Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Majestic Mandalas Adult Coloring Book by Orna Ben-Shoshan #ColoringBooks #Mandalas #OrnaBen-Shoshan

Recently, Orna Ben-Shoshan sent me a copy of her jumbo-sized adult coloring book for review (I received no other compensation for this review, and all opinions are my own).

The coloring book is jumbo-sized! It's too large to fit my scanner, so I apologize that the photos might be a bit fuzzy in areas.  My photography skills are not as advanced as my scanning skills.

Look and Feel
Size: Approx 12 x 12 inches
No. of Pages: 30
Binding: Wire Coil, Top-bound
Covers:  Front Cover-Light flexible cardboard; Back Cover-Heavy rigid cardboard.
Price: $21.50 USD

The pages in the Majestic Mandalas coloring book only have illustrations on one side. With 30 illustrations, you have plenty of pages to color, but you can use a wider variety of mediums without the worry that you'll ruin something on the back.  It also means you can tear out a page and frame it without losing something on the back. 

I've already mentioned that the book is jumbo-sized.  That means it is fairly heavy.  This is a book that will take a lot of jostling but won't be something you slip into your bag to carry around.

The paper is thick and stiff, almost very thin card stock.  It's white and smooth, but not glossy or slick.

The book is top-bound with a double wire coil. I held the corner of one page and bounced the whole book up and down several times, with no ripping and no indentations in the paper.  The wire-coil didn't bend or collapse from this treatment.  Then, I also tried ripping out a page.  I carefully ripped one corner free from the binding, and the rest of the page tore away cleanly and with ease.  You'll have the option of removing pages for coloring or framing, but you won't easily tear out a page by accident.

The ink is black and the lines are dark but not overly thick.  The illustrations are lively, with enough detail to make interesting pages, but not fussy with tiny detail that would get lost once colored.

Every page is a mandala with a theme - aircraft, beach, desert, etc.  There are some larger, empty areas that might be too much for the easily bored to color in, but they are sections of the mandala that could easily be left uncolored, and still be part of the whole design.

Inside the front cover there is an introduction to the artist and a discussion of the relaxing power of the mandala.   

The themes for the mandalas are: Airplanes & Balloons; The Beach; Butterflies; Sweet Treats; Chess; Citrus Fruits & Flowers; Desert Animals & Flowers; Fashion Accessories; Fish; Perfume Bottles; Fruits; Garden Vegetables & Tools; Abstract; Luck & Fortune; Abstract; Kitchen Tools; Lamps, Lightbulbs and Candles; Stars & Planets; Musical Instruments; Abstract; River Life;  Ribbons & Bows; Seashells; Teatime; Toys; Birds, Flowers & Leaves; Abstract; Flowers; Wine Bottles; Barrels & Grapes

Note: The pages are not titled so the themes I presented here are my version of possible titles, not the author's.

Colored Pencil
The first thing I tried was colored pencil.  I used Derwent's Water-soluble Graphitint and Metallic using them dry, but mostly wet.  I found that I did get some streaking when using the pencils dry.  The streaks disappear when I wet the pigment and blended.  The streaking was avoided when I used light strokes and built the color up slowly.  To get darker values, I applied another layer of pencil once the wet color had dried.  In most cases, I did not re-wet.

Drying time was fairly quick except when I added so much water that it was standing on the page.  No way around it -- no matter the paper, that much water takes a while to dry!

And I did saturate some areas, getting them really wet, but there was no bleed-through or show-through at all.  The paper dimpled a bit and changed texture slightly.  I weighted the book after the page had dried, and the dimpling flattened out.  The only real indication that the paper had been wet is a slight difference in the sound when you turn the page.

Gel Ink Pens
I used Sakura Gellyroll gel ink pens--the Moonlight, Stardust, Metallic and Classic types.  The color went down very smoothly with an almost velvety texture.  Gel ink is slow to dry, but drying time wasn't bad on this paper.  You'll still need to be careful about smearing, but that's the ink, not the paper.

Alcohol Markers
For my third example, I used Copic Markers.  They did bleed through by about 25%, which is actually very good for untreated paper.  The ink flowed easily, blended well and is bright but not brilliant, allowing you to get a nice range of light to dark values.

I like the way the color bled through to the back.  I find it as interesting as the more finished look on the front.  

Orna Ben-Shoshan's Majestic Mandalas coloring book has lively illustrations with line work that is great for coloring.  Lots of details but not fussy.  There are large areas that some might find boring to fill in, but they can easily be left blank and still advance the design.

The book is sturdy with good paper that will take a variety of mediums.  Care might need to be taken with some brands of colored pencils to avoid streaking when used dry, but water-soluble color pencil works very well on this paper.  It handles wet mediums without little to no show-through or bleed-through.  Any dimpling flattens out if weighted.  Even with alcohol marker there isn't much bleed-through.

The book is too heavy for a daily carry, but sturdy enough to pack away for use while on vacation or other travel.  Pages won't easily rip by accident, but can be removed on purpose with no problem.

This would be a nice gift or treat-to-oneself for the coloring enthusiast.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Three Little Pigs #Watercolor #DanielSmith #Fabriano

I hope all of you who celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving had a wonderful day, fun with family, and a delightful dinner.  I hope all of you who don't celebrate the occasion had exactly the same thing!

Earlier this summer, my brother took a photo of three pigs that visited his campground.  I liked the colors and decided to try painting it.  I used the plastic wrap technique for the ground.  Brushes used were Silver Black Velvet 1 inch flat and rounds size 6 and 16.  The paints used were Daniel Smith Lunar Blue and Quinacridone Burnt Orange, M. Graham Phthalocyanine Blue, and Qor Indian Yellow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Visit to M Graham Paint Factory #Watercolor #Strathmore #MGraham

Instead of the usual watercolor class last week, we went on a tour to the local M. Graham paint factory.  Though small, M. Graham sells their paints internationally and they are considered one of the best quality paints around.  Notably, their watercolors are made with honey, rather than the glucose that most vendors use.  This keeps the paint moist, so you can squeeze out the color onto your palette and it will stay almost as fresh as if just squeezed from the tube (note: some colors dry out more than others).  They are also noted for the amount of pigment they use per tube, resulting in beautiful bright color.

Unfortunately, photography wasn't really feasible because the rooms were small and with 18 of us, I couldn't really get into position for clear shots. Otherwise, I'd have had a few photos for you.

I was impressed at how small the complex was.  There are nine employees total, one building with three rooms.  Two milling machines, a labeling machine, and a mixer are pretty much all the equipment needed.

I was surprised to learn that it isn't necessarily the cost or scarcity of the pigment that drives the price of the paint.  Things such as the weight of the pigment, which will determine how much to use per pound, make a big difference.  For instance, some of the most costly paints are the cadmiums, and one of the cheapest is ultramarine blue.  Yet most cadmium pigments run around $20 a pound vs $120 for the ultramarine blue.  The difference is that very little of the ultramarine blue is needed to create a tube of watercolor paint -- maybe 1/6 of a pound.  It can take several pounds of a cadmium to make a tube.  Economics in action!

Even though we didn't have a painting class, our teacher, Kathy, asked us to paint something water-related so I did another waterfall.  I started out with my values too dark, and though I love the Strathmore Aquarius II paper, it doesn't allow you to lift paint very well.  Given the colors I was using - M. Graham Gamboge, Phthalocyanine Blue and Quinacridone Rust, I ended up with a brighter painting than I intended.  I may go back later and add more darker values, but I decided to wait and see how the painting appealed to me after letting some time pass.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Potted Cacti #FZentangle #JHerbin #Stillman&Birn

One day while walking through the store, I saw a display of potted cacti, and realized it would make an interesting string for a Zentangle-Inspired Artwork.  I didn't have the pen or paper to draw it up at the store,, but as soon as I got home, I drew the basic string sections and set it aside to finish later. I forgot about it and later turned out to be several months along.  I came across the string while leafing through the sketchbook and finally tangled it.

Done using an assortment of Fountain Pens and J. Herbin inks in a Stillman & Birn Alpha.

NOTE: If you don't know what a 'string' is in zentangle parlance, there's a good definition at

Friday, November 20, 2015

Goats in a Tree #Watercolor #PenAndInk #Stillman&Birn

For some reason, my husband decided he wanted a painting of a goat in a tree.  Usually, I love painting goats or sheep, but for some reason I just wasn't feeling it -- we're getting awfully gray weather here in Portland and it's gumming up the creative works.

I ended up doing two versions for him.  The watercolor was done using a reference photo that I got from the Morguefile archives.  It was painted on Arches using M. Graham Cerulean Blue & Quinacridone Violet and Qor Indean Yellow.

Then I did a pen and ink using Pigma Microns, size .02 and .005, in my Stillman & Birn Alpha.  I prefer the pen and ink, but hubby chose the watercolor to take to work.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Pearl Among Lines #Zentangle #Copic #Stillman&Birn

I used Copic alcohol markers for my background and then did the line work with Ohto Graphicliner and Golden's Titanium White Acrylic to add highlights (which makes this a Mixed Media piece, I think).  Done in a 7 x 7 in. Stillman & Birn Delta.

Sorry that it's so blurry at the bottom.  I do a lot of mixed media in this sketchbook and I can't get the pages to lie flat for scanning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Alloro Vineyard Water Lily #AlloroVineyard #Watercolor #WaterLily

In early September, I went to a Plein Air session at the Alloro Vineyard in Sherwood, Oregon.  It was a rainy day, so painting was a challenge but we had fun anyway.  In the patio outside the restaurant area, there was a cement pond with a beautiful water lily (there was also a purple one that blossomed during the time we were there!).   I took a photo but didn't try painting it until last week.

I wasn't totally happy with my first attempt...

... so I tried again.  This time, I lied a bit.  The actual pond had dark, still water and a profusion of lily pads that were confusing for the eye to follow.  I decided to simplify and choose colors based on what might seem pleasing rather than following the reality of the pond.

I used the plastic wrap technique to create movement in the water, decreased the number of lily pads and the rocks beneath.  I'll probably paint this again in the near future because I'm still not getting quite what I want.  Practice makes perfect -- that's the theory anyway, lol!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ringlets #Stillma&Birn #Ohto #Zentangle

Line and Wash, Ohto Graphicliner over watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook.  Tanglepatterns Wallbucket, Lotzadotz, Kaziest, Envy, and one I'm still working out.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Standing Water #Watercolor #Strathmore #Aquarius II

Since the theme for my Wednesday Watercolor class this session is water, I decided to play around on my own, and try to get the look of standing water.

Painted on an eighth size sheet of Strathmore Aquarius II using Silver Black Velvet Brushes, 1 inch flat, and size 6 & 16 rounds.  Colors used were Daniel Smith Lunar Blue (sky and water), and Qor Green Gold, and just a touch of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange.

I used a reference photo that I found at the Morguefile archive.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lower Multnomah Falls in Green, Violet and Blue #Strathmore, #MGratham #Watercolor

This week we painted waterfalls!  I used a photograph I'd taken of the lower Multnomah Falls.  I used the plastic wrap technique to get some texture, but ended up smoothing a lot of it out.

Painted on an eighth size sheet of Strathmore Imperial with Silver Black Velvet Brushes, 1 inch flat, and size 6 round.  Colors used were M. Graham Ultramarine Blue & Quinacridone Violet, and Qor Green Gold.  My first time using this paper, which is one of Strathmore's other professional grade watercolor papers, and the first time I tried using this particular mix of colors.  I don't quite like the mix, but I think it's close to a triad I would like, so I'll have to play around to find a better blend of colors.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bridges Burning #LineAndWash #ArtJournals #StillmanAndBirn

This started out to be a Zentangle-Inspired piece of art.  In my watercolor class, we'd been playing around with the plastic wrap technique - laying down the wet paint, then scrunching up plastic wrap in it, and letting it dry.

I thought that might make a cool background for a zentangle-themed piece in one of my art journals - in particular one of my Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbooks.

Using Daniel Smith Perinone Orange, M. Graham Manganese Blue Hue, and Qor Indian Yellow, I laid down thick washes of color and put on the plastic wrap.  I'd waited a bit too long for the orange, and didn't get too much effect there, but I did get a little.

As soon as I removed the wrap, I got the impression of Fire on the Water, and I thought of using that for the title.  But my whole concept had changed, and the title 'Bridges Burning' flashed through my mind.  That theme settled, I went more for an abstract line and wash, trying to suggest bits of concrete and structure collapsing into the water.  It's pretty unusual for me to leave so much of the canvas without drawing on it, but it just seemed finished.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Painting Cannon Beach with Plastic Wrap #KDAllegri #Watercolor #Strathmore

Last week in Wednesday's Watercolor class, we played with the plastic wrap technique, laying on our paint thickly and putting crumpled up plastic wrap, then letting it dry.  It's a matter of the thickness of paint, putting on the wrap at the right time, and letting the paint dry thoroughly.

Daniel Smith's Lunar Blue and Lunar Red Rock are excellent paints for this because they granulate so well, adding that much more texture.  I did add some Phthalo Blue and Quinacridone Burnt Orange as well.

Before we actually did our painting, we practiced, creating small reference paintings for later reference.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Journal52 Prompt 44: Hauntingly Beautiful #Watercolor #Strathmore #Journal52

I love the look of a pathway going through the trees, slightly beautiful and slightly scary, so this week's Journal52 prompt was just right for me!

This was pretty much just done up out of my head without a reference, and I was going for an idealized style, and a triad of colors.  I used Qor watercolors - Phthalo Blue (GS), Transparent Pyrrole Orange, and Indian Yellow, Silver Black Velvet brushes 1 inch flat and size 6 round on Strathmore Aquarius II paper.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Journal52 Prompt 43: Focus - My Take #Watercolor #Journal52 #StillmanAndBirn

Inspired by last week's watercolor class in Line and Wash, I decided to go for a different take on the latest Journal52 prompt: Focus.

I started drawing my lines, and focused on the result until I saw something forming.  Okay.  I'll admit it.  That's not so different for me, lol!  Half my stuff starts out that way.

It didn't take long before I saw the wings of Phoenix appearing.  I decided to give him something to focus on and mixed up my mythology a bit.  So my Phoenix is after the Golden Apple of the Norse Gods.  Now in that mythology, the golden apples are the source of the gods' immortality.  Perhaps, the Phoenix is looking to extend his current life a little longer before he burns and is reborn.  Or maybe he focused on the apple because he was just hungry.

I used a J. Herbin Creapen Brush Pen for the linework, and Quiller Permanent Orange, Cadmium Yellow Light, Phthalocyanine Turquoise and M Graham Ultramarine Violet in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review - Kikkerland Writersblok New York Notebook & a New Tangle Pattern-XSalad #Kikkerland #Writersblok #Zentangle

Back in September, there was a review and giveaway of Kikkerland's Writersblok notebooks at the Notebook Stories blog.  I entered and won! Yay! It's been well over a year since I won something.  My fault, since I haven't been entering giveaways as much as I used to.

Edited: You know, my mother did raise me better -- I completely forgot to thank either Kikkerland or Nifty at Notebook Stories for the giveaway and the chance to win a cool notebook.  I would have appreciated it even if I hadn't won.  And having won, I'm ecstatic. Thank you both!

Anyhoo - on with the review!

Look & Feel
No. Of Pages: 192 pages
Cover: Bonded Leather, Soft cover
Paper: White, Acid-free, white (I received the blank format, but it does come in other formats)
Size:  8.2 by 5.9 .6-inches
Binding: Thread-bound, opens flat
Extras: Black ribbon; Inside Back Pocket; 16 perforated-detachable plan half pages; IPad Mini fits in back pocket

In the photo above, I show the notebook with the promotional material still wrapped around the cover because it's hard to get a good shot of a plain black notebook.  When I say plain, it means in an understated elegant way.  The leather cover makes the book look more expensive than it is.  The notebook is sized to allow an iPad Mini to fit in the back pocket, so it is a tad shorter and a little wider than many similar notebooks.

That cover is soft and flexible but not too thin. It feels very smooth and supple to the touch, though the eye can see the grain.  There is some overhang, as the covers are slightly larger than the paper.

The book lies flat and has a sturdy thread-bound binding that allows you to fold the book backwards. The paper is a soft-white, thin and smooth.

At the back of the book, there are 16 pages with perforations for detaching half-pages from the book.  There is also the usual black ribbon, and back pocket.


The paper in the Writersblok is smooth and pleasant to write on.  I was surprised to find that pencil worked reasonably well - the paper pulls enough graphite for you to get deep color, but it does smudge easily and probably wouldn't keep too well.

I found drying times to be about average -  if the pen has a wide tip, or ink flows heavily be careful.  Otherwise, you probably won't need to worry about smudging.

It isn't quite what I would call fountain-pen friendly, though it is certainly not the worst for those pens.  I didn't have any feathering with the pens and inks I tried.

Various Gel and Ink Pens-Writing example
All of the pens I wrote with flowed smoothly with no scritching sound (though my hearing is going!).  There was some slight show-through, especially with the heavy-flowing Energel ink, but I wouldn't hesitate to write on the back.  I couldn't get the show-through to pick up on my scanner.

Kuretake Zig Water-Based Brush Pen, Clean Color Real
These Kuretake brush pens are water-based, and wet enough to be troublesome for many papers.  I did get quite a bit of show-through, and some dots of bleed-through.  I'd use the back, despite the show-through, but many wouldn't.

Various Fountain Pens and Inks
Based on my brush pen example, I really expected more bleed-through using fountain pens to draw with.  As you can see from the scan of the back, the green Vert Empire was the worst, and it is the wettest, heaviest flowing ink I have.  There was quite a bit of show-through but only dots of bleed-through for the other colors.

I really saturated the paper in this drawing.  I would test any fountain pen/ink on the paper before doing much writing, but I you would be okay with some drier combinations.  The 1670 Ocean Bleu and Rouge Hematite that I used were no worse than the writing pens.

Copic Alcohol Markers, Pigma Micron Pen and Sakura Moonlight Gel Pen
I expect alcohol markers to bleed through paper--it's just what they do, so I wasn't surprised that they did.  The reason I like to test with them is because they tell me something about the way the paper takes color.

In this case, the colors were a bit muted, and slightly darker than they can be.  Not so much that they are dull, though.  The color bleed-through was about 75%, and I thought it would be higher.  There did seem to be more than usual bleed-through onto the next page, as though the color went right on through and kept going.  I would use this book for alcohol markers, but would definitely put something behind it - an overhead acetate sheet or thick watercolor paper to soak up the extra color.

If you are very sensitive about show-through, then this won't be your favorite notebook, though it will be one of the better ones in the price range.

The Kikkerland Writersblok New York Notebook runs around $15, so it's a good book for those like leather, like decent paper, and an understated elegance that looks more expensive.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Winners of the Rhodia N°18 dotPad giveaway have been emailed

The Winners of the Rhodia N°18 dotPad giveaway have been emailed!  Thank you to everyone who entered.

The winners are:
Susan - Am I the first to respond to this generous offer? Please count this "tangler" in. I can always use another notebook to fill and i love the idea of having the dots to guide me.

Kellie May - Oh how I would love to win this Rhodia dotted notebook! I've had my eye on this specific notebook since I started tangling, yet never could afford the price. It seems winning one will be my only option. Thank you for the chance to win, Sandra Strait. This is exciting!

Fran Katz - What a wonderful prize to add to my artist supplies. Thank you.

Pat Mathes - I love this paper. I would be so happy to receive one of the pads. I am trying to learn calligraphy. 

Gayle - Would love to try this. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

Cathy - This looks like an interesting book! I would love to win!

Sue K - Wonderful prize, thank you for the giveaway.

Scott W Fischer - Want a chance to get in on this.

Dave Busse - Thanks for doing the give-away!

Watercolor Class Has Started and I Taught! #Watercolor #LineAndWash #Strathmore

My latest round of Wednesday Watercolor classes have started.  But this week, I was the teacher.

It's hard to paint while you're teaching!  Fortunately, I took the class again on Saturday and had more time to sit and paint at leisure.  I continued at home adding quite a bit of line work, punching up the values and making the painting much more dramatic.

My usual teacher, Kathy Delumpa Allegri, needed to go in for some treatments, so I was her stand in--she was missed!

The lesson was in Line and Wash (i.e. drawing with a pigment ink pen either before or after laying down washes of watercolor).  We all brought in leaves and chose three to use for a still life.  Or at least the students did.  I found myself walking around and showing how strokes were made, and the differences between a regular pen and a brush pen, so most of the time, I was just making my leaves up in my head.

These are the examples I did in class, using a brush pen for the lines (I used a Pigma Micron .03 for the painting above).

I was emphasizing how this was a great lesson to help you loosen up in your painting, because you don't have to follow the lines (and in fact, you are encouraged not to!).  

Also emphasized was the use of three--three leaves, three sizes, three colors and three values, as well as exploring hatching, cross hatching, squirkling, and rendering (removing graphite with an eraser to get your lines or highlights).

It was a fun class, but I'm looking forward to having the real teacher back and just becoming one of the students again.

Ginger Horse #ZentangleInspiredArt #FountainPen #PenAndInk

You know how sometimes a work just fights you while you're trying to draw it?  I had an idea tickling my brain, a desire to combine styl...