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!

Important links:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Comparing Oil Paint with Acrylic Paint an artist I am faced with many choices of tools with which express myself. New mediums become available frequently, each with their own set of unique qualities. I love experimenting with new mediums and incorporating what I have learned into my work. In order to grow as an artist, I think that it is part of my job to study techniques and mediums to see what works best for me. While I get some information from “how-to” books and by speaking to other artists, I find that nothing compares to good old fashioned hands on experimentation. Two of my favorite mediums are oil and acrylic; oil, being known in the art world as “The medium of the Masters” has been around for centuries, whereas acrylic is fairly new in comparison having only been around since the late 1940s. Oil paint is often the preferred medium among professionals, because it has a long history to back up its quality and many of the famed artists such as Claude Monet and Leonardo Da Vinci once painted their masterpieces in oil. Oil is also more expensive than acrylic, which makes many artists feel that their art will also have a higher value if done in oil. Because of acrylic’s late start, many traditional artists deem Acrylic paint as a lesser medium to oil, but acrylic and oil have a lot more in common than is given credit. Like any other medium, what works best really comes down to the personal preference of the artist. Here is what I have learned about oil and acrylic paint through my personal experimentation and the work that I have done with each paint.

         Oil paint is desired for its beautiful life like colors. A very key aspect in oil paint is that it dries to look the same as it does when it is wet, giving it a highly saturated look. This is comforting because when I am painting with oil, I know that what I see is what I get. Oil paint has a strong covering power because of its thick buttery texture that can be both smoothed or built up in layers. When I am working in oil, I delight in the fact that I can use a thick brush stroke that leaves marks that stand out from the canvas and feel almost sculpture like in nature. This texture is an advantage when it comes to technique, but it has its disadvantages, one being that it has to be layered in a very specific way to ensure the longevity of the painting. by nature is a permanent medium, but it is important to know that some colors are less light-fast and are prone to fading over time and if administered incorrectly, oil paint will also crack over time. This is where I employ the “fat over lean” technique which, in simple terms, means layering thick over thin, or layering more oil content over less oil content if adding oil mediums to the paint. The bottom layers should always have less oil than the top layers. The reason this technique is so important is because oil paint “dries” differently than other mediums, in fact it does not technically dry at all; it oxidizes. This process takes a long time, and even longer when a lot of layers of paint are involved. It can take up to six months for an oil painting to dry completely and if the paint is not layered properly, the layer on the top will finish oxidizing before the bottom layers. Once the top layer is dry, it becomes less flexible and is prone to cracking as the layers below it begin to oxidize.
Issues with cracking aside, the time it takes for oil paint to dry can be quite a desirable quality because there is more time to work with it. It is a leisurely medium, where I never have to worry that it is going to dry on me before I am finished blending; the disadvantage is that if I over blend the paint, my colors will become muddy and less vibrant. If, and when that happens however, I am able to just scrape the paint off the canvas and rework the area. There is one more disadvantage to the oxidization process and that is storing the wet canvas without fear of damage. I find it very difficult to find the space and a safe, dust free place to store drying oil paintings.

           As explained, oil has a lot of great qualities and some not so great qualities. Its high saturation and predictability when selecting color makes this medium a joy to work with. When done right, oil paint can stand the test of time but acrylic paint has its attributes too, some of them similar to oil paint.

          Unlike oil paint, acrylic paint is a water based medium which originally gained popularity in the graphic design business because of its quick clean up, cheaper cost, and rapid drying time. Acrylic dries within minutes of use which contrasts to oil paint greatly. The advantage to this quick drying time is that if I mess up, I can paint right over it almost immediately, which means no “muddy” colors! The disadvantage to acrylic drying so quickly is that often times I have to spritz water on the paint that is on my pallet to keep it from drying before I get to use it.

Acrylic paintings are much easier to store than oil paintings, and as a whole acrylic is an extremely durable and light fast medium. This means it can be stored in direct light without fear of certain colors fading.  I enjoy being able to store my acrylic paintings with ease the same day that they are finished.  The durability of acrylic is certainly notable in the fact that it is permanent when it dries and since it is water based I can layer and re-layer without worrying about cracking. Since I am able to layer with ease, I am also able to create textures similar to those that I create in oil.  

Acrylic is also like oil in the fact that it is a highly saturated medium. I love the bold colors I can get while mixing. One advantage that acrylic has over oil is the ability to adjust the saturation by using water. Creamy and smooth in texture, I can add water to acrylic to get watercolor like effects which makes this medium a highly adaptable one. The issue I encounter with acrylic that differs from oil is that depending on the brand the pigment can dry darker than it looks when it is wet, so this needs to be taken into account when I am choosing my color scheme.

After working with each paint for a number of years, I have grown to love the unique qualities each medium brings. I alternate between each medium often depending on the kind of piece I am creating.  When I am planning an extensive piece, I am more apt to choose oil because I know it will give me the time that I need to work out all of the details. When I am looking to do a fun spontaneous piece, I will often use acrylic. I find that each medium can yield equally professional results when used accordingly, and that I will always have a place for each of these paints in my studio.