Posted on Leave a comment

Artist’s Process: Learning a new medium

Sometimes that new set of paint tubes or markers can be intimidating. I often found myself staring at a new set of paint on my desk, making no move to open it for a few days. There are times when transitioning from one medium to the next, you may feel uncomfortable and weary.

This isn’t true for all artists. Some people are naturally spontaneous and love jumping into new, unfamiliar mediums. I have become more daring as time went on, but even now my art drastically changes depending on the medium I use, and there are even mediums I tend to avoid because of that. I thought that sharing some of the methods I’ve learnt when dealing with new mediums can help other ‘cautiously-inclined’ artists start their journey with a new, unfamiliar art supply.

Firstly, research is your friend. Research the medium before you buy it, because that will give you a quick overview of what other mediums are similar, whether or not the medium needs special paper, canvas or brush cleaner and what mediums can be used with it. This helped me a lot when starting out with Gouache.

Gouache and Acrylic Mixed Media- I used the now familiar Gouache to progress into a medium I have less experience with, Acrylics.

 I found Gouache to be similar to Watercolor, which is a medium I am very familiar with. It can be used alongside both Acrylic paint and Watercolor, and it doesn’t require any particular canvas or paint board.This really helped me get started, since I could use Watercolor and Gouache together in a piece and find out what makes Gouache unique from the mediums I already used in the past. After learning to enjoy and properly use Gouache, I began to use it alongside Acrylic, a medium that I still find a challenge.

Secondly, experience is the only way to learn. Research can only bring you so far, and knowing all the ins and outs of the medium before you start is helpful. But it can never replace actually using the medium, making mistakes and learning to correct them. Copic Markers are not similar to any medium I have attempted prior to using them. It needs special paper, which I couldn’t find at the time. I didn’t see any other mediums used with Copics in artworks. Watercolor paper ruins the nibs and the alcohol ink doesn’t work very well when layered on paint.

Recent Copic Marker Illustration.

This posed a dilemma, since I have seen a lot of Copic art and absolutely loved the look of the medium. That led to the spontaneous purchase of my first four markers. I had no experience with the markers, and by the end of the first two months of using them, one already had a ruined nib. I had also stored them wrong at some point, so one end of the marker always had more ink than the other. This was the hard way of learning how to use the medium, and soon I got the idea of using chalk pastels alongside the Copics to make up for my limitations in color. I bought a new set of six markers as soon as I could, and set to work using Copics along the chalk pastels. That was when the art began to progress, and soon I stopped using the chalk pastels along with the Copics.

Thirdly, when it comes to buying the best, most expensive brand, versus buying a cheaper version of the product, try to buy the cheaper product. This will help the situation feel less risky, and help you feel more relaxed when using the medium. Some products don’t have this option, but for those that do I highly recommend it. I started Watercolors with a cheap, chalky, kid’s art set. I followed tutorials done with higher, artist quality paints, and at first, I was not limited too much by the cheap Watercolors. When I found myself enjoying and progressing in the medium, I invested in a more expensive set. That was almost three years ago. Recently I even bought a professional level metallic Watercolor set, knowing that I will enjoy and often use the medium.

Watercolor Illustration using FineTec Metallic Watercolors and Van Gogh Watercolor Travel Set.

In the end, the best way to learn a new medium is to do research, and then to actually experience the medium. Patience is key, because like most things in art, it is a growing process. Stick to things you are comfortable drawing and painting, as to not push yourself too far into unfamiliar territory. When using a new medium, I usually draw or paint my favorite original character, which helps familiarize the experience.

Keep in mind that learning a new medium is just that, learning. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it will grow you for next time you tackle that medium.

Posted on Leave a comment

Artist’s Process: Gouache and Acrylic Mixed Media

Although most artists would recognize and have experienced using Acrylic paint, Gouache can be somewhat of a novelty. Gouache (pronounced “gwash”) is a water-based paint that combines the best worlds of both Acrylic and Watercolor paints. Like Acrylic, it can be used to be opaque, and lighter colors can be layered over darker colors. Like Watercolor, it can be thinned with water to be transparent. It acts like a Watercolor, with the layering abilities of an Acrylic.

This painting I did with Gouache and Acrylic was done on a A2 Painting Pad. Being a fairly large piece, I felt comfortable to work in a more realistic style. This post is mostly going to describe my personal process of using the mediums, and not everyone’s’ process will be the same.

After rendering the sketch, I set to work on the paint.

Since the paints I used are opaque, I wouldn’t be able to see my sketch very well after a base layer of paint, and details had to be added slowly while looking at the thumbnail in my sketchbook. Things to keep in mind when painting with an opaque medium like Gouache and Acrylic are lighting, deepest shadows and color pallets.

In progress. Here you can see the way the paints completely cover the sketch in the areas I was painting.

Lighting is important, because you need to keep in mind where to start building up darker tones, as well as highlights. Since you can’t see your base sketch after the first layer, it usually helps to layer white on the highlighted areas as soon as possible. That way the painting won’t get too dark too quickly. Although you can layer lighter colors on darker tones with both Gouache and Acrylic, it makes the process take longer and you easily lose details as you layer.

The deepest shadows in the piece are also important to keep in mind. Too many similar tones can cause the main elements of the piece to get lost. Sometimes taking a photo of your painting or drawing and putting it into grey-scale can help with this. If most of your painting is black or dark grey, your main elements should be light grey or white. If most of your painting is light grey or white, your main elements should be black or dark grey. This helps balance the composition of the piece a bit, as well as helping you find the deepest shadows of the painting.

Grey-scale of the final painting, as well as the paints used. Note how the skin-tone and lettering appears almost white, and the inside of the cloak, chest-plate and background all seem to blend together because of the similar color tones.

Lastly, color pallets are important. Like with most paints, Gouache and Acrylic are made to layer and blend. Shading requires a lot of colors from a similar hue, but different tone, like shading a light blue with a dark blue. With so much canvas to cover and so many colors to use (as well as the fact that you can only see the base layer of paint and none of your sketch) it is important to keep your main colors in mind. What colors do you want to stand out? What colors are you going to use for shading? Are there any light reflections or colored lighting you need to keep in mind? What about the background?

A closeup of the effect that gouache gives. Like Acrylic, you can see the brushstrokes of shading, and in places you can see the more watercolor characteristics, such as the canvas texture coming through on the cloak.

As an artist who tends to dabble more in transparent mediums such as Watercolor, Gouache is an interesting transition to more opaque mediums. It was definitely a challenge to get use to, but the Acrylic and Gouache work very well together. I recommend trying out both mediums, especially Gouache for transitioning from an opaque medium to a watercolor, or from a watercolor to an opaque medium.  

Posted on Leave a comment

Product Tips: Copic Markers- An Overview

Copic Markers have been growing in popularity, and it’s no wonder why. These high-quality, alcohol-based markers have astounding blending abilities, a wide arrange of bright and pastel colors and of course, brush tips to aid the coloring process. Here is an overview of what Copic Markers are, how they can be used, and what makes them unique.

Copic Marker Illustration

What exactly is Copic?

Copic Markers are a unique art medium, characterized by bold flat colors that mimic the look of digital art. The Copic Ciao Markers are dual tip, with a brush end and a wide end. Each marker is also refillable, so that you never run out of your favorite colors.

The Copic medium mimics digital art- Note the smooth flat shading

What does it mean for markers to be alcohol-based and how does it affect marker performance?

Copic markers are alcohol based, meaning that they contain alcohol, as well as a dye ink. They are less likely to leave streaks on the paper and blend wonderfully, because the ink soaks into the paper. This does mean you need thicker paper for the markers, like Bristol Board or other forms of marker paper, but even cardboard will do.  You can smell the ink of a Copic because of the alcohol contents. Luckily, the smell will fade from your artwork after a while, and won’t be that strong. Copic alcohol-based markers are specialized, can be refilled, layered and blended, which cannot be done as easily with water-based markers such as felt-tip pens. They are the current highest quality alcohol markers. 

The alcohol ink allows for smooth shading and blending, as seen on the mask and lion mane

What are Copic color arrangements and how do I know which Copics to buy?

Copic markers have a very wide range of colors, including beautiful pastels. Water-based markers rarely have pastel tones that can be applied in even, flat washes. Copic’s light and pastel colored markers can be used to build up darker tones by layering, which helps for when you are just starting out your Copic collection and don’t have a wide variety of markers. For striking contrast, they have vibrant, bright colors that stand out from the page. 

Copic color codes can also help you know which tones to build on. The ‘C’ lettering code; also called the Cool Grey markers, all have a similar pigment, but get darker as the code number goes from 0 and up. Although markers from different codes can blend together, getting markers with the same lettering codes can aid for an even more effective and striking blend, although it is not necessary. There main color classes and codes are:

E- Earth Colors

BG- Blue Green

B- Blue

BV- Blue Violet

V- Violet

RV- Red Violet

R- Red

YR- Yellow Red (Orange)

Y- Yellow

YG- Yellow Green

G- Green

W- Warm Gray

C- Cool Gray

With so many colors, how does one even know which Copics to start with? That comes down to the style of art you do. If you tend to do more realism based on what you see in the natural world, a good start are markers from the Green, Yellow Green, Earth Colors and Blue Green Classes. If you are more drawn to making bold and bright artworks, Blue Violets, Red Violets and Reds are good markers to start with.

Of course, you don’t need markers out of every Class when you start, because you can create your own colors when blending and layering. You can start with as little as three markers and build up your collection as time goes on. I started my collection with four markers, two Earth Colors, a Blue Green and a Violet.

The green and purple eyes make use of blending markers from similar color codes. The rainbow eye is done with six different color classes to demonstrate Copic’s blending abilities

My Personal Experience with Copic

I fell in love with the look of Copic art long before I got my first markers. I started my collection about a year and a half ago, with four markers and almost no experience with any mediums other than watercolors and pencil. I quickly became frustrated, since I did not understand the medium at first. After a while, I started combining Copic with chalk pastels, and I started to break into the medium. I understood that layering and blending is essential to getting the more digital look I was after. When I finally began to understand the medium, things started going a lot better. I stopped using chalk pastels with the Copics, and learnt to rely on the markers’ unique attributes.  The most important thing when starting with Copic Markers is to be patient and persistent. It will be a difficult medium to get use to if you’ve primarily used paints, but soon enough the medium will become more familiar. 

Here are the markers used in this illustration. White Gelly Roll pens make for great highlights, as seen along the outline of the character, on the lion’s eyes, and on the character’s nose

Posted on Leave a comment

Product Tips: The value of Sketchbooks and Journals

As an artist who draws almost every day, I can assuredly say that sketchbooks have become an art essential in my life. I am rarely ever found without a sketchbook or two under the arm. Sketchbooks have many benefits for artists and journal-enthusiasts alike, and are a great way to keep track of everyday life, improve art skills and memorize things.

Sketchbook Page Spread- Thumbnails and Character Design

A sketchbook is often a safe place for artists to try new techniques, thumbnail, brainstorm, do style studies and improve. No sketchbook has to be perfect, and should rather become an experimental field for the artist to grow and improve upon. Making a habit of drawing every day, even for the shortest amounts of time, is partially what makes a sketchbook so beneficial. In the end, your sketchbook tells a story as your day to day emotions change, and you will see the improvement in your art.

In my experience with sketchbooks, I’ve had a drastic improvement in my specific style, going from only drawing with reference, to drawing without any reference. My previous sketchbook had seen me through both trying times, and times of celebration. My current sketchbook has me drawing comics, doing style studies and learning how to further my story-telling through art. Each person’s sketchbook will become unique to them, and will be a showcase to the artist themselves of their improvement.

First Sketchbook v.s Second Sketchbook- Same Character Development

Journaling is also a great way to keep track of everyday life, learn new skills and memorize Bible verses and quotes. Many people have bullet journals to help organize life, keep track of important dates and even their day to day moods and emotions. Keeping a journal is another beneficial way to improve in time management, creativity and art. Bible journaling helps memorizes verses, spend time with God and creatively grow.

Bible Journaling 1 John 4:8 by Karen Randall

When I just started my art journey, I often found myself embarrassed and shy about my art, especially in the growth stages when my art was not what I wanted it to be. I was too afraid to pursue my own creative style. But I soon found that there are no ‘rules’ to a sketchbook. It didn’t have to be perfect, or even good for that matter. No one had to see my drawings unless I specifically wanted to show them. My sketchbook became a space where I could freely learn and grow. In the end, I no longer feel embarrassed nor shy about my art journey and growth, and I share with others my sketchbook, which has become an ongoing story of growth.

Watercolour Sketchbook Pose Practice

The value of Sketchbooks and Journals are created by what they contain, and they are all the more valuable if the contents in them is growth.

Posted on Leave a comment

Artist’s Process: From Sketch to Watercolour

Each artist has a unique process as well as different preferred mediums and styles. Here I share a bit about my process as well as the mediums and style I used for an illustration.

Before doing a fully coloured illustration, I first thumbnail some ideas. A thumbnail is usually a quick, abbreviated sketch, usually to figure out the layout of the final piece and refine the idea. These are usually a lot looser and messier, but for this sketch I had a pretty good grasp of my idea from the start. The thumbnail is like the first draft of an essay, or like taking notes during a lecture, as it gives you a better idea of the direction, mood, style and even mediums of the finished piece. This thumbnail was done in my Hahnemühle Nostalgie Sketchbook.

Thumbnail for final Illustration

Once I was happy with this initial sketch, I could move on to my final piece. I decided on watercolour as my medium, as watercolours can be used to create wonderful earthy tones. I also have a set of FineTec Metallic watercolours, which could be used for details in the armour and eyes of the characters. I moved to my Hahnemühle Watercolour Book and re-drew the sketch.

My style, which is very inspired by comic books and animated films, usually includes a form of line-art. Watercolours smudge most pens, but recently I’ve found that the Pigma Micron Pens are completely waterproof, meaning I can easily add my watercolours over the top of them, without any smudging! After lining the illustration, I can erase all the pencil and be left with completely clean linework. I can then add the watercolours overtop, as if painting in a colouring book.

The finishing touches are of course the Metallic FineTec Watercolours. These are of astounding quality, but pricey. They work best when layered on dry watercolours of a similar tone and colour. I used this to add shimmer to the characters’ armour and weapons. It really pulled the illustration together.

Here you can see some of the metallic effect. This is best appreciated in sunlight.

These characters are Achilles (left), Ajax (middle) and Teucer (right). They are inspired by Greek mythology and are also characters in a book I’m currently writing.  

Posted on Leave a comment

Artist’s Process- Lion on Denim Jacket

After sketching out the basic layout of the lion with a white fabric pencil, I started on the muzzle with Dala Fabric paint. The white took some layering, and I got worried that the rest of the lighter colours would give me trouble on the jean fabrics. After the first layer of white, I could still see the jean colour and the fabric grain clearly. Luckily, I soon realized that I was spreading the paint too thinly on the hard, rough fabric. I soon got the hand of layering and blending the white. By the time I painted the eyes, I was well enough adjusted to painting on jean.

The paints held up wonderfully, the darker colours rarely needing a second coat. The lighter colours had a bit more trouble on the jean, but after a few coats they are vibrant and provide good contrast. It’s better than using acrylic paint, which might not need as many layers to cover up the material, but would crack when the fabric is folded or put to use. The metallic fabric paint was fun to use, and adds a unique flare to the piece.

After finishing the painting, I use Dala Waterproofing Medium to seal the paint. The Waterproofing Medium is easy to use and adds a durable finish to the paint. It protects the paint from water damage, dries perfectly clear, and especially helps when customizing shoes.

I would definitely recommend Dala Farbic and Dala Waterproofing Medium paint to customize fabrics.