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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



Sunday, May 31, 2015

In the Spring Woodland

Artist: Jean Mackay, United States
Artist Statement: I went out with a friend one evening to sketch at a beaver pond that is surrounded by woods. The water was dark and still, trees were lay crossways in heaps where beaver had felled them, and a large mud lodge rose on the far shore. But what struck me most was not the pond itself, but the beauty and intensity of bird song in the surrounding woods. I decided to try to capture the ethereal experience of hearing these birds, even though they never came into view. After sketching directly in ink, I painted the lightest greens first and worked my way to the darkest darks. As I did the darker tones, I looked for places to add depth with negative painting. (S&B Zeta 5.5×8.5″, watercolor and ink).

MEDIA: Watercolor and ink
SURFACE: Zeta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 275 gsm – White – Smooth Finish

Jean Mackay is Director of Communications and Outreach at Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor


Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Aren’t American Museums Doing More to Return Nazi-looted Art?

Helen Mirren’s latest film, ‘Woman in Gold’, tells a true story of an arts battle. Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, a naturalized US citizen who sues the Austrian government to recover Gustav Klimt’s portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, looted from her family’s home by the Nazis.

Time Magazine reports:  “While ‘Woman in Gold’ is a feel-good, triumphant tale for American audiences, it’s important to note that American art museums still have much work to do to ensure justice for Holocaust victims. The story of this one painting doesn’t mitigate the fact that at least 100,000 works of art confiscated by the Nazis have NOT been returned to rightful owners. The collections of  prominent museums across the U.S. – including MoMA in New York and the Norton Simon Museum in southern California – contain works of art with provenance gaps from the Nazi era, signaling a need for ongoing research into rightful ownership.” In comparison, the German and Austrian governments have undertaken far more affirmative action to ensure the return of these works to their rightful owners and heirs.

via Time Magazine and History News Network



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jerusalem Sketchbook

Sunil Shinde, a member the Seattle chapter of Urban Sketchers, shares highlights of his exploration of the Old City of Jerusalem with his 13-year-old daughter. Sunil has many other wonderful sketches on his blog, “Sunil Shinde Sketches” The blog has a tag line which other sketchbook artists must covet: “Everybody has a story to tell. I have a story to show.”

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

via Urban Sketchers

Old City of Jerusalem

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Water Lilies

Artist: Michael Broshar, United States
Artist Statement: My subjects are usually based on the places I visit, or interesting subjects that I find in photographs. My architectural background leads me towards painting architectural subjects, but I find interesting subjects in the world around me. I travel the countryside of Iowa and find the rural landscapes, monumental small town structures, and the industrial areas of the rivers to be compelling.

I do a small value sketch with pencil to determine composition and values. When traveling, I like to paint a sketch, and have been using a Stilman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook. I also use the sketchbook for studies in the studio to work on technique and composition. The paper will take washes very well, and I often lift pigment off to create highlights in the finished sketch.

Water Lilies sketch is a different subject for me, but the compositional concepts are the consistent with my other work. I created it in the studio working from a photograph.

I laid down a series of washes using mixtures of yellow ochre, French ultramarine, pthalo blue GS and burnt sienna. I used negative painting with a darker blue wash to define the leaves and to create depth in the water. Once satisfied with the values, I used a pale blue wash around the outer parts of the painting to soften and blend the outer areas of the painting and create focus in the center. I added detail with a rigger brush and created highlights with white gouache. Flicking small light and dark drops at the bottom created texture for the rocks.

To view some of my work, please visit

MEDIA: Watercolor and gouache
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Finish

Water Lilies 6x9 (1024x638)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Imperator Furiosa

Artist: Allison Sohn, United States
In a typically masculine-oriented summer blockbuster,” Mad Max: Fury Road” stands out for its unapologetic feminist streak. The film has compelling female characters, especially Imperator (“Commander”) Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Imperator Furiosa is the focus of this illustration along with other female characters in the film. This is is the fourth installment in the action movie Mad Max franchise.

MEDIA: Pencil and marker
SURFACE: Gamma Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – Ivory – Medium Grain Finish

Imperator Furiosa

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Collaboration of Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí

In 1937, Salvador Dalí wrote to a friend, “I have come to America and I am in contact with three great American surrealists – the Marx Brothers, Cecil B. DeMille, and Walt Disney.” Dalí and Disney had met at a dinner party given by Jack Warner and became friends. Then in 1945 the two began collaborating on a short film, “Destino”, based on a mythological love story. The film was storyboarded by Dalí and Disney studio artists for eight months in late 1945 and 1946. Destino was to be awash with Dalí’s iconic melting clocks, marching ants and floating eyeballs. However, production ceased in 1946 because the studio was plagued with financial problems following World War II.

But in 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney, unearthed the dormant project and decided to bring it back to life. A team of approximately 25 animators deciphered Dalí and the Disney team’s cryptic storyboards (with help from the Dalí’s sketchbooks), and finished Destino’s production. The end result is mostly traditional animation, but it also contains some computer animation. The Disney short, “Destino” was released by the studio in 2003 to much acclaim.

Sources: Huffington Post, Wikipedia, Disney Fine Art: “The Art of Destino”


Dalí and Disney c. 1942





Dalí storyboard for Destino

Dalí storyboard for Destino.
If anyone ever questioned Dalí’s skill as a draftsman, look no further then here.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Watercolor vs. Gouache

This is an excellent short video explaining the different properties of watercolor and gouache and which wet media techniques are suitable for each.

via Plaza Artist Materials

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Testing Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers

Thank you Wes Douglas for this comprehensive report on your test of the new Winsor & Newton watercolor markers on Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.

MEDIA: Watercolor Markers
SURFACE: Delta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – Ivory – Cold Press Finish

Winsor and Newton watercolor markers

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Beyond the Sea

Artist: Faustine Vaughn, United States
Artist’s Statement: For this piece, I was inspired by artwork I saw that featured this idea of hiding fish in the curves of ocean waves, and thought it was so creative! I knew I had to do a similar theme in my sketchbook. But I had no idea what to do for the sky! So I just started making big random swirly clouds to fill up the space, adding color until it just seemed to complement the bottom half of the piece. I sketched a basic outline with my Lamy Safari fountain pen inked with Platinum Carbon Black ink, colored the areas in with layers upon layers of Tombow markers, and then outlined them with a black Micron brush pen. I’ve had the song “Beyond The Sea” stuck in my head ever since.

I’ve been drawn to the Tombow marker medium over and over again in my 7×7 Zeta Series sketchbook. I love the bright white paper that gives my brightly colored markers that visual “pop” I’m looking for. I also like the smooth Zeta finish, as it works great with the markers and fountain pens I use, but is still sturdy enough to handle watercolor washes too. It’s really developing into the ideal combo for me.

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

Beyond The Sea

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cynical Derision or Insightful Criticism?

Last night Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” (1955) sold at a record-breaking $179 million (£ 102.6). Picasso’s painting is an homage to the earlier painting of the same name by 19-century painter Eugène Delacroix (shown side-by-side).

Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones argues that this record-breaking price was paid for a “late, ungreat work shows the foolishness of collectors”….”Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” series lacks the fire of genius that makes his work from the 1900s to the 1940s so inexhaustible. It is a coda to his career, a footnote to his achievement. Someone has so much money they can fork out colossally for a late, ungreat Picasso just because they read about him in an inflight magazine or saw a doumentary.”

Source: Guardian


Monday, May 11, 2015

Frida Kahlo: Fashion Icon

“Frida Kahlo used clothing as an integral part of her artwork and in turn created an iconic image that champions creativity, bravery and the colorful spirit of Mexico. She also used clothing to hide her physical imperfections. Sixty-one years after her death, she has become a fashion genre within her own right. Kahlo’s distinctive look – dark hair piled on top of her head, chunky earrings, a cluster of flowers, an unapologetic unibrow and a visible moustache – became part of her story. Added to that was a flair for style: she dressed in tweaked versions of traditional Mexican clothing. A kind of corset-style bodice and long flowing skirt, both in vibrant colors and covered with rich embroidery, was a signature silhouette. What she wore contrasted with the sleek [Ed: Paris] aesthetic of the dominant fashion of the 1930s and 40s and she stood out on purpose. As such, she has consistently inspired fashion designers – Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Rei Kawakubo and Dolce & Gabbana included.

Kahlo’s deep connection to clothes was acknowledged by those closest to her. When she died in 1954, aged 47, her husband, Diego Rivera, locked up the room in which her clothes were stored, where they remained for 50 years. Now, a photographic record of more than 300 items can be seen at the Michael Hoppen gallery in London, from May 14th. Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako has documented these items in closeup shots.. [Ed: The photos are featured in Miyako’s new book, “Frida” published by Donlon Books]. Originally worn by women from the Tehuantepec area of Mexico, a matriarchal society, these traditional dresses were adopted by Kahlo as a symbol of strong women. She also wore intricately embroidered Huipil blouses, part of the Mayan tradition, where each pattern on a blouse, typically worn for 30 years, tells the story of the wearer.

Kahlo’s Fashion Codes

1. The Rebozo
This traditional Mexican scarf was made famous by Kahlo. She wore the long, rectangular scarf wrapped around her body or tied in her hair for the majority of her paintings. Traditionally, the scarf is said to make a woman appear more graceful, which is perhaps why Kahlo adopted the style.

2. Unibrow
It is an indisputable fact that Frida Kahlo immortalised the unibrow. Her daring black stripe represents her refusal to conform to the conventional norms of Hollywood beauty and has since inspired others. The unibrow took on various forms in her paintings, from the wing of a hummingbird to thick, exaggerated brush strokes.

3. Tehuana dress
The Tehuana style of dress emerged from the Tehuantepac region of South Mexico. Kahlo adopted this style, dressing in huipil tops and floor-length sweeping skirts, with bright floral prints, thick lace hems and ribbon trims. She mixed the authentic silhouette with fabrics imported from China and Europe, creating her own eclectic style. According to legend, Tehuana women were figures of authority within their society; perhaps, by taking on their traditional dress, Kahlo was displaying her own strength and will.

4. Jewellery
Kahlo completed her look with quantities of elaborate jewellery, from lariat necklaces and mismatched earrings to skull pendants and strung shells. She favoured pre-Christopher Columbus handcrafted pieces by native American Indians, the majority of which are now kept at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan, Mexico, located inside Frida’s family home, La Casa Azul.

5. Hair braids
Kahlo often wore her black hair in thick braids piled over the top of her head. She teamed this with floral headpieces: finely wrought crowns of wild flowers and ribbon. For a series of 1940’s self-portraits, she wears an elaborate wreath, with tears dripping from her eyes. The hairstyle, which has been repeatedly revived over the years, has been used on the models contemporary designers.”

The Guardian:
AnOther: http:



Saturday, May 9, 2015

U.O.P. Landscape 1

Artist: Salvador Castío, United States
Artist’s statement: I drew this landscape at the beginning of 2014. It was the first thing that I drew in my new Stillman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook. After 25 years of using the same brand of sketchbook, I discovered Stillman & Birn and changed. Their quality is superb and I now use their sketchbooks exclusively. I live near the University of the Pacific (U.O.P.) and regularly take walks through the campus. The landscaping on campus is very lush and invites one to want to draw. This drawing started as a pencil sketch that was worked on for almost a week. My initial sketches are quick and loose; only general shapes and an indication of shading are noted at first. Once I feel as if I’ve put down all the information that I will need, I proceed to the next phase: inking.

My inking technique is methodical and labor intensive. As I said, I start by establishing shadow shapes. Once those are in place I start building up the values. I go for the darkest values first, this allows me to accurately determine and compare lesser values in the picture. I build up my values line by line using a Rapidograph technical pen. I favor the .35 point since it allows me to add as much fine detail as needed. I’ve used a Rapidograph for 30 years because I like working with real ink. Many of the modern sketch pens offer little in the way of permanence. A drawing such as this normally takes me a few days to finish – as you can imagine, I don’t burn through sketchbooks. In fact, it normally takes me a year to complete a sketchbook.

I’ve been keeping a sketchbook on and off since 1987 and have continuously kept one since 1995. I keep a sketchbook for two reasons. First, I love to draw. Second, I like keeping a journal. I’ve never been interested in keeping a sketchbook to practice my skills as is traditionally done. Instead, I prefer to use it as a place where I can put down my thoughts, ideas, and whatever is going on in my life at the moment. The two people that have had the biggest influence on my sketchbook work are Barron Storey, whom I studied with at The Academy of Art in San Francisco, and underground comics pioneer, Robert Crumb. Although their work is distinctly different, it is very similar in the aspect of the intimate, no holds barred approach that they both take. In my opinion, their sketchbooks are the finest example of the art of graphic journaling.

As an artist, carrying a sketchbook is one of the best things that you can do; I’ve noticed that keeping a sketchbook has become quite a popular thing to do over the past decade and I think that’s great. I believe that a sketchbook should represent who you are as a person. It should contain your thoughts, ideas, and emotions. If you’re not doing that, then what’s the point? If you’d like to see more of my work, you can at:,, and

MEDIA: Pencil, pen and ink
SURFACE: Alpha Series – Heavyweight – 150 gsm – White – Medium Grain Surface

U.O.P. Landscape I