Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sketchwalk at the North (From Vigan to Pagudpod)

     I've have never been anywhere really far nor have done any traveling and I know I'm missing a lot. Incidentally, a friend who loves to travel, is going north during the holidays. Going north fits my limited budget plus there are lots of interesting sites to do sketching. We have decided to leave on December 19 since it is the last day of work. 

Our meeting spot is McDonald's in Katipunan. I came early to avoid traffic so while waiting, I did some sketching  there.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Noodlers Konrad Nib Mod

     Further into the exploration of fountain pens led me to the discovery of "flexible nib" fountain pens. These are different from most modern fountain pen which is mostly referred to as "nails". A fountain pen with a flexible nib allows variable line width by applying different levels of pressure as you lay down your stroke. These pen are rare these days, always too expensive and mostly available online. Fortunately, Noodlers company came up with an affordable user-configurable flex fountain pen and it is available in the Philippines though Scribe Writing Essentials!
    There are mixed reviews about the pen on various forums and blogs. The owners either love the pen or hate it. I have decided to get one. Out of the box, the pen provides variable line width but requires a considerable amount of pressure. That is if you really want a huge difference between your thin stroke and your thick stroke. In my case, in attempting to write in copperplate/script style, my hand will be tired after finishing the pangram, "The quick brown fox..." . For normal writing, I think you'll be mostly fine. The ink flow is smooth and the nib glides smoothly.
     I'm really interested to learn how to white in copperplate/script style so my search led me to this thread from Fountain Pen Network. Its about how to modify your Noodlers nib to ease the flexing capabilities.
     This mod suggest that a portion of the nib be removed to reduce the amount of pressure required to achieve the widest possible stroke.

The tools you need for the mod.Clockwise from top left: eye loupe, another eye loupe with a different magnifying power, A Dremel with a grinding stone, some nail buffs for smoothing the nibs.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Sketchwalk at Star City, Manila

     Heavy rain poured down on Manila which caused  floods and heavy traffic.  Because of that, most of our fellow sketchers were not able to make it. In spite of that, I'm glad that  the sketchwalk pushed through.

Surprisingly the were lots of people inside Star City 
Sketch of the galleon and the pizza store.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wet Canvas Monthly Challenge - Chinese Garden

     This month's challenge was an interesting one: foliage and reflection! I really enjoyed doing this one since I've always wanted to try water reflections. Here is the thread at WetCanvas with the reference image.

7.5' x 11" Arches CP

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Saturday Sketchwalk at Intramuros And Life Drawing Session

     One of the admins of USk Philippines was invited to sketch with CSB  Architecture students yesterday and she's invited other members to tag along. I still haven't gotten enough sleep from the night before and I have an scheduled life drawing session with another fellow USk member in the afternoon. Still, I decided to attend both. :D
    We were supposed to make eight 10minute sketches around Intramuros but the weather is really bad. So, we were only able to make three.

Sketching the sketchers
The second stop.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November Sketchwalk at the Ayala Triangle Gardens

      For a different experience, Urban Sketchers Philippines decided to do a night sketching at the Ayala Triangle. It would also be my first time sketching/painting a night scene and I wasn't really sure how things would work out. As much as I tried to mentally prepare myself for the challenges ahead, there were still a lot of surprises. First, there was this issue of insects being attracted to the portable lights and landing on our faces! Fortunately, my sketch mate brought some insect repellent lotion. Second, there was also this case of a group of curious passersby asking so many questions. I never thought there would be so much onlookers and some even decided to sit beside us until we were finished. Thirdly, I found out that the gear I brought for the night's session, was too heavy that when I started drawing or painting a stroke, my hands were shaking that I couldn't draw/paint a decent line. But I finished nonetheless and enjoyed the experience.

Everyone else gathering for a group shot of all the works

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five Ways to Sustain the Sketching Habit

Make it easy for you to sketch 
     Always have all the sketching tools within easy reach. For some people, it is a challenge to pick up and set up the tools from whatever storage it is kept in. By the time you have taken them out, you might have just lost the energy. If it within easy reach, it is just easy to sketch or paint on a whim much as like picking up your mobile phone.

Make a portable sketching kit and carry it everywhere
     "An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached to it." I'll never forget this line I have picked up from an article in Artist's Magazine a few years ago. It took me a while though to practice it. Once I have assembled my sketching kit, it is always with me wherever I go. Now I have different configurations for my sketching kit from just pencil and sketchbook combo to a full watercolor sketch kit with an easel to match.

Join a local community such as Urban sketchers or online like Wetcanvas
     I have often heard remarks like "I'm not that good, its embarrassing" whenever encourage them to join Urban Sketchers, or make a post of their works. As always, I would give them a reply "It is fine, it's not a competition, it is a community of friendly people willing to help each other. Everybody has to start from somewhere so no one is judging anybody."
     Participating with a community gives you a sense of commitment to nurture your skill as well as give feedback to others. Regularly posting  your work may give you feedback on areas you need to improve. Just remember to keep an open mind.

Find a friend with the same interest and sketch together

     If it really feels inconvenient to join a community why not sketch with a friend? Sometimes what we need is a little nudge to make our first step. Sketching with a friend could help sustain those steps.

Create a blog
     Blogging would be a nice way to document your progress. You might think it is time consuming but it's not. If you have a Google account, it is as simple as signing up with and choosing a template. You can even choose to make your blog private until you are ready to show your work.
     Looking back, these are the things I did to be on track. Just pick one and keep adding to the list.
     Happy sketching!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What to Sketch?

     Before I started out  with the habit of sketching, I always asked myself what should I sketch? The lack of experience and confidence limited the things or subjects I was willing to sketch for fear that if I didn't like the outcome, I would just be discouraged, yet I knew I had to start somewhere.

     Suggestion: I realized that if you are new to sketching, you can use things that interest you as your subjects. But if these prove to be challenging, you can begin with simpler objects first like a mug, spoon, or a vase.  

     Listed below are some of the things that I started with as my subjects in honing my skills in sketching. I also added other things I am interested to sketch in the future.

  • Things at your work table
  • Your shoes
  • Your pet
  • Food: breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack
  • The view at your window
  • Your hand
  • Your Bag
  • Your seatmate at school or the office
  • Plants inside your house
  • The kitchen sink still with the dirty dishes
  • Groceries
  • That junk food you brought at the convenience store.
  • A tree
  • That post at the street corner
  • Most people take a selfie using their mobile phones, why not make a sketch of yourself?
  • Pinterest images(just be careful that you don't end up spending your time pinning instead of sketching. It is easy to get distracted  with all the images.)

     The more you sketch the more you'll get better (true story!), the more you will enjoy sketching, and the more you will gain confidence.

     At that stage you'll never run out of ideas what to sketch.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Life Drawing Session

     Yesterday, friend from Urban Sketchers invited me to her group's life drawing session. I've never been in one, so I don't know what to expect. I forgot to take note of the time, but I think it is less than 2 hours. Time flies when you are concentrating, and  that two hours seems just like 30 minutes. It was a free session, nobody gets to pay anything, but you have to give the model at least one of your drawings from the session. Having the lights turned off gave me headaches, so I was only able to make two drawings from the two poses.

The model liked and chose this drawing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pen and Ink Sketch Dump

     Sketching people is a great challenge, they rarely remain still. Worse of all, in the middle of the sketch, they leave. Oh well! For free model references, we really cannot complain. On the positive side, it forces you to sketch fast which helps improve your memory by performing mental snapshots of people's pose and features as you lay your marks on the paper. 
     Here are some of the Pen and Ink sketches I've done during the last few weeks:

Drinking buddies seem like good models. They don't move as much. or maybe they are just too drunk.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Urban Sketchers at Fountain Pen Day 2014, SM Aura

     I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the first ever celebration of Fountain Pen Day in the Philippines. I've only used fountain pens recently so, I never knew anything about fountain pens nor the fact that there is special day for it. Now most of my sketching is done using a fountain pen and I love it. If not for the other art materials I have to buy, I would have been collecting pens. :)

USk members' sketches for the Fountain Pen Day event

Monday, November 3, 2014

Learning to Control Watercolor

     I'm trying to do understand the relationship between the amount of water on the paper, on the brush, the amount of paint and the different stages of dryness of the paper. Its easy to understand in theory, but in actual practice, there's a lot of things going on. I find it overwhelming.

Painted using 4 colors : Madder lake, Cad Red, Cad Yellow D, Cad Yellow Lemon on Arches 7' x 10' CP

     This leads me to another basic idea that I must be familiar with the behavior of the paints I'm using and how they react to paper. Is the paint transparent, staining, or granulating? How strong is the chroma? Does the color have a warm or cool bias? With these thoughts, I think I understand why we have to make color charts and why they are important.

Winsor  & Newton paints on Saunders Waterford. The black vertical bar on each swatch is a tool to determine the transparency of the pigment. The top swatch is painted with a thickest mixture possible(pan watercolor), the bottom swatch has been diluted with more water.

Different brands of paints on Arches CP 300gsm. The swatches are painted  from masstone (dense form of the paint from the tube) to a very thin wash. After all swatches have dried, I tried to lift the color completely by slightly wetting the area(see the horizontal fade). and scrubbing with a damp nylon flat brush. Notice that some pigments does not completely lift out.

    For those who are beginning to paint that doesn't have an idea of what to paint, or doesn't have have the confidence and is intimidated by a blank page or paper, try making color charts for an exercise. It will give you a head start. Did I say it's fun ?

There is a follow up post on this here

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wetcanvas October Challenge

     It took me about 3 weeks contemplating how to do this piece and at the same time I want to experiment with a method I haven't done before. The finished piece was not close to what I have in mind, but I'm quite happy with the result. 

7" x 10" Arches CP, Rembrandt WC

Saturday, October 25, 2014


     It was a cloudy Saturday when I visited Escolta. It was a week before my first sketch-walk with USk Phils. I thought I will be able to sketch on site but luck is just not with me on that day. So, I just took pictures instead of what I thought were notable landmarks for Escolta. From these pic, I've attempted to make paintings based on the style I would like to experiment on. 

7" x 10" arches rough 300 gsm

7" x 10" arches rough 300 gsm

Thursday, October 23, 2014

October SketchWalk

     Harbor Square. Here I bumped with an enthusiastic fellow sketcher whom in search for a good sketching spot, climbed fences with and was later dragged to the paddlers dock, where we met Mrs. Po, who interestingly owned an art gallery and offered to display works by the group. It was an exciting experience!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Daily Sketch

     It was a slow day at the new office while waiting for software updates and setups. Fortunately, I always carry along my my watercolor sketch kit.

Sketching unsuspecting office-mates.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Painting Faces

     Ever since I've gotten back into painting, I was mostly painting objects and landscapes and animals, but not people or faces. I think I'm very much intimidated. The nuances in form which we are mostly familiar with are the most difficult to express or capture. An image I found in WetCanvas forums provided me with an inspiration  to get started with a quick sketch.

mini moleskine watercolor notebook

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DIY WaterColor Easel

      Sketching outside is already a challenge in itself. Add the distractions, weather, insects, fatigue. I've decided that I could reduce that challenge by introducing something that I can control. Comfort. In line with this, I have decided to make a portable and lightweight watercolor easel. The tripod that I used was bought from CDR-King. Unfortunately tripods with round leg was not available during that time so I settled for the one with square legs.

DIY watercolor easel

     To make this easel, I've used a quarter inch plywood, a T-nut (1/4" 20 tpi), and a cheap tripod. The screenshots below show how the wood was cut and assembled but feel free to make adjustments based on your requirement.

T_Nut  assembly
       The piece that will hold the water-bottle and paint was not successfully cut, I had to scrap the first one and cut another.

These are the two configuration I mostly see on the internet. I though that the pattern on the left would be much easier to execute. I believe that the pattern on the right would provide the best grip and would experiment on  making another one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fire Valley - Wetcanvas Monthly Challenge

     I thought I wont be able to make it in time to finish this piece. I was so busy with other things and it is already the last day of September. They don't really have a time limit, it's just a deadline I set for myself since there is a new challenge every month. I also have to do this twice since I'm not satisfied with the first one I did. The rock textures was making it really challenging to get the values right. 

Fire Valley 7x10 arches rough 300gsm

Monday, September 1, 2014

Marikina Sketch Walk

    I was finally accepted on Urban Sketchers Philippines! The first sketch-walk was in Marikina, around the vicinity of Kapitan Moy and Our Lady of Abandoned Parish. It was very exiting for me as I've got to meet fellow sketchers. It felt like sketching for the first time. It was also my first time using my new sketchbook so I'm still trying to get the feel of how much water, drying time, etc.

Sketches by USk members

Kapitan Moy

Our Lady of Abandoned Parish

     More on Urban Sketchers Philippines blog!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


     This is a painting of a clematis from WetCanvas monthly challenge. It is the second serious painting I've made on a 300gsm paper. Once you've tried it there is no going back. Though I'm still getting around it, I was able to lay down dark washes which is a challenge on more light weight paper.

5" x 8" Arches 300gsm Paper

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sketch Kit Mark V

     For the techniques that I want to achieve, the Canson 200gsm watercolor paper wasn't doing it for me. Well, actually its not that bad. I was able to get pretty decent sketches with it until I've tried Saunders Waterford! Where have you been all this time? My watercolor life has never been the same again. The cold-pressed 300gsm paper is everything my usual paper is not. Unfortunately it was the last block available from NBS. Upon contacting the importer in Binondo I was informed that they no longer import that paper. That is sad news.

Saunders Waterford 300gsm CP
First painting with a 300gsm paper, Saunders Waterford

      Desperate for more 300gsm goodness I’ve inspected two more store’s inventory, The Oil Paint Store and Deovir Art supplies. Deovir carries Hahnemühle watercolor papers but the variety of their product line requires much exploration. I’ve tried the Britannia and the Multimedia bamboo. They are not so bad but the behavior I’m looking does not come close to the Waterford. Maybe I’ll try the Tiepolo and Cezanne next time. The Oil Paint Store carries Arches paper which I reluctantly tried since “rough” is the only available texture at the moment. I was also offered to try the Stonehenge brand which was a little cheaper than the Arches.The Stonehenge is not bad. As much as it readily absorbs the first wash creating hard edges, smooth washes are not impossible to achieve. It just requires a little experimentation and timing.I think its more suitable for other media such as gouache or acrylics. Still not the one I’m looking for. Finally I’ve come to test the Arches. Hmm…well..yes. this is it! I’ll let the sample wash speak for itself.

      I’m still looking for the Saunders experience. Probably it was just the first impression. probably it was just me. :) So its decided. My new sketchbook will be filled with arches paper. Its easy to source, cheaper than a similar sized Moleskine, performs better and is handmade by me!

How the paper was divided to yield 2 signatures with 4 folios. the dotted lines represent the fold and the final sketchbooks measures 5.5”x 7.5”

A single section is made up of four pages.

      Again as with my previous sketch book the sections were coptic stitched and inserted into the new leather cover. The leather that I bought was quite ugly so I distressed it with sandpaper and alcohol and dyed the raw edges with ink. Ideally it should be 4 sections per booklet but since I only bought one sheet for testing I was only able to complete 3 sections.

I've made the new watercolor notebook bigger than the precious one

     I thought that the quest for tiny watercolor box has come to an end. Until my office mate presented me with a super thin, enamel coated card case from Fullybooked.

Size Comparison

The new tin card case slides open with the interior already painted white

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Not So Daily Sketch Dump

     Just a collection of sketches I've managed to squeeze in between breaks and other free time. Original reference photos can be found on WetCanvas image gallery.

5" x 7" Canson Montval paper

Small Moleskine Watercolor Notebook

Small Moleskine Watercolor Notebook

Small Moleskine Watercolor Notebook

Small Moleskine Watercolor Notebook

Paco Park Sketchwalk

     A friend tipped me into doing a sketch at Paco park. In Manila. I was raining a little when I arrived and won't let up. Desperate not to waste time and returning without anything, I found myself positioning under a tree hoping that the few leaves will protect me from the continuous drizzle. Then, after about 15 minutes as I lay down the last strokes of color, the sun appeared!

The Paco Park Chapel

Monday, August 11, 2014

New toys from Jackson's Art Supply

          I believe in “buy the best materials you can afford”. But the best materials are very difficult to source if not impossible. When it comes to watercolor, most art supply stores which are  few mainly stock student grade supplies. I’m not sure if there are lots of people who share my frustration, though I’m still glad that the variety and quality of the stocks has improved through the years.
     One of the tools that are very difficult to acquire here are kolinsky sable brushes. Specifically the one with collapsible handles use in plein air painting. It has to be sourced somewhere else. Outside. Unfortunately at the time I’m making my order, brushes like these are not available neither from DickBlick nor Cheap Joe’s. So I checked on the other side of the globe, Jackson's Art supply in UK. It took about one month for them to arrive.

The brushes are works of art in itself. Such beauties are worth the wait.
From left: Jackson's squirrel Flat, Escoda Reserva travel brush sizes 4 and 8, Pro Arte flat travel brush, Pro Arte synthetics 2,4,6, and da Vinci Maestro size 6. 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sketch Kit Mark IV!

     Here it is. The new and improved sketch kit!

Addition of  MDF board from a clipboard, binder clips, and a piece of magnet.

An elastic band with velcro holds everything in place.

Mark IV in action. The MDF provides a sturdy backing and makes everything comfortable to hold. The magnet attached to the clip holds the watercolor tin in place.