Self Portrait with Cabin in Background
Acrylic, Watercolor, Pastel, and Charcoal on Cardboard
© 1999, Jeff Thomann
Marker and Ink and Salt on Paper
© 1995, Jeff Thomann
India Ink, Tea Stains, and Charcoal on Paper
© 1999, Jeff Thomann
Pastel Study for Bottomless Self Portrait
Pastel and Conte Crayon on Watercolor Paper
© 1999, Jeff Thomann
This could be a rather lengthy posting. I apologize for that, but not really… There’s a lot that I have to say and am thinking about here, and it feels good to get this stuff out here for others to read and for myself to come back to read from time to time… (*this post will likely look different the next time you see it since it’s going to be edited and re-edited a few different times to get everything in here I want to say*)
The other day Tekla had me email her an Art Wish List for Birthdays, Christmas, or just any time. At first I did not think I would have a very long list, but before I knew it, I had a very long list that just kept growing, and growing the more that I thought about various things that I could use, might use, or have used in the past.
Since other folks besides her sometimes read this blog, I’m making a copy of some parts of that list here. This is stuff that I’m probably going to need or want at some point in the future to continue doing various forms of art that I want to focus on. If you ever want to get me a gift sometime for a birthday or whatever, this is they type of stuff that I can and will use and probably appreciate more then cash or gift cards.
I kind of feel greedy or cocky making this list, but also feel it’s informative since it tells people the type of stuff that I have used, do use, or will use in my artwork. It also tells you what type of traditional art products I have preferences for and why, and gives people a glimpse in to my techniques, hobbies, and habbits that they can ask questions about that they might not normally ask. In this way, it’s sort of like an educational virtual studio tour so to speak…
not looking for pity donations, or money, or anything like that… just for a way to do what I want to be doing…
There’s no real order to the list as far as priorities of what is more important to have or anything. It was just created as I though of different things.
• Sketch Books.
I like having little sketchbooks, either like the 2 1/2 x 3 inchers with the spirals (like what I’m scanning now with the mall small series of drawing), or the 5-6 x 8 inchers. I also like having a bigger few that are like 8 1/2 x 11 inch or so… In the past, I’ve used much larger sketchbooks, but for quick little doodles, notes, etc. these little books are nice since they can be carried around easily.
I like having the ability to tear out the pages so that I can scan them or store them separate from the rest of the book. Some sketchbooks can do that better then others. I like being able to store the smaller pages from the smaller books inside of the larger books. The way that works is that I stack 2 pages from the smaller books inside of each page of the bigger books, with each smaller page facing away from one another.
This storage method is not really needed for ink pen drawings or something like acrylic that is sturdy, but for stuff like watercolor, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, etc. this method works best since it protects the faces of the drawn area from rubbing against the face of the other drawn area, pulling the charcoal, etc. off with it in places I didn’t intend. With printed materials, a lot of artists do something like this but stack felt in between the backs of each page instead of sketchbooks. The idea is basically to keep the face of the artwork from being torn, bruised, and battered by the other artwork near it… And to keep the stuff that does rub off on to the bigger sketchbook’s blank pages only hitting one area, instead of making it a huge mess by moving different stuff on it that then rubs off on to other artwork stored there, etc. With the bigger paintings, it’s sort of similar, face to face, back to back storage, kind of like that rack downstairs… But since I’ll be working on small stuff, we won’t run out of storage room nearly as easily. I could store a whole lifetimes supply of the 5×7 inch stuff in a small 3 foot area, but with huge paintings that each have stretcher bars that are at least half an inch thick, that’s not so easy.
… So idea 1: acid free sketchbooks
• Ink Pens
Idea 2 : ink pens. If I get back in to drawing with ink pens in sketch books like I did with the stuff that I’m scanning now, I can go through about half of an ink pen in about 2-3 days. On larger works, I can actually burn through 2-3 pens or more in the course of one drawing if there’s a lot of detail to it. I don’t like ink pens since the ink pens themselves are not usually acid free, but since I’m going to start scanning stuff more then once every 10 years like I’m doing with this stuff I’m scanning now, it should not be that big of a deal. (the acid causes the paper to yellow over the years where the acid touches the paper, even if the paper itself is acid free).. Ink pens are cheaper then expensive india ink, which is acid free… But expensive.
I like black ink pens to do most sketches since you can do a lot with it, but also like occassionally having a blue or red to do a little tonality to the work. If I get in to that toned stuff, I also like using a yellow or red china marker sometimes just to throw a little more tonality and color in to the mix for quick sketching.
Idea 3: acrylic paint, preferably in a tube that looks like a toothpaste tube, or of artists quality… Cheap acrylic used to do paintings on fabric is not that great to use, even though it does work. That stuff is watered down a lot, so it dissappears fast, and is made with low quality stuff, so has a lot of limitations, but it does occassionally work as a filler color to go in between the other acrylic paint. I used to love, and still do love oil painting, but currently don’t have a studio that’s suitable for it since there’s no ventilation system in our basement. I have tried to paint in the house before, and got a huge smell of turpentine that Tekla was not pleased with at all… I personally love the smell, but that’s a different story. Also, oils, and all of the chemicals needed for that type of painting are a lot more expensive per ounce then acrylic… I don’t like the plastic shiney look of acrylic, so might do some airbrushing to thin the stuff down, or use acrylic matte formulas from time to time to lower that shininess. I hate looking at a painting and seeing gigantic shiny spots of light where shadows are suppossed to be, destroying the illusion that is suppossed to be seen. This is another reason I’m not too keen on oil painting – in theory to make oil paintings that last a long time, you should use darmar or some other varnish on them as the top layer. I rarely put varnish on any of my oil paintings since I hate the reflective shine you get with viewing the work from various angles if the light hits the varnish just right.
• Color Pencils
Idea 4: Color Pencils. I really love Prismacolors, but don’t use them much. Something that’s farily new that I really like is Crayola Erasable Pencils (runs around 5 bucks for a pack of 12 or so I think?). I really like being able to erase the color pencil markings and do layer after layer on top of the erased areas, etc. It makes working with color pencils almost like working on oil paintings in some ways.
A cheap generic brand that is not erasable at Wal-Mart is Rose Art. I don’t mind Rose Art, but it’s not the greatest. Prismacolor is top of the line as far as color pencils goes and costs around a buck a pencil. I don’t often use Prismacolor because it’s so pricey, and also because it’s easy to run out of it fast as the reason it’s so expensive is that it’s got more pigment (color) in it then wax – the cheaper stuff like Rose Art and Crayola has more wax then pigment. However, that’s not such a bad thing since I love to layer things and rework stuff over and over to get the desired results.
Idea 5: pastels – oil or non-oil. These are basically like colored chalk. I have a huge box of them downstairs somewhere, but don’t use them much because it’s costly and messy. Oil pastels are made with an oil base, so are more silky and smooth then the chalk stuff… But oil pastels are pricey because they are easy to burn through. A full pack of oil pastels runs around 5-10 bucks at Micheals I think, but I can burn through an entire pack of them in about 2 drawings… So it’s way pricey, even though it does not seem like it.
Conte crayon is what the non-oil pastels are sometimes called when they come in earth tones (browns and reds). Most of the normal soft chalk pastels are very expensive since pastels are really just powerded pigment thrown together with something – so it’s basically a dried version of watercolor paint sort of. Cheap colored chalk is not the same as pastels, and is not worth messing around with. I bought some sidewalk chalk once just to try it out, and hated it. There’s almost no pigment in cheap chalk, which is why it’s so darn cheap. I do sometimes grind up the cheap chalks though to use in pounce bags and as an additive to put texture in to various other types of painting materials.
• China Marker
Idea 6: China Markers. These are Berol brand, and you can get them in some office supply stores, but it’s cheaper (even though still pricey) to just buy them direct online. They come in blue, yellow, red, green, orange, black and white I think. I love China Markers as a top layer to put on paintings or drawings because they can write on just about any surface, even a painting that you think can’t have anything else put on top of it since the tooth of the canvas is full. I think of these as super waxy color pencils sort of. They are mainly used to write stuff on cars by auto mechanics and stuff like that since it can write on cars, glass, and all sorts of stuff like that and be easily wiped away without anyone ever knowing there was something written on there.
• Water Color
Idea 7: watercolor or guache. Guache (may have mispelled that) is basically really thick watercolor – it’s watercolor with a lot more pigment in it. Normal watercolors have to be mixed thinly to have the white areas be the paper under the paint since you can’t paint thick white on top of normal watercolor easily. Guache fixes that problem since it’s a lot thicker and you can put whatever colors you want on top…
You just have to be careful, because like watercolor, once it’s dry, guache can be made muddy by adding water to it on top layers… Acrylic does not do that since acrylic is basically just colored plastic that dries to a hard layer in about an hour or so. Watercolor and guache both use gum arabic instead of plastic stuff in it like acrylic, so they stay able to be messed up easily if they get water on them, which is one reason I don’t like watercolor too much – it’s too fragile… Same goes with pastels… Pastels are basically just stick forms of watercolor… However, I don’t mind using either from time to time.
Idea 8: hardboard… This is the little 5″x7″ panels that I’m doing most of my color pencils on these days. Lowes sells it and they can cut it down to the 5″x7″ inch sizes with their really awesome table saw… A full 8’x4′ sheet makes a lot of little penels, and it’s cheaper then just about anything else to work on, yet sturdy enough to take a lot of damage from my pressing hard with color pencils, scraping things out with razor blades, etc.
There’s several reasons I use 5″x7″ as a standard size to make my little panels now. 5″x7″ is a standard photo size so it’s easy to find frames, and is roughly the same size as post card template on Cafepress.
5″x7″ is twice the size of 2.5″x3.5″ – which is the standard size for art trading cards. That means that artwork that I created that is 5×7 inches will easily scale down to art card size for printing purposes in the future and the art cards will work nicely as business cards someday.
Additionally, this size can be scaled up 5.14286 times to get to a size that is approximately 3′ x 2.14′, which ends up being approximately a 2’x3′ work with a little cropping along the smaller end. In the past, I have done 2×3 foot paintings… so this size gives me the flexibility to eventually get back in to painting that size and scaling it down to 5″x7″. In this way, it’s also possible that the little color pencil drawings might become studies for larger paintings someday.
I like that size painting since it’s easy to reach all edges of the canvas easily when painting with the length of my arm… so I can do many things I cannot do with smaller works or larger works… The cropping issue is not a major one since with paintings, I like to not use frames too much, and just bleed the artwork over the edge… That little bit of cropping room is plenty to wrap around the edge of a painting. I just wish I had a 2’x3′ scanner so I could scan paintings that size and not have to rely on a camera to get an accurate digital copy of a painting that size. I hate using cameras sometimes since they cause parallax problems when trying to shoot photos of artwork.
Idea 9: plexiglass in sheets of 8 1/2″ x 11″ or bigger. I like plexiglass for a lot of different things. It makes a nice drawing board. It is clear so I can use it as a drawing instrument, sort of like a window to either keep still and get proportions, or as a way to trace stuff if I hold it up to the sun or a light. I also like it because you can paint it, use it in sculptures, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s not as dangerous as glass… Also, eventually, I might use it as a way to protect the scanner if I do something like take leaves off of trees or grass, etc. to scan without damaging the scanner with grass stains and stuff like that.. Or protect it from charcoal stains, pastel stains, etc. if I ever get in to working with pastels, charcoals, etc. that are messy…
I’ll probably come up with more ideas over time…
My favorite colors are mainly cadmium red, which is a really bright red, like on a fire truck, cobalt blue, which is a really bright blue, like the shirts the guys at Best Buy wear, bright yellow, like tweety bird yellow… I like these three the most since they are the main primary colors I use.
Just about any color that exists can be made by mixing and matching these colors in some variation. I also like having a darker version of the red and blue… With red, it’s usually Crimson Red, which is about the color of a dark red rose, with blue, it’s usually called something like Prussian Blue, or maybe pthalo blue – which is a blue that’s fairly dark…
With yellow, I don’t like darker colors too much, but don’t mind orange to work as a darker version of yellow sort of. I also work with other various colors sometimes, but most of the above is the main stuff that is a “necessity” since most other colors can be made by mixing and matching based on those colors… The other lesser used stuff is like yellow ochre (which is a browh/yellowish), greens (usually either lime or dark green), and other stuff like that. I don’t mind earth tones (browns) but really, mixing colors that are oppossite on the color wheel, like yellow and red with a tad of green can get you just about any brown you want…
Also, since I’m partially color blind, the dark greens and browns really interfere with my abilities a bit. With brighter greens I can tell what is going on due to the yellow tints inside of the green. With darker reds that get below about 50% or darker in tone, I have a lot of problems differentiating the green from the brown and black/white grey tones. Really bright reds are fine though. I think my color blindness is part of the reason I enjoy getting stuff out of the tubes and visually color mixing on the pallete or canvas more so then physically mixing things to arrive at muddy messes that all look grey/brown/green to me.
I guess, for the time being, my sort of “game plan” with the art will be focus on drawing, color pencils, acrylic painting, maybe occassionally ink pens or markers, and other stuff like that which is cheap to obtain and will work well on the little hardboards. I’ll do all of that after I get the scans all done (most of the little books are scanned now that have drawings – I just don’t have them online yet)
… eventually getting to a point where I’m able to explore a lot of different ideas, themes, and styles since the 5×7 inch boards are so small I can feel free to do a lot with it without it costing us a ton in materials. If I end up burning through all the little
boards I have now, I’ll just get more since they are so cheap.
Then, eventually, in a few years, I can re-evaluate at that point in time if I want to continue with the little stuff, or try doing some bigger stuff, maybe adding a ventillation system to the basement studio…
In theory, I can use a mask with charcoal filters to protect myself when I’m working on airbrushing and stuff like that now… and I can do acrylic… since acrylic dries in about an hour and is water based, not oil based. My airbrush skills are not that great, and airbrushing is pretty messy, even if it is fun, and has a lot more potential for great work then just painting with a brush. So there you go… • Charcoal Filtered mask is number 10…
a few other ideas that I don’t have time to write much about at the moment…
• Wood Engaving Equipment and Block Printing Ink
• High Resolution Camera that can have lenses changed out – and preferably be able to do HDRI photos well
• Bees Wax and Peraphane Wax – I would like to experiement with encaustic painting eventually
• Double Boiler – in case I do get in to that encaustic painting mode
• Dual Action Airbrushes – I already have one, but the needle seems like it’s not in the best of shape.
• Markers – various colors, shapes and sizes. I’ve never messed with markers much but if I’m going to start getting in to illustration, it’s something I want to learn to use more.
• Bamboo Sticks – I’ve never used this, but have read that you can use bamboo sticks to create a sort of long pole extension for charcoal and pastels… You cut the end in to fourths, put the charcoal in the middle, then tape up the edge so that the charcoal stays in place. It sort of works like a mahl stick. I don’t have a mahl, but do have a wooden flagpole that I’ve used as a mahl before.
• Sculpey – modelling clay you can find at places like Wal-Mart. It comes in a wide variety of colors and is not too pricey. I love it as a stress releiver since it won’t go hard until you bake it. I have some that I keep at my desk that has been soft for years. I also might try getting in to doing sculpture someday, and this stuff would be handy for that.
• Squeegee – I’m using old windshield wipers for this sort of stuff now… You can do interesting things with paint with a squeegee.
• Sponges – Sponges of various sizes and textures can do a lot of interesting stuff in paint too… Actually lots of oddball textured things can be used in paint. I have painted with quaters, pennies, old tooth brushes (only mine though since otherwise it’s just gross), plastic silverware, cotton balls, q-tips, toothpicks, pine cones, bird feathers, and even tree leaves before. I read in a book the other day that you can also do interesting things with electric toothbrush bases since the vibrations from the motor can cause illustration pens and really watered down paint to do really interesting, yet controlled textural splatter effects.
• Pencils – I don’t use graphite much, but it does have it’s use in sketchbooks, and also as a material that can be used to create carbon paper for transferring images. I also like ebony pencils. I enjoy pencils of just about any hardness from h4 – 6b.
• Charcoal – Charcoal comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes too. I love both white and black charcoal as well as pastels.
• Gesso – this is the stuff used as undercoating for paintings, and I also use it on the hardboards to get them to have a white underlayer with a little tooth.
• Acrylic Matte Medium
• Black and White matte spray paint – I’m going to paint some boards to use as backgrounds for shooting artwork with a camera. Glossy backgrounds for this sort of thing don’t work. The boards I’ll be painting, and am in the process of painting, are the back side of masonite sheets – the rough side. I have put a few cans of black paint on one of the boards so far, but this material just absorbs the paint like a sponge, so it’s going to take quite a few layers of spray paint I think. I’m guessing around 5-10 more cans just to get an nice even coat across the whole board. The board is about 4 foot wide and 4 foot tall. I want the white as well as the black so I can have one white and one black board for future portfolio shooting sessions.
• Daylight balanced light bulbs
• Bar Soap – you’d be surprised how much soap is needed to wash out brushes.
• Mineral Spirits or Orderless Paint Thinner – even though I’m not doing much oil painting, this stuff is handy for cleaning up brushes and messy hands
• XXXL or XXL Plastic Gloves – I like wearing gloves when I paint to protect my hands a little
• Photo Frames – 8 1/2″ x 11″ matted down to 5″x7″ is useful for the little panels so there is wiggle room as it’s very difficult to get a 5″x7″ panel in to a 5″x7″ frame, and I’m not sure I’d really want to anyways. The matte protects the surface of the drawings and paintings from rubbing on the glass.
• Instant Tea – I love to drink it, and it’s also very awesome to sponge paint on to paper… Very interesting effects you get with that light brown color, especially if you crinkle up the paper as you do it as the darker parts of the tea will sink in to the cracks, giving interesting shapes and forms to the texture of the paper.
• Orange Stuff or Gojo – useful for cleaning up hands, feet, arms, etc. after painting since gloves don’t always do the trick.
• Charcoal Filtered Masks or just the filters to go in them – helps protect the lungs when drawing or painting with messy stuff. In college I did a charcoal drawing once that took me several hours to complete, and I did this in a room with little ventillation and no mask. I ended up coughing up black stuff for about half a week after that – not something I plan to ever do again!
• Overhead Projector and transparencies – useful for tranfering images to canvas
• HEPA compliant air filteration system – I do want to do oil painting again someday, but can’t at the moment due to the fumes put off…
• Photoflow camera light system – these are a couple hundred bucks and you can get them places like Columbia Photo… They are around 500 watt lights that are easily replaceable.
• Bleach – this can be used to bleach out painted areas sometime, making them a little lighter in areas. It’s also useful as a cleaning agent for when messes happen.
• Rubbing Alcohol – I’ve not messed with this much, but I’ve read that this stuff is useful in thinning out acrylic or enamal based paints for airbrushing purposes.
• Needles, exacto blades, razer blades – intruments for sculpture and removal of ceratain areas on a painted canvas.
• Hand Brush – useful for cleaning after painting
• Various cloth materials – useful replacements for canvas on a painting, as rags for cleaning, or as texture tools for applying paint
• Small handheld Mirrors of various sizes and shapes – useful for checking perspective, checking composition in mirrored image, doing self portraits and any number of other artistic things.
I might add more to this list later from time to time…