Saturday, 24 September 2011

POLL: Coloured Pencils - colour or brand?

Which is more important - colour or brand - when buying coloured pencils?  This post is about a new opinion poll for coloured pencil artists.
People vary as to whether they prioritise colour or brand when making their purchase of coloured pencils. 
  • My own personal preference is to go for the best colour from a reliable good quality brand. Hence I vary as to which brands I favour for different colours - and use most brands in the process!
  • For some they go for the colour irrespective of quality issues
  • Other people are dedicated to using one brand - or maybe two. Possibly because that's all the local art store stocks and they haven't yet got used to ordering online.
Here are some possible options identified in a new Opinion Poll I'm running on Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists.  Click this link to access the poll  POLL: Coloured Pencils - do you go for Colour or Brand?
  • I'm always looking for the right colour
  • Colour is the priority - but only from brands which are good quality and reliable
  • Most of my pencils are from one or two brands
  • I prefer to stick to one brand
Below is a sample of the coloured pencils I was using yesterday while I was Sketching the Herb Garden at Sissinghurst. Guess which answer I'll be ticking!

A sample of Coloured Pencil Brands on a sketching outing
They include: Caran d'Ache Pablo, Caran d'Ache Luminance, Derwent Artists, Derwent Coloursoft,
Derwent Signature, Faber Castell Polychromos, Lyra Rembrandt Polycolour, Karisma 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Product review #1: Wacom Inkling

The Wacom Inkling kit unpacked - Inkling case, Inkling pen, Inkling receiver, USB lead, 4 pen cartridges
I've not yet seen a Wacom Inkling - however I have seen the tutorial videos on YouTube and wanted to research it so this week I'm sharing what I've found.

In the future I'll be summarising the verdicts of those who have seen and used it - with particular reference to those who are artists and illustrators and not just technical journalists.

It appears as if the Wacom is being launched mid September in the USA but there's no date for launch elsewhere that I've yet been able to identify.

This post comes in three parts

  • First the official videos by Wacom - which is probably as blatant an example of using YouTube to market a product as I've ever seen!  Note the Wacom videos are available on the USA site but not the Europe channel of Wacom YouTube.
  • Second, a technical summary.  This includes a summary of the pros and cons as identified to date
  • Third - the links to reviews of the Wacom Inkling - for a future post as it turns out as I can't find any to date!
Last - I'd like to hear what you think of the Wacom Inkling.  My initial reaction was that I liked the idea but I'd want to wait until they brought out a "fine nib" as the current one looks a bit too "medium" for me.

What is a Wacom Inkling?

Here are the Wacom videos.  The ones after the first one were only published last week  I'd like to emphasise that all the descriptions are quotes which come straight from Wacom.
Wacom introduces Inkling, a new digital sketch pen that captures a digital likeness of your work while you sketch with its ballpoint tip on any sketchbook or standard piece of paper.
Replacing Inkling Pen Cartridge:  This video demonstrates how to replace an Inkling ink cartridge in the tip of the pen.
Charging Inkling: This video demonstrates how to charge Inkling using the carrying case and a standard USB port.
 Using Inkling:  This video gives you some specific tips for using Inking by Wacom.
Transferring Sketches from Inkling: This video demonstrates how to transfer your sketches from Inkling to Sketch Manager, where you can prepare your files for distribution or further development in other creative software applications, like Adobe Photoshop 
Installing Inkling Sketch Manager (Mac):  This video shows you how to install the Sketch Manager software on a Mac. Sketch Manager is a simple software that comes with your Inkling and is designed to help you prepare your files for distribution or further development in other creative software applications, like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator or Autodesk Sketchbook Designer.

OK - so that's the product demo - but what are the technical features?

Digital Product:  Wacom Inkling Digital Sketch Pen
Owner/Distributor: Wacom
Summary of Technical Details:
This is a brand NEW digital sketch pen.  What's new is that can capture a digital likeness of your work while you sketch with its ballpoint tip on any sketchbook or standard piece of paper(In other words you do not need a special tablet to sketch on).
This is the link to the Technical Specifications

  • Inkling Digital pen:
    • Dimensions: 153 x 17 mm
    • Weight: 21 grams
    • working time - up to 15 hours
    • charging time - up to 3 hours
  • Inkling Digital Receiver:
    • Dimensions: width 71mm / depth 32 mm / height 16mm
    • Weight: 38 grams (making total weight of 59 grams)
  • Inkling Sketch Manager
What you buy: Inkling digital pen, Inkling receiver, Inkling charging case, batteries, USB cable, 4 spare ink cartridges, Inkling Sketch Manager application, quick start guide, online user′s manual
Release date: due mid-September 2011 (USA) no date identified as yet for other locations in Europe
Retail Price: $199.99 / €169.90 / £?
Summary: It's a digital pen which has been designed for rough concepting and creative brainstorming.  I take this to mean they've not yet worked out how to introduce the control required to achieve fine mark-making.
Target Audience: people who like digital tools for creative picture-making
  • artists, 
  • illustrators
  • storyboarders 
  • people sharing ideas in real time with clients (as a digital file)
  • anyone who likes convenience, speed and spontaneity when loosely sketching their ideas on paper 
Suitable for: Those who use pen and ink and are interested in how to digitise the process - but aren't particularly keen on carrying a tablet around with them.
Unsuitable for:  
  • Die-hard pen and ink brigade who have no interest in digital products
  • people who like a lot of control over the products they use to create marks
  • those who like conventional ink pens with a variety of widths possible due to nib chosen
Technical Features
  • "like" sketching with a ball pen - nibs are standard ball points and there are no plans for any other sort of nibs
  • can be used on ordinary paper - no special tablet required
  • scope to use A7 to A4 paper size (portrait/landscape) 
  • receiver is clipped to edge of paper pad to record and connected to computer by USB to transmit (and you can't draw within 0.8" of it)
  • hundreds of sketches can be stored on the receiver prior to infra-red / ultrasonic transmission to PC or Mac
  • uses Wacom's pressure sensing technology - providing 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity for natural pen strokes
  • possible to create layered, digital vector files 
  • sketch files can be saved in Inkling Sketch Manager in the following formats: JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG and PDF formats
  • Export sketches with layers directly from the Inkling Sketch Manager software into 
    • Adobe® Photoshop®, 
    • Illustrator® (CS3+), 
    • Autodesk® Sketchbook® Pro (2011+) or 
    • Autodesk® Sketchbook® Designer.
  • no need to carry a tablet around to create digital sketches - you get to carry a compact case with pen and receiver instead!
  • good range of different file formats possible
  • good range of pressure sensing capabilities - will be familiar to users of existing Wacom products
  • storage capacity seems reasonable in principle
  • useful YouTube videos for demos while you're in "interested" mode given the absence of competent product advice from merchandisers
  • videos appear to demonstrate the product claims
Think Again?
  • the issue with a lot of digital sketching products isn't the fact it can be done, it's how much control the user has over HOW it can be done.
  • unclear how much the replacement ink cartridges are going to cost (this of course is where those who sell printers make all their money)
  • files likely to need refining using a computer - which means you'll still need a digital tool that works the way you like to do this
  • some interested users want to see an eraser 
    • point made that erasure can be done when file is transferred to computer 
    • however it does underline the fact that erasure is NOT possible while the pen is in use
    • the YouTube commentator who suggested lines should be made in pencil first has rather lost the plot!
Suppliers: Available from


What do people think about the Wacom Inkling?

That's the question!

I'm still looking for reviews by people who have seen this and used it and are artists not techies or technical journalists!

My initial thinking is that I like a fine line, lots of control and am not a fan of drawing with a ball point.  It's also rather expensive and I don't like the fact we don't know how much replacement cartridges will cost.  On that basis, I don't think I can currently make a case for trying this out.

However I might be persuaded when the proper user reviews start filtering through

Monday, 19 September 2011

Book Review: Cherries from Chauvet's Orchard

This book tells the story of Postcard from Provence from the perspective of the artist's wife and partner.  It's a definite "must read" for all followers of Postcard from Provence  and aspiring daily painters.

Ruth Phillips writes extremely well - which I already knew from her blog Meanwhile. I thought I might know most of the stories from having read her blog for the last five years, however I was very wrong!

My signed special limited edition (no. 114) of  Ruth's new book Cherries from Chauvet's Orchard arrived in early June and came complete with a key to the house featured in the book which a group of us rented for three weeks in June 2011.

It was posted to me by Julian Merrow-Smith of Postcard from Provence fame.  Which is how I ended up with two keys to enter their world as the book also provides an excellent introduction to all the places around and about Bedoin in the Vaucluse area of Provence.

The chapter titles are idyllic and made me want to start reading straight away - but in the end I didn't start to read it until I was staying in their home in Provence - while Ruth played cello at the Garsington Festival and Julian got to grips with his new role of Dad of seven month old Louis!

This was an early review which I read which only served to wet my appetite.  Having read the book now I can only echo its comments.
“In Cherries from Chauvet’s Orchard, cellist Ruth Phillips makes music with words, capturing on  the page what her painter husband, JulianMerrow-Smith, does on canvas—a way of life that is achingly romantic yet not romanticized, that is earthbound yet exquisite, and one where sweat is rewarded with transcendence. As the couple struggles to build their home out of a farm ruin beneath the shadow of Mt. Ventoux and to make a living and life together, Julian must harness his muse. In a modern-day twist in this ancient place of luscious colors and cuisine, it is the worldwide web that changes their life. This is a true story of talent, ingenuity, and success against the odds, of pathos,  passion, and humor. You won’t put it down.”

--Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara and Unbound
The book also uses quotations from friends, family, artists and collectors as introductions to the chapters.  My friend, fellow painter Sarah Wimperis (The Red Shoes) is one of those people.  This is the introduction to Cloud Shadows on page 160
Julian confims that painting is like running, or the violin, or the requires practice all the time. I am so sick of the people who think it pours out like a leaky tap, like it is easy or god given
Sarah Wimperis
When you start reading a book more slowly and rationing out the pages so that you won't get to the end too quickly you know you're reading a very good book which you want to savour!  After I had been reading for a while I decided to only allow myself a maximum of two chapters each night!

It starts at a point before I began to know a bit about their lives.  It tells us the stories of how Julian and Ruth came to meet and marry, of their life in Crillon Le Brave before they made the move to their 'new' house in Couguiuex and how the whole daily painting story (saga?) happened, took off and then delivered very real benefits in terms of improvements to their life style, domestic amenities and Julian's studio.  I used to stand there with the hose in the evening - watering Ruth's potager - and thinking about how the very long story of how the water actually got to put in an appearance.

What is particularly luscious for all serious foodies (that'll be me!) is the role that food plays in the book - and that's when we learn much more about how Julian's involvement with food goes well beyond what he liked to paint in his still life paintings.  Ruth's writing about food can make me salivate! I also made very sure that the potatoes got a very good watering!

It's also very illuminating and sometimes downright entertaining about what it's like living with an artist in search of his daily muse!

The latter part of the book concerns their quest to be parents and how Louis entered their lives.

This book is a definite "must read" for all followers of Postcard from Provence.  

The general consensus from all those reading along with me in Provence was that it was also a very good read, very accurate about the place and the area and we all enjoyed it enormously - and not just because we were having a go at "living the life" of a painter in Provence (see 4 Go Painting in Provence!).  I bought another copy while I was there and took it home for my mother to read!

This book was first reviewed on Four Go Painting in Provence - Ruth provides the inspiration.....
This particular edition is raising funds for the orphanage in Bamako where Julian and Ruth's adopted son Louis started his life.

Note: ‘Cherries from Chauvet’s Orchard’ is now available as a mass-market paperback for $16.95

Friday, 9 September 2011

Product Review: Liz Steel reviews Schmincke watercolour paints

If you like Schmincke watercolour paints - or have always wondered about trying them out - you should definitely take a look at Liz Steel's unique review - in her sketchbook journal - of the Schmincke paints she took to Europe this summer - see her post 110906 Schmincke Set review

Liz Steel Reviews her Schminke set - September 2011
copyright liz Steel - used with her permission
You can see a larger version of this review in her journal in her Flickr account

If you've done a review of a product send me an email containing a link to your review blog post

Monday, 5 September 2011

Product Review: Pilot G-Tec C4 Microtip 0.4mm Rollerball Pen

Pilot Pens: G-Tec C4 Microtip 0.4mm Rollerball Pen (brown ink)
- my latest "bulk" purchase @£3 per pen

Product:  Pilot Pens: G-Tec C4 Microtip 0.4mm Rollerball Pen (brown ink)
Pilot Product Catalogue description
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: The Pilot-G-Tec-C4 rollerball pen in brown ink is my pen of choice for sketching.  
:  It has an incredibly thin line making very fine hatching incredibly easy to do.  The even flow of the ink and the ease of its release also means that I can hold the pen very lightly which helps with my tenosynovitis.  There is absolutely no need to press hard.  It also is very good at NOT "blobbing" hence sketches are not ruined by a sudden release of a blob of ink.  It works exceptionally well on very smooth paper such as that found in Moleskine Sketchbooks.

There are two aspects which will not appeal to some sketchers - the ink is not waterproof hence will run if you apply watercolours over the top.  The very thin point means that there is no scope for varying the line - it is constant and very fine
Technical Details:
  • pure gel ink - which does not spread or "blob"
  • probably the finest rollerball pen you can buy
    • very fine 2mm line
  • comes in 10 shades
    • black, blue and red commonly found in shops
    • brown ink sometimes found in shops
    • generally need to order online for other colours
Who should buy this? 
  • People who sketch
  • Anybody needing a very fine pen line
  • Anybody wanting a pen with brown ink
  • anybody wanting to avoid ink "blobs"
  • anybody who needs to hold a pen lightly (the ink releases well and flows without interruption - no need to press hard)
Who should not buy this?  
  • Anybody wanting waterproof ink - because it's not
  • anybody liking a variable line 
  • people who are heavy handed and press hard when using a pen
  • tiny point glides over the page
  • it loves moleskine sketchbooks and all bristol plate and hot press paper
  • excellent for hatching and shading (see drawing at below)
  • works fine under coloured pencil (see my Travels with a Sketchbook)
  • ink runs well / good at avoiding ink blobs
  • ink seems to last a long time
  • very popular pen 
Think Again?
  • not recommended for use with watercolours as ink is not waterproof
  • difficult to find in shops in brown ink - need to buy in batches or order online (see suppliers at end)
Manufacturer / Distributor:  Pilot UK
Address: The Pilot Pen Co (UK) Ltd, 4 Dukes Meadow, Millboard Road, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire SL8 5XF
Telephone: 01628 537100
Enquiry form
Suppliers:  Recommended distributor is Cult Pens - reliable and helpful suppliers which is cheapest for single purchases and bulk buys
High street stores
  • I can sometimes find these in Rymans and Paperchase (if they're in stock) - but not always in the brown/sepia colour - hence the big purchase when I do!
Online Retailers
  • Paperchase
    • Pilot G-Tec C4 0.4mm Microtip Rollerball Pen £3.00 per pen (same price in the stores and online)
    • pilot g-tec C4 brown
  • Cult Pens 
    • Pilot G-Tec C4 0.4mm Microtip Rollerball Pen £2.64 per pen (inc VAT)
    • Pilot G-Tec C4 0.4mm Microtip Rollerball Pen (Pack of 12) - Brown (£29.78 - delivered free)
A Cult Pens best-seller - the ultra-fine Pilot G-Tec-C4 rollerball writes a 0.2mm line of pure gel ink colour without spreading. Available in ten ink colours - BlackBlue Red Green Light Blue Brown Purple Pink Orange and Yellow 

Having now taken the photo and written the post I can now put my pens away in the "in stock" box!

Do let me know if you have any comments about these pens.

 Spanish Olive and Tulip Wood Apples #1
6" x 10", pen and sepia ink on Saunders Waterford HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

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