it out in pencil, inked it with a hunt 102 and waterproof ink, added some watercolor and made some minor adjustments in photoshop.



I’ve just been experimenting with a Windsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brush and Speedball Super Black India Ink and testing its water-resistance. So far I’m pretty pleased. I was enjoying inking with the Sumi-filled Aquash, but the sumi ink is just so sensitive to water, that I couldn’t go back into the drawing with watercolor. The Speedball ink seems to flow nicely and adds the advantage of being “waterproof.” This was done on a smooth-surface bristol.
Also, a special shoutout to my brother. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, V!!!

Little Tokyo Afternoon

I paid a visit to my old neighborhood yesterday: Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. First, I walked past my leaky old window. It still has the curtains I rigged up four and a half years ago. They’re looking pretty worse for wear now.


Then lunch at Suehiro. I sat at the counter and ordered the Okonomi Plate. Katsu chicken, vegetable gyoza, and boiled spinach. Along with that comes miso soup, mac salad, and a sort of slaw. I was eating my spinach when I sensed this little japanese lady sitting beside me, laughing under her breath. When I turned to look at her, I saw she was laughing at me. She said, “No soy sauce. Usually, eat with soy sauce.” And she continued to quietly chuckle. I said, “Oh, yeah, I guess so, but it’s fine like this.” She chuckled again. “No flavor,” she said. “No, there’s flavor,” I said. “It tastes like spinach.” I smiled. “Okay,” she said, “but I think, no flavor.” I caved. “Alright, alright,” I told her, and I drizzled some shoyu on the spinach. I have to admit it was a little tastier.


I struck up more conversation with the lady as we ate our meals. She had ordered rice balls — triangular hunks of rice wrapped in nori (dried seaweed), usually with something at its core, such as salmon or dried plum. These didn’t have anything inside of them. She didn’t realize that when ordering. No flavor, she said. I mentioned that I liked rice balls with dried plum and she told me that the best is in her hometown of Mito, north of Tokyo. Best umeboshi. That’s the dried plum. We talked more about where we were from. I mentioned Seattle. She told me her daughter had lived in Seattle. Now she lives in New York where she teaches pole-dancing. I showed the lady my drawing of a soy sauce bottle, miso soup, and katsu sauce bottle. She told me that she paints — watercolor — and that her daughter likes owls, so she paints owls for her daughter. I quickly drew an owl on the page with the other drawings. We laughed at it.

After lunch, I went over to Kinokuniya Bookstore and picked up a few things. Some new Aquash waterbrush pens — small, medium, and large, and some sumi ink. I noticed one of the Aquash sets came with a waterbrush pen already filled with sumi ink. I didn’t want to buy the whole set, so I just got the ink and decided I’d fill one myself. I’ve yet to do it, but am looking forward to experimenting with that.


I also got something I’ve been wanting to pick up since seeing a post on Enrico Casarosa’s blog several months back. Hiyao Miyazaki’s Original Storyboards for My Neighbor Totoro.

IMG_7752.JPG IMG_7754.JPG

I still haven’t gotten a real chance to devour this book, but from flipping through it a couple of times so far, one thing that really stands out to me is how he actually uses quite few lines, yet he is able to really illustrate and communicate or describe what he wants to so clearly. More lines would just get in the way. I think this really illustrates his mastery as a draftsman and is something I could certainly benefit from by keeping in mind.

I’m Baaaaack!

I’ve just gotten back from a vacation to the South Carolina coast and northern Mississippi and it was gorgeous. A refreshing and tranquil break from the grit and sprawl of Los Angeles, to be sure. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I took lots of photos, videos, and managed to do a tiny bit of sketching and watercolor while on my trip. I’ll be adding samples of these things over the next few days while I settle back in and clean up this messy desk I left!

Please stay tuned.

John Lasseter on The Treatment

Pixar family man John Lasseter was interviewed recently by Elvis Mitchell, of KCRW’s The Treatment. For fans of The Animation Podcast, you’ll find this interview rather short, but it is a real radio show after all and Elvis has to stay within his half hour time-slot. KCRW has listed the interview here. If you have iTunes, use this link. If you don’t have iTunes, you can download it free for Mac or Windows.

I highly recommend you check out other interviews from The Treatment. It is one of my favorite podcasts/radio programs. You get really intelligent conversations with a variety of filmmakers, which are a nice break away from the often superficial dribble and obligatory plugs you get on TV talk-shows.