Posts in category "rants"

Handmade mini pocket watercolor box

I finally made myself a tiny watercolor box I can always carry with me :) The Sakura Koi set is lovely, but I don't have room for it on most days. The trouble was, I live in the backwater second world country, and I couldn't find Altoids or other similar candy anywhere, nor the empty half pans and full pans, which most people use because they work so awesome together.
A few days ago I stumbled into a new Durex product called Love-Box which seemed perfect for my project! And here it is in all its glory:

Handmade mini pocket watercolor tin

I saw people making palettes out of polymer clay such as this one, or this one, but I think too much space is wasted by this solution, and the clay is dead weight. And of course, I wanted to be able to move the paint to a new box if need be, or replace paint if I change my mind etc. Turns out my box could fit exactly 9 Scrabble tiles (you're wondering how I remembered to check that? so do I) so I used a tile as a measuring guide.
The process of making these pans was tedious, and I accidentally squished them a few times, so I would not recommend you to do the same thing unless you are a really neat and patient person. But it worked for me!

Handmade polymer clay empty pans

I divided the box lid into 4 wells using acrylic sealant (hot glue gun works just as well) and when it dried, I sprayed the inside of the box and the pans with white acrylic.

Watercolor sketch box, empty

After it has dried throughly, I squeezed the tubes of paint I selected into the pans.
8 colors are from the tube, and one is a half pan in its original plastic which fit in perfectly. All paints are student grade.

  • Lemon yellow (Le Franc & Bourgeois)
  • Brilliant red (Le Franc & Bourgeois)
  • Quinacridone magenta (Maimeri Venezia)
  • Ultramarine blue (Le Franc & Bourgeois)
  • Cerulean blue (Maimeri Venezia)
  • Pthalo green (Maimeri Venezia)
  • Burnt sienna (Le Franc & Bourgeois)
  • Raw sienna (Maimeri Venezia)
  • Payne's gray (Winsor & Newton Cotman)

The box is a tiny thing measuring only 6.5 x 6.5 x 1.8cm, and Love-Box designs are very stylish.

My hand with the watercolor box

I'm spending this long weekend on the island in my parents' house, and I will take my pretty tiny box everywhere! ♥ And hopefully, come back with a lot of sketches to show.

P.S. The 30 day drawing challenge is currently on hold. I may catch up for the weekend.

My new Epson scanner arrived! (Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner Review)

I bought an Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner, and tested it today so here's my review!
I was a little skeptic because I read many reviews that pointed out some issues, but so far I had none.

I was deciding between this model and Canon CanoScan 5600F. They are around the same price and have very similar features, and the reviews are equally good (or equally irate). My deciding point was that Epson can open the lid fully up to 180° as the images clearly showed, but I wasn't sure if Canon can do that. Since most of my artwork is larger than A4, this is very important to me.

So, am I satisfied? Yes, pretty much! :D I have scanned some of my drawings and paintings and the scans are just sooo much better than the photos I made of them. Here's an example:

Photo vs. scanner

See the new scan of Animus in full size :)

I used my Pentax k100D SLR for the photo, I took the shot in daylight with a tripod, and preserved the RAW format so basically, that's the best you can get without studio lighting. I retouched it to get more accurate colors, but there simply wasn't enough color information to begin with. Compared to the scan it's washed out.
The scan is very close to the original, the colors are very vibrant, contrast is perfect, I had to make minimal color adjustments. The paper texture is maybe too harsh (it's not so evident in person), but I can live with that.
I noticed on the new scan of Ascent that it picked up even the subtlest creases on the paper, but it can be retouched — as long as all the shades are there (and they pretty much are!) it's good.

I don't really need the transparency unit so much, but 25 Euro difference wasn't a big deal, so it's nice to have that option in case I decide to have fun with my vintage film cameras again.
Canon LiDE models were out of the question because of the CIS sensor which is pretty much useless for anything that's not completely flat. Forget about mixed media/collage, warped watercolor paper, paper that has been folded and such.

One other thought: the scanner software applies automatic settings when you preview the scan. I haven't found the option to turn it off completely yet, but there is a button that resets the settings to normal. You can either use the scanning software settings then to adjust your scan, or if you prefer to use a certain program (GIMP or Photoshop) just scan as it is, and then edit the image in your favorite program, which is what I'm doing.

I've been without a scanner for over a year, but the one I had was not very good (one of the older HP all-in-one printers), it used to cut off subtle shades and this was very frustrating, so photographing pieces was actually a better option.

If you don't have a scanner, it's OK if you have a decent point-and-shoot camera. Some of my artwork photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC-W170 from my hand, and it worked well too. The only trick is that you take it in daylight so the colors are accurate, and you have a steady hand (I take 5-6 photos and pick the clearest one). My sketches and WIPs were taken on incandescent light, so it took a lot of Levels adjusting to get the colors from yellowish to neutral.
If you're thinking about a scanner for your traditional artwork, I can recommend this one. I'll let you know if anything changes :)

Meet the sketchbooks

Hi, my name is Nela and I am a sketchbook addict :) It started when I began to draw during my electrical engineering classes. I got tired of drawing on math paper so I always carried a folder with a few A4 papers. But at some point in 2006. I bought a large notebook with clear sheets (for geometry class) to keep my ideas in one place (until then they were scattered everywhere), and that's how it started. This notebook wasn't very good, the paper was too thin for anything serious, but it's full of quick sketches and ideas. Next I bought a small spiral-bound sketchbook pictured below. Most of my "lectures are boring" sketches originated in it.

My sketchbooks

After that I bought a fancy Winsor & Newton spiral-bound A5 watercolor sketchbook that to this date has 3 drawings in it. Because it's fancy n' shit.
I got a teNeues notebook to replace the small one and I currently use this one the most since I have it with me all the time.
Next I bought two Lega-lega notebooks, one regular A5 and a small one with red pages. I considered the one with black pages, but I figured the red one will be more usable. I haven't used it much though as I rarely carry it. The regular one I use pretty often, I take it whenever I have room in my bag. You can see the scribbles I made on it here.
I had more that I ditched because they weren't as good, so I won't address them here. You may have noticed that I don't use a Moleskine. (EDIT: now I do.)

My sketchbooks

Pictured above you can see a fragment of unfinished Tarsatica, contemplating on the In obscuro logo and some jewelry doodles in the red notebook, a spread of the used up small notebook (posted: random typography, Lectures are back), a glimpse of the teNeues spread (posted: Summer sketches), and in the Lega-lega you can see a quick sketch of Animus and another that I won't out yet, it's a personal project I'm currently working on.

For now I've been mostly using ballpoint pen, mechanical pencil and fineliners, but I've started to use some color and watercolor pencils as well.

And as a bonus, here's a sketch from last night - Michelangelo's Bacchus.

Bacchus sketch

So to wrap it up, get a sketchbook, or if you're a writer, a regular notebook :) You never know when inspiration may strike, so you better be ready!

EDIT: This post is a bit outdated by now, please hop on to My Sketchbooks Comparison to see some of my new sketchbooks and my opinions on them!

Sheep skulls I

I completely forgot I had a sheep skull in a box lying around. I've been planning to make something with it, but before that I'll do some still life studies because bones are always such an interesting subject.

The first one I did last night. Just a general study. I used black and white sketching pencils, and red watercolor pencils.

sheep skull drawing

Today's one was an attempt at comic-like drawing with a marker and ink, but as you can see I'm not very good at it, the lines are pretty messy. I suppose stippling would work much better here. Maybe I'll try that tomorrow.

sheep skull drawing

I found this skull last spring I think, while I was walking with my mom through a village I used to live in when I was a kid. I saw it on the ground and said, "Hey look!". We paused, and then she asked, "Are you going to take it?" Of course I wanted to take it, but I'm so used to her being grossed out about everything, especially me picking up dead things from the ground and bringing them in the house (mostly insects) that I was reluctant to bring it up. So I guess this was her way of saying "It's OK, I accept you as a weirdo you are, you're a grown up now and I don't mind if you carry a sheep's skull in your bag." How nice of her.

Anyway. I'll be doing studies of this skull in a variety of techniques so I may bore you to hell with it. Sorry.

Why you should always test art materials first (and why I hate HP)

Yesterday I finally took the time to sculpt one of the art print brooches I had planned for a while. Since it was 1 A.M. when I finished it, I decided not to make the others but just bake that one and finish it right away. Thank goodness, because if I had done all of them I would be pretty pissed right now.

After baking, varnishing and gluing it together with the photo print of my work Remnants, I poured Stamperia resin over the photo and let it cure overnight. But even after half an hour I realized it won't turn out good as the photo looked blurrier than it really should. This morning I saw that my suspicion was correct. See for yourself:

Brooch FAIL

After this I can only say - I hate you HP, with a passion. This was not my first disappointment with my Photosmart D7360.

First of all, you can't print anything unless all cartridges are full (6 of them!), even if you've selected "Black and white" and "Black ink only" settings. So I went to the store and spent 60€ on 4 HP Vivera cartridges and 12€ on quality HP 10x15cm photo paper.

I assembled a 10x15cm sheet in Photoshop with my artworks and selected borderless print option. Turns out, what HP calls "borderless" is short for "expand the photo for about 5mm beyond all the edges and crop to paper size". Some Google searching confirmed other Photosmart users were experiencing this issue as well. However after about an hour and 5-6 wasted photo papers, I've found a post by a user who found which combination of printer and Photoshop settings gives the correct output.

After the resin fiasco, I went to the store and bought decoupage glue, after confirming with the sales woman that it is supposed to be used with ink jet, not laser printers. I decided to test it along with all varnishes I had at home. At least I had plenty of scrap print samples :[

After an hour or so, I can say that so far most of the varnishes proved incompatible with HP Vivera ink:

  • acrylic matte spray varnish slightly changed some of the inks and on some places left a bunch of tiny white spots
  • synthetic glossy spray varnish hasn't changed colors, but isn't very glossy, it has some texture - maybe the spray cap is clogged, it's a very old can
  • water-based decoupage glue changes colors when wet and some magenta got smeared, but has cured somewhat acceptable (brush strokes are visible) - needs more testing
  • fine art grade matte varnish is very disappointing - on places where it cured well looks good, but white film formed around the edges which you can partly scratch off with your fingers - perhaps it could work if applied to a wider area around the image
  • acrylic gloss medium is useless because it's not truly transparent and changes some ink colors too

I made a pure water test too, as these inks are supposed to be water-resistant. Print that had been immersed in water for a short time and dried afterwards looks fine. Print that has been sitting in water for a few hours does not. This implies that mediums that dry faster have a bigger chance of success.

After I spend this ink, I won't be buying any more - in fact I will hide this printer in my parent's basement because I wouldn't even want to give it to someone for free! The ink is too expensive for everyday printing, and it's obviously not suitable for crafts where a variety of materials is involved. I have yet to test it on transfer paper with textile decoupage glue as a varnish, if that doesn't work I guess this leaves me with laminated bookmarks - the only thing that worked pretty well so far.

Learn from my mistakes:
1.) always test new materials on scrap work before using on real projects, and
2.) don't buy an HP Photosmart printer if you want to do any serious work.

EDIT March 25. 2011

To remove any doubt that the resin is to blame, I have tested it on drawing ink (black and colour), colour pencils, water-soluble colour pencils and diluted acrylic. As expected, they all turned out fine.

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