Friday, November 30, 2007

Analog brush kick

Had been a while since I used any of my Kolinski brushes since they do not travel as easily as a waterbrush. Just took out some of my sable brushes and started sketching random strokes without a preliminary outline with aquarelle sticks ending-up with this fox-like creature.
Also seemed like a good time to try out the Chinese chop seal I had made in Hong Kong to sign some of my drawigns. Using a piece of cardstock to test the chop, it became clear that was necessary to have some cushioning underneath (used a folded shop towel below the card) in order to exert enough pressure to make a clear impression and to remove the seal one side at a time to avoid tearing the paper surface. The Shinobi-like sketch was done with a Pentel pocket brush pen.
To balance this blog's monster factor, kept on doodling a dragon and phoenix with the same materials and a handful of watercolor pencils for the phoenix's perch.
Copic Multiliner SP 0.3 mm & BS sketch

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Color pencil 0.5 mm lead

Just discovered that the Mitsubishi Uni-ball 0.5 mm color pencil leads are somewhat watersoluble when applying a light wash over the pencil strokes. Kind of a mute point for most since these color leads are rather rare and hard-to-find unless one pokes online in specialized websites like this one. If you do decide to try them, I'd recommend using a drafting mechanical pencil instead of one meant for writing. These color leads seem rather brittle and more prone to breakage in mechanical pencils with cone-shaped sleeves (like the Sakura Sumo Grip). The color leads performed better in the Pentel Graphgear 1000 and Graphlet PG505 because of their longer 4 mm drafting sleeves that allow for greater drawing pressure while preventing lead breakage. The lead kept snapping and breaking when I was coloring the background (above sketch) with the Sumo Grip until I switched to the Pentel drafting pencils. Then I was able to press harder on the sketchbook and achieve a more intense tone using the same orange lead when coloring the shirt. The Uni-ball color lead variety 12-pack (6 colors shown below) and a Graphlet PG505 make a nice compact color sketching kit to take along and doodle in a pocket-size sketchbook anywhere

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bit of Japanese Paper Magic for X-mas cards

Found this nifty set of Origami Daruma (Dharma) dolls in San Francisco. Basically it's sort of a paper genie that come eye-less and can grant one wish. You are supposed to make a wish and draw a pupil in, and when the wish comes true you color in the second pupil. Already put one to good use with mom's recent trip to the emergency room and 3 days hospital stay. On the second day, built the black Daruma pictured above (yes the flat Daruma can stand on its own once you open it gently from the bottom and push its sides outwards like a box) and colored in the first eye for a speedy recovery. Now that she's home we colored in the second one. Since they are now proven good-luck charms, it seemed like a good idea to craft a few as X-mas cards to spread the cheer and good-will to family and friends. Thus if you got one in the mail, you now know what to do to start your very own bit of Japanese spellwork after you remove the Kabuto helmet and jacket.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Japanese Supreme Wooden Pencils

Thanks to the diligence and generosity of my traveling cousin Cuti, I now got the opportunity to actually try the top-of-the-line professional grade pencils from Japan's two major pencil manufacturers: Tombow and Mitsubishi. This awesome stationary bundle included the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni in HB, 3B, and 4B; and the Tombow Mono 100 in 2B and 5B hardness along with a unique Kokuyo eraser. Both pencil lines are quite difficult to find in the USA, and have a very distinct look with gold bands decorating their uniquely designed black caps (The Tombow Mono 100 has a white line that runs vertically across the cap, and the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni has an orange yellow dot on the crown of the cap). On my last trip to San Francisco, I was able to get a couple of student grade dozen-pencil boxes of Mitsubishi Uni-Star in B and 3B and a box of Tombow Mono J in F.
Thus, it was possible to do a simple comparison between the student and professional grades of Mitsubishi pencils in 3B. While I did not set up a proper blind test, the Hi-Uni seemed to glide more smoothly when sketching over the same paper surface. The Hi-Uni yielded a darker line with less pressure than the Uni-Star. For such a soft-grade pencil, both erased reasonably well (the Tuff-Stuff eraser stick left a few faint marks that the scanner could not pick up) and were fairly smudge-resistant. I suppose the smoother quality of the professional grade pencil strokes might translate into faster rendering which cumulatively represent time-savings, so it's a pitty that such pencils are not so easy to find on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Yet I suspect beginners would find either grade equally pleasurable to sketch and draw with once they adjust for their handling properties. So don't hesitate to try them if you happen to come across them online, or if you get the chance to visit a Kinokuniya or Maido Stationery store in San Francisco or San Jose.
Update: Now is actually possible to order singles and dozen boxes of HB Tombow Mono 100 pencils through the Pencil Things website. And according to their blog, they might be carrying the 2B pencils by February 2008. Hopefully they will also start carrying some of the softer grades of Mitsubishi Hi-Uni.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Not a Plucky Hero until One reaches the Great Wall"

That was the quaint title found under our Great Wall group picture in the souvenir book. Nice written reminder especially if one did not get the medals for climbing this World Wonder after reaching the top. It was great to meet so many friendly adventurous fellow travelers from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, and the USA on this tour of China. Regards and best wishes to all on future journeys, and may we meet again on the road or in our home countries. If you asked me about travel to Machu Picchu, remember the tip about staying at Aguas Calientes the night before to beat the Cusco train crowds and view the world’s most spectacularly situated ruins at sunrise (highest point of the Peruvian rainforest). Finally finished downloading the 5 GB worth of photo and video files that document our trip, and made a small captioned slideshow in MySpace page. This massive visual collection will be good reference and inspiration for future sketches to be posted in this blog. Here is a couple of illustrated pages from my travel journal:

Despite the closure of two art supplies stores I had planned to visit in Hong Kong, I was able to get a good-size lot of new sketching and drawing tools to test and review from mainland China and San Francisco.