Fun with Black Paper 3: Van Gogh Watercolor Set and Paper

Due to my ongoing obsession with black paper, I decided to give a new brand (to me) a try Van Gogh watercolors. I picked up the Specialty Set of Metallic and Interference Watercolor (I paid $55, but its $45 at Cheap Joe’s right now) and a 16.5” √ó 11.7” black paper pad ($25). Made by the Dutch company Royal Talens. Van Gogh is their “student and artist” line.

I can never remember to take photos before I start using a new set.

I am generally not a fan of student grade watercolors with a few exceptions. Many are so low pigment and so tricky to work with it can take the joy out of a painting. While others are fine for practice if you don’t need your piece to be lightfast. I have student grade paints I use for pieces I intended to scan and turn into digital art because, for that purpose, lightfastness is moot. Outside of that, I generally tend to stick with professional-grade paints. But, the Rembrandt Special Effects pallet is very expensive at the $100 price point and did not seem worth the investment for what amounts to experimentation on my part at this point. But, I am contemplating picking up the Rembrandt specialty colors in tubes, especially the glass-based paint in the future, which seems to be a better value than the set.

The Van Gogh set comes in a plastic box with a mixing palette and a travel brush. The pans are removable and come individually warped so you can order refills of your favorites. I know, given this is a student grade, I should expect plastic, but I find this kind of plastic case hard to travel with as I can’t use magnets to hold the pans in place nor the clips you see in some metal cases. I like that the case is black, but I wish this was also true for the included mixing palette, which is white. It is tough to see the colors of the interference paints on white.

For student grade paints, these are relatively pricey, but I think they are good quality student paints. I would put the metallics on the same level as the beloved Finetec brand for opacity. They would make excellent brush calligraphy paints. The interference behaves differently than I was expecting. I have used interference acrylics before, and the color shift between colors when viewed from different angles. The mic coated particles shift between an opalescent color and its complement. Such as red to green or yellow to purple. The watercolor Van Gogh interference paint shifts from white to colored. But are still very pretty, and I can see applications for feathers, scales, and other iridescent features. The interference paints really pop on black paper and give subtle sparkle on white. They do not scan well, however, and the camera really does not do them justice either.


I decided to try to paint an illustration with just this set, which was rather tough, and I did end up falling back on my white and black pens for details after.

They worked much better for me as part of a mixed media piece with gouache, ink, and Finetec watercolors.

As for the paper, it is 140 lbs and is a reasonably decent watercolor paper. It will only buckle if you get it sopping wet but will then dry flat. It works excellent for brush calligraphy and illustration. The only drawback is both sides are rough, so for dip pen calligraphy, the Stonehenge pad is a better option. Overall I would say using these supplies was a pleasant experience, and I will defiantly experiment with them more in the future.

Happy Art Journey,



Spring is coming! Also more black paper!

This week it snowed in upstate New York. I keep trying to remind my self that warmer weather is on its way. I was lucky where I live as it was just a dusting that quickly melted but Western NY got quite a lot.

My Mother’s Facebook post on the 9th.

I stayed in yesterday instead of prepping my garden beds because it was so dang cold! But, the world will go on and it will warm up eventually. I have been painting blooming branches to remind me of that last month. This week seemed like an appropriate time to post them. ūüôā

Happy Art Jounrey,


New Year Reflections and a Gift for My Nieces

Happy New Year! It has been a very long time since my last post. More than nine months actually. I had considered canceling my Word Press subscription as I was not utilizing it. But, I came to the realization that I did not have the extra bandwidth in my mind to write reflectively about my art practice, and that was a temporary state of being. So I choose to keep my subscription for one more year.

Happy New Year

In the last year, I moved twice and started a new job. I was barely managing to do a few doodles every week, let alone dedicate the time to thoughtfully write about my efforts and progress. Now that I am settled in my new house, I am not spending time thinking about furniture purchases and mortgages. Likewise, I have completed my first year at my new job, and I am finally feeling comfortable there as well. My mind is far calmer than it was a few months ago.

Many of my art supplies were in a storage facility for five hours from my old apartment. My acrylics and pastels are out of storage finally, and I hope to get back to working with those soon. I feel I have the mental space to write about my favorite hobby again and hope to post several times this year. I also have a nice physical space for art now in my new home. It is a little four seasons room on the east side of the house. There is plenty of good light and a nice view of the trees and bird feeders. This is also my yoga and meditation space. Having space for the mind and body can bring a lot of ease back into one’s life. I plan to set up space in the basement for acrylics next month.

However, this statement to post more is not a New Year’s resolution. I don’t really believe in those. I have never had someone state to me that they manage to keep their resolutions. I know when I did them in the past, I always gave them up by March at best. I don’t think taking on a goal at the start of the year makes it any more achievable. This idea that I can blog more is a realization that just happened to occur to me around the New Year.

Moving on, I did quickly want to share a project I spent a good chunk of November and December on. That was designing an Alphabet chart for my nices. It is a simple design, but I had a hard time settling on what I was going to do.

Ant Sketch

At one point, I had drawn several different candidates for the letter A: Apple, Ant, Asteroid, Astronaut, and Alligator.



I waffled on a theme quite a bit. Should it be forests, space, nature, animals, insects, or the backyard? Eventually, I settled on the garden, but I will likely pick up Space, Forests, or Insects as a theme for a chart to gift to my nephew next year.

My process for this was to draw and paint each element separately. This is more a security thing for me as I have two small boys. One of which likes to look over my shoulder and often bumps me. There is a lot of risk in doing a single piece to have ink spilled all over just as I am wrapping up the letter Z.

B is for Bumblebee
B is for Bumblebee

Each element was scanned, and I then used the open-source image manipulator GIMP to tie them all together into one file. I also purchased a font license for this project. Even though I have been practicing my calligraphy, it still was not quite print-worthy. Finally, I uploaded the file to RedBubble and had to 9″x10″ copies printed.

I used a similar process to create my son’s solar system last holiday season.¬†

Solar System

I was actually surprised by how well they were liked by my sister. It is always a great feeling to put a smile on someone’s face with your work.

Happy Art Journey,

Happy Belated Chinese New Year from Canis Major

I was encouraged by a cousin to create a few dog constellation paintings in honor of Chinese New Year. Although, I did manage to get them painted around the 16th. I just did not have time to blog about it until today. There is really not much of a connection between Canis Major and the Chinese Zodiac but it was a fun crossover project. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle represented by twelve animals. This year is the year of the dog. Canis Major says Happy New Year!

Canis Major is the constellation of the dog shape. Canis major can be found at the heals of Orion a faithful dog with his hunter chasing down Lepus (rabbit) and Columbia (dove) at the feet of Orion.  Canis Major holds the Dog Star or Sirius the brightest star in the night sky. Canis minor can be found just below Gemini and is separated from Orion and Canis Major by Monoceros.


The Hunter and his Dog

I like to think of Canis major with Orion on a never-ending cosmic hunt with Lepus and Columbia narrowly escaping each night.


Happy Art Journey,