Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?

A couple very excellent questions popped up in The Paintbox recently:

How Do You Research Markers?

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?

Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background
Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background

There's a few things yall should know about me, to understand how I pursue reviews.

I am impulsive as heck, especially when it comes to alcohol markers and watercolor.  I've had to actively work to slow myself down from buying things over the years, and to work through my backlog.  I've purchased A LOT of markers, and tend to personally go for things that are interesting and innovative (Chameleon Color Tones, Spectrum Noir Tri Blend), but my most requested reviews are for really cheap markers like those sold on Wish, Amazon, or even Walmart.  I try to satisfy both needs, but at this point, refuse to pay to review bullet tipped markers (I know I hate them, I'm biased) unless there's something really unusual.

These days, to slow myself down but still offer the option of reviews, I sometimes crowdfund art supply reviews on my Ko-Fi, allowing viewers to decide with their dollars which products they're interested in seeing reviewed.  This has helped me set boundaries, allowed me to save some money, and has slowed me down (in a good way) a lot!

When I do review a product, I do a lot of research between the Unbox and Swatch and the Fieldtest videos.  For the Unbox and Swatch, I want to go in as a fresh slate and form my own opinions, for the Fieldtest, I want to be knowledgeable about the product and able to answer possible questions.  I also use the Fieldtest as an opportunity to help those who own the product learn how to use it.

Knowledge builds on knowledge.  What I learn in other marker reviews can often be applied to newer reviews.

Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor
Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor

So how do I know so much about markers?

Years of use, years of teaching.  I teach marker classes with Nashville's Plaza art- to teach markers, I have to have a lot of experience, but I also had to do a lot of testing.  I make my own materials for class use, including demos.  At one point, I wanted Copic certification, and studied a lot about alcohol markers, but Copic never came to Nashville with their cert classes.

Internet searches and digging
  • Company's product page and what they say about the product
  • Reviews, particularly reviews on the product page
  • Videos put out by the company on manufacturing/usage
  • Digging up info about the parent company/acquisitions
  • Watch other artists' reviews like Frugal Crafter
  • Watch CHA yearly videos that introduce new products
  • Subscribed so several brands Youtube pages/Twitters/Instagram accounts to help me keep up with releases

Comparison to other markers I've reviewed in the past
  • Body type
  • Brush Type
  • Is this a new make of an old marker (like Spectrum Noir)
  • Is this a rebrand of another marker (like ColorIt, Milo, Shuttle Art)
  • Marker solvent's smell
  • Reactivity to popular/common marker solvents
  • Knowledge gathered from reviewing other types of markers, such as Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers/waterbased markers/watercolor markers

Frequently browse sites like:
  • Amazon
  • Ali Express
  • Wish
  • Marker Universe (formerly Copic's distributor)
  • Marker Supply
  • Blick
looking for new products

Frequently browse stores like:
  • Plaza
  • Jerry's Artarama
  • Michaels

Pay attention to trends:
  • Body types
  • Nib types
  • if the marker is popular, will they offer:
  • Refills
  • Replacement nibs
  • Who is this marketed to? (Spectrum Noir focuses heavily on the crafter market, for example, and may lean towards products that I personally would not find useful)
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board

Went to Japan, twice, on the hunt for interesting art supplies.  Went to San Francisco four times for the same.  Basically, any time I'm in a new area, I hit their art stores- regional and local.  If something is really interesting to me, I have no problem using Google Translate in the store to figure out if it's useful.

Revisit old reviews, particularly written ones, for important information I may have forgotten.  This blog contains five years- literally dozens- of marker reviews in the Alcohol Marker subsection.   The channel has at least a dozen more, with important info in the video descriptions.  I've gathered a lot of hands-on experience over the years that I can put to use when reviewing new markers.

Most of my friends are artists, and some of them are just as nerdy about art supplies as I am.  Kabocha introduced me to MSDS- info documents that share some, but not all, information about the makeup of the products, including known toxicity issues and carcinogens and some chemical information like the solvent.  Blick has MSDS information for most of their products.  Alli and Heidi have allowed me to borrow their art supplies to review and compare for the channel, and Kabocha has sent me interesting art supplies to try out over the years.  My group of friends rehomes art supplies frequently, and we used to frequently send one another samples, which allows us to cheaply expand our knowledge base.  When I know a friend has more knowledge than I do, I'm happy to turn to them for help.

Attend events centered around art supply manufacturing and new products. Tried to join NAMTA a few years ago as an artist, because I'm genuinely interested in how art supplies are made.  This is an ongoing goal- right now they don't offer an artist rate that's affordable, and have difficulty understanding why artists might be interested in how the sausage is made.  Attend Hands on Creativity yearly at Plaza and talk directly to art supply reps and manufacturers, attend the free workshops where they talk about how their products are made.  I'd love to attend Art of the Carolinas at some point.

I also contact art supply companies like Prismacolor and Winsor & Newton via email, contact form, and Twitter- my results from this are very hit or miss, many of the big companies are awful at responding or their reps don't know the product.  I would love it if companies were more reliable about answering artist questions- if they could be a trusted source for information.  Winsor and Newton has gotten better about this, but huge companies like Newell-Rubbermade (who own Prismacolor) don't seem interested in responding to customer questions.

Recent Marker Fieldtests: 
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol

Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol
Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol

Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
As yall can imagine, handling so many different types of markers gives me a lot of hands-on experience and a large base for comparison.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Colored Lead with Watercolor-Easy Lineless Watercolor Illustrations

One of my favorite 'tricks' for alcohol markers or for watercolor is to create a lineless artstyle using colored leads.  One of my favorite leads for this is the Pilot Color Eno Pink lead- perfect for florals and faces!

Today I want to walk yall through my process for using colored lead with watercolor.  The materials vary, but the process remains the same on almost any substrate, regardless of whether I'm using alcohol markers or watercolors.  Both watercolor and alcohol marker dissolve the pink lead a bit, and unlike graphite, colored lead won't necessarily ruin your marker brush tips.

If you're new to colored leads, I recommend you buy this set- it includes all 8 colors preloaded into handy mechanical pencils.  I find it really handy to have color coded, designated pencils for my leads.  If you have your own preferred mechanical pencils, you can get just the 8 pack of leads.

Demonstration 1

Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper

Step 1:  Sketch your sketch using the colored lead of your choice onto your paper.  Remove construction and excess lines with an eraser.

Step 2:  Paint as you normally would! 

Check out the Timelapse:

Demonstration 2:
MozArt Komorebi Palette

You're not limited to just pink though!  Match your leads with your subject matter, like in the below example with morning glories.

Demonstration 3:

Rice Paper Fan
Pilot Color Eno- Purple, Pink, Blue
MozArt Komorebi

Demonstration 4:

Pilot Color Eno Lead- Purple, Blue, Green
Rice Paper Fan
MozArt Komorebi

Demonstration 5:

Grumbacher Watercolor Paper Sample
Pilot Color Eno- Pink, Green
Da Vinci Mixing Set

Check out the Tutorial: 

Finished Works:

Grumbacher Watercolor Paper Sample, Color Eno Pink and Green, Da Vinci Mixing Palette

Fluid 100, Color Eno Pink, MozArt Komorebi

Strathmore Watercolor Paper, Color Eno Pink, Qor Mini Palette

Hahnemule Postcard, Color Eno Pink, Turner watercolors

Fluid EZ Block, Color Eno Pink, Derwent Inktense palette

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2019 Top Ten Favorites

It's a bit belated, but after much thought, I compiled a list of my favorite art products and services for 2019!  Some are new and some are just new to me, but I think there's plenty for yall to enjoy.

Want to help support more reviews?
Sponsor a review by buying something from my wishlist
Sponsor a review by tipping on Ko-Fi
Help sponsor reviews and tutorials by subscribing on Patreon!

Most of the products on this list have already been reviewed or have tutorials that utilize them.  Artnerds received these videos awhile back, and they're currently being queued to go live.   Join the Artnerd community on Patreon to gain early access to video reviews and tutorials! 

Comic illustration created with Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor markers, Inked with Pitt Pens
This piece represents several of the products on this list!  Strathmore Toned Tan Mixed Media Paper, inked with Pitt Pens, colored with Albrecht Durer Watercolor Markers, Pitt Pens, and Polychromos Pencils.

Strathmore Colored Mixed Media Papers
Toned Tan

Working on a colored base makes illustrations in opaque media pop off the paper!  I even love using alcohol markers and gouache on the Strathmore Toned Tan mixed media paper.

Strathmore's colored drawing papers have been around for awhile, but the mixed media equivalents are very new to Strathmore's paper lineup.  The black mixed media paper is the newest addition, and is great with color pencils like Polychromos.

Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer watercolor markers

There're a lot of watercolor markers on the market, but most are dye based.  Faber-Castell's Albrecht Durer watercolor markers are water soluble India ink, so not only are they going to move easily with water, but your art will be lightfast for years to come.

watercolor illustration on Stonehenge Aqua hotpress watercolor paperWatercolor illustration on Stonehenge Aqua coldpress
 Watercolor on Stonehenge Aqua Hotpress and Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress

Stonehenge Legion Aqua watercolor papers

The coldpress is a great workhorse cottonrag watercolor paper- sturdy and easy to use- not a fussy paper.

The hot press is the best hotpress I've ever used- smooth texture that's great for inking, but can take layers and layers of watercolor.

The black watercolor paper is just as nice as the hotpress and coldpress, and the dyes used in the manufacturing process seem to be quite stable.  This paper is amazing for opaque watercolor techniques.

Zenpop Stationary Box

I've been disappointed by subscription art boxes in the past, but the Zenpop Stationery boxes really deliver!  Cute stickers, notebooks, washi tapes, pencils, and more, delivered to your door each month!

I had a sub from January until May, and was thrilled with the contents of my five boxes.

Check out the unboxing streams on Youtube!
January 2019
February 2019
April 2019
May 2019
July 2019

Pentel Tradio Stylo Sketch Pen

I've reviewed a LOT of pens over the years- technical pens, brush pens, fountain pens, and the Tradio Stylo offers something unique! A plastic nibbed fountain pen that's fun for sketching and handlettering!  Refillable with rich black ink, inkflow is consistent and immediate.

Watercolor illustration on Shizen Hotpress watercolor paper
Watercolor on Shizen Hotpress watercolor paper

Shizen pre cut watercolor paper
Hot Press
Cold Press

Inexpensive cottonrag watercolor paper that's amazing for wet into wet techniques.  A bit softer than standard mould-made paper and doesn't contain much sizing, so it takes getting used to.  If you enjoy coldpress watercolor paper, I recommend going with the hot press for this one.

Molotov Chrome Marker

There's a lot of metallic markers out there, but this one really delivers the chrome!  If you use it on a non porous surface, you'll get a shiny, mirror like effect!  Even on porous surfaces, it still stands out well.  Molotov Chrome markers utilize an alcohol solvent, so are not marker proof, but are indelible to water.  Can be removed with rubbing alcohol.

Copic marker illustration with colored lineart and mixed media background
This piece represents several products!  Kara and papers were adhered with a Tombow Permanent taperunner, Kara was inked with Tombow Fudenosuke brushpens.

Tombow Adhesive Tape Runners

Not just for crafters, adhesive tape runners are great for artists and stationery fans!  Your paper won't buckle, and Tombow's runners are available in both
versions!  I love using these for mixed media marker art!

Tombow Fudenosuke Color Brushpens (Discord Suggestion)

I love adding a pop of color to the inked linework in my illustrations, and Tombow Fudenosuke brushpens are alcohol marker safe!  The smaller brushes on these pens are easy to use, and available in a rainbow of color! 

Honorable Mentions:
Colored Pitt Pens (Twitter suggestion)
These colorful pens are lightfast, available in a huge array of colors, and available with a wide array of tip options, from fixed width felt tips to brushes and even soft chisel tips.

Stillman and Birn sketchbooks (Twitter suggestion)
These are super popular with artists!  Available in several paper colors (I love the ivory!) and many paper types and finishes, Stillman and Birn has a sketchbook that's perfect for your favorite media!  A bit pricy,

Other Awesome Art Supplies:
2018 Top Ten

Monday, January 20, 2020

Developing Concepts and Illustrations

Most of my illustrations are developed in stages.  This gives me a chance to refine the concept, improve the anatomy, and restage if necessary.  I often work in a combination of traditional and digital media- digital gives me the flexibility to create as many layers as necessary to get the sketch right, and allows me to easily cut and resize problem areas.[=

Generally, I do my first sketch in my sketchbook.  My brain just handles conceptualization better if I'm staring at paper rather than a screen.  But once the thumbnail is drawn, I'm free to go digital.  Sometimes I'll take a quick photo of the sketch with my phone and send it to my computer via Discord, sometimes I'll scan it when I'm putting together my monthly Patron sketchbooks- the transfer method doesn't really matter.

Image to the left- thumbnail sketch

Refining the Pose and Sketching Anatomy

Sketching in Clothing and Tightening up Details

Finished Sketch, later printed onto watercolor paper

This isn't the end of the process!  After this stage, I convert my sketch to grayscale and adjust the contrast so that it's just black and white, then use Duotone to convert it to non photo blue.  I then print the bluelines onto the watercolor paper of my choice and either pencil or ink the illustration.  The finished illustration will be in watercolor.

Lately, working this way has become a staple for my standalone illustrations.  Working digitally to develop sketches gives me the flexibility to resize easily, or to rework problem areas, or to clone and copy pieces that work well and that I want to duplicate.

Thumbnail sketch

Refining the Figure

Tightening Up Character Details

Adding Background Details

With the next example, I did a lot of alteration on the basic sketch- moving and resizing things- before committing.
Thumbnail Sketch

I wanted to play with scale a bit- making Naomi seem a bit smaller, and Kara a bit larger, and being able to manipulate things digitally helps with this!

I think this method is particularly helpful for people with tablets and iPads, particularly if they're busy and have a hard time carving out time for art.  It's easier to put it down when necessary or to break the piece up into discrete steps, and you don't feel the pressure to nail it on the first shot.

If you wanna see how these pieces turn out, check out my Instagram!