Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Best Watercolors - Top 10

May 1, 2017

Everyone likes a good, "Top Ten" list right?

I resisted doing this list for a long time, not out of principle, but because any list I do will reflect only my opinion. Paints are very subjective and each Artist will have many reasons why they like one particular paint over another, that's just how it is with almost anything in life. It's a bold thing to say these paints are the best of all, but life is short and so what the heck.

And, enough people on my YouTube channel have asked what my top five or ten favorite watercolors are, that it just made sense to finally do a video.

Here are a few additional thoughts.

No 1. Schmincke Horadam Watercolors are my very favorite and I think the best all around watercolors in the world. The color is absolutely consistent, vibrant and of the best quality. Many of their paints are single pigment although not all. I'm almost certain they use brighteners in the manufacturing process, but that doesn't bother me because the colors never disappoint. The dispersion is the best in my experience. Most of all though, I love what Schmincke paints do for my work.


No 2. Daniel Smith are American made watercolors that I would guess are on many Artists top five list and many would pick as their number one. It's hard to argue with that because Daniel Smith are very outstanding paints. They are especially so because they've only been at it for about 30 or 40 years, when the rest of the world has had centuries. Daniel Smith paints are distinguished by outstanding color, lightfastness and quality. They make some very unique colors that other manufacturers have tried to copy. They have a line of colors that a mineral based and this highlights their commitment to innovation and bold thinking. Daniel Smith makes great watercolor paints, just ask any Artist.

No 3. Senellier Aquarell are some of the finest watercolors in the world, in my opinion and they almost took the number two spot. Some Artists refuse to use any other paint and I can't blame them. Senellier is like painting with love. They are luminous, and extraordinarily well made paints. Made with honey, they have outstanding color and dispersion. If that weren't enough, they have great history. Used by some of the very best Watercolorists for more than a hundred years, they've stood the test of time.

No 4. Holbein made in Japan. Like their oil paints, Holbein puts an emphasis on quality and consistency. These are precision made paints, with lot's of single pigment colors. Although these tend to be a little on the opaque side for some Artists, I've never found that to be a problem. I had a recent phone call with their headquarters in Japan to find color charts that discussed the pigments and they generously sent me out an entire library of information.

No. 5 Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers - Made in France, these aren't even in the category right? For me they represent a product that both defies and transcends the definition. They are so excellent to use and the colors are so outstanding that I couldn't, in good consciencous, leave them off the top five list.

If you want to see the rest of my top ten, you'll have to check out the video: (That's what they call cross-promotional marketing genius) LOL.




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Unmarked Universe

March 23, 2017

"If it is so that we live only a small part of the life which is within us, what happens to the rest?

We live here and now. Everything before and in other places is past. Mostly forgotten. … 
What could, what should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us, open and unshaped, feather-light in its freedom and lead-heavy in its uncertainty? 
Is it a wish, dreamlike and nostalgic, to stand once again at that point in life and be able to take a completely different direction to the one that has made us who we are? … 
We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there."
These are the words of Peter Bieri also known by his pseudonym Pascal Mercier. He is a Swiss writer and philosopher.
His words remind me that there is something always undone, always awaiting the unknown destiny. When I can muster the courage, I venture forth from that which I know, it is in those moments that I am filled with fear and hope and unknown futures with gods and devils. And I am embracing memories and imagination.
Art brings me to these places.
Each piece of unmarked paper stands as an unexplored universe. The marked paper becomes an expression of life, hope, love and my fears, both known and unknown.














Friday, February 10, 2017

Watercolors, Presentations and Practice

February 11, 2017

It's been a while since my last post and there's a good reason for that. I have been incredibly busy with art and other commitments. Here's what I've been up to.

I was recently invited to make a presentation to the Minnesota Watercolor Society on the topic of social media. It was an incredibly great opportunity to present to a large group of excellent Artists and a very distinguished and venerable society.

In preparing for my presentation I reached out to my friends and fellow Artists Don Colley http://buttnekkiddoodles.com and YouTube sensation Cinnamon Cooney https://www.youtube.com/user/HoneyBmama

Both Don and Cinnamon offered great advice on the topic of social media. I also talked to friends and family about the topic of social media in general. I asked them about how they use social media, especially as it pertains to their work and hobbies.

One thing stuck out for Artists, and that's that you are your brand. You represent your brand and everything about it. Just as a painting cannot be created on it's own, neither can a persons brand. The closer that brand connects to the genuine you, the better it will be ultimately. In other words, try not be something or someone you aren't.

So I prepared for this very import presentation over the course of several weeks leading up to the event. I was very nervous and on the night of the presentation, it was an extremely cold night in Minnesota. I wasn't expecting more than a few people to show up.

I was very surprised when the large room and many rows of chairs began to fill with people. The person who invited me to speak on the topic was my friend Tara Sweeney (who I recently featured in a video on my YouTube channel) and she gave me a very kind introduction and here is the rest:

Here is the presentation in its entirety:

In addition to the presentation, I have also been very busy on YouTube creating new reviews. Check out my channel and catch up on the videos if you haven't done so already. I love hearing from Subscribers and really enjoy the interaction. So I devote a good amount of time responding and interacting with folks on the channel.

If all that weren't enough, I've been doing a lot of sketching and painting. I've been out with the Underground Artists League on Saturdays and I recently made a journey with fellow Artist Kurt Shulzetenberg to the Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota.

Here are some of my recent sketches.




Sunday, December 04, 2016

It's the Holiday's - Artsy Gift Ideas

December 4, 2016

Looking for holiday gift ideas for a loved one or friend? Maybe you want to spoil yourself this year or give your significant other some great ideas. You've come to the right place.

This is my TOP TEN LIST of really great gifts you can give to the Artist or Art lover in your life.

~Number 10~
Subscription Love.

A subscription to artsy awesomeness. Each of these services offers something cool and unique. Some of them offer a box full of art supplies every month, delivered to the recipients door. Others send you original artwork or limited edition prints.

Art in a box offers original art by Artists. Although you can't choose the piece, you can choose the medium.
COST: Starting around $50 US delivered.
http://artinabox.net
Art Box - Is a Canada based service that sends out original prints by Canadian artists, it's not expensive and it's pretty cool.
COST: Starting around $25 CAN
http://www.artboxto.com/#artbox

Art Snacks is a cool, affordable service that sends out a box once a month with a variety of art supplies in it.
COST: Starting around $25 US
http://www.artsnacks.co
Cratejoy is a subscription service that offers a ton of different themed items, but look for the art related boxes. For $29 a month you get a cool box of art stuff every month.
COST: Starting around $30 US
https://www.cratejoy.com/subscription-box/paletteful-packs/

Scrawlbox is a UK based subscription service with several different plans starting at about £14 a month.
COST: Starting around £20 UK
http://scrawlrbox.uk
Smart Art is a subscription service that sends you a monthly box packed with sweet art supplies. Although it's a little more money at nearly $50 US a month, you get a lot of goodies AND a great variety.
COST: Starting around $50 US
http://smartartbox.com
~Number 9~
Sweet Sketchbooks

A good sketchbook. It's something almost every Artist will use and what better way to inspire someone special to explore their potential. Here are some ideas.

Stillman & Birn sketchbooks - I make it no secret that I love these sketchbooks. They are durable, well crafted and come in every weight, style and paper finish any sketcher will need. This is an American company. You can find them at many retailers, but I recommend buying them from Wet Paint (feel good by supporting independent Art retailers and tell them I sent you).
COST: Depends on the book. Starting around $25 US
Here are some sweet softcovers that I recommend:
http://www.wetpaintart.com/by-brand/s/stillman-birn/softcover.html

Hahnemühle Nostalgie - These are very classy and elegant sketchbooks and they happen to be very good. They are on sale right now at Wet Paint. Give them a call at 1.612.698.6431. Tell them I sent you and they'll hook you up with shipping.
COST: Depends on the book size. Starting around $35 US


Sketchbook bundle - If you want to give someone a nice variety of sketchbooks, Amazon has special right now which includes Canson, Pentallic and Bee. You can pick it up here:
COST: Around $40 US
http://amzn.to/2g05syZ

Video Review - If you still need sketchbook ideas, here is a video look at a variety of sketchbooks I did a couple years back.



~Number 8~
Wondrous Watercolors.

If you want to really impress the Watercolorist on you Christmas list you need to hook them up with some of these. Believe me you cannot go wrong with these.

Daniel Smith Introductory Set - For about the same as four cups of coffee at the Hipster coffee shop you can buy someone an introductory set of arguably the best US made watercolor paints on the market today. Daniel Smith has been making great paint in America for a couple decades now and the secret is out. Pick em up here at Amazon for $25 US.
COST: $25 US


Special Edition Schmincke Watercolor Set - Spend a little bit more money and you're going to give someone the best watercolor paints in the world (in my experience). The superb quality and outstanding color of Schmincke is unmatched. WetPaint has special right now on a very cool set. These normally sell for $200 plus dollars, but you can pick it up now for a paltry $65 US. Tell them I sent you.
COST: $65 US WOW!
Wet Paint - Limited Edition Schmincke
Video Review - If you want to see what I think about a variety of watercolors you can check out this video for a ranking of many different kinds.


~Number 7~
Pencil Passion.

So many great colored pencil makers, so little time to choose. So I'll narrow it down to the best and the affordable.

Faber-Castell Polychromo's Colored Pencils - These are some of the best colored pencils in the world. They aren't super cheap, but they are affordable and you can even buy them in open stock (one or two at a time). 
COST: Depends on the Set. Starting around $30 US


Koh-I-Noor Polycolor - These pencils are very affordable and well made in the Czech Republic. Hard to go wrong with the price and the just work great. Wet paint carries them:
COST: Starting around $20 US 

Every Pencil Known To Man - I've reviewed just about every pencil available in the world on my YouTube channel at: 

~Number 6~
Gift Certificate, Yes It's Legitimate.

Gift certificates is great gift giving goodness. I know they've been frowned on in recent years as Millennial's and Hipsters look for bigger, hipper and more "thoughtful" gifts, but never mind that. The reason a gift certificate is still legitimate is because you thought enough about the person to know their interests, but you weren't assuming too much. It lets the end user choose and I like that. Also they work great if you are a terrible, bad, no-good, rotten procrastinator.

All the big box Art Supply places have them, Blick, Jerry's, Cheap Joe's and Jackson. Try to look for deals like free shipping and other perks.
COST: $25 to $500 US

~Number 5~
OMG, Best Gift Ever!

Like the big ribbon on a brand new Lexus or a piece of crazy expensive jewelry, you can give a gift that will never, ever be forgotten. Send your loved one on an Art Trip. This is for both the big spender or for the person who likes a great deal (you don't have to tell them you didn't spend a fortune).

One of the best Artist workshops in the Country.
COST: Depends. From $650 to $1500 PLUS Travel expenses.

Go international and send them to the home of Michelangelo and Leonardo DiVinci. It's not cheap, but it's Italy.
COST: Expensive. $1500 to $3000 US PLUS Travel.

Or find a workshop near you.


~Number 4~
The Learning Experience

There are so many options available today for learning art and almost every Artist I know loves to learn new things. Whether its a semester at the local Art School or a Community Ed class, what a great gift for that special someone in your life.

Community Ed - Check your local Community Education site for classes. These are usually expensive and sometimes free classes. The quality of the class will largely depend on the instructor, but most people will get something good out of the experience.
COST: Sometimes FREE, often very cheap.

Art Lessons - For many years I have taken classes from local Artists. This can be done in a group to save money or you can gift private lessons, which will often be a little more expensive. Find a local Artist and ask if they give lessons, it's that easy.
COST: Varies. Most classes will be less than $50 per class.

Online Lessons - So many options here today that weren't available even a few years ago. With the dearth of online content it'll require some shopping around, but here a few I can recommend.
COST: Vary, but most are under $25 US

Steve Mitchell's Watercolor Lessons from a Master. Steve is a great teacher and for very little money you can learn by watching a video at a time.
COST: Most videos are under $10 US

The Virtual Art Academy - You do not have to sign up long term and this is a great way to learn as you go.
COST: Depends on the course quantity and payment options. Starting around $25 US per month.

FREE - The opportunities to learn Art on the internet are numerous and although this is about giving gifts, it's good to remember that not every great thing in life costs money. :-)

~Number 3~
A Darn Good Art Book

Books are a great gift and shows that you've put some thought into the present. Here are a few that should be well received.

Henry Yan's brilliant figure drawing book. This is simply an outstanding book on figure drawing by a master Artist. 
COST: $36 US Plus Shipping

The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location by Marc Holmes is an excellent resource for the Sketcher on your list.
COST: Under $25 US

Sketch!: The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life by France Belleville-Van Stone. She also has a great website: http://www.wagonized.com
COST: Under $25 US
You can by her book here:

~Number 2~
Just Plain Cool

How about some just plain awesome gifts that will leave them filled with the holiday spirit and thankful throughout the New Year.

A Museum Membership - A museum membership is not only a great gift, usually under $100, it's also tax deductible and something they'll appreciate all year long.
COST: Around $100 US Tax Deductable.

Portable Creativity Kit - A sketchbook, some pencils, watercolors and a portable water brush is a great gift. You can do this same thing for either an Adult or Child. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness if you can put together the kit yourself. Here is a video I did with all the details on putting together the perfect kit. See there, I did most of the work for you. :-)
COST: Under $100 US


Art Umbrella - For the Plein Air painter or sketcher, this is a must have. It's a great umbrella and it'll keep the blinding light from your Artist's canvas. It will also keep you dry in the rain.
COST: $110 US plus shipping.

Robotic Mannequin Hands - Well they're not really robotic, but they sort of look like it. What they are is great tools for the Artist though. These are very handy. :-)
COST: $50 US plus shipping.

Cuttlelola Dots Pen - This is the pen used by my good friend and fellow Artist Larry Ehrilch and he highly recommends it. This is a truly revolutionary device and a godsend for Pointillists everywhere.


~Number 1~
The Gift Of Art

Artwork - One thing seems to be sure among Artists, they have an eye for art. Being an Artist gives one a unique appreciation for Art. And art makes a great gift. This is a very individualized choice and if you're worried about giving, "the wrong art", I believe I have a solution for that.

Give an Artcertificate - Find an Artist you believe will appeal to the recipient and then deal directly with the Artist. Give them an idea of your budget and simply come to an agreement on a purchase. Then the person you're giving the art to, can decide which piece they want. They'll own an original or print and they'll get to select it themselves, eliminating the possibility of a failed gift. :-)

That's it. That's the 2016 Artist Gift List. If you have ideas, please drop me a line in the comments below, I'd like to hear from you.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Drawing, Life and Elections



November 17, 2016

It's been a while since I posted a new entry on the blog, exactly 45 days. Too long. Well, it's been a busy autumn here in the upper Midwest. The kids have all gone back to school, the leaves have turned and fallen and the days are much shorter now.

As the holidays approach and we settle in for a long winter, it's time for me to finish some of the projects I've had lingering for a while.

I've been working on a project for a sketchbook company for the past couple of months and nearing the finish line soon. I'm looking forward to the end result. I can't say much about at this point, but stay tuned, I think you'll find it interesting.

I've also been working on a graphic novel with several partners and need to get back to work on that. On top of those things I'm woefully behind on reviews for my YouTube channel. I miss doing the reviews, but unfortunately work and other life events have taken up most of my spare time these days.

Still though, I make time to sketch and these are a few of the sketches I've been working on lately. I have mostly been doing people sketches and enjoying the peace that drawing brings to me. Almost every Saturday I get together with my friend and fellow Artist Larry Ehrlich. We are sometimes joined by other Sketchers and it's good to be around other creative people.

Oh and we had a little election here in the USA. It looks like President Trump will taking over in January and no matter which way you voted, it's going to be a very interesting four years ahead. One thing has become very clear, America is deeply divided. Ideological differences have driven us apart and suggests we will spend more of our efforts looking at that which divides us rather than that which unites us. I think for some people that is much more depressing than the election results.

Nevertheless we endure. We move forward, hopeful that better days will greet our children and our grandchildren. Despite all of our differences we share so many things in common and I'm hoping our country will move back in that direction, that we will heal.

One thing I know to be true is that people have a responsibility to make their voices heard. We have an obligation to use whatever talent God has given us to make a positive difference in this world. If the Trump Presidency turns into the Trump campaign, more and more people will speak out against it.

I believe most Americans voted against the political establishment, not in support of racism, bigotry or misogyny. Trump ran as an anti-establishment candidate and many people were willing to overlook his sometimes hateful rhetoric. Let's work to make sure that hatefulness doesn't carry over and bring shame and disgrace to our nation.

Maybe I'm too ignorant or old or stubborn or Irish to keep my mouth shut. History will judge us all.









Sunday, October 02, 2016

Exquisite Corpses and Train Rides with Urban Sketchers

Reading the bones or the Exquisite Corpse

October 2, 2016

The good folks at my favorite art supply store, Wet Paint in Saint Paul, recently asked if I would participate in the Exquisite Corpse project. If you don't know what that is, don't worry, neither did I. Here is a good, short explanation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse

Here are some examples on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/shellybellhe/exquisite-corpse-lesson/

I was assigned the torso section. The word corpse, has no relevance to the dead or decaying in this instance, it just makes it sound cool. So you can draw or paint anything you want really.

I have had an idea bouncing around in my head for some time. That idea is to mash up a colonial sampler, illuminated manuscript and celtic weave patterns along with old bones. So I sat down, sketched out a few ideas, did a some thumbnail drawings and finally got the ideas to settle down enough to do this work.

The bones are really the scaffolding for the vines. The heavy red vines represent the blood of life as it travels throughout the circulatory system and into the smaller purple vines and eventually out the green leaves. The writing on the bones represent whatever you want really. For me they are the things that occupy my mind and soul.

Many other Artists were asked to participate and I got a short preview of some of them when I dropped my piece off. Wet Paint will hang them up on Monday and it'll be great to see all the cool combinations. I'll post some pictures at a later date.
Heads down on the green line

The next set of sketches of is from a recent outing that my son Ethan and I went on with the Twin Cities Urban Sketchers group. The objective was to ride the Green Line from Saint Paul to Minneapolis or from Minneapolis to Saint Paul and to sketch on the train.

Ethan and I took the Green line beginning in Saint Paul. We rode all the way to the end of the line in Minneapolis and all the way back to Saint Paul. The entire ride too less than two hours, but flew by much faster.

You can learn a lot about people, just by observing them and I teach Ethan about the powers of close observation and how it can help his drawings. He was more excited just to ride the train and look around at the sights and sounds. This is exactly what an eleven year old should do.

Once we got back to Saint Paul, Ethan decided to sketch the trains. I was very excited when I saw his finished sketch, because I could see that some of what I was teaching him on the train ride, about close observation, had sunk in. He really did a nice job, in my humble opinion.
People on the Green Line train
More people on a train




Sketching people on a train
Ethan's Train sketch on the Green Line
Exquisite Corps in progress.
The finished torso of the Exquisite Corpse.
Lake Monster Water Tower - Watercolor