Tuesday, August 8, 2017

10 Tips for Creating Realism

   1.  Start small! Start with an item and draw it every day until you are confident. When you first do a full picture start with a small canvas so you do not feel overwhelmed. 

   2.  Break your piece down into individual sections, this will also help you “see” what you are drawing instead of what you think you should see.

   3.  Realism is like a puzzle made up of small abstract shapes. Train your eye to look for those shapes.

   4.  Do not be afraid to push your values! High contrast usually makes for a more interesting image!!

   5.  When starting out, if you struggle with color, work in black and white to get a feel for detail and values. You can always glaze later if you want to. 

   6.  When working in color, use a view finder if you are having trouble figuring out what color you are trying to recreate. Take a white piece of paper, punch a hole in it and put it up to your reference, this will help you to identify the color more easily.

   7.  Speaking of identifying color, shadows are never just black! 

   8.  Experiment with your chosen medium a bit before jumping into a realism piece, practice blending and layering, watch tutorials, read about your medium etc.

   9.  Do not be afraid to ruin it!! We all have times when we are not happy with a piece, it’s part of being an artist, do not let that fear ruin your desire to push your own boundaries!

   10. Realism takes time! Both to develop the skill and when creating each individual piece. Be patient with yourself!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

10 Tips and Tricks for Artists.

Here are some tricks I that have helped me over the years! 




   1.       Use a thermos, travel mug or water bottle for your beverage while painting. This way you do not have to worry about dipping your brush into your drink, and it lessens the risk of your drink being spilled all over your project.

   2.       If you do not like using harsh chemicals such as turpentine to clean your brushes there is a product called “The Masters” Brush cleaner that works great for Oil, Acrylic and Watercolor. They also have hand soap and a marvelous stain stick. If you are short on cash Dawn dish soap works well for brushes, even oil brushes. Dish soap is made to cut grease so works well for oil paint, it may take a bit longer than traditional brush cleaners but you are likely to have it on hand and it’s cheap and more importantly safe. Some shampoos may work also for the same reason.

   3.       If you have been drawing intensively for a long period of time and have an achy hand run it under warm water. The warmth is nice for the ache and the beating water acts as a massage. Also, a small rice sock works great too.

   4.       Use an old, large, candy/chocolate tin to store palette in fridge to keep paint wet in between painting sessions. I spray the palette before putting it in and keep the freshness paper right in there so the paint doesn’t obtain additional moisture from the fridge. If you are using acrylic check your palette periodically as acrylic is prone to molding. I have used mine for up to two weeks without an issue. This is a good alternative to using a stay wet palette made with paper towels as those are quite prone to molding. The tin itself is a safer alternative then just covering it with tin foil because there is less chance of paint coming in contact with food if you keep a messy palette.

   5.       Always lay brushes flat or hang them upside down while drying or storing. Do not leave brush in water too long while working. Leaving the brush in the water container bristle side down while working will eventually warp the bristles. Storing them bristle side up while drying can cause un-rinsed paint particles or water to build up in the barrel of the brush which will eventually clog the bristles or rot the brush.

   6.       When starting a piece always draw the preliminary sketch on lighter/cheaper paper then transfer it to your more expensive paper or canvas. This lessons the risk of damaging the good paper during the preliminary stages while you are working out your composition. It also allows for more mistakes and less worry when erasing giving you freedom to change things around more without worry of wasting expensive materials.

   7.       When opting to use the grid method for a preliminary sketch I use graph paper, it saves a lot of time and is more accurate than drawing the grid myself. This helps me a lot since I have astigmatism so my vision is a bit skewed at times. Bonus-less measuring! 

   8.       When drawing it is usually more accurate to work with the piece upright, laying it down in front of you pushes part of it farther away and can distort things. (This is something I struggle with myself as I feel like I have more control when leaning over the drawing) (demonstrate distortion with piece) It is also better for your back when you are not leaning over a piece.

   9.       If you are someone who does not have a studio and have to clean up between sessions use a fun pouch to put the tools you are currently using the most. That way they are set aside for the next session and you do not have to weed through the rest of your art supplies to find them again.

   10.   Take a picture of your artwork while working on it, it will help you see it with fresh eyes. Using a mirror or turning the artwork upside down can do this too. (Though there are exceptions when it comes to the mirror-) When all else fails if you are feeling overwhelmed by a piece sleep on it. Do not be afraid to put it away and come back in a day or two to set fresh eyes on it. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Experience with Spectrum Noir Colourblend Colored Pencils

Please Note: This post is not sponsored by Spectrum Noir in any way. This is just my personal experience with this product. 

120 Colors available
Easy to blend
Little breakage
Comfortable to hold
Wood casing is lightweight yet durable
Color coded ends
Each Pencil is labeled with color name (unlike previous lines from this company)


Very waxy
White is not very opaque
Colors on color coded end not very accurate
Can be difficult to get a fine tip
Not available open stock
Some colors feel a bit scratchy 
Thick leads make it harder to get fine detail


The company says these pencils are lightfast but does not provide specifics on each color. I have not been able to find definitive lightfast ratings for these pencils.

These pencils are very transparent which can be a pro or a con depending on favored techniques.

Because these are wax based pencils, layers can build up quick which can help make the drawing go faster, however it can be a hindrance if the tooth of the paper fills up too fast.

There are 120 colors in this line and they are split up in 5 sets of 24. Each set is affordable and has a fun theme. 


Shades and Tones 

You can find a breakdown of each set HERE


    I had been wanting to try these pencils for a long time because as most of you know, I am a fiend when it comes to art supplies so I want to try everything that's out there. These pencils appealed to me because I love the fact that they come in themed sets. They are affordable so it is easy to start with a set at a time and collect more from there. The downside is that these pencils are not available in open stock and I do not want to have to buy a whole new set if I happen to run out of one color. These are marketed towards fine artists so to me it is a big issue that they are not available open stock. 

    I would also like to see lightfast ratings on these pencils. The company claims that their pencils are lightfast, but they do not provide specific ratings on each pencil. As with most companies (aside from Caran d'Ache Luminance) there are bound to be a few colors that are not lightfast. It would be nice to have the statistics so that I can avoid the colors that are not lightfast ahead of time.

    I chose the "Essentials" set because I like to do a variety of subjects and this set seemed to have the widest range of colors. I was quite pleased with the variety of colors that I got and was glad I chose this set to start with. 



   I decided to do a small 5"x7" piece just to try these out. Since this set came with three blues, three browns, and three greys I decided to do something ocean themed. I chose to draw a seagull on some rocks by the water from a reference photo that I took a couple of years ago. I did the drawing on Strathmore 400 Series Mixed Media Paper, which was a mistake on my part. I love this paper for it's durability but it does not have enough tooth for wax based pencils. Silly move on my part because I knew better but I had misplaced the paper I originally wanted to use. It should be noted though that I have used oil based colored pencils on this paper before and did not have nearly the same issues. 
   Because of my poor choice in paper I found myself fighting to get enough layers and saturation. This is common with wax based pencils and I found myself fighting off the dreaded wax bloom. By the end of the drawing the tooth of the paper was so filled up that I was barely even able to sign my work. Since then I have done a few test swatches on Stonehenge paper which has more tooth and found the saturation to be much better. However, the waxy layers do still build up very quickly so these pencils definitely need paper with a lot of tooth. The colors did blend smoothly and are similar to Prismacolor as far as blending goes but are not as vibrant as Prismacolor saturation wise (even on Stonehenge.) I did have a few issues with some of the greys and browns feeling a bit scratchy but did not seem to have issues with the blues. These are thicker pencils which are comfortable to hold and feel similar in hand to Derwent. This thickness made it difficult for me to get a fine point using my hand held sharpener and made it difficult for me to fit them in my electric sharpener. It also made it difficult for me to get fine detail while drawing. I was able to get a fine tip with my Derwent Super Point Manual  sharpener though. The cores were strong and I experienced very little breaking while sharping or in use. I think before I buy any more sets I will do another finished piece on different paper just to be sure it will be worth investing in more of these pencils.  I also do not want to invest too much more without proper lightfast ratings. 

Finished Piece "Beach Bum" © Shana L Rowe Jackson
Finished piece "Beach Bum"  © Shana L Rowe Jackson 2017

   I think this would be a great pencil for people who are just starting out in the medium. They are affordable, easy to blend, seem to have low issues in quality control, and have a lot of appeal with their sets. However, I think long term as far as artist quality it would be important to know the lightfast ratings on each pencil. I also find it inconvenient that they do not offer them open stock.

 You can find out more about these pencils and buy a set HERE

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