Monday, March 23, 2015

sketchbook :: the set up

As promised in my last post, I am sharing my working set up for sketchbook journaling. Yes, I have returned to a hand made sketch journal, pictured above. After all of my experimentation with commercial sketchbooks I still find a hand made sketchbook the most satisfying to work in. This one is 7 x 8 inches and filled with 140 lb. Kilimanjaro cold pressed paper. You can read more about my actual sketchbook making process here.

I carefully considered the size for this journal. 5.5 x 7.5 inches is a nice size and it is possible to make a sketchbook with just two full sheets of watercolor paper without any waste. But after working in a couple of larger formats I wanted to go a bit larger than that. I did like the 7.5 x 9.5 inch size of the Strathmore sketchbook, although I often felt it was a bit too vertically oriented for the way I like to work. So I drew diagrams of several sizes and settled on 7 x 8 inches, which is 14 x 8 inches when fully opened for working across the page spread. I will note here though, that if I were to use a commercially made sketchbook, the Strathmore Soft Cover Mixed Media Sketchbook was my favorite of the bunch that I tried.
I also decided that it was time to renew my palette. I am still using the American Journey Travel Palette, which I love, and it has held up well these past few years. Yet some of the original colors were hardly touched while others I was constantly refilling. So after much experimentation I settled on the twelve colors in the chart above. All but two are American Journey watercolor paints.
My goal was to have a warm and a cool in each of the primaries plus green, as well a a couple of earth colors. To make my selections I tried many mixes with colors from my larger studio palette in order to see which would be the most serviceable in the long run. For example, Sour Lemon mixed with Alizarine makes wonderfully vibrant oranges and warm reds while Alizarine mixed with the warm Gamboge results in more subtle, earthy oranges. And as much as I love Royal Amethyst on my palette, I can achieve essentially the same purple hue with a mix of Permanent Rose and Ultramarine Blue. And Permanent Rose is a shade of pink nearly impossible to mix, so it stayed and Royal Amethyst was out.

Blues and greens were also tricky decisions. Ultramarine Blue had to be included, it is much too versatile not to include. However I replaced the Cerulean Blue that came with the palette with Phthalo. Turquoise. Even though Cerulean can make for a wonderful sky color, it is usually a bit too grayed for my taste. Especially with the vibrant blue skies we can have here in North Carolina. Phthalo. Turquoise fits the bill nicely, with endless variations when mixed with Ultramarine. And you can always tone down a hue, but you can't make a dull color brighter.
Now I realized with these color choices that I really didn't need a green. But the palette has twelve spots and it is nice to have basic colors handy. So Sap Green, my go-to green stayed. I have a Viridian on my studio palette but its intensity can be a bit much. That's when I picked up a tube of Phthalo Green, (blue shade), to take for a spin.
I really like the grays that Phthalo. Green and Alizarine produce, and the greens achieved when it is mixed with my selected yellows. Now for my earth colors I stuck with Burnt Sienna because it is such a versatile color. And I love Copper Kettle, a bit oranger and more intense than Burnt Sienna, is also a favorite. I swapped out the yellow Ochre from the original palette with Quin Gold. Again, it has a bit more intensity yet makes nice mixes. And a can't-do-without color on my palette is Shadow. Wonderful as a dark value, somewhat neutral, it would be easy to mix but it is nice to have it already there.
Now I also have a pocket watercolor palette, which holds 12 half pans. I filled it with the same selection of colors. The pocket palette fits neatly into this nifty sketch caddy, along with waterbrushes, a pencil and a couple of pens, and I have the lightest kit possible.

And there you have my sketching set up. Just like paper choices, color selections for a palette are highly personal choices. So I hope you find all of this information useful, as a behind the scenes look at what goes into my sketch bag, whether I am settled at the kitchen table or on a mountainside.


Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

nice to see your set up :) haven't used those watercolour before, not sure if you could even get them here *off to look*

Celia Blanco said...

I really enjoyed this post! Your sketchbook is beautiful, I will follow the link to see how you make them. Great color choices and organization!

Ann said...

Thanks Jennifer! It is my understanding that American Journey, which is Cheap Joe's brand, is actually DaVinci watercolors. The Handprint site gives DaVinci a pretty good review. (Maybe DaVinci is available across the pond?)Plus I'm just up the road from Cheap Joe's, so they're easy for me to get :-)

Thank you Celia! My handmade sketchbooks are hardly professionally done. In fact they're pretty wonky. But that's okay with me :-)

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

ah! I've seen the Davinci brand in stores and online and did think about grabbing them. Will have to next student loan :) (just bought a new camera lens or I would buy new paint :p)
thank you :)

CrimsonLeaves said...

Any chance you'd consider writing a post on how you make your sketchbooks? I think this is beautiful!! Love that cover!

Ann said...

Thanks Sherry! Follow the link in the first paragraph. It will take you to an older post where I did discuss the actual making a bit more :-)

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Ann-great post. Going to check out your older post on how you make your own journals. Thanks for sharing!


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