Category Archives: Product Info & Reviews

Excitment all round – a Birdy blog hop!

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As I said in my last post – Alpha Stamps have released my latest collage sheets – Nesting Instincts & Bird’s Nest & I am thrilled to see what Leslie’s amazing Design Team have come up with in using the imagery………..there are gifts, prizes & give aways if you follow the ‘blog hop’ between the design team’s blogs.

Visit each blog, leaving a comment you will automatically be entered to win a small piece of artwork from each Design Team Member! So if you go to all 9 blogs, between Thursday, June 7th and Sunday, June 10th you will have 9 different chances to win artwork!

That beautiful, hand-stitched coaster at right, by Theresa Martin, is one of the prizes you could win!

AND… check out this post here on the Alpha Stamps blog to find out how to win the new Birds in Hats Kit!

Theresa Martin | Visit blog
Alaskan Sapphire Rose – Shannon Tuttle | Visit blog
Starrgazer Creates – Rhea Freitag | Visit blog
Glitter Tart – Caroline Ouzts-Hay | Visit blog
Junk&Stuff – Kristin Batsel | Visit blog
Rhonda Mum – Rhonda Secrist-Thomas | Visit blog
Artfully Musing – Laura Carson | Visit blog
Pixie Hill – Nichola Battilana | Visit blog
Amys Blam: General Foolishness – Amy Mayfield | Visit blog
Below are my 6 x 6 collages using the newly released sheets – Nesting Instincts & Bird’s Nest.  Click on the link if you would like to purchase some from Alpha Stamps.

Watercolour Paper

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Watercolour paper is one of my 'stable' art supplies.  I ALWAYS have it on hand.  I ALWAYS buy good quality and I usually buy it in bulk.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people are prepared to compromise on the price of key materials they create their art from.  I wonder if it is because they don't value their work enough, that they don't want to 'waste' 'good' materials on their work.   That's one of the fabulous things about good quality watercolour paper – it is NEVER ruined.  You can paint it, sew it, dye it, cover it, back it, bind it, & always recycle & reuse it!!  You can even run it under the water and wash off your work!

I always start out a piece as though THIS Mona_Lisa PIECE is going to be my 'MONA LISA' – as I have said repeatedly – I don't believe that Leonardo knew when he started the 'Greatest Smirk on Earth' – what a significant piece it was going to be.  He was working away at his craft, commission by commission, piece by piece and his labour bore fruit.  Because of this – I always work on good paper as the basis of my artwork & hand made journals – the paper you use can make or break your project.

I don't know about you, but when I am looking to use a material that I am not familiar with, there always either seems to be too much information (ever tried to buy adhesive when you are not really sure what will work for what you want to bond???) or not enough to even know where to begin (do you have a Dremel or an ipod without a teenage friend to help you?).  

Generally there are 3 commercial surface qualities of watercolour papers available – Cold Pressed, Hot Pressed & Rough Textured.  It looks and feels a bit like blotting paper but the significant difference is that watercolor paper has a coating of size on both sides which lets paint soak in, but not spread uncontrollably, as it would on blotting paper. Of course if you are buying hand made paper, or making your own, there are more variables in texture available.  Good quality brands are usually 100% cotton & are colloquially known as 'rag'.  FOR MYSELF – my fav. brand that I highly recommend is the Italian made Fabriano Artistico.  (possibly a little bias there – I love all things Italian!) 
 
Papermaking at Fabriano began in 1283 when paper production flourished with the use of linen rags for pulp. The remaining examples of paper that exist from this time indicate the advanced state of papermaking at the mills. This period saw the development of three major innovations by Fabriano which are still a part of papermaking today. The hydraulic hammer pile for pulverizing the rags replaced the mortar which had been in use since the birth of paper in China. Gelatin glue sizing appeared as a means to conserve paper, to increase its strength and to render it apt for writing with inks. The most important innovation was the identification of papers using watermarks. The watermark became the means by which it was possible to recognize the papermaker's name, when the paper was produced, and later, to indicate the different qualities of paper produced.
Due to it's significant role in the development of paper as we know it, the town of Fabriano is home to the world's most comprehensive paper making & watermark museum Muse o'della Carta 
 
Watercolour paper is manufactured in various ways and in many cases, is still a largely handmade process. Because of this, sizes, weights, qualities and finishes do vary – sometimes within the same brands. There are other good brands like: Aquarelle Arches; Winsor & Newton &

Cold Pressed Paper: 
has a medium texture to it's surface, & this varies a little depending on the manufacturer. Many painters prefer this paper as it has a little 'tooth' (roughness) about it & it's uneveness adds to the character of the subject matter.

Hot Pressed Paper:
this paper is the smoothest of all surfaces (and what Misty recommends for her style of collage).  It is quite literally rolled between hot rollers to even out the wrinkles (much like ironing a cotton shirt).  This is the best paper to use for Watercolor_paper_watercolor_paper_types projects where you are going to stamp, as it is a nice even surface to work on.

Rough Grain Paper:  This is my favourite paper to create hand made books & journals out of.  As it has a pretty textured surface so it's not good for stamping on.  Good watercolor paper absorbs water/paint/glue/medium without warping, leaving your finished page free from distortion.

Sizing:
reduces the absorbency in the sheet of paper.  Without it the paint would be immediately absorbed into the paper.  Internally sizing is added to the paper pulp at the beginning of production and reduces the absorbency throughout the sheet.  Surface, tub or exterior sizing is applied after the paper has been made and dried and only controls absorbency of the surface of the sheet.  If you are using any weight 356lb or lower, I would probably give it a wash of watered down gesso to strengthen it a little.
 
Weight/thickness: of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb).  The standard weights generally availabe in the marketplace are:
  • 190 gsm (90 lb) I use this for inserts & between mica
  • 300 gsm (140 lb) I use this for folded tags, additions to scrapbook pages, etc
  • 356 gsm (260 lb) This is my core supply for pages for books, sketches, some pastel work and watercolours.  I also I use this to make small books & ATC's that I am going to add a label to the back of (it is a bit thicker than 'Bassille' coloured board or thin chipboard)  356gsm paper is flexible, sews well, doesn't break away where it is sewn & I love it to make all of my hand made journals from (whether the signatures are hand or machine stitched)   It retails at about $8AUD per 560mm x 760mm approx (22" x 30" sheet ) – I use a long steel ruler and a cleared table to tear the sheet to size, however BEFORE I the sheets I ALWAYS make a scale drawing on a scrap of paper to minimize waste.  I will often design the size of my journals around how many 'pages' I can get out of a sheet.  When you do it this way, you will be surprised how economical it is to create your own art books made from the VERY best of materials. (as at Oct 08) 
  • 638 gsm (300 lb)  I use this for elements within journals, handmade books & cards (they will stand up themselves), also for 4 x 4 pages & ATC's that I am not going to back.  638gsm is quite a rigid paper (that is interchangable with a cardboard), tends to 'break' where it is creased and I have found from experience that it's surface tends to be more brittle. The great thing about it is that it sews really well.  I LOVE sewing it to a leather or fabric spine to create a 'soft cover' journal with sewn signatures.  It retails for abour $18 per sheet (as at Oct .08)
As with any product, paper differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but for myself I only use Fabriano Artistico.  The main reason is because it is so hardy.  There are definitely cheaper alternatives available, however, I figure that if a round robin journal is going to travel around the world, in & out of various mail services, I want it to be a hardy product.  Also, if I am going to spend hours & hours creating something, I want it to be on a product that will preserve well.  I have never had a piece rip away as I bind it into a journal signature or have had it 'break' into cracked layers as I use a bone folder on it to prepare it for binding.  I have torn it into the smallest little tags & pieces & each piece is lovely, no matter how small. 

One of my favourite things about this product is the colour.  Though it is called Traditional White it has a lovely 'warm white' look about it & it is a perfect background for anything.  The sheets are made from 100% cotton, are double-sized, & acid-free. Although I mostly use the cold pressed, it is available in rough grain & hot press surfaces.  Each sheet has two natural and two tear deckled edges.  I buy it in the huge big sheets (22in x 30in) & although that's a bit unwieldy to manage at first, I find it better value & I always keep even the small scraps of left overs & turn them into little tags or dangly things to hang off or add to journals.  I love to have a torn looking 'decal' edge to anything that I am using watercolour paper for, so I don't like to generally use the pads, however I do take them travelling.  The Fabriano story is absolutely fascinating – keep reading on below, if you'd like to know more about it.

Read the rest of this entry

Watercolour Paper

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Watercolour paper is one of my 'stable' art supplies.  I ALWAYS have it on hand.  I ALWAYS buy good quality and I usually buy it in bulk.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people are prepared to compromise on the price of key materials they create their art from.  I wonder if it is because they don't value their work enough, that they don't want to 'waste' 'good' materials on their work.   That's one of the fabulous things about good quality watercolour paper – it is NEVER ruined.  You can paint it, sew it, dye it, cover it, back it, bind it, & always recycle & reuse it!!  You can even run it under the water and wash off your work!

I always start out a piece as though THIS Mona_Lisa PIECE is going to be my 'MONA LISA' – as I have said repeatedly – I don't believe that Leonardo knew when he started the 'Greatest Smirk on Earth' – what a significant piece it was going to be.  He was working away at his craft, commission by commission, piece by piece and his labour bore fruit.  Because of this – I always work on good paper as the basis of my artwork & hand made journals – the paper you use can make or break your project.

I don't know about you, but when I am looking to use a material that I am not familiar with, there always either seems to be too much information (ever tried to buy adhesive when you are not really sure what will work for what you want to bond???) or not enough to even know where to begin (do you have a Dremel or an ipod without a teenage friend to help you?).  

Generally there are 3 commercial surface qualities of watercolour papers available – Cold Pressed, Hot Pressed & Rough Textured.  It looks and feels a bit like blotting paper but the significant difference is that watercolor paper has a coating of size on both sides which lets paint soak in, but not spread uncontrollably, as it would on blotting paper. Of course if you are buying hand made paper, or making your own, there are more variables in texture available.  Good quality brands are usually 100% cotton & are colloquially known as 'rag'.  FOR MYSELF – my fav. brand that I highly recommend is the Italian made Fabriano Artistico.  (possibly a little bias there – I love all things Italian!) 
 
Papermaking at Fabriano began in 1283 when paper production flourished with the use of linen rags for pulp. The remaining examples of paper that exist from this time indicate the advanced state of papermaking at the mills. This period saw the development of three major innovations by Fabriano which are still a part of papermaking today. The hydraulic hammer pile for pulverizing the rags replaced the mortar which had been in use since the birth of paper in China. Gelatin glue sizing appeared as a means to conserve paper, to increase its strength and to render it apt for writing with inks. The most important innovation was the identification of papers using watermarks. The watermark became the means by which it was possible to recognize the papermaker's name, when the paper was produced, and later, to indicate the different qualities of paper produced.
Due to it's significant role in the development of paper as we know it, the town of Fabriano is home to the world's most comprehensive paper making & watermark museum Muse o'della Carta 
 
Watercolour paper is manufactured in various ways and in many cases, is still a largely handmade process. Because of this, sizes, weights, qualities and finishes do vary – sometimes within the same brands. There are other good brands like: Aquarelle Arches; Winsor & Newton &

Cold Pressed Paper: 
has a medium texture to it's surface, & this varies a little depending on the manufacturer. Many painters prefer this paper as it has a little 'tooth' (roughness) about it & it's uneveness adds to the character of the subject matter.

Hot Pressed Paper:
this paper is the smoothest of all surfaces (and what Misty recommends for her style of collage).  It is quite literally rolled between hot rollers to even out the wrinkles (much like ironing a cotton shirt).  This is the best paper to use for Watercolor_paper_watercolor_paper_types projects where you are going to stamp, as it is a nice even surface to work on.

Rough Grain Paper:  This is my favourite paper to create hand made books & journals out of.  As it has a pretty textured surface so it's not good for stamping on.  Good watercolor paper absorbs water/paint/glue/medium without warping, leaving your finished page free from distortion.

Sizing:
reduces the absorbency in the sheet of paper.  Without it the paint would be immediately absorbed into the paper.  Internally sizing is added to the paper pulp at the beginning of production and reduces the absorbency throughout the sheet.  Surface, tub or exterior sizing is applied after the paper has been made and dried and only controls absorbency of the surface of the sheet.  If you are using any weight 356lb or lower, I would probably give it a wash of watered down gesso to strengthen it a little.
 
Weight/thickness: of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb).  The standard weights generally availabe in the marketplace are:
  • 190 gsm (90 lb) I use this for inserts & between mica
  • 300 gsm (140 lb) I use this for folded tags, additions to scrapbook pages, etc
  • 356 gsm (260 lb) This is my core supply for pages for books, sketches, some pastel work and watercolours.  I also I use this to make small books & ATC's that I am going to add a label to the back of (it is a bit thicker than 'Bassille' coloured board or thin chipboard)  356gsm paper is flexible, sews well, doesn't break away where it is sewn & I love it to make all of my hand made journals from (whether the signatures are hand or machine stitched)   It retails at about $8AUD per 560mm x 760mm approx (22" x 30" sheet ) – I use a long steel ruler and a cleared table to tear the sheet to size, however BEFORE I the sheets I ALWAYS make a scale drawing on a scrap of paper to minimize waste.  I will often design the size of my journals around how many 'pages' I can get out of a sheet.  When you do it this way, you will be surprised how economical it is to create your own art books made from the VERY best of materials. (as at Oct 08) 
  • 638 gsm (300 lb)  I use this for elements within journals, handmade books & cards (they will stand up themselves), also for 4 x 4 pages & ATC's that I am not going to back.  638gsm is quite a rigid paper (that is interchangable with a cardboard), tends to 'break' where it is creased and I have found from experience that it's surface tends to be more brittle. The great thing about it is that it sews really well.  I LOVE sewing it to a leather or fabric spine to create a 'soft cover' journal with sewn signatures.  It retails for abour $18 per sheet (as at Oct .08)
As with any product, paper differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but for myself I only use Fabriano Artistico.  The main reason is because it is so hardy.  There are definitely cheaper alternatives available, however, I figure that if a round robin journal is going to travel around the world, in & out of various mail services, I want it to be a hardy product.  Also, if I am going to spend hours & hours creating something, I want it to be on a product that will preserve well.  I have never had a piece rip away as I bind it into a journal signature or have had it 'break' into cracked layers as I use a bone folder on it to prepare it for binding.  I have torn it into the smallest little tags & pieces & each piece is lovely, no matter how small. 

One of my favourite things about this product is the colour.  Though it is called Traditional White it has a lovely 'warm white' look about it & it is a perfect background for anything.  The sheets are made from 100% cotton, are double-sized, & acid-free. Although I mostly use the cold pressed, it is available in rough grain & hot press surfaces.  Each sheet has two natural and two tear deckled edges.  I buy it in the huge big sheets (22in x 30in) & although that's a bit unwieldy to manage at first, I find it better value & I always keep even the small scraps of left overs & turn them into little tags or dangly things to hang off or add to journals.  I love to have a torn looking 'decal' edge to anything that I am using watercolour paper for, so I don't like to generally use the pads, however I do take them travelling.  The Fabriano story is absolutely fascinating – keep reading on below, if you'd like to know more about it.

Read the rest of this entry

Senellier Artist Oil Crayons

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Delft Blue

Sennelier Artist Oil Crayons are one of my MOST favourite art supply – for me – a MUST have.  Every artist develops their own list as their style emerges & you continue to reach for the same thing, time and again.  They were developed by a company that has a passion for color, demonstrated by their  choice of pigments. The story goes that they circle the globe to find classic and rare pigments that possess qualities that are both beautiful and unique.

The founder of Sennelier – Gustave Sennelier was a chemist by trade.  He carefully researched the history and usage of pigments to develop a distinctive process for manufacturing oil colors. The process involved the formulation of precise methods for mixing tones, and for controlling opacity and transparency. He opened the doors of the Maison Sennelier at 3 Quai Voltaire in 1887, grinding his own pigments in the back yard. The ‘House of Sennelier has become somewhat of a landmark in Paris & can still be found today, facing the Louvre on the Left Bank, just around the corner from the École des Beaux Arts. The passing of more than a century has seen artists with names like Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet, Bonnard, Soutine, Picasso, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Chagall, and Dali pass through its doors. ….

Background_1_webSennelier Artist Oil Crayons come in about 100 different colours,  it’s not a huge colour range, however, it is one that has been well thought out & includes many of tonal nuances.  They were made in the ’40’s in conjunction with Picasso…..The resulting sticks feel like a soft pastel, but look and act like oil paints. Less fragile than traditional pastels,they can be built up to create heavy impasto effects, or combined with oil painting mediums for glazing and wash techniques. .they are like painting with a lipstick they are so soft. I don’t draw or paint real life overly well, so I am very reliant on stamped images, found imagery & I especially like Sennelier to blend the edges & create boarders & highlight colours…. or just to create the background all together.  If I am going to use them for a background, then I usually paint acylics underneath to give them some body.   I DON’T recommend that you buy them in sets, just pick out a couple of colours & see if you like them.  The colour combos in the smaller sets are not that good & you might not like them as much as if you just pick a couple of your fav. colours to try.   The DO need sealing though.  I use 1 of 4 ways to seal them:  Sennelier oil pastel sealer (ok – but expensive & very shiny); floor polish dabbed on with a make-up removing pad (gives a nice matt look, but you do loose some of the brilliance of the colours) or Golden Oil Sealer (needs to be brushed on for best results & this often ‘drags’ the composition) OR seed-lac. (still a bit too shiny for my liking, but the best treatment for the colours) 

This link will take you to the Sennelier web site & it gives a fascinating ‘guided tour’ of how the products are made:  Enjoy!!!     http://www.sennelier.fr/gb/08visiteguidee/visiteguidee.htm  In OZ, I get them from Seniors Art Supplies – I believe that Dick Blick stocks them in the USA – but I am sure there are also other places to find them.

Moon Glow

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Due to the many emails I get asking me about Moon Glow, what is it, & where do you get it & what does it look like, etc.I have written a review for my new ‘product info’ catagory.  This catagory has all of my fav. bits & pieces & this is the first product I am writing about. You will have heard me mention the product lots of times – MOONGLOW is one of my MOST favourite products, in all it’s various forms.    I LOVE this product….so it is easy for me to ‘rabbit on’ about it.  Unfortunately it is something that doesn’t show up in scans very well, so you don’t get much of a sense of how much impact it makes in a composition.  It really gives things a lift & dimension.

Moon Glow is a two-toned irridescent pearlized pigment that can be used for heaps of things. Some forms are mixed with walnut ink, which gives a lovely mottled look that I love. I mostly use it for touching up & colouring images & spraying on a background or a finished piece to add dimension & an extra bit of interest to it.

Moon Glow comes in 3 forms – colour palette trays of powder, embossing powder & small spray bottles of MIST & Spritz

Moon_glow_palettes_web

I use them ALL the time.  I have quite a selection of H2O’s and Lumiers & about 5 pearl – ex powders AND 1 perfect pearls.  Of all of my ‘pearly’ products, I love moon glow pigment powders the best of all of them for the following reasons:

* Good that you can get a range of colours in one tray & don’t have to buy them separately.

* You can control the intensity of it.  You only need the tiniest bit with some water to make a pearly ‘wash’ & it can be deeply coloured or quite transparent depending on how much water you add.

* I use ‘waxed’ lunch wrap as a palette & when the water absorbs & the mixed up ‘moon glow’ has dried on the wax paper (ie the water has evaporated)…..you can re-wet it & use it as per normal

* It’s instant.  No waiting, stirring, scraping, mixed in a second

* You can customize your colours & adjust the tone of your colours…..it’s fabulous…..need I say more, I love it!!!

* A little goes a long way – once you have them, they are very economical because you don’t need to use much & they last for ever!

Things that are not so good about them:

* the packaging could do with some more thought
   – the lids on the trays can be a bit awkward to get off & it is easy to spill them.

   – bottles are of dubious quality, some work, others just spit or dribble or don’t spray at all!

* can’t get colours separately (I spilt my ‘Sparkling Green Relections’ on the first ‘opening’ & can’t replace it; I am just about run out of ‘Orbit Olive Gold’ because it is my fav & I use it all the time)

* price is a bit of a consideration….as you have to buy a whole tray just to try them out  – you need to be confident you like them.

The Mists & Spritz are amazing & give great depth & dimension to your work – the Mists need a fixative, the Spritz don’t.  The two I can’t live without are ‘Tawny Turquoise’ – the BEST thing for bird’s ‘underbelly’, sparkling crystal water, twinkling stars, & many other things.  The other is ‘Desert Moon Horny Toad Teal’ which is great for adding dimension to earth, trees, garden backgrounds & green tones.  These two don’t leave my work table, I use them all the time.

The Moon Glow Embossing powders are lovely.  I have about 6 of the 12 colours available & it is very hard to pick a favourite.  They too, have a two toned ‘shot’ (like organza) look about them.  All pearly & sparkly.  SOOOOOO delicious!

OVERALL – I would rate the product as 10 out of 10, but the packaging (which impacts it’s usablity) about 5 out of 10.  Having said that – I LOVE the product so much that I buy it & put it in better containers myself.  THIS IS A MUST HAVE PRODUCT!!!!

In Australia, I buy Moon Glows from The Thread Studio in Perth, in USA This is the place for them http://www.lindystampgang.com/newprod/minimgcolors.shtm

Enjoy this fabulous stuff!