Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nine ways to increase your creativity

Whether you want to be more creative at home or in the office, these tips are for you! These are a few of the ways that I find are conducive to developing new ideas and creative thinking.

1. Do something physical

Ideally something that doesn’t allow you to multi-task or think about anything else. Think exercise, such as strength training, yoga, Feldenkrais, etc.

2. Do chores

Monotonous chores that allow the mind to roam are just the thing. Cleaning, ironing, picking berries, weeding the garden, you get the idea.

3. Start crafting

Crafts such as knitting and crocheting, quilting and doing crossword puzzles, drawing and baking, also affect the brain positively.

4. Switch gears

That’s right. Instead of sitting hours on end in front of the computer, switch it up with a different type of task.

5. Learn something new

Math, chemistry, a new language. When the left brain is occupied, the right brain has room to roam. I was never as creative as when I studied chemistry in high school or attended a lecture at the university! In fact, why not attend a lecture now?

6. Use the other side of the body

If you are right-handed, pick up that pot or brush your hair with the left hand instead, and vice versa if you are left-handed. Also consider cross-lateral movements, where arms and legs cross over the midline as in touching the right elbow to the left knee and reverse.

7. Do nothing

Aka sit-in-the-shade-watching-the-clouds-go-by. Self-explanatory.

8. Change environments and go someplace new

This can be done on a smaller scale as in taking a different route to work or visit a different part of town, or on a larger scale as in traveling someplace new. One gets a new perspective on things while sitting poolside in Florida or walking the cobblestone streets of Europe instead of driving to work back home in the Midwest.

9. Travel by plane, train, or bus

Not as the driver, but as a passenger looking out the window enjoying the view.

You may notice that most of these tips build on allowing the left brain to rest from constant input and the right brain to roam freely, more important than ever in today's world of ever increasing streams of information.

However, if you are used to always being connected, you may need a period of digital detox before you can comfortably harness the creative energy gained from these tasks. And no, there’s not an app for that!

More reading
Scientific American. Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. Oct 15, 2013.
CNN, This is your brain on crafting. Updated Jan 5, 2015.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What is granulation?

Granulation, flocculation, sedimentary pigments, textured pigments, there are many terms used to describe the textured effects that some watercolors exhibit. As I regularly mention granulation, and it is one of my favorite watercolor properties, I thought I would explain the different terms here.


What are textured pigments?


Watercolors get their color from color pigments, tiny color particles that can be natural or synthetic. The term textured pigments simply refers to any pigment whose particles create a pattern or texture on the paper when dry.

There are granulating and flocculating pigments, as well as several different pigment properties that can cause a color to have a textured appearance.


What is granulation?


Granulation is the textured or grainy effect that is caused by pigment particles settling in the indentations of the paper. Granulation, as all textured effects, is more noticeable in juicy washes (when more water is used).

One example of a granulating color is Cobalt Blue, PB28.

Granulation - Cobalt Blue, PB28
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Note that granulation may vary between brands. I am using Winsor & Newton Professional watercolors in these examples, unless noted otherwise.


What is flocculation?


Flocculation is the textured, speckled, effect that is caused by certain fine pigment particles that group themselves together on the paper and form a pattern mostly independent of the indentations of the paper. This phenomenon is usually caused by electrical effects as the particles become electrically charged and clump together.

One example of a flocculating color is French Ultramarine, PB29.

Flocculation - French Ultramarine, PB 29
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Another example is Prussian Blue, PB27. If you look closely at this wash, you can see tiny black iron particles settling out from the color.

Prussian Blue, PB27
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

The pigment particles of Mars Black, PBk11, take the action one step further and literally start to move around as soon as you put your brush to paper. The swirls formed are easily visible!

Mars Black, PBk11
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


What are sedimentary pigments?


Sedimentary pigments are very heavy and/or very large pigment particles that sink in a water solution, especially noticeable on your palette or in your water jar.


Pigment particle size


Most pigments are manufactured in a range of particle sizes depending on the use of the pigment. Within each color is a range of pigment particle sizes, which means that both the average pigment particle size and the distribution of sizes also affect color properties.

The larger the pigment particle size, the more textured the resulting wash.

Among the largest pigment particles are cobalts, manganese, cerulean blue, iron oxides, and cadmiums.

Note that these colors may or may not be labeled granulating, but they may still be textured, especially when used with plenty of water.

Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Cobalt Turquoise
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Red iron oxides: Burnt Sienna, Venetian Red, Indian Red, Caput Mortuum Violet
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


Pigment particle weight


Specific gravity is the weight of the pigment in water and is independent of particle size. Heavy pigments have a specific gravity (much) heavier than water (which has a specific gravity of one) and therefore sink in water.

Among the heaviest pigment particles are chromiums, cadmiums, and cobalts. Note that the sedimentary qualities can vary between brands.

When pigments with a contrast in specific gravity are used together (heavier pigments together with lighter pigments), separation between pigments forms interesting textured effects on the paper.


Separation and texture


Some premixed colors contain one pigment that is granulating and one pigment that is not. In that case, you may notice a separation of pigments within that color, the granulating pigment creating a textured effect.

Premixed green with a granulating blue and a non-granulating yellow
(Prussian Green by Daniel Smith)
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Similarly, if you mix a granulating color with a non-granulating color, you will get a beautifully textured effect!

Granulating colors mixed with non-granulating colors
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

In addition, two non-granulating colors that are mixed, either premixed in a tube or mixed directly on the paper, may separate on the paper causing a textured effect.

Two pre-mixed non-granulating greens
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Smooth pigments and texture


All pigment particles group themselves together to some extent, something that is counteracted by additives to the paint. Particle clusters are called aggregates, whereas aggregate clusters are called agglomerates.  

In certain smooth pigments that are fully saturated, a contrast between these clusters or clumps create a textured effect despite being listed as non-granulating.

Smooth pigment that shows a textured effect
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Can any pigment be made to look textured?


Well, I would say that, under the right conditions, it is possible to make several, although not all, non-granulating pigments to look textured to some degree. In fact, by using a textured watercolor paper such as a cold press or rough paper, watercolors by default get a textured look. 

Test it out for yourself by using the color first with plenty of water on a cold press or rough watercolor paper. Another option is to use the color almost completely saturated. In both cases, the color will almost completely fill the indentations and more color will be deposited there, giving it a more textured look.

Non-granulating, saturated color with a textured look
(Perylene Maroon by Daniel Smith)
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

If you want to learn more about pigment properties, check out Handprint's website, especially the pages on How watercolor paints are made, The material attributes of paints, and Guide to watercolor pigments.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Watercolor charts

I have painted many watercolor charts over the years, from color wheels and mixing charts to explorations of various qualities, such as granulation, value ranges, and diffusion.

The main benefit of doing color charts is to get to know your colors and pigments in-depth. It is also a great way to get reacquainted with your colors after a period away from painting.

There are no hard rules for how to set up your charts as long as you learn something from them. I have experimented with numerous kinds over the years and keep trying out new formats.

As I recently purchased a few new colors, I decided to do drawdown charts of all of my colors, listing and comparing their characteristics.

Color chart
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


My color chart

I first wrote down the color name (for example Cobalt Blue), Color Index Generic Name (for example PB28, Pigment Blue 28), and chemical name (for example cobalt aluminate).

I then painted a square with the color as saturated as possible, to get a feeling for what value it represents. After that, I painted a drawdown sample where I kept diluting the color

Below that, I listed characteristics of each color that I found especially interesting:

Performance

W&N rates their colors as follows:
  • AA  Extremely permanent
  • Permanent
  • Moderately durable
  • Fugitive

Colors rated B or C should generally be avoided if you are concerned about durability.

The also have additions in roman numerals:
  • (i) ‘A' rated in full strength may fade in thin washes
  • (ii) Cannot be relied upon to withstand damp
  • (iii) Bleached by acids, acidic atmospheres
  • (iv) Fluctuating color; fades in light, recovers in dark
  • (v) Should not be prepared in pale tints with Flake White, as these will fade (not applicable to watercolors)
  • (vi) ‘A' rated with a coating of fixative (n/a)

Lightfastness

ASTM rating, from I to V, both I and II are considered permanent for artists’ use.

Transparency

Transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque, or opaque.

Granulating

Does it create a textured effect on the paper.

Staining

Can it be lifted without staining the paper.

Color temperature

Warm or cool, does the color lean toward blue/green or red/yellow.

Drying shift

How much does the color change in appearance when drying, in percent.

Active in wet 

Takes into account:
  • Backruns/blossoming, if the pigment particles move when rewetted.
  • Diffusion, if the pigment particles move when added to a wet sheet of paper, depends on pigment particle size and especially dispersants added to the paint.

Value range 

On a scale of 0-100, from white to black.

Other 

Includes any other interesting facts that I have found about the color!


Information sources


So where do you find all this information?

1) Well, begin with the watercolor tube itself! Here you can find the color name, color index name, and information on permanence, lightfastness, and transparency (as a graphic symbol).

2) The W&N Composition and Permanence Table includes information on color name, color index name, permanence, lightfastness and transparency, but lacks the chemical names and information on granulating and staining colors. Here is an explanatory key.

3) The W&N Color Chart includes the same information minus the color index name.

4) This W&N Artists’ Water Colour Leaflet dating back to 2005 can only be found if you search for it or have a direct link, but it is still one of my most important go-to sources! Download it before it is too late! However, I do wish they would update it.

Here your can find a lot of information, including lists of transparent and opaque colors, warm and cool colors, granulating colors, and last but not least, a chart listing the chemical name(s) of each pigment!

5) For more in-depth information, Handprint’s website on watercolors is worth a visit, especially his Guide to Watercolor Pigments, where he has listed pigments based on their color index name, then including chemical name, color name, and manufacturer.

He has rated thousands of colors based on his own tests, including transparency, staining, value range, granulation, blossom, diffusion, hue angle, hue shift, and lightfastness. In the text he also mentions chroma and drying shift. His ratings are explained here. Take the time to explore the rest of his site. You can easily spend hours here exploring all the in-depth information.


Your turn!


Off you go to have fun creating your own charts! Good luck!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Do watercolors expire?

Do watercolor tubes and pans expire, and what to do about it? In my experience, the two most common ways that the paint in watercolor tubes or pans deteriorate are drying and separating. Paint may also mold or change texture.

What about other art supplies, such as watercolor brushes or paper? In this post, I will go over a few of the ways that art supplies may deteriorate and what to do about it.


Watercolor tubes and pans 


1. Drying


What is it? Watercolor paint dries out in watercolor tubes or cracks in pans.

Despite having some tubes that are getting on in age, this only rarely happens to me, and then usually with small 5 ml tubes that have been left unused for a while (read years!)

In pans, I have found that certain colors are more prone to drying, such as the Umbers, Prussians, and Viridian.

What to do? If only a little paint has dried out in the tube, I generally squeeze it out and keep going. If the problem is more widespread, prod a bit inside the tube with a straightened-out paper clip.

If paint in a pan has dried up into crumbles, I generally use paint straight out of a tube instead.

I also know that some artists, as a last resort, cut the tube open and reconstitute the paint with a drop of gum arabic or water, alternatively add a drop of distilled water and a drop of glycerin to the pan.

How to avoid? Keep the tubes tightly closed and store them in zip-lock bags if not used for a while. Use colors more prone to drying straight out of the tube instead of in pans.

Also, if you fill pans from tubes, only fill them halfway at first, let dry for a few days (can take a week depending on humidity!), and then fill them again to minimize cracking.


2. Separating


What is it? The watercolor separates into an oily part and a color part in the tube. The pigment and vehicle (usually gum arabic, the binder) are separating in the tube. When you squeeze the tube, only the oily part comes out – and it may be a lot of it as the pigment only constitutes 5%-50% of the volume (see Handprint).

This is unfortunately becoming much more common now than it used to be and happens to every few of my brand-new tubes as I open them up for the first time.

What to do? Sometimes I just squeeze the oily part out and keep going (but the paint risks drying up and you will get less paint left). You can also try to mix it back in with a straightened-out paper clip.

How to avoid? I don’t have any good advice here, but suspect it has more to do with manufacturing quality…


3. Texture change


What is it? The paint turns textured and “pebbly” instead of smooth inside the tube.

This has happened to me with black colors, earths, and sepia, for example, after having been stored for a while.

What to do? Toss it!

How to avoid? Don’t keep your watercolors for too long!


4. Mold


What is it? The mouth of the tube or the top of the pan turns moldy.

Strangely enough, this has only happened to two colors that I have used, Viridian (on repeated occasions, both pans and tube) and Winsor Green blue shade (once or twice).

What to do? I toss the tube or pan and often mix my own greens from blue and yellow!

How to avoid? Keep your tubes and pans dry, but in my case I really could not tell what brought it on…


5. Air bubbles in the tube


What is it? As you squeeze the tube, only air comes out, sometimes filling as much as half the tube or more!

This is, together with separation, another thing that is becoming more common now than it used to be, and it can be costly, as there is nothing you can do about it.

What to do? Squeeze the air bubble out and hope it isn't too big so you don't lose too much paint.

How to avoid? This is directly related to quality control in the manufacturing, so there is nothing the customer can do except let the manufacturer know this is an issue.


Watercolor paper


A few of the ways you can tell paper is aging are yellowing and stains becoming visible.

1. Yellowing


What is it? A wood-based paper turns yellow and brittle with time. (There are more factors at play than that, see link below for more.)

What to do? Toss it.

How to avoid? Buy 100% cotton, acid free paper. Use water that is not acidic(!) Also be aware of additives, such as whitening agents, that may affect the quality of the paper but that are not taken into account in the paper standards. See this post for more about archival papers.


2. Stains


What is it? With time, stains such as fingerprints due to the oils on the fingers of anyone who has handled the paper will become visible.


What to do? Cut off the stained part and use the rest, if not damaged, but be aware that more stains will show up with time...

How to avoid? Keep your hands dry and clean (no lotions, etc) or use cotton gloves, don’t touch the paper surface, purchase paper in larger, pre-packaged units instead of only a few at a time, check the paper already in the store.


3. Texture variation


What is it? Globs of sizing are visible as smooth areas on the paper surface. This is a manufacturing defect, hopefully more common with cheaper papers(?)

What to do? Cut away or toss.

How to avoid? Can’t really do much to avoid it, but avoid papers where this is a common occurrence. I check each paper prior to using it and only use the parts that have the correct grain.


Watercolor brushes


Brushes tend to lose their sharp point over time and hairs may fall off or break. The handle may also crack and the ferrule come loose.

1. Hairs that break off or fall off


How to prevent? Wet the brush tip prior to use to soften it, especially important with the fragile squirrel hairs, which easily break.


2. The wood handle and its painted surface cracks


How to prevent? Never let the brush stand in water and only let the water touch the brush hairs, not the shaft.


3. The brush point loses its sharpness


How to prevent? Treat especially sable brushes gently, don’t rough up dry paint in pans with the brush (use a nylon brush and a few drops of water for this purpose), clean the brush gently and reshape its tip with your fingers.

If you use rough papers, or brands with a rougher surface, your brushes may also wear out faster.


In short, to answer the question if watercolor paints, papers, and brushes expire with time, I would say that good quality art supplies can last a lifetime

However, it is hard to know beforehand just how a brush or tube will fare. It varies with quality, and quality varies not only with the brand but also with brands over time.

I have brushes that I bought many years ago that are still in good shape, as well as brushes that cracked within a year. Ditto paint tubes or pans or paper.

What is your experience?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What is Strathmore Windpower watercolor paper?

Do you know what the difference is between Strathmore Windpower Watercolor paper and their other watercolor papers? I recently asked this question to a representative for Strathmore and it turns out that the Strathmore Windpower Watercolor paper is the same as their 400 Series Watercolor paper, but the Windpower paper is made with renewable energy credits.

Both papers are natural white, cold press, 140 lb (300 gsm) and acid free.

The only difference is the price, as the Windpower is slightly more expensive! A Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor pad, size 18"x24", has a list price of $32.39, whereas a Strathmore Windpower Watercolor pad, same size, has a list price of $37.59, a difference of $5.20. For the smaller sizes, 10"x15" and 9"x12", the difference is less, around $1.64 and $1.24 respectively.

My only comment is that I find the naming a bit confusing and would have preferred the name "Strathmore 400 Series Windpower Watercolor" instead of only "Windpower Watercolor". As a matter of fact, in the Strathmore Dry and Wet Paper Media Guide, the Windpower paper is listed as "400 Windpower Watercolor"!

When I compared the two pads, the paper color, thickness, and texture did indeed match, although the paper in my particular Windpower pad had a slightly less pronounced texture (see picture). 

Comparing Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor (left) and Windpower Watercolor paper (right)
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book design and legibility

The older I get, the more particular I become about what I call the functional design of a book, which includes criteria such as book size, font, font size and color, paper, etc, all of which affect legibility. Here are my current criteria, always a work in progress:

Size

The standard hardcover book, with 9"x6" or 8"x5" pages, about 3/4" or 300 pages thick, generally works well for me. The 8"x5" softcover, about 1/2"-5/8" or 200 pages thick, is great as long as font size is not skimped upon! A book size any smaller than that usually compromises both font size and paper type.

Font and font size

I prefer a serif typeface similar to Times New Roman. Boring? No, legible! My preferred font size is 12 point or bigger - but not as big as in large print books. I have seen some books printed in a thinner serif typeface, but I find these fonts hard on the eyes.

Absolutely not a sans-serif typeface in a book (and I can't say I like it in a magazine either...) It may look good, but after a few pages, a serif typeface is still preferable for reading. If you must use a sans-serif typeface, at least please do not use the extra narrow version!

Font color

Black, not a shade of gray (nor a poor print job as sometimes occurs with print-on-demand titles...) Definitely not white on a gray background, or any other unusual color combination!

Paper

I like the paper to be thick enough that it feels substantial, that is, a page is easy to grip when turned. This is related to the paper quality, as certain cheaper papers wear out, become smoother, and curl up after many reads. Beware of paper of the type that feels rough to the touch, lacks contrast, and soaks up water like a sponge (not that I would ever spill water on a book ;)

Paper color

White, not off-white or grayish.

Hardcover preferences

Dust jacket? No thanks, I prefer the visual printed directly on the hardcover, leaving the dust jacket off completely. However, this practice is more common in Sweden than in the US.

Softcover preferences

I am happy as long as the covers are not so glossy that they will warp outward with exposure to humid climates or turn sticky over time, as may happen with certain covers, especially gloss covers.

A popular type of binding in Sweden right now is the so-called "danskt band", "Danish binding" in direct translation, which refers to a softcover with folded flaps of the same material. I could not find a specific term for this in English, other than "softcover with flaps". This is probably my favorite type of binding at the moment as it provides the softcover with a more upscale feel. 

More about binding

Since I like my books to last a long time without the paper falling out, the cheapest glue bindings are out. Several of my favorite books have loose pages, and an unfortunate few cracked upon the first read.

Portability

Last, but not least, portability. If you, like me, like to take a book with you at times, here is my preferred size: 5" to 5 3/4" wide by 8" tall, ideally 1/4" wide, but up to 1/2" wide is ok (yes I measured a few favorites). This format works better for me than the smaller but thicker paperback book.

What are your book design criteria?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Color matching in my mind

Sometimes when I am out,
I like to match the colors of what I see
to  watercolors in my mind.

Today.

The wooden deck by the river
Davy’s Gray, a brush of Cobalt Turquoise Light
Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre
Sepia and Burnt Umber for the dark spots

The wooden railing
PG50, Cobalt Turquoise Light
and a deepening bluegreen toward PB36, Cobalt Turquoise, and beyond

Wooden benches
All of the colors above, with a little, very diluted Venetian Red brushed on

Water
Cobalt Blue
Paper white
A deepened Olive Green
Payne’s Gray and Indigo

The beautiful old asphalt path with its aggregates of crushed stones and gravel exposed
Again Davy’s Gray, Neutral Tint
a hint of Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, white, and Potter’s Pink

All grayed colors or earth tones

There is so much more to a February day than gray
- if one only looks deeply

PS. Deem my surprise at seeing a small branch the perfect shade of Permanent Rose and Permanent Alizarin Crimson!


Översättning. Ibland när jag är ute så matchar jag akvarellfärger med det jag ser, i huvudet.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What is the difference between French Ultramarine and Ultramarine?

What is the difference between Winsor & Newton’s French Ultramarine and Ultramarine (Green Shade) watercolors? Is there a difference? At first glance they appear identical!

I first compared their properties:

French Ultramarine
  • Pigment: PB29
  • Transparency: Yes
  • Granulating: Yes
  • Lightfastness (ASTM): I
  • Permanence: A

The Winsor & Newton website states that this color was created in 1828 as a synthetic alternative to the expensive pigment derived from Lapis Lazuli. This color has red undertones.

Ultramarine

  • Pigment: PB29
  • Transparency: Yes
  • Granulating: Not noted
  • Lightfastness (ASTM): I
  • Permanence: A

This color is noted to have green undertones.

According to a W&N representative, slight variations in temperature during production of the pigments can cause very slight variations in color. This is what makes French Ultramarine redder and Ultramarine greener.

Handprint notes that these two W&N ultramarines “are slightly lighter valued, greener in hue and more transparent than other brands, and produce some of the most pronounced (and lovely) wash pigment textures.”

Comparing French Ultramarine and Ultramarine
Watercolors
© 2017 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.

I finally did a chart comparing the two, and as you can see in the drawdowns, French Ultramarine has a warmer, redder tone (left), whereas Ultramarine is cooler/greener (right) and looks similar to Winsor/Phthalocyanine Blue.

You can also see that French Ultramarine displays quite a bit more granulation than Ultramarine.

And when French Ultramarine (with its red undertone) is mixed with Permanent Rose (which has a blue undertone), the result is a clearer, brighter violet than when Ultramarine is mixed with Permanent Rose.

So, yes, there is a difference between the two, easily found with a bit of experimentation, testing, and comparison!



Översättning.
Är det någon skillnad mellan Winsor & Newtons akvarellfärger French Ultramarine och Ultramarine (Green Shade)? Vid en jämförelse av attribut så verkar de vid en första anblick närapå identiska. De är båda transparenta, permanenta och tillverkade av pigmentet PB29.

Vid närmare jämförelse så fann jag att French Ultramarine ser varmare (rödare) ut än Ultramarine, vilken ser lite kallare (grönare) ut. Detta blir tydligare ju mindre koncentrerad färgen är. Dessutom så visar French Ultramarine betydligt mer granulering än Ultramarine.


Enligt en representant för Winsor & Newton så beror denna färgskillnad på variation i temperatur under produktionen.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Artists, art materials and allergies

As if having allergies is not frustrating enough, having allergies that interfere with one’s art can be doubly frustrating.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that more than 50 million people in the US or roughly 15% of Americans suffer from allergies. According to researchers, allergies are on the rise affecting as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children. To further compound the issue, their families and work places are affected as well. Worldwide, allergic rhinitis affects between 10% and 30% of the population and rates are increasing.

In Sweden, it is estimated that over 30% or 3 million people suffer from allergies. Research shows that 33% of Swedish adults are sensitive to fragrances and chemicals. Products free from allergens, fragrance, and irritating substances are marked with the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association's swallow logo.

In my own case, fragrances, scents, and smells are some of the worst culprits, in addition to airborne pollutants among other things.


Art materials and situations that may cause difficulties for an artist with allergies


  • Oil paints and solvents
  • Acrylic paints
  • Markers (such as Sharpie, Prismacolor, or Copic)
  • Some pens
  • Inks for dip pens
  • Pencils and colored pencils (made of wood)
  • Airborne particles, such as pastel dust
  • Glues, varnishes, sprays
  • Mediums, masking fluid or liquid frisket, etc.
  • Arches watercolor paper (due to the natural gelatin smell)
  • The jury, in my case, is still out on papers with added fungicides, but it does not seem like a good idea from an allergy standpoint to add fungicides to paper that is to be used in a wet condition, perhaps for hours at a time, at a relatively close distance
  • The same thing goes for any product with added biocides, such as some paints
  • In addition, many other papers and paints have a slight chemical odor that may pose a problem
  • Any scented product, such as scented pens, stickers, or erasers
  • Printer toner and inks
  • Some printed products, from magazines to folders or cards. Just because the ink (or paper) is more environmental does not mean that it does not cause problems from an allergy standpoint!

  • In terms of purchasing art supplies, any art supply store that carries scented products, such as florals, scented candles, oils, or potpourri, may pose a problem to visit for the allergic person
  • Recently, I have had problems ordering paper from stores selling scented products or using scented products within the store as the paper picks up scents of products stored nearby, including cleaning products and sprays, rendering the paper unusable for me!
  • Even products being shipped close to a perfumed item (in another package) may cause an otherwise unscented product to smell

    I have mostly focused on breathing related allergies here, but there are many other types of allergies, such as contact allergies, where skin contact with an allergen causes symptoms. Examples could be certain substances in paints or the nickel ferrule of a brush.


    Additional problematic situations for people with allergies


    There are many situations that affect not only artists but anyone with allergies or sensitivities. Here is a list of a few problematic situations that unfortunately shrink the world that a person with allergies may safely be exposed to:

    • Attending a public event, such as a class, lecture, exhibit, etc., where perfumes or scented personal products are used by some attendants
    • Going to any store or restaurant, class or other location, where incense, potpourri, room sprays, or air fresheners are used. Ditto scented soaps in public restrooms
    • Visiting the mall or any store where scent marketing is used, a marketing strategy where stores use fragrance to attract customers
    • Staying at hotels where room sprays, air fresheners, scented laundry detergent, cleaning products, and soaps are used. Once a hotel room has been sprayed with room sprays, the scent remains in the carpet, fabrics, and walls, similar to cigarette smoke, and renders the room unusable for a person with allergies (even if you ask for an allergen-free room that has not been sprayed, chances are it was sprayed prior to the last customer). This has become a big problem for me in recent years, making travel, especially in the US and Canada, very difficult.

        Additional problematic situations for people with allergies


        While these are situations that, at least in theory, could be fairly easily remedied, air pollution unfortunately has a longer way to go, affecting us everywhere as we go outside, for example, to sketch or paint.
        • You can check the Air Quality Index for your region here, as calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This index includes ground-level ozone, particle pollution, and a few other pollutants. According to the index, 0-50 indicates that conditions are good. 
        • The American Lung Association (ALA) publishes the State of the Air report, showing ozone and particle pollution and people at risk by state and county (link and pdf to the 2016 report). When comparing the 2016 numbers to the 2013 report (pdf), I was shocked to see that the high ozone days in my county had gone up from 4 to 27 per year over a three-year span.

        As if that is not enough, there are numerous other kinds of pollution that affect us, such as water, soil, radiation, light, noise, and many more. It is interesting to note the connection between the environment and our health.

        To return to the art materials, I think it is very individual and what works for one person may or may not work for another. Personally, I use mechanical pencils, Uniball Vision or Staedtler Pigment Liner pens, Winsor & Newton or Daniel Smith watercolors, and Strathmore papers, sometimes other materials but rarely for extended periods of time as I like to work quickly. Having a studio which permits cross-ventilation is also helpful.

        What are your experiences with allergies and art materials as an artist?


        References
        Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Allergies. (Retrieved January 17 2017)
        US Population Clock. (Retrieved January 17 2017)
        Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Allergies. (Retrieved January 18 2017)
        World Allergy Association (WAO). White Book on Allergy 2013 Update. (Retrieved January 18 2017)

        Astma och allergiförbundet Forskningsfonden. Allergifakta 2016. (Retrieved January 19 2017)
        Astma och allergiförbundet. Doftöverkänslighet. (Retrieved January 19 2017)
        Astma och allergiförbundet. Om Svalanmärkningen. (Retrieved January 19 2017)
        Wikipedia. Pollution. (Retrieved January 18 2017)


        Översättning.
        Ett inlägg om konstnärer, konstmaterial och allergier och hur allt från olika material till situationer och miljö påverkar oss. Jag är själv speciellt känslig för dofter och har svårt för många material och produkter. Även parfymerade produkter som används i offentliga miljöer, på hotell, osv., kan göra tillvaron svår för den med andningsproblem.

        Wednesday, January 18, 2017

        The Artist's Quiz

        Starting off 2017 with a quiz just for artists! If you like to take part, feel free to adjust it to your own medium as this is in part geared toward watercolor artists - and don't forget to link back!

        In the studio
        1. By the kitchen table or a room of one’s own?
        A room of my own.

        2. By the window or by the wall?
        Neither, my art table is in the middle of the studio, allowing access from all sides and preventing walls to be splashed with paint! If I had to choose one, though, I would choose "by the window" with daylight coming from the left side as I am right-handed.

        3. Alone or in company?
        I have to be alone for the mind to be able to roam as freely as it needs to create.

        4. Silence or music?
        Silence.

        5. Neat or messy?
        Messy while I paint, neat when I don't. I love coming into a clean and well-organized studio in the morning!

        6. Boxes filled with new art materials or staying with the tried and true?
        I try to stay with the art materials I know work for me, but I also do try out new things occasionally to keep things interesting.


        En plein air
        7. Buildings, cars and bikes or trees, flowers and bees?
        I prefer the natural world's irregularities to the sleeker lines and shapes of the man-made.

        8. Alone or with a sketching buddy?
        A sketching buddy is always nice.

        9. Moleskine or a custom sketchbook?
        I use both, depending on what paper I like to use.

        10. Fountain pen or other pen?
        Ten years ago, I used a fountain pen exclusively, these days I go for ease and use roller-ball or fineliner pens.

        11. (Water)colors or black and white?
        Usually black-and-white if I am out sketching, sometimes I use watercolors too.

        12. Talk to passersby or hide behind sunglasses?
        Being an introvert, I will be the one behind sunglasses.


        In the paintbox
        13. Watercolor tubes or pans?
        I buy tubes and add color to whole pans - as well as use the paint straight from the tubes on a palette.

        14. Granulating pigments or smooth colors?
        Granulating colors, of course!

        15. Arches or Fabriano?
        Both, or perhaps neither. I mostly use Strathmore and Canson, occasionally using Arches and Fabriano.

        16. Cold press, rough or hot press (or soft press)?
        Cold press.

        17. Round or flat brushes?
        Mostly round brushes.

        18. Sable or synthetic?
        I have had good results with a mixture of sable and synthetic, which makes for durable brushes that can hold quite a bit of paint and water.

        19. A clean palette or leave the color mixes for the next day?
        I clean the palette or paintbox after painting, since I rarely want the same mixes the next time.


        On the mind
        20. Left-handed or right-handed?
        Right-handed.

        21. Patience is a virtue or speed is of the essence?
        I like to work quickly.

        22. Sketch first or paint directly?
        I usually paint directly.

        23. More thinking than painting or more painting than thinking?
        I spend a lot of time thinking - which is what enables me to paint directly without sketching first.

        24. Embrace coincidences and mistakes or toss them?
        Embrace coincidences! That's what watercolors are all about! That being said, there are times when a painting just cannot be rescued and one has to start over.

        Hope you enjoyed this quiz!


        Översättning. Jag satte precis ihop ett quiz för konstnärer!