Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Club - The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

February's book for Blue Twig Studio's monthly book club was The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
Robert Henri, an American painter and teacher,  was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1865 and died in 1926 of cancer at age 64 in New York City. He was a leading figure of the Ashcan School of American realism and an organizer of the group known as "The Eight, a loose association of artists who protested the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. No other American painter attracted such a large group of followers as Henri. He was an inspired artist and teacher who believed that everyone can find happiness and wisdom through the arts. Many of his paintings are in museums or private collections. Included among them are the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as others.

The Art Spirit contains the essential beliefs and theories of this great art teacher. It includes technical advice and critical comments for students, as well as, inspiration for those who enjoy art. Henri saw no division between art and life. To be an artist (or truly alive), one has to experience life to the fullest. Henri says to find beauty within us and the rest will follow.

This book contains notes, letters, critiques, and so forth, that Henri gave to his students rather than lecturing them in a classroom. His notes are almost poetic, with artful insight to give his students encouragement and direction. These notes are not in any particular order that I could see - I almost felt like I was conversing with my attention deficit husband, as topics would jump from this thought to that and back again. It was very disjointed. The book is one huge chapter, with no organization or thought to the order to Henri's notes, letters, or critiques. It was hard to read and would be better read in bits and pieces here and there.  But Henri has much to say on the subject of art - the book shows that art was his passion. He enjoyed teaching art - not only how to create art, but how to "live" art. He gives information about painting techniques and the use of models. However, I found some of this hard to follow, without seeing a photo of the artwork he was describing.

In spite of the disjointedness of the book, I did find some useful passages that meant something to me. These include the following:

  •      Henri says each of us have a song going on within us, to which we listen, that fills us with surprise and marvel. We allow our intellect to step in and retire the song and so become ordinary again. yet, this song is what motivates us to express ourselves.
  •      "Don't worry about your originality. You could not get rid of it even if you wanted to. It will stick to you and show you up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do."
  •      "...to free myself from any idea that what I produce must be art or must respond in any way to any standard.  ...It must be what it is and must have been made because it was a great pleasure to make it."
  •      "Art is art, whether on a canvas, in stone, on a book cover, an advertisement or a piece of furniture." 
  •      "Keep as far as possible all your studies, all your failures, if somewhere in them appear any desirable qualities. ...You can learn much from others but more from yourself."
  •      "No work of art is really ever finished. They only stop at good places."
  •      "...there is artist in every man; and that to him the possibility of development and of expression and the happiness of creation is as much a right and as much a duty to himself, as to any of those who work in the especially ticketed ways."
  •      "In every human being there is the artist, and whatever his activity, he has an equal chance to express the result of his growth and his contact with life.  ...The object is intense living, fulfillment; the great happiness in creation. ...It is only in creative work that joy may be found."

I really came away with Henri's belief that anyone can be an artist as beauty can be found in living life to the fullest. That is what artists should strive to capture - the beauty they find in life around them. I found this encouraging - to find what I enjoy and just do it to the best of my ability without worrying about what others think of my "art".

Next month's book is  "Show Your Work"by Austin Kleon. We read his book, "Steal Like an Artist" a few months back (see post dated July 1, 2014) . It was fun and easy to read.  I'm sure this book will be, too.

See you at the end of the month!
Keep creating!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blue Twig Studio - Feb Product Review

I'm running a bit late with February's product review for Blue Twig Studio as my granddaughter was born a month premature and spent 3 weeks in the neonatal ICU, I had hand surgery on my dominant hand to remove a ganglion cyst, and then I needed IV fluids for severe dehydration due the worst case of flu I have ever had. It was a long month. Our granddaughter is now home from the hospital and doing well. She will require open heart surgery when she is 4-6 months old to repair a congenital heart defect. I am feeling much better and my hand has healed for the most part - at least I can use it again!

I finally finished my review and project for five different black pens and a sketchbook.

The pens include:

Various black pens on mixed-media paper.
  •  a black Sakura 02 micron pen (0.30mm nib) - an archival writing and design pen; acid-free; fine-line for papercrafts, journals, illustration, manga art and crafts; comes in 6 nib sizes and 15 colors.
  • a black Faber Castell Pitt artist pen (0.60mm nib) - black India ink; waterproof; permanent; acid-free; archival; for sketching, journals, cartooning, fine-ink drawings; perfect for mixed-media; ideal for traveling. 
  • a black Sakura 05 Microperm pen (0.45mm nib) - permanent on most surfaces; water and fade resistant; alcohol based cleaners may remove ink; do not launder; test prior to final application; low odor. 
  • a black Uni-ball Signo 207 Impact gel pen (1.0mm nib) - contoured rubber grip; uni-super InkTM to help prevent against check and document fraud; thick, vibrant lines to make a bold statement; refillable, quick-drying, fade- and water-resistant gel pen. 
  • a black fine point Sharpie pen.(1.00mm nib) - a permanent marker that marks on most surfaces; is quick-drying, fade-and water-resistant; no bleed and smear resistant.
Bleed-thru of pens on mixed-media paper.
The photo above shows the five pens written on mixed-media paper with a tangle pattern that used a heavy black fill. All the pens wrote well. The Sakura micron and the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen both have a nice, fine black mark. This is nice for writing, illustrating and fine lines for Zentangles or ZIAs (Zentangle-Inspired Art). The Sakura Microperm pen is actually darker than the Uni-ball Signo Impact gel pen, although it has a smaller nib size. The Sharpie fine-point pen having the boldest, blackest line of all the pens. It has the same nib size as the Uni-ball Signo Impact 207 gel pen.

The Sakura Microperm pen and the Sharpie
fine-point pen both show significant bleed-thru on mixed-media paper.  The tangle patterns for both the Faber Castell Pitt artist pen and Uni-ball Signo Impact 207 gel pen can be seen in the photo on the reverse side of the paper, but the actual paper does not show bleed-thru.

Crescent RENDЯ 
3.5" x 5.5" sketchbook.   
The sketchbook:
I reviewed a Crescent RENDЯ 3.5" x 5.5" sketchbook. It has acid- and lignin-free, white heavy-weight, 110 lb paper consisting of 32 sheets or 64 pages, with a regular binding. The sketchbook claims media won't bleed though pages, that the pages will lay flat, and it can be used with all media, including spray paint, markers, pastels, pencil (or charcoal), watercolors, and ink. Note: Limited show-through may occur over time with heavy application of Xylene markers. This sketchbook is made in the USA.

I first created several pages in black and white, using the five pens included in the review. I am happy to report that not one of the black pens show any sign of bleed-thru. I was able to work on both sides of the pages for my art journaling. After creating the artwork with the various pens, I went back and added color using various media to test the claims of the sketchbook. None of the media I used bled-thru the pages, although some of the watercolors, spray paints, and pastels managed to run over the edges of the sheets onto other sheets, as I was very enthusiastic in my application of the various media. Following is the artwork I created in the sketchbook to date.

Title page using Sakura micron pen.
Title page after adding watercolors. I also added gel 
pens in various colors over the letters in "Journal". 
The page curled initially after getting wet from the 
watercolors, but eventually dried flat.

Quote using the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen. Zingers and feather done with Sakura micron pen.
Added Tim Holtz Distress Stain in spiced marmalade through a TCW Mini
Daisy Cluster 6" stencil. Added red ink with a Sakura Moonlight gel pen. 
Zentangle Garden using Sakura micron, Faber-Castell Pitt artist, and
Sakura Microperm pens and shaded with charcoal.
Derwent watercolor pencils were used to add color to the Zentangle Garden.
Zentangle stripes using Sakura micron, Sakura Micropern, and Uni-ball Signo Impact pens.
Prismacolor Nupastel color blocks used to add a rainbow of color between
 the Zentangle stripes. Sealed with Krylon Workable Fixatif 1306.
Dragon and quote created with Sharpie fine-point and Sakura Microperm pens.
Tim Holtz Distress Stain in aged mahogany applied to TCW Mini Navaho 6" stencil over the quote. Background, horns, beak, and eyes of dragon painted with Derwent watercolor pencils. Dragon wings and scales painted with blackberry Facetten-Lack Croco Crackling Colour. Unfortunately, only a few spots on the body were thick enough to show the crackling effect. The rest was painted too thin for the paint to crackle.  
Griffin Momma and babies. Momma griffin created with Uni-ball
Signo Impact gel pen and babies created with Sakura micron pen.
Griffins painted with Prismacolor Premiere markers and Tombow markers. 
Tombow marker blender used to help blend the various shades of markers. 
Background painted with Derwent watercolor pencils.
Sisters created with Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen.
Background spray-painted in layers with Dylusions Ink Spray in London blue, lemon zest, and pure sunshine, and Perfect Pearls Mists in perfect copper.  TCW Mini Swirly Garden and TCW Mini Wedding Ring stencils were used.  The faces were painted with titanium white acrylic paint and various shades of Derwent watercolor pencils. The hair was created from a clothing catalog and adhered using matte medium.

I enjoyed all the products this month. A variety of black pens is essential for artwork, as drawings, Zentangles, illustrations, quotes, mixed-media, and so forth, all require a mixture of line widths and a shades of black. The Crescent RENDЯ sketchbook was a joy to work with using a variety of media. I felt it met the claims it made - I had no bleed-thru using any of the black pens or the various media I added to my artwork. The pages laid flat, so I could easily work across two pages.  Note:  I did not use gesso on any of these pages prior to creating any of the above drawings, as I did not want it to add any strength to the paper in order to test the claims made by the company.

The only comment I have would be to watch the amount of water (or alcohol) added to the page, as too much can make the pages start to roughen. Although, I scrubbed a few spots and still had no bleed-thru and could still paint these spots. Also, the more liquid added to the pages, the more they curl. However, the pages became almost flat once dry. If they need to be completely flat, the sketchbook can be pressed between two heavy items to finish flattening any curled pages.

I would definitely use a Crescent RENDЯ sketchbook for any art journal needs. The 3.5" x 5.5" size is perfect for traveling. It fits in my purse nicely, along with the pens, to enable me to create anywhere. A larger size would be nice for working out of at home.

Keep creating!