How to Overcome Fear of the Blank Page

A blank sheet of watercolor paper waiting for paint can be an intimidating thing. In this video I suggest 5 steps to help get you over the anxiety hump and get those first strokes of paint down on the page with less stress.

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Video Introduction to the Mind of Watercolor Series

The Mind of Watercolor Web Page

How to Pick Great Watercolor Paper

Watercolor loves great paper. You’ll improve your chances of getting good results by buying top quality paper from the beginning. Its a myth that beginners need to use cheap or student grade papers for practice. Use and practice with the best. Choose reputable name brands, 100% cotton, acid free, handmade or mould made papers and you can’t go wrong. Experienced artists will often paint on surfaces other than watercolor paper, but if you are a beginner, its best to stick with actual watercolor paper until you gain more confidence. Other surfaces can act more unpredictably.

Here are a few of the best and most popular top grade papers available. (others may exist)

Arches
Arches Video

Canson — Moulin Du Roy

Strathmore — 500 Series

St. Cuthberts Mill — Bockingford & Saunders Waterford

Fabriano – Artistico
Fabriano Video

Twin Rocker

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Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Video Introduction to the Mind of Watercolor Series

The Mind of Watercolor Web Page

The Mind of Watercolor Launches

The Mind of Watercolor YouTube Channel has launched! Go check it out. I hope to create a community of watercolor enthusiasts where we learn more about this exciting and easy to use medium which also has a mind of its own and reputation for being unforgiving. I plan to share tips and techniques, review products, engage in challenges and perhaps have some contests and giveaways. It’ll be a blast.

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June 6th Photo Shoot, “Don’t Shoot!”

I’m a bit of a photo bug and I’ve also directed quite a few professional photo shoots in my design career, so I can’t help thinking about what it would be like to be a combat photographer. Imagine being given this assignment: “Hey bud, wanna stroll along with the guys going to Omaha beach and snap a few pics for posterity’s sake? Americans would love it, whadya say?” Ok, maybe the D-Day assignment wasn’t given exactly that way, but even so, after clearing the lump in my throat, I would probably ask if I could just hang around the ship and get some shots of the guys coming and going. Not Frank Capa. He was not only up for the assignment, he requested going with the first wave to hit the beach. I can hear the other GIs joking, “hey Frank, don’t ya know that camera shoots film not bullets.” He knew! He took 106 photos but due to a lab snafu only 11 survived; the only photographic record we have of that treacherous assault. Amazing! 10 of the 11 appeared in Life magazine. This ethereal shot has always been one of my favorites.

D-Day landing shot by Frank Capa

Lightfastness – New Mediums, Old Problem

Distress_markers

The explosion in new, and sometimes awesomely cool, paper-crafting supplies got me to thinking recently.

Manufacturers have apparently responded to a huge rise in interest with a steady stream of “cool stuff” for the paper-crafting big three – card making, scrapbooking and journaling; including new markers, inks, dyes, powders, mists, etc., etc. Any self respecting fine art painter (an area, I might add, where new things don’t come a long nearly as often) would be crazy not to occasionally cast a sideways glance at the craft market and say, “hmm, wonder what I could do with that in my painting?” Multimedia artists (some of which are also journalers) especially would seem to benefit. But wait, not so fast… or maybe I should say, not so LIGHT fast.

Chasing the Fugitive

Marker lightfastness

Scrapbook and journaling suppliers in particular seem to have responded well to the archival needs involved. Acid free papers, adhesives and mediums abound but there is still a big gulf where fugitive colors are concerned. Paper crafters have the luxury of not needing to worry about this much. Exhibiting art and prolonged light exposure is likely low on their “caution” priority list.  But with so many new alluring dye-based mediums surfacing, any artist hoping to hang or exhibit work needs to be very careful of the mediums they incorporate. Dye-base mediums are the absolute worst in terms of fugitive colors. Pigmented mediums in the craft market exist but there aren’t nearly so many as you might think. Many illustrators fluent in using Copic or Prismacolor markers are not new to the concern over dye-based mediums, even experienced studio and gallery artists may tell you first hand, its no fun to see your precious artwork vanish before your very eyes after hanging on a well-lit wall for a few years.

Without doing a ton of research (for which I have no time), I thought maybe it better to just point you to some good reads where the work has already been done, by people who know where of they speak. Yeah, I’m just lazy that way. So, if your art will ever be displayed, read on and think carefully (think pigmented and archival) before you go including that cool new set of watercolor markers, powders or sprays in your next painting

Good Basic Overview of the “Marker” Problem

Copic Q&A

Doing a Simple Lightfastness Test

Six-Part series by James Gurney

Lightfastness: Part 1 of 6

Lightfastness: Markers

Lightfastness and Dyes

Lightfastness in Pencils, Watercolors, and Oils

Lightfastness and Alizaring Crimson

Lightfastness: Final Thoughts

Happy 1st Day of Spring – 13 Cool Facts

Spring has always been my favorite season. If I had my way, the new year would start on March 20th. The themes of renewal, rebirth, growth, resurrection, longer days, shorter nights, and wonderful weather all burst forth in a timely manner from the doldrums of winter. Its simply invigorating!

Just for fun, here are some random facts about the first day of spring, or the Vernal Equinox if you please. Some you may know, some you probably don’t.

1. Doodling spring.

To start things off on an artistic note, today’s animated Google Doodle in honor of the first day of spring was created by cartoonist Eleanor Davis. Credit where credit is due right?

2. One man’s spring…

Yep, lest we forget and become northern hemisphere snobs, the southern hemisphere is actually beginning its autumn today. Woot!

3. East to west, for real!

Everyone knows that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but did you know it only precisely does so on the spring and autumn equinoxes? Amaze your friends at parties with that little tidbit.

4. Day and night in the balance.

The length of day in hours becomes roughly equal to the length of night. Ok, you probably knew that one. Equinox, “equal”,  get it? (this actually occurs more precisely a day or two or three before the equinox but hey, close enough)

5. What’s he looking at?

The spring equinox was a big deal in a lot of ancient cultures. The Egyptian Sphinx is looking directly where the sun will rise on this day. Give that dude some shades man!

6. Me and my shado… hold on, what?

The great pyramid of Giza, the biggie, was designed so that at noon on the spring equinox it would cast no shadow. Freaky!  The Mayans did a similar thing with their El Castillo pyramid. At sunset the shadow forms a serpent shape on the side of the stairs – as if just building these structures weren’t cool enough!

7. Egg on your face.

Don’t bother with the standing-an-egg-on-end myth. It can be done sometimes, but no more frequently or easily on the equinox than any other day. Sorry. And that goes for broomsticks too.

8. Imagine that.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married on this day in 1969. What does this have to do with the spring equinox? I have no idea, just thought I would mention it. Perhaps they wanted the first spring wedding of the year.

9. Aah! Springtime in Paris.

After his escape from Elba, Napoleon marched into Paris and entered the Tuilleries palace on this day, March 20, 1815. Maybe this has nothing to do with the spring equinox either, but who knows, the renewal, rebirth theme so associated with this date seems appropriate. In another strange irony, his son, Napoleon II, was born on this same day 4 years earlier.

10. Happy New Year!

The first day of spring is also the Persian New Year (aka Iranian New Year), with references dating back to the 2nd century AD. See? I told you it was a good idea.

11. What’s that I smell?

If you live in Annapolis, MD, and are part of the maritime crowd, you are no doubt familiar with the tradition begun by Captain Bob Turner, who burned his socks one spring equinox to celebrate the coming gleeful months of barefoot yachting. Oh yeah, let those babies breath! The Annapolis Maritime museum has managed to make a pretty big deal out of that Sock Burning, turning it into an annual equinox celebration. Lovely! I’m sure some of those socks needed burning for other reasons.

 12. Long time coming.

So, you think spring took a little too long getting here this year? It could be worse. The planet Saturn has an equinox only once every 15 years.  However, as the Cassini spacecraft demonstrated, the Saturn equinox does make for some very dramatic photos.

13. Ironies Abound.

Famed physicist and mathematician, Sir Issac Newton, died on this day, March 20, 1727, in London at age 84. Ironically, Newton made a number of significant discoveries and calculations that govern our knowledge of orbits and precession of the equinoxes (changes in position over time). Interesting that he should die on an equinox date. Even stranger, Newton never published or expanded these findings until urged to do so by Edmund Halley, the Halley’s Comet namesake.  One of the early historical sightings of the comet was in 1066, the year of the Battle of Hastings. It has been calculated that the Perihelion (point nearest the sun) of Halley’s Comet during that year was March 20. Halley’s comet was thought by those in 1066 to be an omen for good or ill…oooh! Cue Twilight Zone theme music….

 

By The Time I Get to Phoenix, I’ll have Aerials

I don’t fly often, but when I do, clear skies, a window seat and fascinating terrain are a plus. On a visit to Phoenix, AZ to visit relatives, our flight encountered particularly crystal clear January skies and lovely views of the ground. This is a collection of pics taken from the window seat at roughly 34k feet over parts of New Mexico and Eastern Arizona. You can even see snow dusting some of the mountain tops in a few of the pics. It was a visual treat and quite different from the ground views of the east. As good as any art gallery to me. The graphic compositions and expressive designs that emerged in the shots were a delight.

Simple Social Sharing Plugin for WordPress

Just a quick post to share my delight with the LoginRadius Simple Social Sharing plugin for WordPress.

Other than CSS and some HTML, I’m not really a coder. After hours of fiddling with AddThis to try and get the URL shortener to work for Twitter (it involves placing code and tying in the plug in with your bit.ly login and API key, yada, yada. I could never get it to work despite following their instructions). I finally gave up and started exploring other plugins. Imagine my delight when Simple Social Sharing worked right away with automatic URL shortening built in. I was further delighted to find all the easy to use configuration settings for getting the icons set in the exact order and placed exactly where I wanted. Very nice!

Install Simple Social Sharing as a test, make a comparison to your current sharing platform and see what you think. By the way, I don’t work for LoginRadius nor do they sponsor my site in any way. Call me crazy but I just like solutions that work, intuitively, right away with little or no fuss.

Buh, bye AddThis. Been nice knowing you.

 

The Muster

Inspiration from Walnut Grove Plantation

One of my favorite re-enactment events in the Upstate, SC area is Festifall at Walnut Grove Plantation. To see more of this event I have a post with pictures here.

Many of the photos I take at these events eventually become reference for paintings. Here is one of my latest watercolor paintings entitled “The Muster” using reference from the Walnut Grove event. Enjoy.

The Muster

What’s the Color of Your Photo Search?

Royalty free, stock photos have become a staple these days due to the huge proliferation of suppliers and relatively low cost. Searching the huge databases has never been easier or more effective. Almost all stock sites offer search engines with advanced filtering capabilities that can get you to the photos or art you are looking for.

A Search is a Search is a Search, unless…

Specific subject searches are by far the easiest and often nothing else will suffice. If you need a picture of an eagle or a cell phone (or whatever) thats what you search for and you are presented with clear choices. No sweat! But what if your content is conceptual in nature and not centered around a definable visual subject. Using conceptual search terms are often productive. Terms like “hot”, “focused”, “professional”, or “skilled” for example. Or, when illustrating those concepts, you may throw in a little more metaphorical free association to widen the search: “hot” = fire or coals; “focused” = lens or optical instruments; “professional” = confident expression or executive; “skilled” = hand crafted or artisan; and so forth.

Why Not Try a Color

Conceptual search terms can work just fine, but if you’re still coming up short try a color.

 : Blue butterfly on white background : blue diamond : comfortable blue sea, sky and white cloud : A bunch of blue party balloons over white background : A blue ribbon is a symbol for success and first prize. Stock Photo : Businesswoman holding a blue umbrella. Vector : Beautiful fireworks on the black sky background : Funny 3D blue Robot on white background : water splash isolated on white background

All photos were obtained from 123rf.com

color filter

Granted this doesn’t always apply, but if the gist of your content is conceptual ask yourself if it can be associated with a color. Or, if you are looking for a creative theme as a jumping off point, color could be the search you need to jar your brain. There are three ways I can think of to do this right off the top of my head. You may think of more:

1) Filter by color – If you already have a current selection of images before you, but you want to narrow it down, most stock site search engines allow you to filter your current search by a color and thus narrow your subjects for additional thematic impact, or simply to match a graphic color theme.

2) Simply use a color in your search term – Couple a color with another concept term or use the color term by itself. If you’re writing about the next “hot” trend in some field, search not only by “hot” and “fire” but also try “red” or “orange” or “blue”. What other associations can you make? Will “chartreuse” give you an image that illustrates being outlandish, eccentric, loud, or unique? Sometimes the results can be totally unrelated but sometimes they can surprise you and send you in a new direction you hadn’t thought of.

3) Let color suggest a content theme in advance – In other words, do your photo search before any writing and use a particular color term to present you with theme ideas. The series of photos above show the variety that can come from one simple color search – “blue”. I expected to find the blue sky and the water splash but the rest were surprises. What sort of conceptual theme can be incorporated into your writing around the idea of a butterfly or balloons or a blue ribbon. Interesting … see? Now you’re brainstorming and thinking conceptually.  Your content will be more interesting and “colorful” as a result.

Finding stock photos or art to illustrate a concept or a theme can be a blast, so be colorful and have fun with it.