How I prepare for travel sketching.

Travel sketching is a productive way to pass time while still being able to appreciate your surroundings. But since I’m usually pressed for time whenever I travel, I keep my sketching checklist short so I can go right to the drawing part quicker. 🙂

KEEPING MATERIALS AT A MINIMUM

What notebook or sketch pad to bring is easy; I usually go for the smallest and lightest. It’s the pens that are overwhelming — I have way too many fineliners/colored markers/watercolor pencils/brush pens, and taking a hoard of them is impractical since I’d probably use only a handful during the trip.

How do you know beforehand which ones you’ll need? Two words: you plan.

Boracay, March 2017. Watercolor on cold-pressed paper.

ITINERARY + RESEARCH

Beach destinations are quite easy because colors are always the same: shades of brown for the sand, dark blues and greens for the sea, and light blue for the summer sky. But if it’s a place I’ve never been before, I make sure to tick off two things:

  • What does the place look like? Are there any dominant colors?
  • What’s the weather condition?

The reason why it’s important to know the weather is because most travel sketches are done outdoors, and  colors change depending on the sky’s mood.

Nami Island, Seoul, December 2016. Pilot fineliner and Finecolour markers.

Case in point: part of our itinerary in South Korea last December was to visit Nami Island, where I could spend an hour sketching its towering pine trees. Before the trip, I did a Google search on what Nami Island usually looks like at that time of the year. It won’t be covered in snow yet, and AccuWeather expects a sunny sky despite the chilling five degrees of winter air. From those information, I plan the colors I’ll bring: shades of brown, grays, blues, and a couple of greens.

All in all, I took with me about 10 markers for our South Korea trip, which was a huge cut to what I would have brought had I selected pens at random.

Sketch from a photo of Lotus Pond Twin Temples, Taiwan, April 2017. Various brush pens.

TESTING THE WATERS

Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I do an actual sketch of the place I’ll be visiting from photos I find online, just to get the feel of it. It’s like exercising my muscle memory; when I’m finally sketching the temples in Taiwan, my hand might remember its strokes from practice and I’ll be able to finish the sketch a bit faster.

Of course, all this planning is suitable only to specific scenarios. If you’re the spontaneous type, there’s no telling beforehand the colors you need if you’ve never seen your subject before. Or maybe you’re not big in colors and prefers monochrome sketches instead. Whatever your approach is, I hope planning could still help you to some extent.

After all, the most important thing is that we get to capture a bit of what we see with our eyes on paper. 🙂

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Painting flowers with Jera of @inkblotsandpapercuts :)

Last Saturday’s loose watercolor florals workshop with my friend Jera (@inkblotsandpapercuts on Instagram) was the best creative workshop I’ve ever had. I brought my boss along and we had fun creating our own bouquet of loose florals. It positively changed my mind about watercolor, which was a medium I used to avoid because I made up my mind a couple years ago that it just wasn’t for me. Well, not anymore. 😉

The three of us met a few minutes past 2:00 PM at Gloria Jeans cafe in Eton Cyberpod. The setting was informal and very chill. Jera walked us through the basics, but as all three of us were exchanging banters every now and then,  you’d think we’re just three friends chatting over coffee and paints. We discussed materials first — at last, I already know the difference between coldpressed and hotpressed paper! — before moving to techniques, mixing our own color palettes, and finally creating a whole bunch of leaves and flowers.

It took us an entire afternoon to cover all topics, but here are my favorite takeaways:

  • In watercolor, there is such a thing as happy accidents. That rarely happens in hand lettering; heck, I get frustrated when accidents happen while I’m writing. I couldn’t help but compare how rigid lettering actually was compared to the more fluid movements of watercolor painting.
  • Now I know why artists leave their palette ‘dirty’. When I tried learning watercolor on my own, I always clean my palette every after use. I thought that dirty palettes were only for photo ops so people would think you know a lot about mixing colors. I didn’t expect it to serve a more practical purpose.
  • My favorite watercolor technique is lifting. You can create clouds with it, you can soften edges, you can correct mistakes — it’s so powerful!
  • Adding water does make a HUGE difference. Yes, I’ve only just realized that during this session because of this term called color value or the amount of light and dark in a color. #mindblown

I noticed that my hands didn’t get tired even after several hours of painting, which was a bit of a surprise because I know I won’t be able to say the same if I write in the same length of time with a brush pen. Whenever I conduct lettering workshops, I had to keep it at 2.5 hours max because lettering drills can really zonk your hand out.

Additionally, Jera’s workshop made me understand the difference between VALUE and COST. I finally understood that people are willing to pay the cost as long as they get the value, and Jera’s workshop is WORTH EVERY PENNY. It is an incredible insight as I’m also a workshop instructor myself. Now I look at my basic lettering workshop course with new eyes, and with the aim to consistently provide value at, or maybe even beyond its price.  I didn’t expect a watercolor workshop to be such an eye opener, but I’m glad it did. 🙂

By the end of the session, we were able to produce decent loose florals, and man, it felt great! We were also treated to free coffee, hee hee! (Sorry for the yellow sticker on my face — I didn’t look my best that day LOL)

If you’re interested to learn flower painting with watercolor, Jera’s workshop is very highly recommended. Very na, highly pa LOL! Go drop her a DM on Instagram. Well, what are you waiting for? 😀

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Saying yes.

Saying yes more often is not really a specific part of my 2017 new year’s resolutions. But as early as January, I realized something so blindingly obvious, I don’t know why I haven’t thought about it before: that more opportunities come when the universe senses that you are willing to take them. And last year, I was so not willing.

It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s more of I was not ready. I kept second-guessing myself and my capabilities, ergo, I didn’t want to take projects that I’m not sure I could deliver. Opportunities excite me, but they also scare me — and the fear was bigger. Therefore, I wasn’t really expecting this year to be any different.

Until I started saying yes to some opportunities.

The first chance that came was a work-related thing: an infographic for the weekly department performance report. It wasn’t official at first; I designed a mockup in response to a teammate’s suggestion that infographics were better than lengthy emails. My supervisor forwarded the mockup to the Powers That Be (or the ultimate, ultimate big bosses) and they liked it. I won’t get paid, but that’s okay. It’s the perfect excuse to practice typography. And as it turns out, that first chance would be a window to other work-related assignments, which I also said yes to.

But the biggest opportunity that opened by far was a logo for a new local tea shop. I’ve been asked to make logos before, but I wasn’t keen on saying yes because of this story I told myself: you are not good with logos. I stayed away from logo design works, even commissioned ones, because I believed that story. But someone came and placed a huge trust on my abilities, so I said yes to the tea shop project. We’re currently in the final revision stage. 🙂

In the midst of all these yeses, I know that I am still not ready and I still second-guess myself. My first thought whenever I get project offers is, “can I really do this?” This time, though, I am willing. And that makes all the difference. #

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Throwback: Watercolor.

I never had the delusion that I’m going to be a great watercolor artist. Out of all the days that I did manage to pick up a brush, only a few artworks would finish decent.

For this particular piece, I totally botched the roses, but I didn’t want it to go to waste so I added some handlettered quote to compensate LOL. Still not my greatest success. I haven’t touched my watercolor set in months, and I doubt that I would anytime soon.

At least, it became clear that this medium isn’t for me. #

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Finecolour Markers: a coloring beginner’s two cents.

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FACT: I suck at colors in general. Even though I see myself as a creative, I rarely work with colors if I can help it. But just when I thought I’d already give up on coloring tools, I received two sets of Finecolour markers last Christmas from an artist friend. So okay, I thought, let’s give color one final chance. 😀

Finecolours are alcohol-based markers from China hailed as a cheaper alternative to Copics. I have never used a Copic marker in my life, and prior to receiving the Finecolours, I didn’t have the slightest idea about Copics at all.

Apparently, Copic markers are like the king of alcohol-based markers, both in quality and price. As of this writing, a 12-piece Copic Original set in Amazon will run you almost $79. That’s 3,869.04 pesos in local currency. It’s a pricey decision, which is why Copics are generally recommended for professionals and serious amateurs, and less so for beginners or those who are just, let’s say, testing the waters. I can see why: a pen that costs almost $8 a piece is not for testing, unless you’re filthy rich. (lol)

The set I received have dual tips similar to the Copic Original: one fine tip and one broad tip. I’m not sure if Finecolour makes felt brush tips like Copic Sketch. Anyhoo, it’s handy to be able to toggle between covering wide and thin areas, although I recently find myself using the broad tip more, even when coloring details.

I used the Finecolour for the first time on a sketch of Bukchon Hanok (북촌한옥), Seoul. I decided to use two basic shades first, i.e., green and brown, just to get the feel of it. And lo, I actually liked how the two colors seemed to give a bit of life on what would have otherwise been a flat black-and-white drawing.

Processed with Snapseed.

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SinceI have zero experience with color markers, I don’t know how to do those blending/shading techniques — yet. I intend to learn them soon, but right now, I use the markers like how any beginner would.

Because it’s alcohol-based, there’s a lot of bleeding on the back page. Bleeding on the next page is present, but I don’t find it excessive unless you will do multiple layers.

I admittedly am not a markers expert (yet), hence, I cannot judge Finecolour as a Copics alternative. But my experience so far is very favorable: it made me appreciate color that no other coloring tools ever did. The more I use it, the more I get amazed by how it works.

So go get a set if you are one of these two:

  • a beginner who wants to learn the ropes of alcohol-based markers, but isn’t quite pocket-ready for Copics, or
  • a casual creative looking to have a good and affordable marker for side projects. Trust me, it’s a worthy contender. 😉

And if you are from Manila, Lazada currently has Finecolour markers in the 24, 36, 48, 72, and 112 -piece set. It is not available in major bookstores yet, but specialty arts and craft stores like Craft Carrot sells them. (Note that only the 72 and 112-piece set have the colorless blender.)

Okay, that’s it — I am never going to draw without color again! 😀

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