This is one of the least ugly blue cakes I’ve ever made so I’m taking that as a good omen for my 57th year.
Now, before we begin todays’s lesson, I’m posting some pictures of my cat Cindy at work (as per last week’s request from Janet, Carol, Patty, Susie, Janice, Sarah, Deb, and Gitana). This is Cindy “helping” Top Cat and me with our 1,000-piece puzzle:
But it’s no surprise that with so much kitty “help”, our 1,000-piece puzzle ended up as as 998-piece puzzle:
And the other day, during one of our rare sunny January mornings, I found Miss Cindy taking a well-deserved rest near one of her biggest projects…
…where she can bask in her sense of accomplishment:
I know, I know: only Cat People will find this cute. [Note her handiwork on the chair here, just a fraction of her entire ouvre on our livingroom furniture.] So let’s change topics toute de suite.
When I first began doing the art work for my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, I was using Grumbacher paints:
These paints served me well. They are inexpensive (about $20 per 24-color sets like this, get them from Blick Art Supply on line), so I felt very free to slosh around and make mistakes until I got the hang of what I can and cannot do with paint like this. Also, I was working very small (all illustrations in Wanderers are reproduced in the original size) so I could bang about with these paints all day and mess up as much as I wanted without having a major impact on the local landfill.
Here, for instance, is the very first time I painted The Lone Skater (on page 9 of When Wanderers Cease to Roam):
Since this picture is the exact size of a Triscuit cracker I call all my itty bitty pictures “Triscuits”, but I didn’t have a Triscuit handy when I photographed this for you, so I used a Tostito:
And then it was late last Spring, after my second book Le Road Trip came out in April, that I was contacted by Carol Gillot, the fabulous watercolorist and blogger of Paris Breakfasts fame (parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com) who told me it was time to upgrade my equipment. She advised me that Grumbacher paints have a lot of cheap chalk filler in them and I should try painting with a higher quality of watercolor, so I bought a teeny tiny beginner’s kit of Windsor Newton paints at my favorite art supplier Dick Blick:
Oh My DoG. First of all, the Windsor Newton paints are sooo cuuuute!! And the intensity of color and the fluidity of the stuff makes painting with these watercolors feel like the Grumbacher had the power of a golf cart while the Windsor Newton has the oooph of a race car.
Compare these two garden illustrations. First, there’s the Grumbacher:
And now, with Windsor Newton:
I think we all can see the chalk in the Grumbacher now. But that is not to say that just because of the vivid, rich color possibilities of Windsor Newton that I have forsaken my beloved Grumbacher paints all together. Oh no. Because I know my Grumbacher paints so well, chalk and all, that I know how to use them to achieve certain misty, pale, subtle effects that I cannot get (yet?) with the Windsor Newton. This, for example…:
…is all Grumbacher. Maybe because of the chalk filler in them, I can trust the Grumbacher to blend and mix and/or stay put in scenes like this — see how the sunset yellow doesn’t get muddy when laid down next to the pink…and how the pink stays in place when it’s so close to the blue? And note the way the blue bleeds so beautifully into the wet wash that I did on the top. I can only do this with Grumbacher…
…and with a specific kind of Canson paper. I use a very light weight watercolor paper (a mere 90 pounds):
This is the paper that I’ve been using for years now, and again it’s because I know it so well that I can achieve everything I want with it even though it is very inexpensive and too thin and smooth for most professional watercolorists. This paper is the only thing I buy at Michael’s craft stores because they often put it on sale for 50% off, and this tablet of 15 sheets of 12′” x 18″ paper can cost about $5.00. I gave this paper to Carol Gillot and she couldn’t do a thing with it — she uses very heavy, toothy professional-quality paper. Here’s a sample of her watercolors:
Yes, Carol does the cuuuuutest pet portraits! Her portraits were recently written up in The Financial Times and she’s recently moved herself and her blog to Paris so if you want a regular France “fix”, check her out at parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com.
So next week I will talk about masking fluid and I’ll try to paint something for you — this week I did not paint a single thing because I’ve been distracted by Top Cat’s birthday gift to me: a round trip ticket to Paris. So I’m making plans to hang out with Carol and haunt France again for the first time since I went on Le Road Trip, and I’ll also be spending a few days in Giverny to do some on-site painting there. I’ll be going in May but there’s so much to plan, and still so much birthday cake, and all that champagne doesn’t drink itself.
Let me know if you have ay specific questions about paint or paper or masking fluid or watercolor stuff and I’ll try to include an answer for you in next week’s post too. As Jain says, I have all kinds of wee tips that I’m happy to share!