updating my CMYK watercolour dots

A few weeks ago I bought a hand mulled watercolour dot card from Wanderlust Watercolours. I love dot cards because they let me try different paints without investing in an entire half pan (or more).

Wanderlust Watercolour dot card & sample paint swatch on a very messy desk.

Unfortunately I haven’t done much painting or sketching lately. I wanted to find a way to make this sample one I would take out and use … and get back to experimenting. A few weeks ago, I changed what is in my EDC (every day carry) mini palette. That’s helped, but I needed a spark of something completely different. This set fills that need.

I have empty half pans however I wanted something tiny. There are companies that offer slim watercolour palettes, but I wanted something now. So I went to the store and bought an eyeshadow set with the plan to replace the makeup (since I don’t wear it anyway) with my paints. Ok, I only finally bought it this evening but I do think it’ll work out. Let’s take a tour of what I did.

wanderlust watercolour dot card and eyeshadow palette

Ready (Prepare)

First I pried out the makeup. Don’t worry — I’m keeping all but the pinkest shade and experimenting further.

emptied eyeshadow palette

Then I washed it well in warm water. I didn’t bother drying it too much. I tried to pry the inner tray out, but it’s well affixed. You can see that some of the eyeshadow pushed through to the case. That’s ok.

cleaned eyeshadow case ready for pigment transfer.

Set (Transfer)

These paints experienced the same gross humid NYC weather as I have so they weren’t too thrilled about being pulled off the card. I persevered and got everything into its new spot. The two larger spaces are for mixing.

watercolours transferred from the dot card to the new case

Then I wet them down well, this will help them get sticky in their new home. I went a bit overboard with the hansa yellow light, but that’s ok.

Paint!

New CMYK dot palette

This CMYK collection consists of

  • C – cobalt turquoise light – pb28
  • M – quinacridone magenta – pr122
  • Y – hansa yellow light – py3
  • K – mars black – pbk11

and while it’s currently sold out at Wanderlust Watercolours, please let Kata know if you are seriously interested. While I can’t promise she’ll make more, she might. I highly suggest signing up for her newsletter and following @wanderlustwc on instagram.

Here are some quick scribbles as I didn’t feel like going to get my favourite water brush. I look forward to making a proper chart of these colours tomorrow and getting back to painting and sketching.

CMYK scribbles

new ink…

Not that kind!

While at the National Stationary Show (helping MakeRuckus Press) two weeks ago, I had a chance to stop by the Exaclair booth. Among other things, one of the new(ish) Herbin fountain pen inks came home with me.

Meet Vert de Gris.

image showing example of herbin vert de gris fountain pen with watercolor pan

You can learn more about this beautiful colour, in a review by Wondernaut. It’s a marvelous colour and I’m finding myself trying to write every pen dry so I can fill all of them with it.

I painted the bottle with my new mini travel palette which includes my first hand-mulled paint, a pan of silver graphite by Wanderlust Watercolors. Yes, I could’ve been more clever and used the ink to paint the bottle, but I’m quite pleased by the colour I mixed!

I’m really happy to be excited to use my fountain pens, sketching, and painting again. While I’ve not sketched with watercolours every day, I’m doodling more. It feels good and helps loosen my creativity and relax my mind.

image of desk tableau: tea cup on coaster, handknit sock in progress, planner, and sketchbook with watercolors and painted image of teacup.

(mostly) daily sketches

As a child, I learned that the most straightforward way to develop mastery was through regular practice. It doesn’t need to be for hours, 5 minutes most days will lead to improvement. Taking breaks are important too!

While I’m not spinning or weaving every day, I now work on both crafts regularly. That has lead to improvements in what I spin and what I weave (even when I make mistakes).

However, there’s one skill I’d hoped to be more confident with by now. I realized why I wasn’t is due to lack of practice. I want to be able to doodle and sketch Shadow, Buddy, and the foster kittens. Taking photos is one thing, but I really want to be able to draw them.

I have a style when I doodle my tea and the weather in my planner. That style feels right for those items in that context and is straight forward. I can even draw them while still mostly asleep.

The few sketches of pets to-date that I feel are successful have a different style, one I’m not even sure how to describe other than it feels right for them.

However, when I attempt to consciously use that style, they turn out stilted and not at all how I want.

I know I need to turn these sorts of sketches into something I do frequently so that the sketching is muscle memory.

Emboldened and energized from the lessons I found in Dare to Sketch, I purchased a $5 sketchbook. As an added reward (sometimes I reward myself before I begin) I also upgraded my mini paint set to a nicer 12 half-pan set. This tiny splurge has incentivized me to keep practicing!

my 5 steps for building a habit for daily sketches

At this phase of mastery, for me, it is actually quantity over quality. I need to keep working on it no matter how each attempt turns out. Each session will teach me something, even if it’s not the lesson I expected when I started.

  1. I schedule 15 minutes for 5 days of sketching out of every seven. Sometimes it’s easier to sketch late at night on the weekend than it is at any other time during the week. The goal is to try to be flexible within a framework. Sometimes I only sketch 3 days out of 7. Sometimes I feel the desire to sketch multiple times in a day.
  2. I’ve lowered every barrier I can to make sure I sketch that day. I have a cheap sketchbook I don’t stress about using nor am I embarrassed to bring it out in public. The first marking tool that comes to hand is the one I to make the day’s sketch; sometimes it’s a 4H pencil, at others it’s a felt tip pen. My worst case scenario is an app on my tablet and I draw with my finger. It’s surprised me at how easy and free those sketches feel.
  3. I have a chart with the goal of not breaking the chain. I’m currently using an app to help me manage the 5 out of 7 days criteria. I enjoy filling out a habit checklist either digitally or on paper (some inspiration).
  4. Each session is approached with intention to learn something. Even if it’s “write those pens dry as they don’t play well with watercolour!”
  5. Rewards help! In this case, I rewarded myself before I even began this new habit with the watercolour set upgrade.

Other lessons

I’m taking other lessons from Dare to Sketch and trying not to go in order through the pages. Where the book opens I try to use that page. It’s very hard to skip around. That said, the first pages include a table of the colours of my paint set and some of the mixing combinations that I tend to forget. I’m also trying to use whatever is at hand to sketch when it’s time for the day’s practice session.

What have I learned? It’s reinforced that I’ll need lots of practice to draw cats! It’s easier for me to draw signs and flower pots! I’ve borrowed even more books so I can work on perspective (something I used intuitively as a child) and general feline shape. I know the theory and am not always diligent to draw in preliminary lines to guide me to a successful sketch. I often draw myself into an impossible corner.

I’m trying to use less watercolour, which sounds counter intuitive at first. It’s very tempting for me to cover every part of the page with paint. Some attempts go better than others.

Favourites to date:

Maggie at her dinner bowl wins as my favourite so far. I had a kitten trying to climb my leg as I drew.

I love the freedom I felt as I sketched and painted the sign at the train station though wish I had stopped before the ink ran.

The digital sketch of a cat from my brain makes me happy and reminded me to stop overthinking and to step back and simply draw. It was late at night, I was tired.

Additional Thoughts

While there is a time and place for the best tools and supplies I can afford, for me there is something incredibly beneficial to practicing with those that I’m not stressed about using up or ruining. I think this is what gives me the freedom to experiment, to play, to learn.

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God.

Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. ~Martha Graham, 1953

Additional Resources

balance with paint

Almost a year ago I wrote an essay that was in large part about perfectionism. It’s been a struggle to write up more about this topic, not because they’ll be the wrong words and not (groan) perfect but because I really don’t know how I want to articulate what’s in my head.

I have many friends who write eloquently. Sarah is one of them. Please go and read her recent post, “in which I exhort you to paint some perfect little trees (we are all perfect little trees)“.

Oh wow, you came back! Thank you.

There are several areas in my life where I’m working to find that balance between not even starting (because I won’t do it right) and working tirelessly yet never finishing to reach that elusive ideal. Some days are better than others.

To that end I’m trying to doodle and paint more (as I did a year ago), and not only in my colouring book. Earlier this week, I took out the glue gun and affixed magnets to the bottom of the half pans so I could get rid of the icky plastic insert that came with my set and rearrange things how I liked. Bonus, there’s now room for my brushes!

watercolours meet magnets and glue gun

Yes, it is possible to do this magnet modification with cheaper thinner craft magnets, but I had these so I used them. I’m much happier with this setup!

I’ve had a big watercolor project I’ve wanted to work on for the past year, to revisit and redraw my project bag doodles. I love the ones I doodled, but I want to make them more versatile and useful to how I record and track things. I plan to scan them and convert my doodles into mini labels or stickers. Anyway, I think it’s big to me because there are quite a few bags to doodle and I don’t have a dedicated small watercolour sketchbook or setup. I primarily use any paper at hand or if I want something special (which I do for this project) a 9×12 pad of student watercolour paper. As I tend to pull out the paints to work in a 5 min spurt, or on a small cleared corner of my desk, that generally isn’t helpful when staring at a large sheet of paper.

Today after lunch, I brought a lap desk out into the sunroom, sketched a few bags and started painting. I’m not sure if I like how I sketched out the box bags or if I want to go back to they way I’ve doodled before, but the thing is I started.

And it’s progress.
(click to see them bigger)

I do love how I doodled up my Split Yarn Perfect Pouch, it holds my Swatch Maker 3-in-1 Weaving Loom. More on that great tool soon.

project bag doodle, detail

Also related to progress on my perfectionism, I finally got over that not everything is to my ideal (related to my current pattern layout and photography) and released a new pattern this week, Ayrton. It’s been tech edited by the very patient Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn and received generous yarn support from Anzula. This classic yet understated design is a nice seasonal transition piece or for when the office AC gets cranked up. The stitch design and pattern name pays tribute to Hertha Marks Ayrton, an electrical engineer, feminist, physicist, and inventor. The pattern is available for $6 and immediate download at ravelry | craftsy | etsy.

Ayrton

Moving into the grey space between perfectionism and answering the question of “when is a work of art complete?“, the Met’s new space, The Met Breuer, the inaugural exhibit is Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible and with this Da Vinci as a part of the collection, I urge you to go! I hope to get there at some point.

watercolours box

colour!

I have loved colouring books for a very long timeˆ though for reasons unknown I’ve not discussed them here. I even brought a couple of books and crayons with me to college (along with a milk crate of records, but that’s another story). I’ve been delighted by the rise of adult colouring books (This one looks amazing).

Last year’s doodle project lead to a discovery that I love watercolours. I’ve been slowly updating my supplies and tools, a few weeks ago I added a round #1 brush to my kit, this allows for fine detail work.

It’s exciting to combine the two.

2016-01-28-colouring

I’m able to practice mixing and painting with different ratios of paints and water. I’m able to practice mixing enough paint to cover an area. I’m able to practice ways to fix where the paint didn’t work out as I expected.

Yes, there are colouring books that are watercolour friendy, however, I’m enjoying this low cost & low risk way to meditate and relax.

Do you enjoy colouring books? How do you like to colour them?

ˆ few things make me feel old. I’m definitely not! For unknown reasons, this year, this anniversary has touched me deeply.

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