20 January 2015

ArtSnacks - Studio Collection 2014 (Part II)

Hey, are you ready for Part II of my ArtSnacks Studio Collection feature?!  This time you'll get to see some brief testing and general demonstration of the items I received in my Studio Collection box.  Not everything from the box will be shown here--the Lumi Inkodye set requires ample sunlight, something that's in short supply during Northwest winters in the States--but on the whole you should get a nice idea of the possibilities these awesome art supplies hold.  Let's get into it!

Confidant Sketchbook with Drawing Done with Copic Doodle Pack
I put my fancy Studio Collection sticker in this sketchbook~

I couldn't wait to try out these first couple items: the Copic Doodle Pack (I received the brown set) and the Baron Fig Confidant sketchbook.  I was particularly impressed and excited by these things from the first moment I saw them and I haven't stopped using them since (I've actually been carrying them around everywhere I go, replacing my usual sketchbook and pencil pouch).  For my first test, I decided to fill in the bookplate area at the beginning of the Confidant.

Close-Up of Bookplate Drawing
This photo really shows the glitter from the Spica pen!

I started the above drawing with the brown Copic Multiliner pen.  I then added blocks of color with the two Copic Ciao markers (E31, the lighter brown, and E35, the darker).  After that, I added detail and went over some existing lines with the Atyou Spica pen (in chocolate, i.e. warm brown).  Around the border, I added even more detail with the Multiliner.  Having a restricted but highly coordinated set of tools to use, by which I mean the Copic Doodle Pack, actually increased my sense of satisfaction while drawing this.  I felt a lot more creative, as if I was using logic to both create and solve a puzzle.  Rather the same feeling I get when creating my monthly ArtSnacks Challenge, hee hee.

When examining these items one-by-one, I'm generally pleased with all of them, though a few do have some shortcomings.  The Copic Multiliner and Atyou Spica pen both perform perfectly, exactly as expected, no complaints there.  The Copic Ciao markers, though awesome for their beautiful color and two different nibs (one end is a chisel tip, the other is a brush), seem to be quite dry.  I had only done a couple small drawings when I noticed the color was no longer flowing freely from the nibs.  I know these are refillable--and that the Ciao markers have a much smaller reservoir compared to the standard Copic marker I normally use--but it's disappointing nonetheless.

The Baron Fig Confidant sketchbook is also quite pleasing--beautiful off-white and smooth-textured pages, binding that allows the book to lay flat while you draw, a tassel to keep you at a fresh page every time, and a strong, compact storage box that protects your sketchbook while on the go--but the pages do bleed profusely when used with marker.  Not only does the color seep through to the back of the page after just one layer of marker, it will stain the front of the next page if you add any additional layers.  This hasn't stopped me from using the Copic Doodle Pack with the Confidant, but it does prevent me from using the front and back of each page (and also I must accept that sometimes a markered relic from the previous drawing will be present in the next).

Overall, I can't say either of these two items, the Copic Doodle Pack and the Baron Fig Confidant, are something I would definitely buy on my own once they're used up (I might buy them, mind you, I just don't feel I would be lost if I didn't) but they're still a couple of my very favorite and most-used supplies from the Studio Collection.

PanPastel Pans Unscrewed and Laid Out
Focus on the Tools in the Bottom Pan

The next items I tested out were the PanPastel Artists' Pastels on the Aquabee Co-Mo sketchpad.  I really have only an instinctual idea of how pastels are meant to be used, but even through my ignorance, the big, bright colors and the intriguing set-up of the PanPastels called to me most insistently.  I can't properly describe how quietly thrilling it was to take apart and examine all the little goodies contained in the pastel stack.  First, there are five beautiful colors, each getting its own mini-spotlight as the container (or lid) above it is unscrewed and removed.  The primaries (red, blue, yellow) are deliciously vibrant while the black and white are velvety and rich.  Then, revealed in the bottom-most pan, there are four different, exciting-looking tools to play with!

All of these tools look and feel exactly like makeup applicators.  That's not a complaint or jab, just something I find interesting since I was already reminded of makeup from the moment I pulled this product out of the box (more about that in Part I).  There were four specific tools included with the PanPastels: a relatively large, rectangular sponge with one square and one curved end, a small applicator stick with a spade-shaped sponge tip (exactly like a typical eye shadow applicator), and two sleeve-like sponges, one round and one square.  The nice thing about these items is, since they're obviously made of the same stuff as makeup applicators, it'll be easy and inexpensive to replace or augment them (just stop by the health & beauty section at pretty much any department store).

Various Pastels Applied and Mixed on the Page
So bright, so bold!  I want to experiment more fully with these pastels!

I feel this photo doesn't do justice to the awesome, rich color that the pastels left on the Co-Mo sketchpad.  When I first scooped up the pigment with the various tools, I was going in with the idea of testing how each tool worked to apply the color.  As soon as the first mark was made, however, all I could think about was experimenting with mixing and layering these bold colors.  I really didn't notice much difference between the four sponges, though I did diligently work with each size and shape.  Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the beautiful colors (bright, energetic colors are my weakness) and when I work with these pastels again in a more structured or purposeful way, perhaps I will be able to properly appreciate each applicator's unique qualities.

In any case, there's no doubt the stars of the PanPastels tower are the pigments themselves.  It didn't take much pastel to create vibrant, thick coverage.  They mixed with each other well, too, especially the primary colors.  Both the white and the black simply dulled the primaries--creating various smoky grey colors as opposed to a darker version of red, blue, or yellow--but if one is aware of that fact, it can be used to the artist's advantage (or at least avoided when the effect is not desired).  Overall, my impression of these pastels was that they exist and work somewhere between the realm of colored pencil and watercolor paint.

Used Applicator Sponges in Their Pan
All done for now!

Something I want to point out before I move on is that using the sleeve sponges on the end of the spade applicator was tricky business.  I quickly rubbed a hole into one of the sleeves.  I wasn't working very vigorously, so my warning to anyone using these applicators is to use a light hand or find a different type of stylus to use the sleeves on.  If you're wondering why I didn't just place the sleeves over the spade sponge itself, rather than the black plastic handle, it's simply because they didn't fit.  Or at least, they wouldn't have fit without much stretching and struggling with sponge-against-sponge friction.  I think even if I had gone that route, I probably would have caused more damage to the applicators than I did with the over-handle method.

I should also mention that I haven't tried washing these sponges yet.  They seem like they would clean up easily with soap and water.  I'll find out next time I use them, since I don't want to muddy up the color in the pans by using unclean applicators.

Drawing Done with Blue KRINK K-32 Marker
Close-Up of Krink Marker Drawing
Close-Up of Krink K-32 Paint Marker

I used the Co-Mo sketchpad again for my very brief test of the Krink K-32 water-based paint marker.  Partly because I knew the paper couldn't take it and partly because I'd prefer to do it in conjunction with other water-soluble art media, I didn't do any in-depth experimentation such as thick layer building or gradating with water.  All I did here was play around with the tip to see what kind of shapes it would produce.  I'm happy to report it proved quite versatile!  You can see in the photos above I was able to coax out little thin lines, softly angular dots, and big fat strokes.  The blue color was satisfyingly vibrant and bold (again, my weakness!) and provided dense coverage.  It didn't take too long for the pigments to dry, while still leaving enough working time if one wanted to mix in some water.

I admit I didn't spend too much time testing this item, but it's easily one of my top favorite Krink products to date.  I'm going to experiment with it more in conjunction with regular watercolor paints.  I think the results will be great.

Written Examples of the ZIG Pen Capabilities
Close-Up of the Four ZIG Twin Tips

Even more briefly than the previous item, I tested the ZIG Memory System Twin Tips set.  On the face of it, these pens are fairly straightforward.  Two different nibs on either end of each pen, for a total of eight different tips, all with black ink inside.  The pens are well-designed with a delicious satin finish on the body and caps that stack so there's no interruption to workflow (so annoying, realizing the cap cannot be snapped onto the other end of the instrument, having to set the cap down wherever while working, then trying to find it again among the inevitable clutter of one's creative process; stacking caps are a must for double-ended pens!).  In the photos above, I show what each different nib produced when writing (please note that I am no calligrapher, ha ha).

Although this set is clearly intended for calligraphers, scrapbookers, and anyone else doing decorative lettering, as an illustrator I've found the wide range of marks these pens create to be useful and refreshing for any type of line work.  Outlining with the scroll tip (as I did on my Tea Ducks), filling in with the 5.0mm calligraphy tip, hatching and stippling with the writer, there are all kinds of cool things that can be done to enliven and complete a drawing or painting with these versatile pens.  For me, the set isn't so much a thing to be used all at once to create a single piece but, rather, an array of tools with the potential to augment almost any artwork I produce.  This is one of the most useful items I received in my Studio Collection box and I've since kept it nearby whenever I'm working.

As far as this testing session is concerned, this is the last time I used the Co-Mo sketchpad so I'll leave my review of it here.  I was quite satisfied!  The texture isn't what I normally go in for, but for use with the PanPastels, it was perfect.  When I used the Krink paint marker, I was happy to see that it didn't bleed through onto the next page.  And finally, when I wrote with the ZIG pens, the ink did not feather and I was left with lines as fine and crisp as could be hoped.  Like the Baron Fig sketchbook, it's not something I feel I couldn't live without, but it's definitely (as a lover of artist papers) something I'm pleased to now have in my repertoire.

Sketch on Smartphone App Done With Buddy Stylus
Showing the Buddy Stylus Creating a Mark

At last, we have come to the final item I'll be demonstrating here.  This is the first digital media tool ever featured in any post on this blog, as it happens.  It's the Buddy Stylus!  I simply placed it on the blunt end of a Papermate pen and fired up my rarely-used smartphone sketching app (nothing wrong with the app, I just prefer sketching on paper.  The app is Autodesk SketchBook, if you're curious).  Since I rarely create on my phone, I don't have much to compare my experience to, but I can say the Buddy Stylus performed without issue.  I was able to draw lines, select menu options, basically do anything I might otherwise have done with my fingertip on a smartphone screen.  The stylus itself is made of velvety-smooth, firm-but-forgiving rubber, making it reasonably comfortable to use.  Above all, it really is nice to choose what instrument to use the stylus with, though I think there is probably a limit to how thick a pen it can accommodate.  I imagine this product would be especially useful for those digital artists who create on tablets.

So that's all for now!  Come summer, I'll use the Lumi Inkodye kit, the only Studio Collection item still left to test out, and share my results with you.  Maybe I'll call it Part III.  Please look forward to it!  Until then, let me know what you thought of the items featured here.  Anything else you would like to see done with them?  Do you have personal experience with these tools?  Suggestions for neat, unthought-of uses you would like to share?