Wednesday 27 April 2016

Apologies for being quiet...

Stupidly busy week really - I've got about 6 videos shot waiting for me to edit them AND two posts I need to edit before posting - I keep promising myself "tomorrow" but no real time still.

Stupid life, getting in the way!

Saturday 23 April 2016

Colour Translation: Beta Fish

Something I've loved for about 6 months now are the various watercolour tutorials by Lindsay The Frugal Crafter, which are often in the same impressionist and loose style I enjoy when painting watercolour. When I've tried to work from them though, I've found getting a good colour match for e.g. a "Rose" in a paint line she's using in the USA is pretty hard here in Europe where a lot of the popular US brands are pretty obscure and so do I use "Permanent Rose" or "Opera Rose" or "Quinacridone Rose"? Different brands have different pigment formulations of course. So, I set about researching the Turner Watercolours line of paints that Lindsay works from - not to be confused with the other Turner paints out there are which inferior brands - this line is artist-quality and appear very good indeed though I've yet to try them.

So, what I've begun doing is posting on here and on Lindsay's Youtube feed every now and again to translate what those paints would be in other brands, to help other painters out there. I've provided links to buy the Turner ones from Amazon UK if anyone wants to try them out - I promise I'll road-test them in the net few months, but I have a long list of things to get through already!

First video I'm doing it with is this Beta Fish video from Friday 22nd April 2016:

Colours used here are as follows and how they translate into different brands that use alternative names - I didn't get the green used in the seaweed as that was when the feed dropped out.

Turner: Quinacridone Magenta (PR211 Quinacridone Red) - equivalents will be either the same name or "Magenta", "Permanent Rose" or "Permanent Magenta" in Winsor & Newton or Daler & Rowney paints - "opera rose" has the same pigment plus a fugitive dye, so will fade, but is a much brighter shade so may not give the same results but should give a similar result. "Rose Red" and "Rose Madder (Hue)" may also have PR211. Daler & Rowney paints

Turner: Turquoise Blue (PB28 Cobalt Blue) - this is used in "Cobalt Blue" in most brands but be sure to find a "Cobalt Turquoise" or "Cobalt Blue Light" than has a lower pigment concentration to give a lighter colour.

Turner: Yellow Ochre (PY43 Natural Yellow Iron Oxide) - this is the same name in most brands. Some will use PY42 (Yellow Iron Oxide) instead/as well - which is just a different synthetic version - very similar, however.

I'm going to try and do this for all of Lyndsay's watercolour tutorials as I found it a pain trying to figure out what some of the colours were called in the brands we have here in the UK.

Sunday 17 April 2016

What's coming up in the next few weeks?

Yes, I know I've not posted in nearly a week - I have been busy creating content, however! I've reviewed two student-grade watercolour sets, one budget acrylic set, two different ranges of acrylic brushes, two different ranges of watercolour brushes and done a couple of acrylic techniques videos. I've also been sent some really cool watercolour and printing papers to review, which I'm halfway through doing.

On top of all that, I need to get some better lighting to improve my video qualities - should be here in a couple of weeks.

I've also decided to do something for "the greater good" and to start "translating" the paints used in various painting tutorials into what the equivalents would be in different ranges of paints. Something that has struck me both from reproducing some of Lindsay The Frugal Crafter's tutorials that it's taken me a while to work out what the best match in my preferred range would be. From taking part in her live chats, many of those present ask about other paint brands and are from all over the world - so I'm not the only one who'd benefit from this information I've been looking for for my own benefit - hence I'll share them.

I'm just finalising the logistics of how I'm going to format this information to make it easy to use.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Supplies I Need To Use

I managed to start using my poor abandoned gouache this past week, so I've been thinking about what other supplies I have that I just plain need to use! The fact is - I cannot refuse a bargain - so I have plenty of things I got because they were a good deal but I've not really used much. Last night, I saw that Lindsay The Frugal Crafter had posted a much-requested video (seriously, every tutorial she does, someone asks for this!) tutorial using chalk pastels - incidentally, I cannot get used to Americans pronouncing "pastels" - in the UK, we say "pæstl", but in the USA they say "pæ'stɛl" (IPA). I replied to Lindsay's video to say "Y'know I really need to get some chalk pastels - and start using my oil ones..." - then when I started writing this post, I remembered, I have some Derwent Pastel Pencils, that I got for 50p each in my local art shop's "Clearance" section to make space for new stock - they normally sell for £1.80 each, so that was pretty good - I've not used them yet! I also have some Derwent Tinted Pastel Pencils I bought in a few specific colours to add to my stash thereof and, since buying those, I've not used them. So, that means I can probably try Lindsay's tutorial, albeit in random colours! I also have a set of oil pastels - Derwent Academy Oil Pastels - which are student-grade but they feel nice to use, I just wish I knew more techniques and found them a bit easier to use in terms of making what I'm looking for.

I've neglected my acrylics a LOT since I started painting watercolour every day as a challenge to myself. I have a mixture of different types, all from Daler and Rowney - CRYLA Artists' AcrylicsSystem 3 Acrylics and Graduate Student Acrylics - I don't have any of their budget line - the Simply Acrylic Paint. I've got some Simply Golden Taklon Brushes, which I think are fantastic value - they're really good quality for the price and are great for acrylics - you can kind of get away with using them for thick gouache application but not really anything else. I did get a set of Simply Oil Paints, because I wanted to learn some basic techniques and ways to use the paints without worrying too much about pigment load or quality etc - just something to practice and play with. Back to acrylics, Daler and Rowney oddly sell 4 grades - I'm used to "Artist, Student, Basic" combinations, like their watercolours - Artist's Water Colours, Aquafine Student Watercolours [sold as Georgian Watercolours in the USA], Simply Watercolours - but in their acrylic range, both the Graduate and the System 3 ranges are marketed as being student paints - the latter are better quality, however. I believe System 3 is for "amateur artists and experienced students" or some similar wording, but price-wise, Graduate just aren't as good value in terms of pigment load.

Finally, my dear neglected embossing powders - I very, very highly rate the range of Wendy Vecchi embossing powders by Ranger - the colours are fantastic and the quality is really high (I've reviewed all of them on Amazon). Wendy herself has posted some great mixes she's produced from her embossing powders - something that I've done a fair bit of myself and shared with her a technique for faux enamelling that uses her powders - something I'll be making a video tutorial on soon.

So, that's a whole load of stuff I want to make more use of! This is before I even get as far as inks...!

Monday 11 April 2016

YouTube Finds of 2016 - First Quarter

I've started interacting with people on YouTube this year, really for the first time in spite of using YouTube since it began - I wanted to share a few of my 2016 First Quarter favourites - just 5 channels will get selected every 3 months - not always obvious once I interact with a lot - just once that have touched me in some way.

Shonduras - What a nice guy. I found him totally by accident just last weekend and I was won over in seconds by his energy and sense of fun. If you have time, watch his video entitled "Draw My Life..." - I watched it and it was totally not what I expected. What a genuinely lovely, pro-active and enterprising guy. His vlogs with his wife and daughter are so cute too, if you need a fix of babycuteness...! [I don't but even I'll admit Adley's very sweet]

Jennifer McGuire - One of my first discoveries of 2016 actually - right around Xmas/New Year. Often I'm in too much pain to sleep so I like awake watching YouTube - somehow I ended up watching Blick Art Materials Lesson Plan videos, which I got hooked on, and then YouTube suggested I might enjoy Jennifer's videos. It was actually watching those that made me decide 2016 was the year to stop painting in secret, as I have for 20 years!

Kristina Werner - I came to her via Jennifer and she made me realise I could share my paintings as cards, if nothing else, and that I was more creative than I thought. Her beautiful hand lettering is something I will never master, however!

SupDaily06 - This is a totally honest, totally frank and warts-and-all vlog from a guy called Chris Thompson. He uses it often as an outlet and a means to vent, which can be hard to watch at times as you can really feel his pain. He's a nice guy though and makes a lot of effort to support LGB and trans* people and I really like that about him. He speaks a lot of common sense and I enjoy listening to him.

Dave Cad - This is one of those vlogs where I have no idea how I found him. But what's not to love? He's hilariously funny, full of energy and has a big inane grin for a start! He sometimes does videos speaking in Finlandsvensk (he's English but his ladyfriend is Findlandsvensk), which are really interesting (if you speak Swedish, of course!).

Sunday 10 April 2016

Dog Project - Part 5 - Finishing en grisaille and starting colour

Yesterday, I worked en grisaille to paint a tonal map underlayer that I would paint over in gouache. Today - my last day of annual leave for some months - I had a big sleep-in and then went shopping for a new bit of filming equipment (review coming later today!) and some biscuits and then came back home to work on the Dog Project some more. On my way home, I got a text from B (whom I'd shown the charcoal sketch) - he loved the charcoal and didn't want me to paint it, bless him, so I sent him the unfinished tonal map and carried on ;o)

First of all, I completed the tonal map en grisaille, including adding in the pure white bits (the colours I'm using for this are listed in yesterday's post). 
The area outside of the window is not a tonal map - it's just a sketch to guide me. I'd already picked out the colours of Winsor and Newton Designers' Gouache that I wanted to use - I have them all dried into a palette but I decided today to use them direct from the tubes as I wanted to be sure they were really clean - this is how glamorously I store my gouache tubes:
("Danish" biscuits tin - these, full of quite nice biscuits, are £1.00 in most "pound shop" chains in the UK - I am a big fan of pound shops...!)

I blobbed-out some gouache onto the lid of my big studio watercolour palette as that's a nice flat surface.

From top left, in rows: Raw Umber, Primary Yellow, Primary Red, Primary Blue, Permanent Green Middle, Permanent Yellow Deep, Ivory Black, Zinc White - the full details of which one can be found on my gouache colourchart post.

I began with some browns to paint the windowframe and the drawers - a mix of Raw Umber with varying amounts of Permanent Yellow Deep did just the trick! I then tackled the window by painting in a sunset with a kind of impressionist-style gradient (it's far away!) of Primary Blue to Primary Red via a beautiful wine-like purple that they made when mixed. I then brewed up a range of greens, first painting in the midtone green (Permanent Green Middle, as is), then a light green (adding Primary Yellow) and a mucky dark olive green (adding Ivory Black). The walls in the photo this was based on were a kind of neutral liver-y brown, but I wanted to warm it up so I mixed Primary Blue and Primary Red to make a deep wine-purple, then added Zinc White to make a tint and then added Raw Umber a little at a time to get this creamy, muted purple:

Pretty isn't it? I also made a slightly olive-y green to paint the blanket that covers Dog - Permanent Green Deep mixed with small amounts of Permanent Yellow Deep and Raw Umber. I painted that in a bit too thick so the tonal map didn't quite show through. Finally, I made a loose wash of Raw Umber mixed with Permanent Yellow Deep to paint the blankets in the foreground - white are oatmeal-grey in reality, but as Dog is a pretty light colour, he'd be lost if I'd stuck to that! I've now left that to dry overnight and will probably add more layers to those blankets before I start to work on Dog himself.
[Yes, those ARE sheep on Dog's blanky - Dog had all the coolest stuff - including pirate jimjams. RIP Dog :( ]

Product Review: IK Multimedia iKlip Grip 4-in-1

I've gotten SO sick of having to record wonky review videos and so on where I just can't get a good overhead angle. My current set-up is a pretty amateur one - ok the hardware and software a good - an iPhone 6 Plus with FiLMiC Pro, with editing in post done using Adobe Premiere Elements 14 - but the accessories suck - a Gorilla Pod tripod with a ShoulderPod S1 clip to hold the phone. It's just not enough to get a good overhead view. So, today I went tripod hunting and I picked up an IK Multimedia iKlip Grip 4-in-1 from my local Apple store. It's one of those god-awful selfie-sticks monopods, which can also act as a mini tripod and a tall tripod some manner of extension for a traditional tripod. Whatever, it's the tall skinny tripod option I'm out for!

As always with these silly trendy products, it comes in stupidly over-engineered packaging, with hipster-friendly instructions, the obligatory pointless mini-catalogue of the rest of the product range and a daft bit of paper with QR codes on. Said bits of paper were useful in that they gave me a registration code to register my device or a QR code to use that would enter the aforementioned code into the registration website for me - that's a really nice feature and is really helpful to disabled people who struggle to type or can't remember numbers. There was a link to download "free apps" or similar too, but the only actually free one was for a microphone product they also sell - all the rest were very costly and none relevant to this item.

The instructions were illustrative and it was very easy to put together - in fact, no instructions were needed, no way, no how. It wasn't that good in practice - in that I wanted it solely for the "tall thing tripod" mode of operation, and that, when combined with the camera/phone clip supplied and an iPhone 6 Plus is very, very top-heavy. A clear design flaw in that the legs of the tripod part should be weighted! Any camera could easily topple this when used on the highest setting if you're trying to angle it downwards, to view the desktop, as I plan to.

There is a BlueTooth remote supplied with button "A" for iPhone and "B" for Android (each button does other stuff too) - reminded me of very old telephone boxes - this was very easy to use and I had no issues with it whatsoever. It operates the shutter when your iPhone is in "Camera" mode and operates "Record On/Off" when it is in "Video" mode - it has no functionality within apps such as FiLMiC Pro, however, which is a shame as they're probably more commonly used that the default apps nowadays.

Looks: *******--- 7/10
Recyclableness: ********** 10/10
Readability: ********** 10/10

Clear English: n/a - entirely illustrated
Ease of use: ********-- 8/10

Usefulness: ****------ 4/10 (as only half the functionality is what I need, the rest is daft and wasted and weighted legs would really help)
Robustness: ********-- 8/10 It's mostly plastic, but pretty strong.
Value for Money: ****------ 4/10 No way does 2 feet of plastic cost £50.


Beauty of Springtime

I thought I'd break up the art posts with some gardening - after all, it is one of my hobbies too, right? First of all, I have a GARDEN CENTRE HAUL to share! On Wednesday, dear friend B took me to the garden centre - I cannot drive and I also cannot carry heavy things due to my disability - I only have one free hand at any point in time. Given we both love plants and I'm liable to spend far more than him, thus making him feel better, he takes me to garden centres, helps me with large bags of compost and so on. I was relatively restrained, spending about £40 but entirely on plants this time - no pots or compost needed.

First off, here are eight beautiful Fuchsia spp. L. - the cultivars here have a wide range of flower colours and shapes and foliage colours too - they are as follows:
Right Column (from top) Golden Swingtime, El Camino, Rosemarie Higham and Minirose.
Left Column (from top) Insulinde, Genii, Alison Patricia and Caroline's Joy.

I have run these - still in their original pots - around the front of my big pot cluster - once the tall spring flowers die down, these beauties will come into flower!

I love herbs both to cook with and as garden plants. They look beautiful and you get wonderful smells from them. This beautiful Thymus vulgaris L. (German thyme aka Garden thyme) cultivar is called Faustini and smells amazing. I already have another T. vulgaris, but it was 3 herbs for £5.00 and this was the third, basically.

This one is a bit odd - it's labelled both "Garden Mint" and "Mentha spicata", but garden mint is Mentha sachalinensis (Briquet ex Miyabe and Miyake) Kudô, not Mentha spicata L., as that is spearmint. I've only just realised this - I'll sniff a leaf and see if it smells of spearmint tomorrow. It certainly does look like M. spicata.

This one is is labelled properly at least! Mentha × piperita L. - the peppermint, which is a hybrid of the above M. spicata and the watermint, M. aquatica L. - I love those purple stems so much! I've mixed these herbs along with my others - another T. vulgaris, a struggling little Salvia officinalis L. - the garden sage or common sage - and a very happy Melissa officinalis L. - the lemon balm. Cute fact - the lemon balm's flowers attract the honey bee (Apis spp.) - and such bees were known in ancient Greece as "melissa". I love to attract insects to my garden so I love to have flowers they can enjoy as much as I do. My herbs sit amongst my other pots of all sorts of spring and summer flowers - a separate "herb garden" wastes their beauty - but then I even mix in my vegetables!

This sorry-looking pile of twigs is actually a Callicarpa bodinieri H. Léveillé, Bodinier's beautyberry - so named because of the wonderful bright purple berries it will produce later in the year.

Slightly happier-looking I've planted two fruit bushes together - on the right is a Rubeus idaeus L. - the European raspberry - but this is a special cultivar - Fallgold, which is going to produce beautiful golden yellow fruit! The little plant on the left is the poor cousin of one of my favourite fruits of all time - it is Chaenomeles japonica Thunb. Lindl. ex Spach - the Japanese quince, which is not to be confused with the true quince, Cydonia oblongata Mill., which is my favourite fruit of all time. Apparently one can still cook the fruits from the Japanese quince, so if it ever has any of decent size, I'll be trying that! Beyond them you can see one of my grow-bags - this one has got French beans, courgettes and a summer squash planted in it - I'll do another post on those.

And finally, the crowning glory of my garden right now - standing right above the crowd is this beautiful-yet-smelly beauty - the Kaiser's crown (Fritillaria imperialis L. aka the imperial fritillary) - named because those big dangling red flowers are kind of like an emperor's crown...yeah right. This beauty came to me in about September last year when I picked up a bulb for about £3.00 and the instructions to said to plant it sideways so it didn't rot. It STANK - really musty fox-like or even cannabis-like (allegedly) smell - so I planted it in a huge pot and surrounded it with a ring of Viola spp. Cut to 2 weeks ago, I was out in the garden and could smell this plant and thought it must be about to come through the soil - I checked the middle of the pot, nothing. Then I realised it had grown THROUGH the plastic pot, breaking it, and had erupted to the side of it, wit a 1 metre tall spike of leaves with these big red flower buds under it, ready to open. And my word - it STINKS...! I'm told it should stop smelling now the flowers are out but nope, it still stinks!!!

Dog Project - Part 4 - Painting En Grisaille

So, yesterday, I kind of started again, working from a new picture of Dog and in a new medium - gouache. There are many different ways of working in gouache and I'm going to use two for this painting - the first is an underpainting, the second is the midtone method. The underpainting in this case is en grisaille, that is to say, entirely done in shades of grey and focusing only on levels. The underpainting is then overpainted in coloured gouache and this helps get the light and shadow just right.

Now, when working in watercolour, one normally mixes one's own black by neutralising a colour with its complement - a yellow with a purple, a red with a green, a blue with an orange (ultramarine and either of the siennas make nice blacks) - or, if doing a three-colour painting, you just mix your red, blue and yellow and get a black that will "sit" well with all of your colours and won't look If one doesn't want to do that or needs something much more black, one still doesn't reach for a tube of black paint - one would use Payne's Grey. This is a mix of colours and varies by manufacturer as follows:

Payne's Grey Compositions
Winsor and Newton, Cotman Water Colours (465): PBk7, PB29, PB15.
Winsor and Newton, Professional Water Colours (465) : PBk6, PV19, PB15.
Daler and Rowney, Artist's Water Colours (065): PBk7, PB29.

PBk6 - Shungite - this is a natural carbon mineral that contains Buckminsterfullerine - I know this cuz I have a bracelet made out of it, it's kind of "posh coal" as I think of it! It's a beautiful mineral to wear and I guess Winsor and Newton use it because of the unique properties the fullerines must give to the paint?
PBk7 - Lamp Black - powdered carbon.
PB15 - Phthalocyanine Blue - yup, good old phthalo blue.
PB29 - Ultramarine Blue.
PV19 - Quinacridone Violet. 

See the problem yet? The problem is that if one does an underpainting that contains ultramarine, quinacridone violet and phthalo blue, they will seep into the upper coloured layer and give you mud, ruining the painting. Thus, when painting an en grisaille underlayer, one has to use a proper black!

I just found this picture of me wearing my shungite (PBk6) bracelet. The large pendant is obsidian (volcanic glass) and the rest is all jet (coal). I took this photo to show my dear friend J what I will be wearing after he gets married next month, as a joke, given we have a pseudo-jealousy thing going on for the sake of banter.

The lovely thing about gouache is that you have a WHITE PAINT! No more having to remember to leave white space, you get a nice white paint instead. I have a semi-opaque 748 Zinc White , which contains only PW5 - Lithopone (a mix of barium sulfate and zinc sulfide) - cool fact - if you take any 5mL tube of watercolour and add to it 0.75mL of this Zinc White gouache, you can make yourself a custom gouache of that same shade. Cool huh? Dunno where I heard that, but it works. I can then take this white and mix it with my black - 331 Ivory Black - which contains only PBk9 - Bone Black (a kind of charcoal made from charring animal bones - it used to be made from ivory back in the good old days when people did unbelievable and unspeakable things and no one cared) - this makes a very clean black and of course, one can mix the black and white to get a series of nice neutral grey levels and it is with these that we paint en grisaille as an underpainting, safe in the knowledge that it won't give us mud!

It took me about 1h to paint the en grisaille rendering of the original image. I used my Sable No. 4 Round brush - the whole thing done with one brush - and I just really relaxed and gently painting in the shadows. I've not yet added any pure white - but I need to - I've used the paper as white, which is not correct, so I need to rectify that before I add colour. The original stopped just above the drawers with an empty fruit bowl and a phone, so I used artistic license and added a window, with a view of the park near to B's home, which I am going to add some special details to that mean something only to B and myself.
When put side-by-side you can get more of an appreciation for it - I've deliberately not done a perfect copy - what's the point? A painting is a painting, not a photograph, right? My next steps are going to be to start colouring it with gouache - I'm going to start with the view from the window which I will be using a midtone method for, effectively, as I'm only lightly sketched the trees in the distance thus far. I will then start work on the room and finish with Dog, as I've decided he would be lit slightly from behind given when the window is and it'll be a beautiful sunset outside, so that light will be warm and pink. Tune in next time to see my progress!

Saturday 9 April 2016

Dog Project Watercolour - Part 3 - Rebooting

Well, I'm going to confess, I had some issues and I've had to make some big changes - but first of all, what I did following last time. I should add a few words of explanation actually because a few people on Twitter have asked me. Dog belonged to B, who is a very dear friend of mine and who is extremely kind to me. B rescued Dog about 6-7 years ago and loved Dog very much - and to cut a long story short, Dog, at a ripe old age of like 14, had to be put to sleep in early January 2016. I made B a canvas transfer of the same photo of Dog that this painting was originally based on, back in Jan/Feb for his birthday - a simple transfer of a CMYK laser print using Mod Podge (Matte) on a box canvas, which I then decorated in a mix of acrylic paints (375 Sap Green, 367 Oxide Of Chromium Green and 634 Naples Yellow, mixed to make an opaque sage green) and some of Tim Holtz's products to distress it somewhat - I sprayed on Distress Spray Stain in "Picket Fence" through one of Tim's layering stencils. I noticed at the time that Dog had interesting angles and shadows and would make a good watercolour, hence Project Dog was born to produce a watercolour to give to B as a gift.

Following on from the last instalment, I made a wash using Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours in 178 Cobalt Blue and 448 Opera Rose so that I got a nice sky with a warm purple sunset descending into pink along the horizon. I also applied a wash in 503 Permanent Sap Green for the grass, adding shading by mixing 178 Cobalt Blue into the green along the grass underneath Dog.

You can't really see it in the photo as it's just a snapshot, not a proper photo for the blog, but the purple-blue sky came out really well and had a nice soft edge. I did this using a 1" black goat mop to apply water to the paper and then a 1" white goal oval wash to apply the paint.

It looked really nice...and then it all went wrong! When removing masking fluid (which had been on for like 24h - the instructions and other users online seem to say you have about 3 days to remove it in before it sets fully), it removed the top layer of the Bockingford 425gsm rough watercolour paper right in the middle of Dog's back... This meant that when I then applied 319 Indian Yellow, it 'clogged' in the 'pealed' paper and left a huge area of really dark I had to abandon ship, which makes me sad as the washes are some of the softest and most beautiful I've ever done.

There was also a second issue - Dog's face in this photo is at a funny angle and thus hard to paint, so I went back to B and asked for some photos of him - the original photo was one that another friend, R, took at a party we had back in December. I managed to get 3 photos of Dog that I thought might work and I thought a lot about how to imagine them in watercolour. 

Then...yesterday morning I was lying in bed watching YouTube and I found some lovely gouache technique videos and, as I'd just the other day been saying how much I should actually use my gouaches, I decided to reboot and, as well as changing photos, to change medium too!

So, this is the new photo of Dog I'm working from - I've drawn all over it, but you get the idea. First I printed it out onto white A4 printer paper using my laser printer, at the side at which I'd like to paint it.
Next, I prepared to make a charcoal transfer. First thing I did was cover the back of the picture with charcoal, I use Daler and Rowney Simply Charcoal in Medium, which I got in a Simply Artists Sketching Set, which is about 6 quid and really good value - I think I got mine for about £3 in the January sales this year - I always buy "kits" etc if they mean a cheap way to get a couple of decent pencils and charcoals. This particular set has 2 sanguine sticks, 2 charcoal sticks, an eraser, a pencil sharpener a sandpaper block, 2 paper stumps, 4 sketching pencils (HB, 2B, 4B, 6B - and they're really nice to use too) - that's pretty good value I'd say, especially if like me, you seldom use charcoal or sanguine or even pencils so just need some basic supplies...however, I digress! Back to the project! I covered the back with charcoal - the weird stripe on it is just where there's painters tape on the surface underneath. 

I then "polished" it using kitchen paper to remove all of the dust. I then applied another coating of charcoal and then polished it again - this leaves a pretty good "transfer backing" as I call it - it's stable and doesn't stain every surface unless you press hard and, if you've done it right, doesn't leave any dust.

I took the transfer-backed picture and laid it into the middle of a sheet of The Langton Prestige 14" × 10" 100% Cotton cold-press watercolour paper, which is sold by Daler and Rowney. It's a nice paper in terms of texture and so on, but these blocks do buckle if you paint quite wet, but gouache doesn't uses washes, so that's ok, right?

I added some registration marks and taped the paper into place with blue painters tape (which is cheaper in hardware shops than in art shops!) and then traced over all the main lines in the photo using an HB pencil from the set I mentioned above.

The image transferred properly and pretty cleanly and kept nice pale lines - it's important to use a medium charcoal and not a soft one otherwise the lines can be very dark and you don't want lines showing in the finished painting. I touched a few bits up with a 6B pencil (soft and pale) just to make sure I had every line in place.

I then taped around the area I wanted to work in so that I would get a nice border when finished with straight edges - there's a lot of paper either side of the picture - this image covers about 1/3rd of the width. I removed that black thumbprint using a putty rubber, which works well with charcoal, of course. So, now I have an image to paint, what am I going to do...? Tune in next time for the next instalment of Dog Project and find out!