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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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Great Gifts for The Artist in Your Life

Do you have an artist that you know and love? Or perhaps you are an artist who is looking to treat yourself? Here are some fun gift ideas for artists!! 

PLEASE NOTE: Most of the things on this list are things that I have bought myself or that have been gifted to me, this blog post is not sponsored in any way. All the photos were taken by me and remain under my copyright. Click on the photos and links to be connected to the gift you are interested in, or to a place where you can find something similar! Also, please see my wish list below for other fun ideas! 

We all know that the best gift for an artist is usually a specific art supply they have asked for, or a gift card to their favorite art supply store, but sometimes it is fun to give (or receive) gifts that celebrate the person as an artist. Here are some of my favorite gifts ideas! 

Inspirational sketchbooks or journals and fun pens: Every artist I know loves paper and writing utensils! Sketchbooks and journals are great for artists to do quick sketches, and jot down ideas. The inspirational quote is an added bonus to boost creativity, and who doesn't love fun and colorful pens?!

Books/Magazines: Whether it is a book about your artist's favorite artist, or about techniques or mediums they are trying to explore, you can't go wrong with a book about art! You could also get your artist a subscription to one of their favorite art themed Magazines!

Charm bracelets and other jewelry: There is no doubt, most artists love decoration and that does not usually stop at their own appearance. Why not find them a charm bracelet that showcases their love for creating art? The best part? You can usually find handmade jewelry on places like Etsy, so not only are you buying something for your favorite artist, but you are supporting another artist as well!

Artist themed clothing: Most artist's need clothing anyway since theirs is usually covered in paint!
Inspirational tools: The gift of inspiration! There are plenty of great books, decks of cards, and activities out there for artists and writers to help them get past their creativblock. (Please click picture for 642 Things to Draw. For the "Wide Open" set, go HERE.
A funky version of their favorite medium: I just love these stick colored pencils that my sister got me! Rustic, and a great collectable!

Fun pencil pouches: These pouches are great for the artist on the go and there is such a great variety out there, you are sure to find one that fits your artist's personality! 
These can be found at most of your favorite retailers!

Handmade by you: Do you create as well? No one will appreciate the love and care that goes into something handmade more than your favorite artist!! For instance, my sister designed this giraffe for me, and it is one of my all time favorite gifts!!
Crochet Design By Sonya Blackstone, Painting and Photos taken by Shana Rowe Jackson

 For more ideas check out my Wish List! 
Van Gogh Guitar Picks 
Artist Inspired Scarf 
Craftsy Classes 
Paint Splatter Coffee Mug 
Monet Puzzle 
Easel Brush Clip
Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you find the perfect gift for your favorite artist!! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Art Over The Years

Hello everybody and Happy 2017!! I have had a lot of questions lately about how long I have been an artist, and how I decided to get into art. I started saving my artwork and scrapbooking it by the time I was 8 or 9 years old, and since it is a new year, I thought it would be fun to share some of that artwork with all of you. I decided to choose one piece for each year that I have been creating. Even though I have created everything from landscapes, to portraits to animals, I decided to keep the theme to people to keep it more cohesive. There were some years that I did not have a lot of artwork depicting people to choose from, so I decided to share whatever I had, even if it was not my best. Here is my newest YouTube video, I hope you enjoy!! 

For more on my artwork or for prints feel free to visit my website!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Experience with Blick Studio Artists' Colored Pencils

 "Nature's Confetti" in Blick Studio Artists' Colored Pencils-
"Nature's Confetti" 8"x10" Blick Studio Artist's and Black Derwent Drawing Colored Pencils on Canson Mi Teintes (Pearl) Paper. My own reference photo. © Shana L Rowe Jackson 2016

Before reading- please note that I am in no way sponsored by Blick, nor did they ask me to review their product. This is just my personal experience with these colored pencils.

First Impressions:

  • Pencils come in a tin case and are organized by color (They also offer a wooden cased set that costs a bit more.)
  • Pencils have wood casing that are color coated to match lead
  • Come pre-sharpened
  • The butt end of the pencil is open which is great for checking if the lead is centered.
  • Good range of blues, greens, grays and browns (These are the first colors I check for)
  • Wax based
  • 72 count set (largest set they offer at this time)

From Blick’s Website-

“Blick Artists’ Colored Pencils were specially developed utilizing feedback from Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) artist members and teachers. The result is a professional-quality colored pencil at an affordable price that has been manufactured to Blick’s exacting standards. Use Blick Studio Artists’ Colored Pencils for fine art applications or wherever you need some color.”
          As far as I am concerned these pencils live up to their description, these are a great pencil for their price. I first decided to explore these pencils to find something comparable to Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils. Prismacolor was my first love when it comes to colored pencil, but with the quality control issues, and the shortage due to the coloring book craze I have been trying to supplement with other pencils. I had heard from other artists online that the Blick Studio Artists’ pencils were formulated to fit the needs of Prismacolor fans, and with the low price I could not resist. They have a large range of lightfast colors, and are not shy about sharing their light fast results (see link at the bottom of this blog to see light fast ratings.)

The first thing I did when I got these pencils was check the range of colors, since these pencils only offer a set of 72, I wanted to see exactly what I would have to work with. The first colors I check whenever I get a new set of pencils are the greens, browns and blues. It is very important to me to have some good sky blues in my pencils, and this set did not fail me, they also had a good range of greens and browns which is important because I do a lot of landscape work. The range of browns is also important for portraiture, however, I do feel that they could have a better range of portrait colors. I checked the grays next because I like to do monochromatic drawings in colored pencil. They have a pretty good range of grays, some warms and colds, all in all a pretty good variety for this sized set of colored pencils. I then checked over the rest of the pencils, there is a good range of warm colors as well. The other thing that I noticed about this set is that there are not many colors that I could see myself not ever using, and while they do not offer over 100 pencils in their set, the colors that they do offer are very valid colors.
Please note- Though these pencils came organized by color, I always reorganize my pencils in the way that is most comfortable to me.

How they feel-

These are a lightweight pencil, and fit well in the hand. The coating on the outside seems to be of high quality which is important so it does not ship over time and become uncomfortable to hold. The lead is not quite as soft as Prismacolor Premier, but not quite as hard as Verithin, I think they are closer to the feel of Faber-Castell Polychromos but waxier. These pencils are quite a bit more transparent then Prismacolor and require more layering. This has some advantages and some disadvantages; the advantage is you can get some rich color and shading combinations, the disadvantage is, with it being a wax based pencil, it fills the tooth quicker than other pencils.

Day 1, getting the feel
For this project I used Canson Mi-Tientes paper, this paper is a 98lb pastel paper that comes in a range of colors. This is a paper I am very familiar with and use often and it has a smooth side and a rough side. I used the rough side for this project, and it ended up being just right, especially for the kind of textures I needed in my drawing. The pencils glide across the papers smoothly, with no scratchy feel. If I had used the smooth side of the paper, the pencil would have filled the tooth too quickly. The color of the paper I used was pearl, this is very important to note because these pencils are not very opaque. It is important to pay special attention to the color of the paper you are using, because it will definitely affect the overall feeling of the drawing. These pencils blend and layer quite easily, I used a Prismacolor blending marker, and a Koh-I-Noor blending pencil and both worked quite well. I also tried using an Artist’s Studio brand blending marker but it lifted pigment instead of blending it so I would not recommend using this brand of blender with Blick. Always try blending a swatch of color on a scrap piece of paper before using it in your drawing, just in case.

Quality Control-

Before I began drawing the first thing I looked at was the end of the pencil to see if the leads were centered. I did not notice any off centered leads-I was off to a good start. The leads are pre-sharpened to a fine point, but upon re-sharpening the pencil, it is not as easy to get the fine point back. This made it more difficult to get fine details at times. (Note-I was using a handheld sharpener, it may be different with an electric sharpener.) As far as sharpening goes, I had far less breakage than with Prismacolor. The black pencil did have a lead break the first time I sharpened it, but other than that I did not have many problems. The wood casing also held up strong, with no splitting or splintering during sharpening. The leads in these pencils are far less crumbly than Prismacolor and I found a lot less debris on my drawing when using them.

The skinny on specific colors- 
In all I ended up using over 50 of the 72 pencils in my set for this drawing.

  Black- The most frustrating part in this drawing for me was the black. I could not get it dark enough, somewhere around day three of working on this drawing, I ended up having to add a bit of Derwent Drawing black to the darkest parts. The advantage to the Blick black being so light is that it is good for shading, so it does still have its uses. I tried layering it with other colors to get it as black as possible, but the other colors (Such as Prussian Blue) seemed to tint and overpower it. Layering it this way also began to cause wax bloom as it filled the tooth. This is why I ultimately decided to switch to my Derwent pencil. I still used the Blick Black elsewhere for shading. 
Day 3, Added Derwent Drawing Black

White- I was pleasantly surprised with the opacity of the white, especially after using the black. While it is not as opaque as Derwent Drawing (I have yet to find a white pencil that is). I think that it is quite comparable to Prismacolor premiers, and maybe even a bit better than Polychromos.

Yellow- Some of the yellows, especially just plain yellow, are surprisingly opaque and have an almost florescent feel to them.  This was an advantage in this piece where I was working on a tinted background, however at times the color seemed a bit too artificial for a natural themed piece.

Green- Grass green and Sap green were quite similar, if you look at the chart I made it is difficult to see much of a difference. The only thing I was not happy about with the greens is their dark green is not as rich and dark as Prismacolor, but it is still a good color.

Reds- There are a lot of fun reds, I had a bit of difficulty getting the colors in the leaves as rich as I would like, but when I added in some pinks it really made them pop. Vermillion and Scarlet red are also quite similar to each other.

Overall I am quite pleased with these pencils and I would recommend these to beginners and professionals alike. I will definitely be using these in conjunction with my other pencils in the future. I think next time I will use a white paper as their transparency would be perfect to reflect light, but I do think they work well on colored paper. I am very happy with the results I got, and think these are a great bargain. Professional quality at a student price. Can’t beat that!

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