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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Mad Hatter

Artist: Molly Dixon, United States
Artist Statement: I love drawing and have been drawing since I can remember. Growing up, I adored Disney and drew Disney characters all of the time. In fact, most of my sketchbooks from when I was a kid consist of Disney drawings. But when I went off to college and studied illustration, Disney characters seemed to fall to the wayside. However, now being a mom, Disney is back in full swing in my house and really something that will always hold a special place in my heart. When I draw something from Disney it takes me back to being a kid.

When I was drawing this particular Mad Hatter I was sitting in my local Barnes & Noble, drinking a coffee for some alone time. My kids and I love Alice in Wonderland. It just popped into my head to draw the Mad Hatter. I actually watched a snippet of the movie on YouTube and lightly drew him in pencil right there from memory. Afterwards I added watercolors, starting with his hat and then moving onto all of the other various greens. After I was finished with my watercolors I added my detail with my Micron pen. I love the 005 tip because of its fine point. You can add the best detail with a fine tip.

MEDIA: Pencil, watercolor, ink
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Mad Hatter

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

St. Edmund Parish School

Artist: Ted Gordon, United States
Artist Statement: I sketched St. Edmund Parish School [Oak Park, IL] in watercolor. The ornate, French-styled features captured my attention and I wanted to paint the feeling of them knotted along the roofline. I chose two neighboring views that framed those details in dimensional lighting.

I worked on facing pages in my Stillman & Birn sketchbook, so I could paint the views on two pages at once. I indicated a few main landmarks in pencil, then progressed with my Winsor & Newton watercolors quickly and loosely, light-to-dark, limiting my palette to three colors. I used an angled brush, so I could get edges where I wanted them. I painted a layer on the left, then a layer on the right, alternating until I had a density I liked.

MEDIA: Pencil and watercolor
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Ted Gordon is a professional artist and animator; he enjoys urban sketching, plein air painting, and taking on commissions featuring the beautiful architecture in and around Chicago. His websites are and

St Edmunds

Sunday, August 23, 2015

At Salty’s Supply Co. – Trinidad, CA

Artist: Brenda Swenson, United States
Artist Statement: It’s been a busy summer with a family reunion at the Lake of the Ozarks, road trip to Northern California, taught three workshops, day trip to San Diego… Throughout the weeks and months my Stillman & Birn sketchbook was by my side. I have many books filled with wonderful memories.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Delta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – Ivory – Cold Press Finish

Brenda Swenson is the artist author of two books, Keeping a Watercolor Sketchbook and Steps to Success in Watercolor. She has served on the board of directors for the National Watercolor Society and Watercolor West and teaches her painting and sketching techniques internationally. Website: Blog:


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Stillman & Birn Collection

Artist: ‘BurgerSketch’, Australia
Artist Statement: For one spread, I usually start with one corner and finished the rest of the page. I normally use ink, watercolour and markers. I started sketching in April 2014.

Since I was a newbie, I tried to practice everyday and that’s how my sketch journal began. My favourite sketchbooks are the Alpha Series and Beta Series by Stillman & Birn.

I like to carry my sketchbook everywhere I go. When I sketch with Urban Sketchers Group, I usually sketch with ink first then watercolour. You can find more of my work on Facebook: or on Instagram:

MEDIUM: Ink and ink marker (PITT® artist pen)
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

Burger Sketch

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Red-tailed Hawk

Artist: Mark Fraley, United States
Artist Statement: I love to play with a variety of tools and techniques. For this first page of a new hardbound 8.5 x 11 Alpha Series sketchbook, I sketched out the image of red tailed hawk, a fascinating bird my son and I love to watch here in Colorado. I used collage for the sky with the help of oceans from an old atlas. I then used some acrylic paint to develop the colors of the bird. I went back to collage to add print and help “locate” the bird as one from Colorado, using travel brochures and magazines. The medium I use to tie it together is matte acrylic gel, it finds it’s way in most everything I do now.

The fun in creating a spread like this to see how unrelated items can juxtapose to create a whole and unique image. I typically don’t pay too much attention to the words found in print, other than how they provide a sense of direction and guide the eye. There’s a playfulness to collage that I don’t find in other mediums and I hope it translates to other people wanting to experiment and wonder what they can create.

You can find more of my work at, on Facebook at Mark Fraley Art, and via email at I love to hear from other artists and find new places of inspiration.

MEDIA: Ink, collage, acrylic pigment, acrylic gel medium
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish



Monday, August 3, 2015

Out of the Blue

Artist: Jean Mackay, United States
Artist Statement: Of the 123 million pounds of lobster caught on the Maine coast each year, only one in two million comes up blue. I was among the lucky few to see this genetic mutation, hauled up by lobstermen in Muscongus Bay, and then tossed back into the deep. The blue really was that brilliant and, when I saw it, I thought about what colors in my paint box might capture it. I used layers of Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine, with Burnt Sienna for mixing the darks. Normally, American lobsters are maroon and greenish-brown, but regardless of the color of lobster caught, all turn red when cooked.

Media: Watercolor and ink
Surface: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


Jean Mackay is Director of Communications and Outreach at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. This is the link to her website:


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Flowering Cranny

Artist: Tim Smith, United States
Artist statement: Like all sketchbook junkies, I get charmed by those little corners of the world that no-one seems to be looking at. The dappled thing, the tool handle worn down by calloused hands, the first dandelion. I’m nagged by the suspicion that right in front of my nose is magic and I’m missing it. After all, every doodler knows that drawing is just seeing what is really there. We sit, we stare, sketchbook on lap, and the longer we stare the more we see, and this experience of having the quantum lights switched on is instantly addictive. Repeat a few times, and we realize that we can choose any field of vision at random from the world around us, draw it carefully and gently, and in little while God will peep back from our own page. Sketching is like collecting ghost pictures, one after the other. You take the shot, then realize there was something alive in the frame, even sidling next to you. Spooky, and may I have another?

I like to carry my sketchbook everywhere I go. I usually just draw with a pen then wash with watercolor.

I, too, have a boatload of pens and sketchbooks. My go-to books have been Stillman & Birn since I bit the bullet and paid the little extra to see what all the sketch bloggers were raving about. I have an Alpha, a Zeta, and an Epsilon. I love how they take a bucket of water and hardly flinch. Nothing else is close.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

flowering cranny

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fishing Expedition

Artist: Anna Bucciarelli, Canada
Artist Statement: I am a freelance illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. My style is influenced by my training in classic Ukrainian “Petrykivka” painting, an Eastern European art focusing on floral and plant motifs. I like to bring together various forms of traditional media, such as ink and watercolor, and introduce digital elements that take my work to the next level.

My favorite sketchbooks are the Zeta Series by Stillman & Birn, because they provide the best surface for mixing watercolor and ink pens. I’ve taken my latest Zeta art journal all over the world. This piece is inspired by the beautiful wildlife of the Caribbean Sea. To see other examples of my professional work from the African rainforests as well as my sketchbook diary, please visit my website and my Instagram gallery @anna.m.bucciarelli.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Ed: Petrykivka painting is a traditional form of Ukrainian decorative painting, which originates the village of Petrykivka. This art form was traditionally used to decorate house walls and everyday household items; the earliest known examples of it date back to the 17th century. It is a richly symbolic style of ornamental painting, characterized by fantastic flowers and other natural elements. Petrykivka is widely practiced throughout the region, and the tradition is taught at all levels in the local schools.
Source: UNESCO Information Services Section


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Painting with Crayons

Artist: Ellen Ward, United States
Artist Statement: This summer I have been experimenting, trying to find a way to get painterly effects with drawing tools. Ideally I could be painting with oils or using traditional pastels, but I want to avoid toxicity, dust, and fumes. After some initial frustration, a method that allows for both drawing and painting evolved using ZETA mixed media paper, M. Graham Gouache, Daniel Smith watercolor ground and Caran D’Ache NEOCOLOR II crayons. I prefer Zeta for this work because I like a smooth surface with little drag that can handle multiple washes and trials reworking with crayon.

1. I lay a ground of Daniel Smith watercolor ground, tinted with a mid-tone neutral using M. Graham gouache. This mimics the way I would begin work in oils or the way traditional pastel is layered on colored paper. Why not just use a watercolor wash? Because it would likely muddy later paint layers. This ground allows me to move the pigment when wet and create a relative value scale quickly when sketching.
2. Establish a limited color palette: 8 colors or less.
3. Render a rough gestural study using NEOCOLOR II crayons dry.
4. Liquify distant areas of crayon, blotting and smearing as necessary to create movement.
5. Work with wet crayons to create highlights & low lights.
6. For the final layer, use a sharpened crayon to establish accents or pops of saturated color.The
brightest blues in the water represent these kind of color accents.

Ellen Ward is a nationally recognized graphic/product designer and illustrator. Ellen teaches in the design/visual communications departments of Winthrop University and Central Piedmont Community College. This is the link to Ellen’s blog:

MEDIA: Watercolor ground, gouache, water-soluble crayons
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

© 2015 Ellen Ward – All rights reserved. Do not reproduce or pin on Pinterest


Friday, July 10, 2015

Mayo Clinic Study: Creating Art Keeps Brain Sharp in Old Age

“A recent Mayo Clinic study, which featured 256 people in their mid- to late-80s, pinpointed various activities that either predicted cognitive impairment or protected against it during the final years of life. As noted in other studies, an active social life—whether in midlife or in both midlife and late life—was linked with fewer instances of mild cognitive impairment. So was late-in-life computer use.

But the behavior that had the greatest protective effect was ‘artistic activity’, such as painting, drawing, and sculpting. These activities may all have a role in keeping brain cells stimulated, and may help develop new neural pathways.”

Source article:

Abstract of the Mayo Clinic study published in Journal of the American Academy of Neurology:

via Dion Dior

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Artist: Pira Urosevic, Canada
Artist Statement: This piece is born of a monthly personal challenge I present myself with. Using only inks sent in a sampler pack by an online shop, I combine the colours in a single drawing that is based upon their selected theme. This month it was ‘Farmer’s Market’. I use an assortment of dip nibs, water and watercolour brushes on Stillman & Birn – Zeta Series, which stands up to the repeated addition and subtraction of colours without warping or breaking down.

About me: I have been drawing casually most of my life and am always experimenting with materials. Currently I am fascinated by fountain pen inks. Although they are available in a rainbow of shades, most are not designed to be permanent; being neither fade nor water-resistant. My interest lies in the organic nature of the materials, which seem to have a mind of their own and let you know that control is an illusion and all things are in transition. Mostly it’s about the excitement of having fun with the materials.

Media: Pencil, ink, and watercolour
Surface: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Allard J2X

Paul Heaston is not only a great artist but a great bookbinder too! Paul made this sketchbook from sheets of Alpha Series paper that we now offer in 22″ x 30″.

The Allard was a limited edition 1950’s British sports car, shipped to the U.S. engine-less and fitted with Lincoln and Cadillac engines. Paul drew what we think is the J2X model; Jay Leno has one in his garage.

MEDIA: Ink marker (Faber-Castell Pitt (r) Pens)
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New Orleans Magnolias

Artist: Jan Evans, United States
Artist Statement: Art has always been a way of life for me. I grew up moving every year or two, so drawing and painting became good friends. I received my BFA from Art Center College of Design. My work as an illustrator is very controlled, so when I am painting for myself I love to let the paint, the paper and the setting dictate more of the final outcome.

I generally start with a thumbnail sketch, as design is the backbone of any piece. I also determine before I start what story I’m telling – that can be something as simple as late afternoon or the the cold majesty of a mountain. I hope to share with the viewer the elegance, harmony and gentle force I am so drawn to in nature, and watercolor with its transparency and spontaneity is for me the perfect medium to convey that.

MEDIUM: Watercolor
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish
J-Evans_magnolias (999x1024)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sailboat at Paradise Cove

Artist: Janette Meetze, United States
Artist Statement: Everywhere I travel I am looking for inspiration and subjects for sketching, painting and tapestry weaving. I noticed this sailboat at the Paradise Cove Marina (Sequoyah State Park, Oklahoma) last summer shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. What attracted me to it initially was the value contrast between the ship, water and background. As I started sketching I realized that it reminded me of a sailboat that my parents had when I was growing up. I had spent a couple of weeks on it as a teenager exploring the inland waterway in Florida. The memories are still fresh nearly forty five years later!

I used my Zeta Series sketchbook and a permanent ink pen to capture the drawing at the marina and then added most of the watercolor back in the studio. It is also featured as the title photo on my blog,“Sketching Around” where I share my sketching adventures. In addition to being an avid sketcher I am also a tapestry weaver and sometimes the sketches end up in woven form and can be viewed on another blog, Common Threads. Sketching Around:; Common Threads:

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


Friday, June 26, 2015

Fiat 500

FIAT 500
Artist: Luciano Cisi, Italy
Aritst Statement: The subject is a Fiat 500 F Series – a vintage 1970 model. I drew it in plein air at a mall parking lot close to my home in Latina, a town in about 65 km south of Rome. I sketched it using pencil, Steadtler Pigment Liner 0.3 Felt Pen and a combination of W&N and Schmincke watercolors. The sketchbook is an A4 Stillman & Birn – Zeta Series. This work is part a sketchbook I’ve devoted to the theme of “Vehicles”.

About me : I’m an IT Engineer working as an IT technology specialist for the local government of Latina, the city where I live. I’ve been sketching since I was 13 years old. I’m a part of the Urban Sketchers group, and also a member and administrator of “Urban Sketchers Italy” group ( ). You can see my other works on my personal blog:

MEDIA: Pencil, ink, watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Impossible World of M.C. Escher

A retrospective of M.C. Escher’s work begins next week in Edinburgh’s National Gallery of Modern Art and this has inspired The Guardian to publish an excellent article about this enigmatic artist. Here are few excerpts:

“The artist who created some of the most memorable images of the 20th century was never fully embraced by the art world. There is just one work by M.C. Escher in all of Britain’s galleries and museums, and it was not until his 70th birthday that the first full retrospective exhibition took place in his native Netherlands. Escher was admired mainly by mathematicians and scientists, and found global fame only when he came to be considered a pioneer of psychedelic art by the hippy counterculture of the 1960s.

[One of] Escher’s enduring fascinations: the contrast between the two-dimensional flatness of a sheet of paper and the illusion of three-dimensional volume that can be created with certain marks.. space and the flat plane coexist, each born from and returning to the other, the black magic of the artistic illusion.

In the late 1930s, Escher also became obsessed by the “regular division of the plane”, in which shapes (often fish, lizards or birds) are tiled across a flat plane in such a way that the spaces between them make other, recognisable shapes. (This technique was directly inspired by the Islamic tiled artwork Escher studied at the Alhambra.)

Day and Night (1938) – shown below – features black and white bird forms arranged in this way over a chequerboard countryside. In many of these images the distinction between foreground and background is obliterated: the viewer can choose to see one or other set of shapes as foreground at will.

Escher’s greatest pictures are not simply geometric exercises; they marry formal astonishment with a vivid and idiosyncratic vision. Escher’s art at its best, then, is not just surprising but also surprisingly readable, putting him in the company of the great allegorical printmakers such as Albrecht Dürer.”

via The Guardian


Thursday, June 18, 2015

An Invitation to the Underwater World

Artist: Peggy Rustler, Germany
Artist Statement: The French artist Mona Fontina announces a painting challenge every month with changing themes. This time it was the underwater world. I searched for a nice picture from our visits to sea life displays in zoos and parks. The seahorse caught my attention and I thought, it must be fun to paint this!

I started with a light pencil drawing and then outlined the seahorse with masking fluid. Then I let the water and colors run. I then added a few grains of salt to the background and more color to the seahorse and finished. This was the first time for me with a really wet page in a sketchbook. I kept the wet page separated from the other pages until it dried and there was no problem.

It’s great to have a page like this in a sketchbook. I’m very happy with the surface and I’ll fill the book with more creatures from the underwater world.

Media: Pencil, masking fluid, watercolor, salt resist
Surface: Beta Series – Extra Heavy Weight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

Seahorse Rustler

Monday, June 8, 2015

Urban Sketching Tutorial

Artist: Laura Sfiat, United States
Artist Statement: I recently gave a workshop at the local Urban Sketchers chapter in Boston. I had prepared some handouts on my 20-minute technique for urban renderings. Here below, is the process from beginning to end including the color wash.

The event was very well attended and I was quite happy about that. I presented using a sequence of panels and the second half of the time was to put all this to practice by the local Urban Sketchers artists. The Boston Chapter was founded two years ago and our group is growing. We are about 415 members to date and Christ Tritt and I run it every weekend, planning meetups and researching the local architecture to give an insight on the site prior to visit. Now with great weather, we can do more plein air workshops like this.

This demo was done in a 9″x12″ Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebook heavy stock for mixed media. The linework was done with a Lamy Safari EF. Some of the black brush strokes in the values study were done with a multiliner brush pen. I wanted a support that could be smooth enough for fine linework, heavy ink brush strokes and take a few layered watercolor washes, so I decided to use the mixed media notebook.

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is the drying time between the watercolor wash layers. When you are working on a fast sketch, the wash has to be light so it can dry faster. This is most important with the base layer, as it covers about 80% of the paper (I do leave a lot of white untouched areas in the peripherals of the sketch to allow it to “breath” visually).

First layer is the lightest value of the local colors on every area, the subsequent layer is massing the main shadows, the third layer is the smaller darker areas, and the fourth layer is the accents that will enhance key areas to give it depth and good contrast.
I concentrate most of the pigment toward the horizon line and toward the center of the paper. I create interest in the focal point/area during the prior ink drawing process by doing more detail and making it visually heavy in those areas keeping the rest of the drawing very loose.

MEDIA: Ink and watercolor
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Laura Sfiat is a Boston-based illustrator and founder of Urban Sketchers’ Boston chapter. The complete tutorial can be accessed on Laura’s blog here:


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Frick Collection to Keep Its Revered Garden

New York museum lovers rejoiced this week when the Frick Collection, one of America’s premier museums, shelved a major expansion plan that would have destroyed its widely-admired Russell Page Garden, a vest-pocket paradise where pear trees, quince, wisteria, water lilies flourish. The planned demolition of the garden sparked worldwide condemnation. Museum officials were stunned by the outcry. The museum was the originally the home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick.
via Architectural Digest http:  //

Rumor: Museum was forced to capitulate and give up plan to demolish garden after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio read riot act to museum Board of Directors.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gauguin Blockbuster in Basel

A major retrospective of Paul Gauguin’s paintings is currently on view the Fondation Beyler museum in Basel, Switzerland. The exhibit brings together about fifty of Gauguin’s masterpieces from leading international museums and private collections. The following is an excellent short video that focuses on some of the show’s highlights.
via Huffington Post