Monday, August 30, 2010

New Derwent Pastel Pencils

 Derwent Pastel Pencils on UArt 800
ATC size

I received the promised samples of Derwent's new formula pastel pencils on Saturday and I have to say that I'm impressed.  To be honest, I didn't think I would be as Derwent's were at the bottom of my list of favorite pencils.  I only had a few of the old formula Derwents but they seemed to have chunks of something hard in them and were sometimes scratchy to use.  As with all the brands I've used, some colors were scratchier than others.

These new pastel pencils are creamier and go on easily and smoothly.  I haven't checked their lightfastness yet as I've been going full-tilt since I received them but I've heard that they are pretty lightfast.  I'm sure some colors are better than others but it's that way with all brands.

So, would I buy these pencils?  Definitely yes.  The only disappointment is that the pencils are just a hair larger around than standard sized pencils and won't fit into my pencil sharpeners.  The standard sized hole on my electric sharpener is just a little too small and the larger hole in the handheld sharpener is too big.  I can make it work but the core breaks easily and I need to go slow and very carefully.  I think it will be back to a craft knife and sandpaper for these.

As I said, I've been on  the go all weekend and have just done a very quick trial to see how they worked for me.  The painting above is from a reference photo by Teresa from and please know that my quick sketch in no way reflects her skill as a photographer!

I received four sample pencils - Titanium White, Kingfisher Blue, Dark Fuchsia, and Naples Yellow.  I also received the much-touted blending stick, a very hard white, square stick that helps blend large areas or one area into another.  I wanted to use just the new pencils as a test and Teresa's photo contained colors closest to the samples I received so you won't see a refined painting here.  But, I do hope you can see the smooth lay-down of the pastel and the way the pastel blends even into areas where the blending stick wasn't used.

Thanks for the new formula, Derwent!  I'm very excited by the release of these new pastel pencils!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Agility Dogs

Sometimes the little dogs get a bad rap and are viewed more as little spoiled companions instead of a small dog with big abilities.  I just finished this painting of a little terrier going through an agility trial - something he should excel at doing.

This painting was done in gouache in a watercolor type manner and on Arches rough watercolor paper.  Gouache isn't my normal medium so it was fun to explore it a bit more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Choices and Compromises and New Formulas

Well, our new laptop arrived and I've been busy trying to set up everything the way we want it.  All the technical stuff is done but I'm totally undecided about an image/graphics editor.

I've been a very loyal user of Paint Shop Pro since its version 7 but the reviews for the current version are abysmal and I'm looking for a new software.  It would have to do all that PSP does but without the glitches, bugs and bloat!  lol

I've been researching PS Elements but its current version is not winning accolades either so what does that leave?

Serif's software, PhotoPlus, is getting great reviews but the company gets a D minus for its strong-arm sales tactics.  I've downloaded "free" & "trial" software from them and the nag screens are so cumbersome you can't even properly evaluate the software.  I'm told that in order to register any purchased software, you have to call and be subjected to an interminable sales pitch for add-ons before you get your registration unlock key to even use the software.  No thanks on that - that's a compromise as far as I'm concerned.

I know there's a lot of free software out there also & I keep downloading various ones but they just don't quite fill the bill.  I'm not against purchasing software - I just want what I want, especially if I'm going to pay for it (& I don't want to pay to listen to a sales pitch!)

Any suggestions?

On the topic of compromise and making choices, I just emailed to see if I could receive some samples of Derwents new pastel pencils.  You all probably know that I'm not a fan of the old formula pencils but I'm almost frantically hoping the new formula will suit me as the Derwent brand is available in places relatively close to me.  While I hate driving in congested city traffic, I don't mind mail order for my art supplies.  But, that requires planing ahead - something I'm not always so good about doing!  Right now, I need some new pastel replacement pencils to work on a couple of commissions and I'll have to mail order them.  It would be wonderful to be able to go somewhere local to get them.  (Well, you know nothing is really local but even 30 miles wouldn't be a burden to drive.)

Anyway, if I receive the samples of the new formula Derwent pencils, I'll be sure to review them here.  If any of my readers in the UK or elsewhere have already used them, please let us know what YOU think about them!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Art Walk Featured Artist

Well, last night was the Third Friday Art Walk in beautiful downtown Siler City (NC) and I was the featured artist at the Raleigh Street Gallery.  I have to admit that it sounds a little more impressive than it actually was but maybe my experience will help others who do a public demonstration of their art.

Siler City is a small town to begin with and the only restaurant usually open in downtown during the Art Walk closed its doors this past week.  I didn't realize it would have that big an impact but there were very few people out last night.  At the last Art Walk there were large crowds and it was one of the hottest evenings on record so I was expecting at least a crowd that large since last night was somewhat cooler and less humid.

Ok, so the crowd was disappointing but it was still sorta, kinda fun to be painting in a public place.  I think I was more comfortable doing it since there weren't many people watching me.  There were a few people who did stop by to watch and everyone was very complimentary so that also helped.

But, I want to tell you artists more about the process than the results so you might be better prepared than I was.  The gallery owner had said to have at least a start on whatever I was going to work on so I put in the background and eyes of the beautiful Rottie that I was going to paint.  I didn't want to have too much done but I needn't have worried about that - I barely got started before it was time to leave.  Not only that but I got it to the "ugly" stage about the time people actually started to come in.  So, I advise you to get your painting to a recognizable stage then work on the details at the demonstration.

Another thing that bothered me and hindered me in working was the fact that I was given a table and chair as my work area.  I'm told that artists are less intimidating and more approachable if they're sitting down so that was good.  But, I normally work standing up at a cabinet-height work table.  I do this so I can step back and get a better overall view of what I've done.  Sitting down sort of skewed my perception of where I needed to go with the painting.  Not a huge problem but it was a bit unsettling since I was already nervous.  It might be a good idea for you to practice working in a setting similar to what will be provided at the demo area.

All in all, it was good experience and I think I'd do it again.  I'm grateful for a terrific band last night as I was seated next to the area where they were performing.  They were playing some good oldies songs but they weren't blasting me out of the gallery.  The band was called Nitro Express and they were wonderful to listen to.  If you have need of a band to perform at some function for you, I'd recommend them.

In conclusion, I got a decent start on Crissy, shown above.  She's being painted on Ampersand PastelBord with various brands of pastels and pastel pencils.  The Ampersand is one of my favorite supports anyway but I specifically chose it because it is a board and it's just easier for me to deal with in this kind of situation.  In fact, I was amazed at how little I had to pack up and carry to the gallery for the demo.  Another plus for this medium!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CiCi - Finished? Thank You, Jane!

I think I'm finished with CiCi's portrait but will let it sit around for a few days just in case I see something that needs to be tweaked.  Oh, the colors in this scan show brighter and more pronounced than they are in reality.  Also, the shadow area around her mouth isn't really pink but I used a mauve-y gray there and when I sprayed with SpectraFix, the area became more pink and shows up worse in this scan.  This is the first color change I've had using SpectraFix and I think it's because I used it heavily as Teo 21 suggested in a comment on Poppy.  I didn't get any spots though!

I have to thank my dear friend, Jane, for helping me see why I couldn't paint our babies before.  I'm still not sure about this one, whether it really captures her or not but my husband thinks it does and he's the "customer" in this case!  At least I finally finished a portrait of our fur child so Thank you, Jane!

If you all see anything that could be better, don't hesitate to let me know!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CiCi Again - WIP In Pastel 2

Found a bit of time this afternoon to give CiCi's portrait a few strokes and it's taking shape but it will still be a while before it's finished.

Had some electronic issues so we took advantage of our state's "tax free weekend" last Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get some computer stuff we wanted and needed. 

I had asked some of you about your printers and I thank everyone who gave me input - it helped me decide on the one I felt would be best for us.  I know Teresa at least is curious, so I'll tell you that we got a Canon all-in-one as the price and quality was too good to pass up.  I had pretty much decided on a Canon but didn't want to go with their "professional" model as I don't do my own prints and really don't print a whole lot of anything except the few note cards I give as a "thank you" for those who order portraits and a few note cards that I stock in a local pet food store.  If I need a large amount of them, I have them printed as that's just more economical. 

Anyway, I had decided a regular photo printer would be best for us but no one had any in stock that had the resolution and quality that I'd wanted.  However, this all-in-one had the desired resolution and the test prints looked great (but don't they always!  lol) and it was on sale so I went ahead and bought it.  So far I'm very pleased with it.  I actually think the scanner does a better job than the stand-alone scanner I have.

We also ordered a laptop as they were also on sale.  I thought this would be the year that I could finally get a Mac but my husband insisted on a Dell.  I have a sister who is a die-hard Apple fan and she insists that once I use a Mac, I'll never buy a PC again.  I don't know about that - sometimes I wonder if all the hype about Macs is true or not.  I think PCs have taken great strides in quality in the past few years but I know in the past there were some really junky PC's with high prices out there.  I'm sure Mac users will jump all over me but anymore it seems that Macs would have to be gold-plated and never break down to be worth the price difference.  But, I've never used one so I probably shouldn't say that.

Oh, well, the new laptop is supposed to be here next week and I'm sure it will do very well for us.  I'll let you know how we like it.

And, I'll let you know as soon as I finish C's portrait!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CiCi - WIP in Pastel

All righty folks, step right up and be the witness to a first.  I'm attempting a portrait of our "new" little dog, CiCi, and those of you who have followed me for a while know I've never really done a portrait of one of our own pets.

I always wanted to, and I tried, but they just never looked right.  A dear friend suggested that I couldn't paint our own babies because I knew them in many different moods and many different positions and poses and one static painting just couldn't portray them in my own eyes.  She may be right, and if she is, perhaps that insight will allow me to finally paint one of our own.  Understanding is often the first step in breaking down certain barriers.

So, here goes!  It's pastel on a dark gray Ampersand PastelBord, 8x10 size which is still almost larger than life-size for her!  Right now I'm just laying in some under colors.  I asked my husband if he wanted me to paint her with her tongue in her mouth but we both agreed that it would not be her without her tongue hanging out.  Also, most of the time her tongue just sticks out a little bit but when her head is tilted in that cute way, it does fall out further and we decided to go with that even though she may look slightly demented to other people. lol 

For those of you who don't know her story and the reason why her tongue sticks out, here is the reason why.  We got her from a rescue agency back in May of this year.  They told us that she was probably a purebred Maltese used for breeding, about 4 or 5 years old.  She had been found running down a very busy highway outside of Raleigh, NC.  They said she was dirty, her hair matted, her nails grown into the pads of her paws and her teeth so rotten and infected that they all had to be pulled.

Without teeth, a dog can't keep it's tongue in its mouth very well and that's the reason CiCi's tongue hangs out much of the time.  We don't care about that - she's really sweet and not a yappy little ankle-biter like many small dogs.  She eats soft dog foods but can actually eat just about anything a regular dog can eat if she has enough time to really gum it!  lol  Seriously, she really fits our household well and even if she does look funny with her tongue hanging out, we still love her and besides, just think of all the money we save on teeth cleaning!

But back to the portrait at hand.  There's still a lot to be done and my time is pretty limited right now so I'm posting this wip in hopes you all will hold me accountable.  It's actually going fairly quickly and I hope I'll remember to get photos of the progress.  Sometimes I just get to painting and it's finished before I remember to scan or photograph!

As always, if you see anything that needs adjusting, please let me know!

Dura-Lar Matte Drafting Film

Some time ago I was asked to participate in a short survey about Dura-Lar film by Grafix Plastics.  The questions were about how I used Dura-Lar as an artist and I was promised a pack of the Dura-Lar of my choice for participating. 

Most of the time I refuse to do surveys as so much of the time they are only using the information submitted to spam you later.  But this time felt different and I decided to answer the questions.  Besides, I do like the Dura-Lar and would like to see it more widely available as an artist's support.

Anyway, my packet of the Dura-Lar Matte arrived yesterday!  I really didn't know if I would actually receive it so it's nice to know that the company who manufactures a product I like is also good for their word!

So, thank you very much, Grafix Plastics!  You can be assured that I will use the Dura-Lar Matte with great delight and thank you also for making such a great product!