Monday, April 29, 2019

What I've Learned from Testing Watercolors

I began testing professional grade watercolors in 2017.  I'd hit a wall with Winsor and Newton watercolors- I'd used the semi moist half pans years when painting 7" Kara, and found that I had difficulty justifying paying $7+ for a single half pan that might last half a chapter.  I wanted to find alternatives that had similar working properties and professional qualities (archival, lightfast, ability to layer and glaze) and hoped to find a price break.

Recognizing that watercolor comic artists don't have many resources tailored to their needs, I decided to share my experiences in two forms, both primarily on YoutubeUnbox and Swatch videos focus on the initial product reaction and swatches, Fieldtests focus on how the paints handle in an actual illustration.  Frequently, Fieldtests double as tutorials- a chance to demonstrate techniques or explain a process.

I've begun collating my experiences and findings into a single ranked document, mostly for my own amusement.  Eventually, I'll make it available to others, and it might be fun to do a tournament style ranking of watercolors, with input from other watercolor comic artists and illustrators.

illustration painted with Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections Tropicals
Prima Marketing Tropicals Fieldtest
  • Swatching isn't really enough to give viewers the information they need.  My Unbox and Swatch process has evolved over the years, from straight swatches to graduated swatches that test opacity, granulation, and lifting properties.
Illustration painted with White Nights watercolors
St Petersburg White Nights Fieldtest
  • Fieldtests have taught me how to make the most out of individual brands' unique working properties.  To get the most out of something cheap like Artist Loft or Reeves, I have to have a variety of techniques and skills to draw from- fieldtests have helped me develop these problem solving skills.
Illustration painted with the Daniel Smith Ultimate mixing palette
Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set Half Pan Palette
  • Good watercolor paper solves a lot of wrongs.  Arches padbound cottonrag paper is a great fairly affordable surface for a wide range of watercolors. You can use cheap watercolor on nice paper and nice watercolors on cheap paper, but cheap watercolors on cheap paper is usually a struggle many beginner artists aren't ready to deal with.
watercolor illustration painted with MozArt Komorebi watercolors
Mozart Komorebi Field Test
  • Testing watercolor is just as expensive as testing alcohol markers, a niche I've been eager to leave in the past.   However, you can do fairly thorough testing with just a few colors, as watercolors are far more mixable, so there's less waste.  Still, my testing is only possible thanks to support of my Artnerds on Patreon.
watercolor illustration painted with the Sakura Koi CAC palette
Sakura Koi CAC Fieldtest
  • Testing watercolor has really broadened my horizons.  Before I began testing professional watercolor brands, I stuck pretty closely to Winsor and Newton, as it was what I was familiar with, and is commonly available.  Now my daily driver palette includes Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Holbein, and more.  I'm much more comfortable with color mixing, and with making the most of the palette I'm currently using.
watercolor illustration painted with the Derwent Inktense travel palette
Derwent Inktense Travel Palette Fieldtest
  • While recommending specific watercolors is fun, people are most likely to purchase what they'd already had in mind.  If they've already decided on Reeves, Cotman, Artist Loft, or Arteza, that's probably what they're going to end up buying.  
watercolor illustration painted with Boku Undo E-Sumi palette
Boku Undo Fieldtest
  • Everyone's journey into watercolor is different, everyone handles it differently, and ever artist has different needs.  Maybe the theoretical artist described above is the Avatar of Watercolor, and can bend those cheap art supplies to great effect.  Maybe they want to do loose watercolor florals, and need blendability, but not layer-ability.  Or maybe they just want to color their sketches, and don't need professional quality watercolors.
MozArt Komorebi Etegami Fieldtest
MozArt Komorebi Etegami Fieldtest
watercolor illustration painted with the Qor Mini Palette Fieldtest
Qor Mini Palette Fieldtest
  • Only adjust one variable at a time.  If you're testing unknown paints on an unknown paper, it's difficult to know which working properties are the paints, and which are the papers.
watercolor illustration painted with the Anthesis Arts Meadow Palette
Anthesis Arts Fieldtest
  • Tubes are generally more economical than half pans.  Depending on the size of the tube (often ranging from 5ml-15ml) you can get 3-5 half pan refills per tube of paint.  You can get empty half pans through Amazon, and fill your own half pans.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Teaching Copic Classes with PlaZa Art

Nashville Artnerds, mark your calendars!  I'm so excited to announce that I'm teaching classes through PlaZa!  Even better—I'm going to be teaching marker classes, a longtime dream of mine!  The icing on the cake?  PlaZa is providing materials for class use, so you don't have to have your own markers to take these classes!

Each class is three hours in the afternoon, and most classes are on Saturdays and Sundays—perfect for people who work outside the home, or for teenagers interested in learning the ins and outs of markers.

For those of you not familiar with PlaZa, it's a chain of art supply stores in the US East.  PlaZa hosts one of my favorite art supply events—Hands on Creativity—and has a wide selection of art supplies and classes available to area artists.  My goal with PlaZa is to offer classes that will appeal to younger artists, or artists who are young at heart, featuring techniques and materials inspired from my own artistic journey.  Each class is standalone, but students who take the Copic classes will find that we're going to build on techniques.

PlaZa has sponsored my Watercolor Workshop this Saturday at MTAC, and they've kindly provided paper and paint samples for attendees of this workshop!  This workshop is free to MTAC attendees and is scheduled to begin at 12PM (noon) on Saturday, April 20th, 2019.  You can check out a full calendar of my classes AND con appearances here!  And if you'd like to be notified about classes- from class announcements to registration, sign up here.


Saturday, April 23rd: Working In Watercolor

Learn the basics of painting in watercolor!  This class is focused on watercolor for illustration and comics, and is taught by a Nashville comic artist (me!).  Learn about materials, techniques, and tricks in a hands on environment.  Leave the panel with fun watercolor samples, provided by PlaZa.

Workshop was sponsored by PlaZa

April 23rd, 12PM (noon)
Free to MTAC attendees, materials provided
Sheraton Hotel, Panel Room D (Evergreen)
Open to all ages
More information here


Sunday, May 12th: Alcohol Marker Basics

A crash course in Copic markers!

Learn the basics of Copic markers during this short course!  We'll cover marker acquisition, storage, and care, Copic compatible papers and inks, as well as selecting color palettes, blending, and creating depth.

May 12, 1-4PM
$25, supplies provided
Ages 13 and up


Saturday, June 1st: Coloring People with Copic

This class is perfect for stampers, scrappers, and illustrators!  You don't need to be an artist, as line-art will be provided for your use, but you're welcome to doodle along.  We're going to talk about selecting colors for skin, hair, and eyes, and cover techniques for makeup, blush, and shadows!

June 1st, 1-4PM
$25, all supplies provided.
Ages 13 and up

Sunday, June 9th: Coloring Flowers with Copic

Learn how to use alcohol markers for beautiful botanicals!  Alcohol markers pack a color punch—the vivid, brilliant colors are perfect for rendering flowers and foliage.  In this afternoon class, we're going to talk about techniques for creating depth of color, rendering dewdrops, and illustrating lush florals.

June 9th, 1-4PM
$25, all supplies provided.
Ages 13 and up


Saturday, July 20th: Copic Markers on Toned Paper

Take your marker art to the next level!  Toned paper provides a perfect backdrop for marker art and illustration!  Choose between tan, grey, or blue as your base, and let your imagination run wild.  We'll talk about techniques for making your marker illustrations pop!

July 20th, 1-4PM
$25, all supplies provided
Ages 13 and up


Saturday, August 3rd: Comic Bootcamp: Eight Page Mini Comic from One Sheet of Paper

In this class, you're going to learn a magic trick—how to turn one sheet of paper into an eight page mini comic!  Learn the basics of storytelling and planning for a short comic, leave with your own comic to trade and exchange!  Basic drawing skills useful, but not mandatory.

August 3rd, 1-4PM
$25, all supplies provided
Ages 13 and up

To register, you can call the Nashville PlaZa at 615-254-3368 and select extension 4, or you can email

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Hey Nashville friends!  I'm going to be at the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival this Saturday, April 13th! 

I'm going to be in booth 30 in J-Funland, so keep an eye out for a blue topped tent with lots of cherry blossoms!  I will not be tabling at MTAC this year (but I will be around, don't worry!) so if you want to commission some original art from me this year, please come see me at Cherry!  I'm going to be taking mail in commissions, selling comics and mini comics (including a debut of Lilliputian Living Volume 2), having a flash sale on my Sassy Buttons, ribbons, and other cute things, and selling original art! 

I'm going to have the cutie from the above con announcement video available for sale as well!  She's alcohol marker on chiyogami paper, so if you're the lucky one who takes her home, please do not display in direct sunlight, as she'll fade (alcohol inks are dyebased, and not archival).

I've also got fresh reprints of all my mini comics
31 Days Under the Waves
Magical Girl March
Favorite Fictional Femmes
Lilliputian Living Volume 1

I'm debuting Lilliputian Living Volume 2 at Cherry Blossom Festival, and have brand new, hand assembled copies ready!

I'm also hoping for warm weather because I have beautiful handpainted fans for sale.

Quince Blossoms:

Morning Glories:

Cherry Blossom Fan Walkthrough

Plum Blossom Fan Walkthrough

Clover Fan Walkthrough

I have a batch of freshly painted and sealed wooden charms, as well as a selection of unpainted wooden charms, and I'm currently restocking my stickers and hope to have some new designs at the show.  I'm also going to do a sale bin of sassy buttons, kawaii jewelry, and ribbons- so if you've missed those items, Cherry Blossom is a great chance to stock up!

I hope I'll see you guys on Saturday!

Monday, April 08, 2019

Brilliant Beautiful Color with Holbein HWC

Generally, I avoided fluorescents and semi opaque multi pigment colors, assuming that since they have a tendency to fade, lift, and mix muddy, they had no real place in my palette.  But after purchasing a few tubes of Kusakabe watercolors openstock while in Japan, I fell in love with the idea of using such colors sparingly, giving them the opportunity to shine.

If you're in the US, you may have difficulty finding KusakabeHolbein, another Japanese watercolor brand, is easier to find and a bit better known.  You may be familiar with the now discontinued Irodori line, a selection of traditional colors based on the sumi palette.

Awhile back, I reviewed the Holbein HWC 12 color set available from Amazon.  These tiny tubes deliver a lot of color, but also a fair bit of opacity. During the fieldtest, I decided this particular selection of HWC might be an excellent beginner option, or an option for a comic artist who wants to work in watercolor, but doesn't want to do a lot of mixing.

Holbein Quick Fire Review

Recently, I've started collecting more of Holbein's semi-opaque multi pigments and fluorescents.  There's something really fun about getting a lot of color without doing much mixing.  A recent acquisition of beautiful blues, pinks, and purples inspired the below hydrangea illustration.  Holbein can't take all the credit though- I used my lovely Da Vinci mixing set for everything BUT the hydrangea.

Holbein Colors Used: 

Color was applied into a clear wash to allow for diffusion.

Color is intensified by another layer of application.  Some wet into wet mixing is encouraged between colors, as some hydrangea blossoms are multi-colored.

I find with these watercolors, it's best to keep your layers to a minimal- don't overwork the piece with too many glazes or details.

I have a timelapse video for this piece coming up, so if you'd like to see how I painted this, step by step, subscribe to my Youtube channel and hit that bell notification!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Color that Packs a Punch- Qor's Mini Palette Delivers High Saturation Chroma

Top Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

Trans Pyrrole Orange, Dioxazine Purple, Sap Green, Payne's Grey

Nickel Azo Yellow, Quin Magenta, Pthalo Blue, Burnt Umber

Cad Yellow Primrose, Pyrrole Red Med, Ultramarine Blue, Trans Brown Oxide

If your major complaint about watercolor is it isn't saturated enough or doesn't pack enough color, Qor's got a palette that will single-handedly prove you wrong.
Qor is well known for their vibrant, vivid watercolors- particularly their blues.  This is due to the use of Aquazol over Gum Arabic as a binder, as Aquazol is clear rather than yellow.  Last year, Qor introduced a half pan travel palette, and this vivid little palette has quickly become one of my favorites.

In a compact, pocket sized form, the Qor palette includes 12 colors:

Cad Yellow Primrose
Nickel Azo Yellow
Transparent Pyrrole Orange
Pyrrole Red Medium
Quinacridone Magenta
Dioxazine Purple
Ultramarine Blue
Pthalo Blue
Sap Green
Transparent Brown Oxide
Burnt Umber
Payne's Grey

All of which are super saturated, and deliver quite a punch.

If you're used to traditional watercolor palettes, this palette will take some adjustment but if you enjoy painting florals, or want generous pigment and quick activation from your pocket watercolors, the Qor Mini Palette is a great addition to your studio.

I reviewed these watercolors on my channel awhile back, and I highly recommend you watch both videos!  The unbox and swatch is a deep dive into the watercolors and the brand, the field test is a step by step tutorial that explains how to use these paints.

Qor Unbox and Swatch

Tea Witch- Qor Watercolor Field Test

$59.99 on Amazon: 
$59.99 on Blick:
$59.99 on PlaZa:
$59.99 on Jerry's Artarama:

The Qor Mini Palette is limited to the 12 half pans that come within, but you can make your own using empty half pans and your favorite Qor watercolors.

Art Created with the Qor Mini Palette

Field test illustration painted on Strathmore 400 series cellulose watercolor paper

Lineless watercolor illustration, painted on Fluid 100 cottonrag watercolor paper

Monday, April 01, 2019

Comparing Watercolor Progress Over Time

I thought it would be neat to layout all my 7" Kara covers and compare the progression.  I used the Layout app in Instagram, which forces a square format, but I think this gives a neat idea of trends and changes over time.

As time progressed, I tried to move away from my reliance on color pencils and watercolor pencils to add fine details, I refined my color sense and application, and worked toward pages that felt more finished.  I tried to push my contrast and lighting as the chapters progressed and my watercolor skills improved.

Volume 1 Covers

Chapter 1 Cover- 2012, Chapter 2 Cover, 2012

Chapter 3 Cover, 2013, Chapter 4 Cover, 2014

Volume 2 Covers

Chapter 5 Cover, 2014, Chapter 6 Cover, 2015

Chapter 7 Cover, 2017, Chapter 8 Cover, 2018

While covers alone don't tell the whole tale (obviously, you should read the comic), I think they paint an interesting picture of my progress over time.  While Pancake and Kara feature prominently, Naomi is definitely due for another cover, and we've yet to see a cover where all three characters are featured.  Neither Rowan nor Tanner have been on a cover yet- perhaps this is also in the cards?

As I'm wrapping up work on Volume 2, and preparing for the looming Volume 2 Kickstarter (sign up here if you'd like to be notified when it launches!),  its a great opportunity to look back and appreciate how far I've come on this creator owned, self published comic.