materials monday

Materials Monday: Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens

 
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Like most visual journalists, I’m always on the lookout for a good pen, and having a variety of drawing pens in the journal kit is a must have for me. There are a wide variety of drawing pens out there with certain big names dominating the market. But I like the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens. I’ve only used the black, so I can’t specifically speak about the multiple colors available in the product line, but I am a big fan of the black. However, I am dying to try some of the 58 colors they have.

The Pitt pens use India ink, and Faber-Castell claims that they are permanent and waterproof. I must say that the ink holds up well to the wet media that I use in my journal and my artwork. I have had issues with some other brands that have claimed to be permanent and waterproof, but the Pitt pens live up to the claim with little to no bleeding if given enough time to dry. However, like any waterproof pen, the more ink that you lay down in an area, the more likely some of the ink will lift and spread when painted over with wet media. But it has not been an issue at all.

One of the things that I love about the black Pitt pens is the range of tip sizes, and you can even buy a set that has eight different sizes and types of tips — everything from an Extra Superfine to a Soft Brush. This allows you to draw in small, thin details as well as fill in larger areas, and there is even a Big Brush pen that works like a big marker with a brush nib.

 
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I love the versatility of the uni-ball Vision pens, but there’s something about having a set of dedicated drawing pens and being able to add a wider range of marks, lines, and textures to pages and to artwork. These pens are my goto pens when I’m doing any kind of ink drawing, especially for many of my monster drawings. The range is perfect for creating thick outlines, as well, as small details like, stripes, spots, and bumps.

 
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I also like that the Pitt pens and airplane safe, and don’t have issues on flights. Many pens, the uni-ball Visions included, can have issues with leaks and globs because of the change in cabin pressure when flying. It’s such an annoyance to end up with blobs of ink all over a surface or all over your hands. There’s none of that with the Pitt Pens, and they have quickly become one of my favorite travel pens.

The only issue that I have is that most of the colors have a very limited nib size, and mostly come in a brush tip only. I’d love to have the colored ink in a wider selection of nibs, and it’s one of the main reasons that I haven’t really tried the colored ink. I’d even consider replacing my uni-ball Vision pens if I could get the colors I wanted in a Fine or Medium point. Maybe one day. Until then, the black Pitt pens are a great addition to my artistic arsenal, and I use them more and more as time goes by.

If you’re looking for a great set of black drawing pens that are waterproof and come in a wide variety of nibs, then I’d say to get yourself some Faber-Castell Pitt pens, and if you’ve used the colored pens, I’d love to know how you like them.

As always, I get no compensation for these recommendations, and I simple share the materials and the brands that I like and personally use.

Materials Monday: Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set

 
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Some how, It’s been nearly a month since I last posted a Materials Monday. It’s amazing how life gets busy, but it’s back today.

Like most artists I don’t just use one type or brand of a particular material, and I have different brands, often for different purposes. And so it goes with watercolor paint. I love using watercolor paint in my journal and in my mixed media art, and I’ve already shared my enthusiasm for the inexpensive Prang semi-moist watercolors. Unfortunately, Prang watercolors are not lightfast, meaning that they will fade over time when exposed to light, and they are not the best paint to use for pieces that will hang on the wall. Though they are portable in their tough plastic case, the larger 16-color set is a bit on the bulky side, and are not always convenient to take everywhere.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been searching for a travel set of paints that were better quality, more lightfast, and something that wasn’t going to break the bank. Quality watercolor paints can be on the expensive side, so I became quite intrigued when Derwent announced that they were releasing their Inktense in the form of a travel paint pan set. I love the Inktense pencils, and I’ve used them for years, so I had to snatch up a set of the paints. Overall, I’m quite pleased, and they have announced that they are releasing a second set with different selection of colors.

First, I must say that technically, these paints are not watercolor paints, just as the Inktense pencils are not watercolor pencils. The pencils, blocks, and paints are all water-soluble ink. But the paint set acts just like watercolor paint with one exception. Like the Inktense pencils and blocks, the paint is more permanent and less likely to lift when painted over, and supposedly can be used on fabric, though I’ve never done that.

One of the main highlights of the Inktense paint pans is price. They are a good quality paint, at a very decent price, and they can often be found for under $25 in the US. They aren’t available everywhere, but they can be ordered online.

I am quite pleased with the Inktense paint. The set comes with 12 bright colors, and they are rich and intense like the pencils and cover well. The set is small and very compact making it a perfect travel size, but the pans are a bit smaller than normal half-pans, and unfortunately, I haven’t seen replacement pans available in the US, but it looks like they are available in the UK. The set comes with a small water brush and a sponge, neither of which I use. I got the set for the paint!

 
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The only real issue that I have with the paint is the selection of the colors, and it’s really more a matter of personal taste. Though the set has your basic colors, I wish that it had a crimson or a magenta. I’ve been getting into color schemes lately that include more pinks and purples, and the poppy red that is included is a very warm red making it difficult to get the pinks and purples that I want. The set also comes with a dark plum instead of a standard violet. Though the plum is great for blending into the blues and using as a complement to the yellow and the ochre, I again have gotten into these pink and purple color schemes, and I’d love a brighter violet.

 
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I love the brightness of the colors, the quality of the paint, the compactness of the set, and the price. I’d just love a slightly different color selection. However, Derwent has recently announced that it is releasing a second set of the Inktense Paint Pans with 12 different colors including a scarlet and a fuchsia, though no bright violet, but for now it only appears to be available in the UK. I’m not sure when or if it’ll be available in the US, but in the meantime, I’ll make do with what I have.

So if you are looking for a compact and inexpensive set of lightfast paints, the Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set might be just the thing. Please remember that I am not receiving any kind of compensation for any of these reviews or recommendations. They are just the materials that I personally like to use.

Materials Monday: Letter Stencils

 
 

Words are almost as big of a part of my visual journaling process as the art making and the collage. As a journal, I want my book to reflect and document my daily life — my ups, my downs, and my in betweens, and words go a long way in helping with that. Naturally, I write out many of my reflections longhand, and of course, I draw words, text, and quotes to give emphasis. But having letter stencils on hand, is a quick and easy way to add letters and words, and they can be used with a wide variety of materials — everything from pen and pencil to acrylic and watercolor paints. I always have a few styles and sizes on hand so that I can tailor the letters and words to fit multiple purposes and situations.

I don’t have a favorite brand or kind of letter stencil, and over the years I’ve picked them up at arts and crafts stores, as well as office supplies stores. But I usually limit myself to the simpler, more generic lettering styles — Roman, Gothic, and Helvetica. I don’t like the to use the fancy or funky fonts — it’s just not my thing. I do try to have several sizes of the same font on hand — normally a small, medium, and large, and I do have a couple of extra large sets for when only a big word will do.

Letter stencils, also called lettering guides, come in a variety of materials as well, and I must say that I prefer the thinner, flexible plastic stencils since they take up less space. I can throw a few of them in the pocket of my large journal and take them anywhere. However, they do get beat up a bit, and they can get bent and even torn — especially the delicate insides of letters. The stiff, thick plastic stencils are much more durable, but not as portable so I relegate them to the studio. I have used the stencils cut from heavy paper, but they tear easily and don’t hold up to wet media.

I steer clear of stencils with already cut words and phrases because they are somewhat limiting.  You probably aren’t going to use them a whole lot and stencil the word and phrase over and over and over again. I like being able to create any word, any phrase — much more versatile. I also like to use letters and numbers as graphic devices, and I often stencil “ABCD” or “12345” onto pages and artworks. I also, like to stencil a letter like “X” over and over to create patterns. This allows me to play around with letters on a purely visual level.

If you don’t have any letter stencils, go get yourself some, and have fun playing with words, letters, and numbers.

Materials Monday: Derwent Inktense Pencils

 
 

I’ve admitted my love of water-soluble pencils on the blog before, especially when I’ve discussed Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils and Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle Pencils. I use them a lot in my journal and in my stand alone, mixed media art to create layers. I truly appreciate the control of the pencil, but I love the painterly quality of the water-soluble material. So, today I want to share what is probably my favorite water-soluble pencil — Derwent Inktense Pencils. Although I refer to the Inktense as watercolor pencils, they are not really watercolor, and Derwent has a whole line of watercolor pencils. The Inktense are water-soluble ink pencils, and they are a high quality, professional material.

 
 

When someone first offered me an Inktense pencil to try, I didn’t really see any real difference to the Prismacaolor watercolor pencils that I had been using. And in fact, once I got a small set of Inktense pencils, I did a side-by-side test with them and the Prismacolor, and there really wasn’t a discernible difference in color intensity or coverage. Both pencils performed exceptionally well no matter what technique was used. So as far as quality and performance, they were pretty much on par with each other.

So, why did I switch to the Inktense pencils if they didn’t outperform the Prismacolor?

The answer is simply transparency. All of the Inktense pencils are transparent since they are a water-soluble ink. The Prismacolor offer a number of lighter colored pencil, but it appears that they get these pencils by adding white. The white creates a bit of opacity making the color look cloudy when applied, and I’ve never been a big fan of this cloudiness. These colors aren’t so good for layering, but that’s not the case with the Inktense. The only light colors of Inktense are colors that have yellow in them, so you won’t find a light pink or a light blue. Instead you find richer, more intense colors that you can lighten or darken by controlling how much pigment you color and shade onto the paper. This is much better for the type of layering that I like to do with the pencil, so I prefer the Inktense over the Prismacolor.

Another advantage that the Inktense has over the Prismacolor is that you can get a set of 72 in the Inktense, but only a set of 36 in the Prismacolor. There was a time when Prismacolor offered the watercolor pencils in larger sets, but they seem to have cut back on them. If you’re looking for a wide range of colors, Inktense is the way to go.

Now Inktense aren’t perfect, and there can be an issue when using them. The ink becomes fixed when it dries, and you can work over top of it with out disturbing the previous layers. Now this sounds like a major advantage, and it is, most of the time. It’s great for building up layers without smearing and obliterating previous layers, and this permanence also allows the Inktense to be used on silk and fabric, though I’ve never tried this. But the issue is that as you spread the pencil with a wet brush, areas can dry leaving hard-edged lines, which you can’t rewet and fade out. This isn’t all that great if you’re trying to get a smooth, even color. Though it’s an advantage most of the time, this permanence can be a bit of a nuisance in some instances.

The only other issue is price. The Derwent Inktense are a premium material, and so you pay a premium price. They can be quite a bit more expensive than the Prismacolor, but it’s something that I’m willing to pay in order to get the transparency that I want.

If you’re looking for an intense, high quality water-soluble material, you might want to try the Derwent Inktense Pencils, but maybe use one of these 40-50% coupons you can often get for your favorite arts and craft store to help save a bit on the cost.

As a reminder, that I am not being paid or compensated in anyway for these recommendations. These are simply things that I like to use in my own art.

Materials Monday: UHU Stic Glue Stick

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A good adhesive is essential for any mixed media endeavor like the visual journal, and there are a great number of glues and tapes on the market. If you’ve been following me or if you’ve seen some recent posts, you may already know that I definitely prefer UHU Stic, and it is my go to glue for my journal and much of my mixed media work. I’ve been using UHU exclusively since I started journalling nearly twenty years ago.

I know a lot of people really don’t like glue stick, and struggle with getting things to really stick to the page, but I like the convenience of a glue stick. When used effectively, it works well to adhere paper, photos, and more in the journal and in mixed media artwork. UHU is a high quality glue that is non toxic, acid free, and washable, and it comes in several sizes. I always get the jumbo size — the 1.41 oz size, and I like the blue colored glue stick. Though it’s a deep blue in the tube, it dries completely clear when applied. The blue color is great for ensuring the glue covers evenly. The have recently redesigned the label on the glue stick, but it’s the same old glue.

 
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The UHU is perfect for gluing in maps and movie tickets, newspaper and tracing paper, photocopies and magazine images, and a lot more. However, thick, glossy materials like postcards can be a little tricky, and it can take a little extra time and pressure to make certain that they stick. But it can be done. Like any glue stick, the UHU can be rather messy, and I always make certain to work on top of a scrap of paper when I spread the glue so that I don’t get glue all over my work surface or all over my pages. I find that the UHU is perfect for building layers of transparent media like watercolor, watercolor pencil, and marker. The only draw back is the glued pieces can sometimes lift up when they get wet, but almost any glue stick will do that. Many people like to use acrylic gel medium as an adhesive, but that’s best for mixed media that involves acrylic paints. I don’t use much acrylic in my journals, and the dried acrylic medium id difficult to layer on top of with watercolor and water-soluble pencil.

 
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Unfortunately, UHU Stic Glue Stick can be difficult to find in local shops, and many big arts and crafts retailers don’t carry UHU in their brick and mortar stores. It can even be hard to find in office supply sotore, so I buy mine online. I usually buy a half dozen or more, since I go through them pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for a good glue stick, I recommend UHU Stic. Just make certain to use it effectively!

Materials Monday: Metallic Sharpies

 
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Metallic markers and pens are a wonderful addition to any mixed media tool bag, and I feel that they’re pretty essential to the visual journal. Who doesn’t love adding some sparkling flair to their work?

I’ve used metallic ink for a long time to bring emphasis and focus to my journal pages, and it’s ideal for highlighting words, lines, and shapes. Over the years, I’ve used a lot of different metallic markers and pens, and some I’ve loved and some I’ve loathed. Even the best, though, can have problems of drying out, clogging up, and blobbing ink.

Over the past few years I’ve turned Metallic Sharpies. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and pretty reliable. Sharpie also makes metallic paint pens, but I’m talking about their metallic permanent markers. The ink isn’t as opaque and shiny as some others out there, and the markers won’t draw and write on top of every material, but they work on top of most materials that I use in the journal. They’re great for adding embellishments and a little bit of extra pop to elements on a journal page, and I always have a few in the studio and few in my travel art kit. I do find that they stand out more, if you draw or write on a dark surface, or if you outline the marker with a black pen.

One really nice thing about the Metallic Sharpies is that they are less messy then many other metallic pens and markers, especially paint markers. There’s nothing like trying to get a paint marker’s paint to flow and ending up with a huge, unwanted blob of paint on your page. There’s no worry about that with the Sharpie since it’s a plain, permanent marker with metallic ink — no shaking, no pressing down the tip to get the ink to flow. Another plus is that the metallic Sharpies come in three distinct colors — gold, silver, and bronze, and you can often find them in a convenient 3-pack. I did notice that Sharpie has three new metallic colors, as well — sapphire, ruby, and emerald, but I haven’t tried them.

There is one major drawback with the Metallic Sharpies. They must be stored with the tip down, and I’m thinking that this has something to do with the metallic ink inside. I’ve had some metallic Sharpies that were just kicking around inside my bag all willy-nilly, and after a while, they just don’t write or draw well. They’re just not very metallic, and the ink appears clear. I think that this is an issue of the ink separating inside the marker, and storing them tip down, makes this less likely. Also, there is a little bit of bleed through with these markers, but not like with regular sharpies. Any bleed through is nominal, and it’s something that I can live with. I don’t know how well they would hold up on stand alone work, but overall, I like using these Sharpies in my journal.

If your looking for an inexpensive, yet effective metallic marker to add to your stash, I recommend the Metallic Sharpies — just make certain to store them with the tip down!

Materials Monday: Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle Pencils

 
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I must say that I am a big fan of water-soluble pencils, and I’ve already confessed my love of watercolor pencil here on the blog. So, it’s no wonder that I include water-soluble graphite as part of my artist’s tool bag. These pencils work very much like watercolor pencil, but the just do it with graphite instead of colored pigment. You can use them in a number of ways like watercolor pencils, but I mostly draw and shade with them first, and then brush water over the marks. The pencils give me a lot of control, but with a little water, I get a nice painterly effect.

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I’ve used many different brands of water-soluble pencils throughout the years, but I am currently using Faber-Castell’s Graphite Aquarelle Pencils. Faber-Castell is a maker of high quality pencils, colored pencils, pens, and markers, and the Graphite Aquarelles are no exception to this quality. They are a chunky pencil with a barrel that’s slightly larger than your average pencil allowing for a thicker graphite core. They blend beautifully with water, and come in five hardness grades — HB, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B, allowing for a full range of value. Conveniently, you can get all five in a set, but if you were to get just one pencil, I’d recommend one of the darker pencils, either the 6B or 8B, since you can control the value by how hard you press.

Over the years, I’ve used water-soluble graphite in my journal and in stand alone mixed media work and  graphite drawings, and I’ve loved the effect in all instances. It’s easy to build up layers of graphite using all of the hardness grades, and this is one of my favorite ways to use them. I start with the lightest pencil — the HB, and establish a composition on mixed media paper painting over it with clean water. After it dries, I build up another layer with a darker pencil, and I continue with all the pencils to achieve dark, rich values. But the effect can be a little bit messy since painting over the graphite is never extremely precise, so I like to use regular graphite on top to make edges crisp and to even out values. The combination of water-soluble and regular graphite results in a rich piece. Of course, the Graphite Aquarelles work excellently in mixed media pieces as layers in with materials like pen, marker, and collage, and having the ability to spread and blend the graphite can lead to interesting effects. You can also combine the pencils with other materials, and the darker pencils are great to use with acrylic paint or medium as they will mix and blend with the wet acrylic.

Students experimenting with water-soluble graphite and white acrylic paint.

Overall, the Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils are a versatile medium to use on it’s own or with other materials, and the selection of five hardness grades gives an advantage to Faber-Castell over some other brands that offer just one grade. The only downside that I can see is that by themselves, the pencils can be rather messy when brushing over them with water, but using them with regular graphite or other materials easily makes up for it. I never go anywhere without at least one tucked in my bag.

Please remember that I do not receive payment or any other benefits from the makers and manufactures of the materials that I share on Materials Mondays. These are materials that I personally use and enjoy!

Materials Monday: Strathmore Hardbound Sketch Journal

 
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Probably, the question that I get asked the most is “What kind of book do you use?”

If you keep a sketchbook, art journal, or visual journal, you might be very picky about the book that you use, and choosing a book can be a very personal choice. I know that I am rather particular about the books that I use. Some artists prefer to make their own, controlling every aspect from how big it is to the type of paper used, and others use any book that they have on hand. But for me, I like to use a manufactured book that I can buy at the store or online. I like the consistency, and I like being able to simply grab a new book when I’m ready to start a new one. I admire those who hand-make their books, but it’s just not for me.

For years I used hardbound Cachet Classic Sketchbooks, but at some point I noticed a change in the quality. Where materials barely bled through in my older journals, I noticed that ink and watercolor would bleed through some of the newer ones, so I switched to the Strathmore Hardbound Drawing Journal. It had a thicker drawing paper, and I used these books for a few years. But over time it has gotten more difficult to get them, and my favorite retailers don’t seem to carry them.

So for my current journal, I’m using a Strathmore Hardbound Sketch Journal, and it is been serving me well over the past year. This book contains 192 pages of 60 lbs. (89 gms) heavyweight sketch paper, and though it’s intended for dry media, it holds up well to my mixed media approach with minimal bleed through. I’ve almost filled it, and I have another one waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, it’s getting more difficult to find these at retailers as well, but luckily, I have a stash of them to use over the next couple of years.

I chose the Strathmore Hardbound Sketch Journal for several reasons. First, it’s one of the few hardbound books that comes in an 11 inch by 14 inch size. I’m not a fan of spiral bound books, since I like to create a lot of two-page spreads and a spiral just gets in the way. I also, really enjoy the larger format, and many manufactures make books no bigger than 8.5 x 11 inches. The bigger book challenges this standard size that we’re so use to, and it allows for more expansive opportunities when adding to the pages. There’s just more room to explore. Second it has 192 pages. I really liked the Strathmore Drawing Journal, but it only had 96 pages because of the heavier paper. It’s nice to have a book with lots of pages. Finally, the sketch journal has good quality paper. It’s part of Strathmore’s 400 series which they call their best. Yes, it’s on the thin side and meant for dry materials, but there’s not a whole lot of bleed through, even with watercolor and ink. There can be some, but I accept it as part of the process and a trade off for having the number of pages that I want.

The thin paper is the only drawback that I see. Some artists can’t stand even the slightest bleed through, and colors coming through from the other side of the page can drive them crazy. Also, there is a lot of buckling with the paper when using watercolor or water-soluble materials. Again, that can drive some folks nuts because they want the paper to stay flat and unaffected by water. Like I said before, I accept these things as part of the process, and it doesn’t bother me. Besides, the pages flatten out pretty well when the book is closed.

All in all, I am very pleased with the Strathmore Hardbound Sketch Journal, and it’s comparable in price to other hardbound sketchbooks. If you can find it, it’s a great book to work in as you journal.

Materials Monday: uni-ball Vision Pens

 
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A good pen is essential for working in the visual journal — from writing and doodling to drawing and embellishing, a quality pen will serve you well, and it seems like most everyone has their favorite brand. For me, it’s my uni-ball Vision pens.

I’ve been using these pens for years, and I don’t really remember when I first discovered them. I always seem to have several stuffed in my pocket no matter where I go, but I am careful with the ones that I get. I make certain that the pens are marked as waterproof/fade-proof, and these are really good at any stage of a page. They easily draw and write on a blank page as well as on top of watercolor and collage. Since they are waterproof/fade-proof, I can paint over the ink once it’s dry with little to no bleeding. However the ink will bleed more often when I paint over solid areas of ink or when I paint over fresh lines of ink, but I accept this as part of the process. If needed, I can always go back over top of these areas and lines.

The regular uni-ball Vision pens and the Vision Needle pens both come in two sizes — micro (0.5mm) and fine (0.7mm), and the Vision Elite pens come in the micro size and a bold (0.8mm) size. The Vision pens are acid-free and available in a variety of colors, but not all colors are waterproof/fade-proof and can easily bleed and blend when painted over with water or watercolor. I normal carry a black, red, and blue, but I do like occasionally having other colors to use so I have a variety of colors stashed in my bag of portable supplies. Over the years, I have tried the Vision Elites and the Vision Needles, but I find the I like the ordinary Vision pens the best.

Although these are my favorite pens, I do have one big gripe. The regular Vision pens are not too airplane safe, and they can end up spewing ink due to the change in pressure on a flight. This is quite annoying when you end up with a big blob of ink on a page or end up with ink all over your fingers. If you fly a lot, these pens can give you problems, and making certain that they are carried with the tips pointing up can help a little to even the pressure inside the pen. The Vision Elite pens are airplane safe, but I find that the ink is not too waterproof, so there is a trade off.

The are only a couple of minor issues with the Vision pens that can be a bit of a nuisance. The first is that the tips can get clogged from time to time if you write over top of wet glue or acrylic paint, so it’s good to be careful not to be in a big hurry and allow paint and glue to dry thoroughly. The other issue is that the ink can take a while to dry on top of shiny surfaces, and if you draw over top of magazine images or slick postcards, you want to give the ink plenty of time to dry.

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If you’re looking to add a good quality pen to your journal kit, I highly recommend the uni-ball Vision pens, and as a reminder, I am not getting paid or reimbursed in anyway for recommending any of the materials that I share. These are just the things that I personally use.

Happy journaling!