Simply Sunday - A watercolor rabbit hole for March 19
Watercolor musings, whiskey palette history, word play, and more
A new week, which means a new set of nudges for your illustrated journal and some other thoughtful and maybe thought-provoking tidbits. Rabbit food, I guess, because I seem to be endlessly falling down rabbit holes, which isn't quite the same as falling down endless rabbit holes.
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This newsletter contains the following:
A list of 12 things to letter
A watercolor rabbit hole
Whiskey palette box history
Illustrate Your Week prompts for Week 12
Feel free to jump around, but please be sure to let me know what you enjoy most!
12 Things to Letter in Your Illustrated Journal
This list of 12 things you can treat as visual elements on your page follows on the heels of last week's list of repeatable elements you can mix and match week to week in your illustrated journal. I hope that building a small toolbox of elements you can pull into your pages will help you feel more comfortable and confident in approaching each new day or week or page in your illustrated journal.
A Watercolor Rabbit Hole
I continue to ponder the use of color in my own pages, fitting in the painting process, and palettes and colors of watercolor. When I photographed and shared my weekly pages last week, I joked that I felt I "broke my brain" with zany color. It was an important moment and admission. I’ve been thinking a lot about color, which has led me down a vivid rabbit hole about watercolor and paint palettes. There is so much information, so many terms and variables and varieties, so much to learn. A few resources you might enjoy:
Jane Blundell's blog is amazing, a true treasure trove of watercolor information. Jane's posts are highly detailed and incredibly technical. I am, honestly, not at a point to absorb this level of technical information yet, but I have spent quite a bit of time scanning her pages. Her grids and comparison photos are wonderful to look at and ponder. This page on "greys" is an excellent example of the technical information she has compiled. (Note: Daniel Smith's Jane's Grey, is based on her custom blend of ultramarine + burnt sienna.)
For another example from Jane’s blog, see 12-colour watercolour palette suggestions and her coverage of Watercolor Triads. From this page, you can find links to individual color-themed swatch comparisons. If, for example, you were trying to sort out which blue would give you a really good dusky blue, you could pull up the blue swatches page.
Colours to Pick for a 12-pan Watercolour Palette: This is a great look at the palettes used by a number of different artists.
Basic Watercolor Palette: 12 essential colors (Lydia Makepeace): this post has good information about how paint is labeled and how to decipher the alphanumeric Color Index code. It also has a nice breakdown of what "types" of colors you might include in a 12-paint palette: warm yellow; cool yellow; warm, cool, and violet reds; warm and cool blue; warm and cool green; two earth tones, and black.
Liz Steel is included in a post linked above that contains palettes from several artists, but many of us have followed Liz's beautiful work on and off through the years. Here is her most recent palette post. She follows a similar setup to the approach described by Lydia Makepeace but makes room in her 12 for two "personal choice" colors, which seems really nice.
Me? I'm just meandering through the rabbit hole. I am slowly perusing and thinking and soaking up information. There is no pressure in this process. No race. I've spent a lot of time looking at images like the ones shown below.
The comparison swatch charts are on the Daniel Smith website for many (some) of their individual paint colors and are easy to spot in image results when Googling a specific paint color. (They are the best eye candy, right?) I find them beautiful to look at and really helpful in terms of distinguishing between possible colors. The siennas and purples and blues, oh my!
I am going to pick up a few (just a few) tubes (and some empty half pans) to fill in a few gaps and tone things down, but I think the next frontier will be to spend time deliberately (rather than haphazardly, which is my typical approach) mixing colors to learn more about how they behave.
Some of you are color swatch chart makers from way back, but it's not something I have done. I probably won't. I think it's tedious and also can't escape feeling like I will waste a lot of paint. But I do plan to explore more mixing…. probably mixing by doing with (hopefully) a dash of documentation. I already do a lot of mixing, but I don’t always make notes about what’s what. I tend to “throw it all in” (sort of like I make soup), and even if I like what happens, I might not know later what I used. I knew when starting my 100-day project that I would need to mix greys. My attempts at mixing so far have not been fruitful or even very grey. So, I'm hoping to start fitting some more paint testing into my illustrated journal. I used to fill space (and tired time) with hatching and mindful marks. Maybe I can find a way to make paint mixing and color testing work in those margins. (That’s my note to self from this newsletter.)
All of this reading and searching and pondering is, truly, a deep rabbit hole, one that is partly creative and partly intellectual, and it may or may not really factor into my illustrated journal work. The paper I use is very similar to manila folders. This sketchbook paper serves me well (and is happy with fountain pens), so I am not super keen on changing it, although I've been going back and forth a bit since I'm about a week out from finishing my current sketchbook. I might use something different for my next span of weeks, just to see if it makes a difference to me. But I have a really strong attachment to my tried-and-true sketchbook.
These back-and-forth issues do get to be exhausting. Most rabbit holes are also a bit exhausting. They can be exciting and inspiring and fun, but rabbit holes can be a bit obsessive and compulsive and scattered and leave us “wanting” rather than enjoying and using and maximizing what we have.
Rabbit holes are not necessarily bad. We are always learning, and I always remind people that it is important to "let" yourself be a beginner when trying something new (or, in this case, returning to a medium after many, many years and with maybe new eyes and a different approach or mindset). (Truth: I obsessively research fountain pen ink the same way. Some of you might remember times I've done this with Copic markers (Episode 240) and even with ballpoint pens. It's just my nature. I usually don’t act on my impulses. I just do a lot of research!
What’s your favorite palette? I know many of you enjoy swatching, making color charts, and mixing colors. Feel free to share your favorite palette in the comments! If you have a personal favorite palette of 3 or 12 colors, please share it. Or if you have a "personal choice" color or two, let me know. (I definitely read all the comments on Liz Steele's post, and made notes of people's must/have colors. I've got a list...) If you have a favorite formula for beautiful grey, please share.
This is also about paint, but it deserves its own space in the lineup today. While looking at empty half pans (that I can fill from a tube), I scrolled past a "whiskey palette" listing. I've heard the phrase before for small palette holders (like the one I have from Case for Making). Seeing the phrase this week though, I suddenly wondered where the phrase came from. It seems obvious that it might have something to do with literal flasks. These paint boxes are about the size of a flask, and some do have a built-in water chamber that looks very much like a flask.
That seems to be partially true, but the original story seems to be different and is far more interesting. Have you dipped your brush in coffee or tea accidentally while painting? Probably yes! It seems that the Whiskey Painters group started with an artist named Joe Ferriot (in Akron, Ohio). While traveling, Joe liked to paint small format, in a local establishment, and dip his brush in his whiskey. (It is hard to really think about a time when that was more practical than using water!) I read several accounts of this history, including the information on the Whiskey Painters (brand) site. (They make a range of palette boxes, including the archetypal small one, also known as the Bijou.) It's all very interesting, and I'm glad I looked it up! Here's a summary from the Canton Museum of Art:
"Joe [Ferriot], traveling extensively for work, and longing to paint on these trips, devised a small palette out of an aspirin box, divided with plastic strips to hold his paint and devised a screw-together brush (like a pool cue) that would fit inside this small box along with strips of watercolor paper cut to about 4" X 5" so that all would fit neatly into his shirt pocket. After business hours were completed, Joe would retire to the nearest 'Watering Hole' for relaxation and friendly imbibing. He would take out his small painting kit, and to the delight of the bartenders and patrons, produce one of his miniature masterpieces by dipping his brush into his glass of booze, which then he would give away."
To add a finishing touch to the color phobias note from last week, I want to point out this inane word: Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
This is not the longest word in the English language, but it does, ironically, mean a fear of long words. (I don't have any real interest in phobias or irrational fears, but I do find words intriguing.) Xenial, by the way, means "warm, welcoming, and hospitable." Did you know?
Illustrate Your Week - Week 12
The prompts for Week 12 are available!
Favorite lines from “Mysteries, Yes,” a poem by Mary Oliver:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say "Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.
Do you also enjoy the mystery, the journey, the rabbit hole? Leave a comment and let me know. I'm rarely looking for someone with absolute answers. I enjoy the quest, the teasing of tangents and tangling of threads. I enjoy the search, the mulling, the parsing and synthesizing and discovering.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday and enjoyed a cup of something warm while reading along.
Thanks for reading Illustrated Life! If you enjoy the this’s and the that’s and have an interest in creative life and keeping an illustrated journal, please subscribe to be alerted to new posts and to share coffee (or tea) with me in your inbox on Sunday mornings.