Year in Review~2015

2015 year in reflection ncwren
2015 was an interesting year around here. I started a new business with my art. The growing pains are precisely that-painful! Trying to keep up with a website, blog, market myself and my art via social media, and deal with all of the government requirements AND produce art have been very full filling to say the least. I have enjoyed learning about each area of this new enterprise (except for all of the government stuff!). My biggest hurdle is changing back and forth between the different jobs I need to do around here.

This was also my first year in attempting to draw or paint everyday. My initial rule of keeping my daily sketches down to one hour didn't work all the time. My 'just another 5 minutes' kept turning into another hour. I did not manage to paint or draw everyday, but I did see a dramatic improvement in time and quality of my work. At first I was thinking that the subject was an easy one, or that I was simply having a good day. Thankfully the progress I have made in those two areas are for the most part sticking.

Just when I was really clicking along with all of these activities my body failed me. Towards the end of September (just getting ready to wrap up the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge) I was put into the ICU for 4 days and spent another 4 days in the hospital. I had a large kidney stone that would not pass. Since it was my first stone I stayed home and tried to push through the pain. Unfortunately I went into septic shock. Thankfully great doctors and nurses were there for me along with prayers from my church, family and friends. I am still have some issues-mostly impatience with getting back to 'normal'. It is a vicious cycle of needing to be active and not having the energy to do so. Being mentally tired is also a new thing to me. I have a lot of empathy now for people with this problem~it just sucks. The whole incident reminded me of riding my skateboard back in the 70's. Getting the hang of balancing oneself on the board and kicking along to get speed. All it took was one little pebble to launch oneself into the air- no helmet or pads...most of the time wearing tank tops, shorts and being barefoot (hang ten).

I am looking forward to the challenges of 2016. I need to find a better balance of taking care of business and the business of taking care of me.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful~Happy New year! :)

Pigment + Palette~Quick Product Review

Pigment and Palette is a monthly subscription box service that I have belonged to for about a year and a half. There have been a few glitches here and there, but they have managed to get them out eventually.

I pay $15 a month, but I believe the current membership is $18. For that you get a variety of artists tools to try out, along with a postcard with a featured artist on the front and a description of the products received on the back.

November was the 23rd edition and had Fright Night as a theme. The products included were a Copic double ended marker, General's Magic Black eraser, Blackwing pearl pencil, and Borden & Riley #123 Artist's book.
Product Review ncwren
The Pros:
  • full sized samples
  • interesting products
  • support of artists through promotion
  • responsive to suggestions
The Cons:
  • boxes come later and later since inception
  • lack of communication 
Every time I think it's time to pull the plug on my subscription they put out a really great box.

*As of December Pigment & Palette are no longer in business. They had a run of 24 boxes before shutting down.

Update on Charvin Water-soluble Pastels

This past summer I reviewed these pastels and compared them to other pastels I own. You can find this review here:  Charvin Review

 I used these exclusively for underpaintings during the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

Charvin watersoluable pastel ncwren
I found that they worked better with more water than I had been using Before they would clump up and not move around or melt. They are working great as an underpainting. I have still yet to try them as a stand alone pastel.
charvin watercoluable pastels underpainting ncwren
This painting is available for purchase.

DIY Color Previewer For Artists

color previewer DIY
I recently came across a product that helps predetermine a color for glazing or whether another layer will help or hurt a painting. I was too impatient to wait for a delivery from Australia-and I wanted to try colors that I have in my own palette so I made my own.
color previewer diy ncwren
I made a list of all the colors I would like to have available and googled the html code for each of them. For those that I could not find a specific code for I looked for the closest match.

I used PicMonkey's collage feature and picked square deal which gives 25 blocks per 8.5x11 page.

Next choose edit to go to the editing area. Pick effects (the sparkly wand) and find ombre to get a graduated effect. Have white as one color and the second color use your html code for each color you have.

Save the project to either print your own out with a laser printer or take to your local printer. I used a transparency made for laser printers and the price was under $10 for a box of 50 sheets.
color previewer diy ncwren
I cut mine out and organized by color. I also punched holes and added grommets so they would slide easier around a key chain.
color previewer diy ncwren
After making these and using them a few times I would have only made 6 swatches-3 primary and 3 secondary. I also would have left them intact on one sheet. The color scratches off fairly easily and attracts a lot of dust through static electricity.

Still a nifty idea and fun to use. I have had a recent inquiry about the color previewer I made for myself. If you live in the Continental United States and are interested in purchasing one from me, please contact me via the contact page and I will be happy to set you up with one. There are 32 color 'swatches' (2" square) on 3 transparency sheets. The colors are:
1 lemon yellow
2 naples yellow
3 azo yellow
4 hansa yellow
5 quin gold
6 orange
7 quin rust
8 burnt sienna
9 shell pink
10 potters pink
11 quin rose quin pink
12 quin red
13 alizarin crimson
14 red deep
15 maroon perylene
16 carmine
17 quin magenta
18 quin violet
19 dioxazine purple
20 cobalt violet
21 cinereous blue
22 cerulean blue
23 ultramarine blue
24 phthalo blue
25cobalt blue
26 prussian blue
27 anthraquinone blue
28 cobalt teal
29cobalt green
30 hookers green
31 phthalo green sap green
32 viridian green

Quick Product Review~Shell and Potter's Pink

wip watercolor portrait ncwren
In search of a color that would retain a glow to watercolor portraits in shadow areas (especially children) I came across a pigment referred to as Potter's Pink (PR233). When I went to purchase this color I also happened on another color called Shell Pink (PO73 and PW6). On impulse I went ahead and purchased both.
quick product review potter's pink shell pink ncwrent
The Potter's Pink I purchased is a Daniel Smith product. It is a very light tint with a lot of granulation due to it being a genuine mineral pigment. Unfortunately it's formulation is very gummy-meaning that it doesn't really dissolve and there is no mingling on the paper-just a sludgy appearance overall. I suspect it has to do more with quality control than the actual pigment itself. It lifts very easily from the paper, making it extremely difficult to layer with. I have had another paint from this company do this and found it to be not worth my time to get it to work. I may call or write them and see if it is actually the pigment itself.
As for the Shell Pink from Holbein-I am having a love affair with this paint at the moment. It is a combination of Pyrrole Orange (PO73) and Titanium White (PW6). A wonderful transparency exists up to about a 50/50 mix of paint and water when it starts to give over to the white's opacity qualities. I am definitely in the market for some Pyrrole Orange and Titanium White. I have not mixed opaque watercolor with transparent, and given the quality of this paint I want to explore these two pigments separately.
quick product review potter's pink shell pink ncwren
As you can see from the above picture the squares with sludge like strokes are the ones made using the Potter's Pink from Daniel Smith. The top left square starts with a 50/50 mix of the Holbein Shell Pink and is washed out to a light pink transparency-smooth and beautiful. I am loving this subdued yet vibrant pink.
I purchased the Potter's Pink from Amazon for $11.71 usd and the Holbein Shell Pink for $11.72. Both tubes are .5oz/15ml

If you like this review you may also like:
Quick product review-M. Graham cobalt set

Quick Product Review~M.Graham Cobalt Watercolor Set

M. Graham Cobalt set ncwren quick product review
A really beautiful grouping of colors that have been on my wishlist for over a year. This set has 5 .5oz/15ml tubes of various cobalt pigments.
  1. Cerulean Blue Deep PB 36
  2. Cobalt Violet PV14
  3. Cobalt Blue PB 28 (Oxides of Cobalt and Aluminum)
  4. Cobalt Teal PB28 (Cobalt Aluminate)
  5. Cobalt Green PG50

M. Graham Cobalt set ncwren quick product review

My first impressions were how transparent and vibrant they appeared in my flower palette. They are described in general as being semi opaque-great lightfast ratings with the cobalt family of pigments. They play well together and I happen to love the granulation that some of the pigments provide.
M. Graham Cobalt set ncwren quick product review
The previous image is from my sketchbook and part of a daily drawing challenge group I belong to on Facebook. I want to say that this group is my favorite, but I have really loved and enjoyed using every color I have from M. Graham thus far.
M. Graham Cobalt set ncwren quick product review
I have 3 other sets from M. Graham and I highly recommend them all. I know that some artist don't care for them or Sennelier because they stay sticky and are hard to travel with. This is due to the honey added in to keep them moist. I myself have not had any issues or difficulty traveling with them. Having the softer paint in palette has saved considerable wear and tear of my brushes. I find that with Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith (2 of my other favorites) that I find myself scrubbing at the pans to get the pigment out. It is generally not a problem when I remember to spritz my palette with water.
I purchased all of my sets from Amazon.
If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy my other quick product reviews:
Holbein artist gouache
Sennelier Watercolor

Finding your Niche-Edit What You Love

artist mind mapping exercise
Click to Enlarge

An exercise to try out. Pick 1-3 artists you love. List them in a mind map. Find out who they were inspired by or where they went to school to learn their craft (Search engines are your friend here). Pick a person from that and repeat. Go back as far as you can-or in some cases care to. Continue mind mapping people out.

Find their art online and study it. Copy parts of it. Figure out how they saw light. Find what subjects they were drawn to.

I have only copied a small portion of one painting that appealed to me-it actually resonated. I did not copy the materials originally used. I took out my small sketchbook, watercolors and watercolor pencils to study this particular artist and his work.
Bashi-Bazouk watercolor study ncwren niche exercise

I felt that indescribable shift when I have had "aha" moments in the past. It is an exercise I am itching to repeat-and most of the work is done already with my mind maps. I was inspired by Austin Kleon and his books Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy:
Finding your niche in market full of voices
Prepping for 30 paintings in 30 days

Finding Your Niche in a Market Full of Voices


austin kleon quote

I recently read that an artist was told to stop selling until they found their voice. This is a person who is going gangbusters selling right now. They have the marketing and event planning down to a science. They are relatively new to art, but produce good work. I was extremely surprised that someone would attempt to derail this person's momentum.

I remember several years ago getting phone calls from a law office wanting to speak to a person they needed to interview. I continually told them that they had the wrong number and to please stop calling. I could not understand why they did not believe me and the assumption was made that I was lying to them. It finally dawned on me that I was operating from the perspective of honesty and the law office was not-otherwise they would have realized sooner that their efforts were never going to pay off harassing me.

Now I realize we can never truly know what goes on in another person's heart and what their motivation or intentions are when they give us advice. I do know that if it kills your enthusiasm for your work it probably isn't advice one should listen to. They may have ulterior motives for saying what they say. You may never know-especially if you yourself don't operate in that manner.

The best advice I have come across concerning being an artist..."Don't wait until you know who you are to get started" -Austin Kleon Steal Like An Artist

We are all familiar with baby steps. No one can run until they learn how to walk. Marketing, selling, producing art, learning new techniques-it is all a part of the process of being an artist. Just doing what we need to do and staying genuine will teach us who we are as people. We already have a voice, a perspective. We need to edit ourselves down to that specific area that will help us stand out in a crowd...finding that niche in a market full of voices.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy:
Prepping for 30 paintings in 30 days
2 ways you can help me find my niche 

Staying Sane And Organized

watercolor and pastel painting desktop organizer 30in30I
 I found this nifty desktop organizer at Walmart. I had been on the hunt for ideas on how to make my own staging area for small art pieces that are works in progress.  

Since I mostly work in watercolor and pastel I found this fits my needs almost perfectly. I use the top area to store finished pieces and dry watercolor wips. Having them stored vertically helps keep them clean from any pastel debris and dust and out of harms way from any cat imprints. I don't have to worry about my work getting smudged or damaged before I have a chance to prepare it for shipping or long term storage.

I also really like the removable drawers. I keep pieces ready to be worked on beyond the outline stage, my idea notebook and inspiration pieces. The removable drawers allows me to be more mobile transporting my stacks to other areas making reference work more accessible.

It worked great during the 30 in 30 art challenge in September. It kept everything that I was working on organized and in one place. I didn't have art sprawled all over my studio which helped keep my motivation up and running.

I picked this one up for around $12 usd.

Thirty Paintings Thirty Days Collage

Not thirty, but I submit my 25 paintings for the challenge in September.
All paintings are available for purchase unframed.

30in30 challenge ncwren collage

25 of 30~Wooded Retreat

25/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

racoon peeking out pastel painting 30in30 ncwren
Wooded Retreat
original pastel






24 of 30~The Protector

24/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

red winged black bird pastel painting ncwren 30in30
The Protector
original pastel


23 of 30~Black and White Ruffed Lemur

23/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

black and white ruffed lemur pastel painting 30in30 ncwren
Black and White Ruffed Lemur
original pastel




22 of 30~Drying Out

22/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days art challenge in September.

pastel painting opossum possum ncwren 30in30
Drying Out
original pastel





21 of 30~Scented Glass

21/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

perfume bottles watercolor painting
Scented Glass
original watercolor
5x7








20 of 30~Marbles

20/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.
2/3 of the way there!

watercolor painting marbles 30in30 ncwren
 Marbles
original watercolor
5x7









19 of 30~A Nod to Cecil

19/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

lion attacking vehicle pastel painting 30in30 ncwren
A Nod to Cecil
original pastel 
5x7





18 of 30~People Watching

18/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge in September.

old man on sidewalk in kilt 30in30 pastel painting ncwren
 People Watching








17 of 30~At the Zoo

17/30 for the 30 paintings in 30 days art challenge in September.

giraffe zoo mixed media watercolor pastel 30in30 ncwren
At the Zoo
original pastel on watercolor
8x8