Way back in late December, my 2020 January Sketch Box had a sample pad of Stonehenge black watercolor paper. This is a medium weight paper at 140 lbs with a typical water paper bumpy surface. But it is not bumpy enough to be called rough. The description does not say cold-pressed but that is how I would describe it. I have purchased black art papers in the past including a black Moleskin sketchbook and Carson XL drawing pad but both were rather low weight and meant for dry media not wet. I also have a heavier weight Strathmore Black Mixed Media pad at 140 lbs but the surface is rather smooth like drawing paper. I do like a sopping wet watercolor style and generally buy 300 lbs in watercolor papers this Stonehenge paper is not a good paper for that style. As you can see on the butterfly below the paper did start to buckle a bit with the heavy application of green gouache.
But I find 140 lbs fine for illustrations with ink and watercolor. I was very intrigued by the unique properties of this paper. I set out to create something using what had come in that box. I had a blast with the contents and this was my all-time favorite box.
I also have some gouache I purchased for an online illustration class that I have hardly touched in the last year or so. Gouache just pops on this paper. I have a new fascination with the media because of this paper. I also love metallic, interference, and mica based paints and ink which are really striking on this paper. If you own Finetech pearlescent paints give them a go on this paper you will love the results! This sent me on something of a black Stonehenge pad buying and painting spree.
I started with space illustrations because black naturally makes me think of space. Below are a few of things I painted last month.
Next, I think I will move on to the ocean and deep ocean creatures as this seems a fitting subject for black paper.
My February Sketchbox arrived last week. It was a pretty fun box containing a 12 set of Inktense Colored Pencils, a red Prisma Color Brush Pen, a Ecoline Brush Pen in burnt sienna, a black Pigma Brush Pen, and a toned mix media sample pad by Strathmore. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on each item this month as I have in the past but I did want to briefly talk about Inktense pencils.
Inktense is a line of color pencils by Derwent. The ink in the pencils is water soluble but only once. This differentiates them from watercolor pencils which like watercolor paints remain water soluble even after drying. Inktense will not react to water after wetting then drying. This means they will not blend and lift like watercolor pencils. But, the colors will retain a higher degree of intensity. Mixing and layering will result in different effects from watercolor pencils. I prefer them for when I want intense color saturation over subdued tones.
This last week a raptor or bird of prey has taken up residence in my backyard. I am not sure what species as I haven’t been able to catch more than a silhouette in my trees. As a result of the new resident, the songbirds that frequent my bird feeders have made themselves scarce. As I have mentioned in my previous posts I get a lot of enjoyment and inspiration from my backyard. I am sure the little birds will return once the raptor runs out of fat squirrels who currently seem indifferent to her presence at their own peril. I do not begrudge the raptor everyone in nature needs to eat and this is how the food chain works. But, I miss my little morning friends out my window. So I took to drawing several with the Inktense pencils, which are perfect for feathers. I really enjoyed using these in conjunction with the toned paper and a white gel pen. I also used the brush pens in red, black, and burnt sienna that came in the box for most of the pieces. In some cases, I added a little traditional colored pencil from Prismacolor. The most common species in my backyard are Jays, Starlings, Juncos, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, and Chickadees. I recommend the Cornel site https://www.allaboutbirds.org if you are interested in behaviors, recordings of calls, and images.
A Dark-Eyed Junco sitting on a rose bush branch.
Chickadee on a Juniper Bush
Cardinals and Rose-hips
I have not gotten to the Woodpeckers and Starlings yet hopefully, I will this week. My favorite two species are Chickadees and Cardinals. I love the little “fee bee” calls Chickadees make in the mornings. Cardinals bring a bit of Summer back in Winter with their splash of red against the gray environment of the season. I have linked a Chickadee bird call video form LesleytheBirdNerd‘s channel on Youtube. They really are cute little birds!
I received December’s Sketchbox Premium last week. Sketchbox is a subscription service that sends you a surprise selection of art supplies and an insert introducing you to a new artist’s work each month. It comes in two varieties Premium $36 and Basic $25. This month’s Sketchbox was a nice collection of Copic Markers! Unfortunately, I have been busy with other projects and have not gotten to play with these beyond a few doodles. Which is a shame because I love them! But, I feel comfortable enough with what I have done to give a review of Sketchbox. This month’s Sketchbox contained two Copic Sketch markers, two more Copic Ciao markers, a Dewert Pencil 4B, a Pentel Stylo Drawing Pen, and a Sketchbox Signature Sketchbook.
The Sketchbox Experience
I do enjoy getting a little package of art supplies in the mail each month. I was very happy with this month’s collection. However, there have been months where I have been a little disappointed. I would also say I have attempted new styles and mediums because of this subscription. I basically had no interest in inking before Sketchbox. Now inking is something I do often. Inking can be a quick and compact medium which makes it perfect for daily art practice. I now keep a little bag of inking supplies in my work bag for when I get a lunch break. I love the insert with artwork printed on one side and an artist’s introduction on the other. I have started following a few artists I didn’t know about because of it.
Sketchbox sends an insert describing each product and giving you the MSRP. If you total up the prices this month it adds up to $42.33. Leaving the receiver feeling like she just got a bit of the deal on the art supplies. But, here is the thing I don’t know about you but I almost never pay full price for anything at most art stores. There is a constant rotation of sale items so if you just wait a bit you often won’t have to pay full price for what you want. Most big box art and craft stores run bi-weekly or monthly coupons on full price items in addition to that. Blick runs sales so often I wasn’t even impressed by their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as they were the same sales they run every few weeks the rest of the year. My opinion of the Manufacture’s Recommended Retail Price is that it is quite inflated so stores can ‘discount’ pretty much everything. Even the little mom and pop art supply store in my village has a “their price” and an “our price” on their price stickers.
I expect to pay a premium for this kind of service, they have to pay for things like warehousing, employees, artists royalties, and shipping. So the fact that I am not getting a deal does not bother me. But, they are presenting themselves as if they are giving you a deal. They are not the only ones who do this. Pretty much every subscription service I have tried does this kind of marketing to existing customers. I personally find this variety of marketing annoying because it works on the assumption most consumers know very little about product pricing. When I priced the contents with a comparable sketchbook at an art store I came out at about $34 after sales tax. Rember these are the smaller size Copic markers, not the regular size ones that retail for between $6 and $12. If you bought this package at Blick it would be about $30 before shipping. Buying five more dollars of stuff gets you free shipping right now. But, this bundle would be more expensive at Blick if you paid shipping costs. Basically, in my opinion, the subscription cost is comparable to what you would pay elsewhere for the same supplies. Which is better than I thought it would be. I was actually expecting to get a little less than $35 of supplies for the reasons I mentioned above.
This Months Contents:
Two Copic Sketch Markers: V95 Light Grape and BG72 Ice Ocean
Two Copic Ciao Markers: BG09 Blue Green and G99 Olive
Derwent Sketching Pencil and Pentel Stylo Drawing Pen
Sketchbox Signature Sketchbook 5.5×3.5in and Art print by Nat Susrez
This is a nice little sketchbook. It has a nice hardcover, good paper, a bookmark ribbon, a band to hold it closed, and a back pocket which you could use for artists’ trading cards. As I have mentioned in the past the art print is one of my favorite parts of this subscription.
I think this is worthwhile for certain situations. If you have a teen, novice, or amateur artist in your life this would make a great gift. Sketchbox will expose them to several brands so they can figure out what they like best. I have stumbled across a few professional artist because they get this subscription and then post to Instagram with the #sketchbox. I also bought one art print because of this. So a professional could leverage this to boost their social media presence but you are also providing Sketchbox with free advertising. I am not a marketing expert so I could be completely wrong about it helping an artist improve their social media impact. I think this was fun to try for myself for a few months but I don’t foresee myself renewing after this subscription runs out.
My August Premium Sketchbox(this link gives me sharing credit) arrived a couple of weeks ago so I think I should take the time to review its contents. I originally purchased a 3-month subscription in an attempt to force myself to learn to use new art supplies and styles. Also, I have an art supply problem. I really really really like new art supplies. Actually, I love new art supplies. Being short on cash last month I decided to suspend my account until December because I wasn’t really feeling the expense was worth it. The most fun I was having with it was looking at the featured artists’ work. I am regretting it a bit this month as I really enjoyed the contents.
What is Sketchox?
Sketchbox is a subscription service of art supplies sent monthly. It comes in basic and premium subscriptions. Each month you get a box with art supplies, some cool art work, and products descriptions. SketchBox comes in a neat box featuring an artist’s work using the contents from a previous month’s box. Unfotuently I must have recycled the box and product description card because I can’t find them in my home office for the life of me. So you will have to take my word for it that the products pictured below actually came from this Month’s box. (Go me at failing sigh…)
The Contents this Month
Paint Markers and Refills
The first thing I saw was the 3 empty acrylic paint markers from Montana Markers and thought “well that is not entirely useful”. Luckily, two water-based refill colors were included Shock Yellow Light and Cyan. One marker is fine the other two are extra-fine. I mixed the colors on the 2nd extra fine to get a nice turquoise. I have to say I like the
markers. I use paint markers for the silhouettes in my constellation art quite often. So far these three have not had the usual problems I experienced with other brands becoming bleedy and/or flow stopping suddenly even if the pen is half full. I find when the flow stops on my Sharpie paint markers if I press down on the nib to reinitiate the flow I risk breaking what I guess to be some kind of semi porous seal turning the markers into an overflowing unusable mess. I have not had that problem with these Montana Markers at all so far. On the left is a quick art journal entry using the markers. There was also a Dewert Graphink Line Painter .5 in color #06 (hot pink).
Black Artist Tiles
The last item I removed from the box was black Artist Tiles which I really had no idea what to do with. So I made gift tags for my sister in law’s baby shower. Her nursery theme is Alice in Wonderland. The pink, blue, and yellow are the markers from this month’s box.
The bottom line is Sketchbox worth it?
In all honesty, I am not sure. I think it would make an excellent gift. Your loved one can get lovely surprises in the mail for one month, three, or for a full year and think of how awesome you are each time. But, for self-gifting, I am not sure. I guess I will get back to you on the topic in December.