Hidden Villa: new piglets

Hidden Villa: new piglets, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Nine new piglets! Growing very fast - I visited Hidden Villa on Christmas Day again and new sketches - when I scan them - will show you little pigs - no longer piglets. Happy sounds. Warm smells. Good time for all participants ;)

Hidden Villa: new piglets - group view

Abalone and trees

Abalone, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Abalones are protected by the law and there is a limit to 3 per year and only a free diver can gather them I believe (California).

There were many shells in the house that we rented - most of them had year tags and you could see how shells are loosing their color with time. This one was pretty fresh!

I painted this one outside - sitting on a deck until we ran away to visit botanical garden and left my sketchbook and all supplies outside. Needless to say that while we were gone fog consumed everything - but no damage was done to my stuff ;)

Next day I had great opportunity to finish the shell, sketch trees in the forest and then experience wonderful dusk at the deck!



Mushroom Forest

Mushroom Forest, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

I did simple ink drawing of the mushrooms in the forest and added color notes, watercolor was added later - after Thanksgiving dinner ;)
p.s. There were poisonous :) Others were very tasty!

Sketchbook #26

Sketchbook #26: Open at front, originally uploaded by apple-pine. (Click on the image to see some additional notes)

This is another hand-made book - I made it while still working in a large Moleskine sketchbook and was happy to use watercolor on suitable paper again :)

It's horizontal, about 11" x 7.5" final paper size, the book is about 11.25" x 8" when closed. Inside - Fabriano Artictoco 90 LB CP WC, Fabriano Artictoco 90 LB HP WC and one signature with an unknown paper again - not a good one - and I am still looking for my notes to remember what paper it was not to order it again...

Sketchbook #26: Open at the back
(Click on the image to see some additional notes)

I reinforced corners with little stripes of book cloth and sides with some sample papers from paper makers (I get those from printers and tear some samples from graphic design magazines as well) - and I like how it worked out as this sketchbook gets quite a lot of beating taking to fill longer than usual (this topic will require a separate post).

And I used some leftover gift wrapping paper on the cover - puts me in a holiday mood every time I see it ;)

Sketchbook #26: Front and back cover
(Click on the image to see some additional notes)

Everything worked fine with this journal but today it fell apart :(

Sketchbook #26: Problem!
(Click on the image to see some additional notes)

It's was the first time I used Yes Stikflat Glue - may be that was a reason. But I think it's because it's extremely dry here... I put some fresh watercolor from tubes in my sketching palette and it was dry in just a couple of hours...

So - I am off to have a drink of water and add some PVA glue to the spine and put it under some books for a while.


lunch, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

well, the food was eaten too fast to draw - but I had a minute before tea reached my favorite temperature to sketch ;)

Ackerman Pen Review

Ackerman Pen Review - 5, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

I love dip pens. It's one of those tool that will have to go with me on the island if I get to pick what art supplies to grab at the last second ;)

But these are really hard to work with in the field. Sharp end of the pen can be protected by a cap - but I usually loose them by the time I am ready to draw :) So pencil holder is my solution - but current one was knitted for me by a dear friend and gets damaged easily. More important - you have to carry a bottle with ink and it's always asking to be kicked, dropped or spilled in any possible way. I've looked at different solutions to prevent disasters but it gets harder when you have a little boy with you ;)

So - not that long ago I found that Richard Bell mentioned portable dip pen, did some research and decided to spend $25 plus tax and shipping on this experiment: Ackerman Pen.

Ackerman Pen Review - 1
Please click on the image above to see notes about the cap hole.

You can see main parts of the pen here:Ackerman Pen Review - 3
Click on the image for some additional notes.

Ackerman Pen Review - 4
Image above - pen with the ink container pushed in place, before I screwed the back part on.

In Short: The pen does use a real quill - you will get the flexibility and variety of the line, spattering and all the fun you usually have with the real pen! And it is portable - I took it on a few sketching outings with me and was able to use the pen every time. So in short - I would recommend it if you are up to experimentation.

A couple of tips and words of caution before you start experimenting:

First - allow some time for you to learn how it works. I am still playing with it - but I have some tricks to get the flow smoother and the mess smaller :)

- burping: gently (gently!) moving your pen back and forth holding in writing position but parallel to the ground (imagine that it's a dart and you are aiming ;)

- turning the pen so that your index finger does not press the ink release button when you get too excited (which happens to me sometimes - and it's a good sign ;)

- tilting the pen a little so that the nib touches the paper at a little bit different angle (imagine that you are making a really fat dot o nthe paper: do not move the pen but swish it a little between the index finger and thumb to find what angle will get your ink flow again;

- carry it in a zip-lock bag. With some paper towels. I also carry some wet wipes - half-inked fingers scary people less than completely black ;)

- store it head up.

- when opening the pen - make sure to turn the pen clip so that a little hole is visible - it's a vent and by opening it you are ensuting that there is no suction motion when you remove the cap - hense your ink does not run away.

- twist the pen clip to close the hole (vent) when you are done with the pen. Keep it that way!

Second thing is - it's a work in progress pen. My first pen was a pleasure to work with but it's cap would push all the ink out the moment I put it on - so it was not working as a portable pen at all. The second pen is much better bust still from time to time I end up with all (or most) of the ink i n the cap. Now it means just a mess - but I still can do some sketching. Another thing is that shipping took quite some time. The company is about 50 miles away from me - so at some point I was even thinking about stopping by :) May be summer was really busy season - but it took them about 10 days to ship me my first pen and about the same time before I got the replacement. BUT replacement was really much better attuned, there was no need to ship my original pen until I got the replacement and there was a pre-paid envelope enclosed for my shipment back.

I had a very nice conversation with Charles Ackerman and hoping to try more of his pens in the future ;)

Ackerman Pen Review - 2

Evening sky

Evening sky, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Evening sky is always tempting - and always changing too fast... I left details on the windows untouched paying attention to what was changing and added pen to the windows when it was dark.

Evening - tennis courts through the trees

Fixing Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens!

Inspired by one of the posts I found on a new blog by Roz, I decided to give a little kick to a couple of dying Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.

First - I performed a sharpening technique: pull the tip out out, flip it around and use the other end, which is also pointed - worked like a charm - a couple of "inky" fingers and one happy camper with a sharp brush pen!
Fixing Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens I
(Click on the image to see additional comments)

Second thing was adding some rubbing alcohol. The pen was used for quite some time and was running out of gas. So I decided to give this technique a try: opened the top part (shown separately on the image below - please do not be lazy and get pliers - I used my teeth and it's not the smartest move - the cap is hard!), added a few drops of alcohol and - VIOLA! The pen has more life! It's still getting dry fast but it starts with darker color and is holding it longer. I've used it for over a week daily now - and feel that it definitely is worth doing!

Third thing I did was to try and flip the tip of my Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen in a size of S. This happens to me a lot - the tiny tip get's worn -off - especially when I am using cold-press watercolor paper (and a big part of this handmade journal about which I will write a little later is exactly this). So - I decided that I will try the same: pull. flip, put it back trick. It did not work.
Fixing Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens II
(Click on the image to see additional comments)

May be it's my hands not aiming in a good way - may be the pen is not designed to do this - but the result is broken metal tip :(
Miraculously, what's left of it - even though sticking oddly and sometimes trying to fall off - writes better than before! :)
Fixing Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens III
(Click on the image to see additional comments)

Ginkgo Trees

Ginkgo Tree - 1, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Remember my post about first plein air experience with my son? Well, these are my two pages from that plein air outing ;)

On the first one I left a part of the notebook showing - by accident - but it's a happy one I think :)

Second one was a little bit adjusted at home with watercolor pencil to add some texture on the background.

Love these trees - I think I might try another attempt - I saw one quite leafy not that far away (these fellows are bare now - after all - it's been almost a month ;)

Ginkgo Tree - 2

Sunnyvale's trademark Cherry Orchard Fruit Stand

Taking a quick break in my day to draw this "upgraded" fruit stand - the top part of this building belongs to an original Olson cherry stand which stood here for over 100 years only to be demolished a few years ago. New shopping area sprung around but Olson family still owns a fruit stand and they saved a piece of the old building an old keg-like thing on top of the roof.

balloon for Illustration Friday

I tried a couple of different versions for composition and color, had a lot of fun with the gouache and ended up with this :)

I think this would look very different in Summer - but naked trees are on my mind right now.

Sketches for IF:balloon

My News Digest

News DIgest, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

I am working on continuing news digest - it's a warm-up activity that starts my day in the right way :) But some news are not as interesting as other things in my sketchbook (I think) so I rarely scan them to post here :) This tennis player won match with Roger Federer a few days after I drew this - just as I predicted here :) - so I decided to scan it :)

Staedtler brush pen in my Moleskine.

Reed Street, afternoon.

Reed Street, afternoon., originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Another page edited by little co-author. Attempt at his mug is below :)


Illustration Friday: Opinion

Illustration Friday: Opinion, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

I think opinions might change when you see things form other perspectives :)

Sunny street

Sunny street, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Moleskine sketchbook paper is not welcoming my watercolor attempts. As if it's saying - ok - you poured THIS here - now - deal with it!
This is where I started missing my watercolor paper choices... but I learned some things too - adding some gouache, pen and ink - helps to balance things out after watercolor flood. And being patient but not too slow helps too ;)

Hidden Villa: chickens, pigs and cows

My son adjusted composition a little by adding some pencil circles here and there in my sketchbook - and though he was rebuked, I think it added some thing to some of the pages ;)

We had a wonderful little trip - lots of leaves to look at, lots of places to run and jump :) chickens were easy to sketch since my companion was occupied with chasing them to feed some corn that he found on the floor. We saw one egg being laid! And met two kittens (they ran away too quickly).

I used Rotring artpen (shortened to make it more portable) and KOH-I-NOOR drawing ink - sepia, waterproof. It has a little bit of smell when I fill the pen (I am using refillable Piston-Fill Converter) but is almost gone when I actually draw - and I do have a tendency to get closer and closer to the paper if I loose a track of time sometimes ;) Not with these sketches though :)

Hidden Villa: resting cows

Forces of Nature

Forces of Nature, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

We had some gorgeous weather during last week or so. And Ginkgo trees are marking the change of season by brightening everything around them with yellowest yellows. There was no way I could miss this so I grabbed my new sketchbook (handmade, I will write about it later - when I am done posting from moleskine ;), some sketching gear and my son.

It happened to be our first plein air experience together. Before this it would be either me drawing and trying to make him not draw in my sketchbook - or I would surrender and let him go through a few pages doodling things while we are in the park. This time I actually took his sketchbook (he has a special one ;) and brush and decided that I will share my paints.

It was OK ;) Each of us ended up with a spread covered with paint and scribbles. We had a nice conversation about the color of the trees and an argument about usage of the water and what to do with waterbrush. Ended up running after some things scattered by the wind or thrown away by accident and also killed one of my waterbrushes :( (it was time for it to go - and it's on the list of things Santa would probably bring me this year but there were some emotions spilled about the accident too ;)

I learned that forces of nature (in this case - wind and my son) should be respected and carefully planned for. So here is an image from my today's plein air set: I added some clips to hold pages, some string to hold together my water spray bottle and it's cap and another string to replace rubber band holding my sketchbox together and some extra wiping material for mess and spills ;)

Click on the image to see some notes ;)

Point Lobos

Point Lobos, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Wonderful day! Too bad the ink is not water proof - I'd love to add color to this landscape - but this is all I had with me during 7 minutes rest after cleaning all equipment, before driving, while drinking tea in she shadow of a magnificent pine, who deserves a special drawing time :)


Offices, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

Sometimes all you need is to get out of the building - and here you are - working ;)

School building

School building, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

field and park next to school

Illustration Friday: wise

Illustration Friday: wise, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

This is a portrait of a A.A. Liubischev - a man who lived a full life. Which I think is wise :)

I just finished a book about him and found only a few portraits online. I liked this one because of the hand and because of the way how his asymmetrical face is glowing :)

Beginning of a new book

Beginning of a new book, originally uploaded by apple-pine.

I was trying to start uploading more current sketches and looks like I am getting there :) This is a first sketch in my current book number 25 :)

Because of
a) lack of time and
b) interest in a more neatly looking book and
c) desire to use paper that is gentle to nibs of my pens

this book is a moleskine - 5 x 8.25, sketchbook.

Today I am almost done with it and a new sketchbook is waiting under the weight of a few art albums and a weight belt. New book has lots of watercolor paper in it because now I miss good watercolor paper ;) But I got to work with some fun pens and experiment with different medias in moleskine and overall am still having a lot of fun with it! Not too many things to share though since writing in it is very nice too - so many pages are covered with reviews, notes, recipes and lists ;) And also I was rather busy so sometimes all I got to sketch was my feet, my hand with whatever was left of the apple or bunch of fruits on my lap :)

This is a view onto the elementary school next door on a very cloudy day - the first such day since spring - I spend some time explaining what that is in the sky to my son - and had to sketch them too ;)