My New Ticonderoga Checking Pencil

Never let it be said that I don’t love buying pointy devices.  I’ve got so many of them that I could build half a house by stacking them.  So, when I went to buy a new printer cartridge, I came home with a printer cartridge AND a couple of Ticonderoga “checking” pencils.

Many people like Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils, not so much because they erase, but because they provide a range of colors while still retaining sharp points and they have a pencil feel, rather than a waxy colored pencil feel.  I like them too, but I think that most would agree that they don’t produce the saturated color of a quality colored pencil.

Still, for quick sketching, C0l-Erase provides a good experience.  I picked up a pack of Ticonderoga “checking” pencils with that in mind, and the fact that it was only a couple bucks to try something new.  This pencil didn’t disappoint.

Like the Col-Erase they do hold a sharp point and may feel even more like a pencil than Col-Erase pencils.  They may also produce a slightly more saturated line, though the difference here is small.  I confess to being a Ticonderoga fan.  Their #2 “soft” pencil is so much better than most of its school market competition that they rival much more expensive pencils, something I would never say about the basic yellow Dixon pencil that dominates the school market.

Here’s my “experiment” with the checking pencil.  Not a completely polished portrait but I think it demonstrates the possibilities with this $1 pencil.

Stonehenge Oil Paper As A Sketching Platform

I know that a lot of you think I’m nuts for suggesting the use of oil paints as a sketching medium.  You’re probably right but the typical discussions of this is not the reason(s).

A sketching medium must:

  1. Be Light and portable
  2. Be easy to set up and take down
  3. Clean up must be simple.
  4. Must allow for relatively quick sketches

There may be other things but these are the major demands on a medium.

Numbers 2 and 3 are solved by using water-mixable oil paints.  I use Cobra paints that feel just like Rembrandt oils if you’ve used those.  No solvents or mediums beyond good old H2O.  Requirement one requires a easel-less approach and while I’ve listed 4 separately, this mostly comes from items 2 and 3.

But in addition to water-mixable oils, you need a substrate that’s light and that doesn’t need a lot of support.  And that’s where Legion’s new Stonehenge Oil paper comes in.  Here’s a really quick test to see how well it solves the problem of oil paint sketching.  Please excuse the horrible painting.  I spent only 15 minutes on this, probably using too large of a brush, but the painting is not the result here, it’s paper performance that’s important here.

I wanted to test how this paper accepts a pencil sketch.  Several of the “Canvas pads” typically sold for oils are horrible for drawing.  Stonehenge oil is the opposite.  Its 140lb paper surface feels like you’re drawing on Stonehenge drawing paper, which is wonderful.  Here’s my sketch and the subject.

My typical way of drawing is to use a 9×12 drawing board with a metal surface so I can use magnets to attach things like paint palettes and water containers.  So, it seemed natural to use the same thing for this test.  I also decided not to tape the paper down because I’m lazy and often I just clip my sketchbook to the board and draw.  I did the same here, with a single clip.

Several things to note here.  There was NO curling of the paper as I painted.  Whatever treatment Legion does to the paper causes it to remain flat and prevents any oil from penetrating through to the other side. Painting on it feels very similar to painting on a masonite panel covered with gesso.  It’s just a LOT lighter.  This is an amazing new product for oil painters in my view.

Will I become an oil paint sketcher?  Maybe?  Probably?  I like the idea and I prefer oils to gouache that some find a great sketching tool.  But I still look at paintings that lack ink lines and think that something is missing.  Time will tell.  What I do know is that I’ll be buying more Stonehenge Oil paper when it becomes available in Canada.

Legion: Stonehenge Oil, A New Painting Surface

I’ve been on a quest, some might say a fools errand, to adapt oil paint to a sketching environment.  I’ve talked a bit about this in previous posts but today I want to talk about a new product that could help me towards that goal.

It’s Legion Paper’s new Stonehenge Oil.    It’s a paper that resists oil penetrationand looks just like watercolor paper.  lts surface texture is very similar to their Stonehenge drawing paper that many of us know for its’ wonderful abilities to handle graphite and colored pencils.  This makes it ideal for doing a sketch prior to painting.  I find it hard to draw on a canvas-textured surface, particularly when working in sketch-size formats.

It’s sold in standard 20×30 sheets and, rumor has it, will also be available in smaller sizes either as pads or sheets.  Anyways, Legion was nice enough to send me a couple 28×21.5cm sample sheets so I could experiment with it as an oil paint sketching medium.  I’ll report back “real soon”  as it looks like an ideal surface for draw->paint work.

From Sketching To Pencil Portraiture

For nearly a decade I put fountain pen to paper as a wanna-be sketcher.  I would post sketches here and profess to “just draw stuff.”  Mine was a simple approach to art to the point where I questioned whether it was art at all.  I just drew stuff.

Pandemic lockdowns got me reading a lot about art and I came to the realization that I did, in fact, “just draw stuff” and that there was a world of art that I did not know.  I decided I needed to do what everyone says and “get out of my comfort zone.”

I first tried gouache and I liked it, though I was frustrated by light hues drying darker and the dark hues drying lighter.  It was too much for my feeble mind, which was trying to figure out light and shade, values, etc.

So I started painting with oils.  I like those a lot and continue to pursue them, though I’m still very much a sketcher type and so I’m trying to figure out how to create a lightweight, portable oil painting set up.  I have learned a lot about color and values by this part of my journey.

I also realized during the pandemic that I had “skipped a step” by starting to draw with a fountain pen.  I never learned how to use a pencil.  So I’ve started drawing more often with pencil, trying to figure out how to shade properly with them.  This has helped me improve my pen and ink hatching as well.

My current adventure is the next step with pencil, I guess.  Pencil portraiture is slow work.  When you lack the skills it can be frustrating work too.  But it’s also VERY meditative because the work goes slowly, deliberately from vague contours and spots toward something that looks like something.

Here’s my something, a portrait of the head of this statue.  I talked about it and the museum website that allowed me to see it back in April.  I’m not sure I’ve got the patience to do this kind of art and I’m certain that I quit working on this portrait too soon.  Nevertheless, I feel I learned a lot in the process and will do another.

 

 

Sketching Is For The Birds

It was only five days ago that I reported that we hadn’t had high temps above 10C yet.  Times change.  For the next three days we’re going to experience temps around 30C, which is kinda-sorta abnormal for us.  We generally get a couple days like that in mid-summer but certainly not in May.  But I’m not complaining.  I went sketching.

Another bit of news that’s relevant to this post is that I just got a hearing aid.  It’s not a fancy programmable one but it has allowed me to discover a lot of sounds I haven’t heard in a long time.

I stopped at a park bench and decided to try to draw/paint directly with a brush.  I’ve been learning how to handle brushes and Marc Holmes’ 30 in 30days (direct to watercolor) event is coming up next month and I want to try it. I didn’t bring my watercolors but I had a waterbrush with some diluted ink and so I did this simple drawing.  Look ma, no lines.  I include it here only for the sake of completeness.

I was walking along my river and the first thing I experienced was birds singing.  I love birds and spend a considerable amount feeding them every year.  But I haven’t heard them in decades.  Well, I can hear crows, but none of the songbirds.  Anyways, the trees along my river had birds, chirping birds.  And so my first act wasn’t to sketch but to lay down in the grass, close my eyes, and just listen.  It was wonderful.  I spent half an hour doing only that.

But I did want to sketch and so I sat up, noticed a line of trees and started sketching.  The “scene” wasn’t that great so I added my own mountains and came up with this sketch.

It was time to walk so I headed up river and eventually came across some rocks to sketch.  These sit, among others, at the end of a new walk bridge the city built last year.  I’ll have to sketch that soon but for this day these rocks were just the thing.  Color got added when I got home.

It was sooooo good to get out sketching.  Maybe I’ll do it again tomorrow (grin).