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adventures in handmade watercolour paint

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I've ventured into unknown territory, making my own watercolour paints, for my own use (not to sell). The entire paint-making process has always fascinated me, the way artists through the centuries have made their own paints out of natural pigments. The same is still the case today, even though we have a lot of synthetic alternatives to those natural pigments (some of which are no longer available and/or far too expensive for an amateur artist's pocketbook). Paint is basically a pigment dispersed in a paint binder - a medium that adheres the pigment to paper, so it won't just flake off when dry.

So far, I've made paints from 15 pigments... and I have another 27 yet to try!

The paint you see in these photos is malachite (PG39) - a lovely cool 'mint' green which is transparent, semigranulating and nonstaining.

I only make small batches at a time, filling only 2 or 3 half pans per pigment, but that will last me for a bit. I started with a few favourites that I use…

Our 4 cats

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If you're reading this, thank you so much for checking in on my art blog, even though it's been a while since I've been able to post. It's been pretty crazy around here with finalizing the renovations on our century-old home after a very long and messy 6 months. Then, of course, the inevitable exhaustion and recovery that followed and the opportunistic cold/flu bugs that pounced soon after. But enough of that... on with the painting!

For the longest while, I have wanted to do a page spread in my sketchbook for each of our 4 indoor cats (all spayed females), partly as a memento but also as an art challenge to try and capture their likeness and unique little quirks. I initially did one for our oldest cat, Libby, who will turn 20 in the new year; she still has a lot of spunk and is actually the most energetic of our four cats. Then I did a spread for Sookey, a.k.a. Tank, the youngest of our cats (age 6-7), a stray calico we brought indoors back in 2014. She's the size…

The Port Grocer

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On Sunday morning, during our 'staycation', hubby and I had a gorgeous brunch of the best eggs benny ever at The Port Grocer in Port Medway, Nova Scotia - one of our favourite spots. It offers amazing food made with local produce and the service is always warm and friendly. Here’s a short little video that shows the store/cafe (the cafe has since expanded since this video).

I thought it would be nice to capture the colourful building in my etchr sketchbook. I took the reference photos from a couple of weeks back; it was a very hot sunny day, with stark contrast in values. Fun to paint!

By the way, this is just a photo of the painting in my sketchbook, not a scan... so the colours and lighting are a tad off. I'll scan it in later.

ebb and flow

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As the years pass, I am noticing that there is an ebb and flow to my creativity. I've been trying to accept whatever phase I'm in, learning to accept change that I can't control... trying to enjoy natural shifts, not unlike the changing seasons. These past 5-months of our house renovation has forced me into a rather long 'ebb' with regard to my art, mainly due to stress, illness and exhaustion. Making art should be a joy and while it can be relaxing, it also costs mental energy... a commodity I have had little of lately, even just in dealing with everyday basics of life.

It's been said that breaks from art are important, as they can help re-establish balance and joy in other areas and also refresh enthusiasm and creative juices. I have found that to be quite accurate!

Since I've left social media, I feel a sense of renewal with regard to my art. Labour Day long-weekend offered a bit of time outside along with beautiful weather. Hubby and I headed to a quiet…

Welcome to my art blog!

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Perhaps you've followed the link from my soon-to-be-defunct Instagram or Facebook accounts to this blog. If so, a heartfelt thanks for your interest and welcome! This will be where I'll share my finished artwork as well as excerpts from my sketchbooks, random art topics, and even perhaps an art supply review here and there, when time and energy permit. Posts may not come frequently, so if you would like an email notification of new blog posts, please just click the 'subscribe' button above.

I decided to leave Instagram and Facebook because I was spending more time scrolling through other people's artwork in my sparest of spare time instead of experiencing the joy of creating it myself. Ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I have loved drawing and painting over any other spare-time activity because it's my happy place; it soothes and relaxes me. I lost focus of that when I basically substituted the joy of making art with unconsciously trying to live vi…

painting my Meeden palettes

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Here are my 'almost finished' hacked Meeden palettes, which I mentioned in my last post. I love the colours! These already have 2 thin coats of Testor's enamel - one in glossy turquoise and the other in metal red.

They're a bit dull-looking in this photo, as I sanded them a bit after I let the second coat dry because there were some air bubbles on top. Hopefully the third coat will be the smoothest. I may put a spray varnish over top of that final coat to protect them, as the paint still has a tendency to dent or scratch easily.

Each of these palette covers were black previously. As I mentioned in my last post, black is standard color for most of these palettes and it's next to impossible to find one in another colour unless they are 'special edition'. I think they look much nicer with a bit of colour, don't you?

So, I'm pretty happy with my new hacked travel palettes, which I take to work to paint on breaks. Between them, I can carry around 56 pans of…

hacking my Meeden travel palettes

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Watercolour palettes are a bit of an obsession for me. I love the entire process of "agonizing"  over which colours will make it into my palette, then filling the empty pans, and making a swatch card for the finished palette. (Some paints are hard to tell apart when they're dry, so a labeled swatch card comes in handy.) I thought I'd share how I "hacked" my Meeden travel palette...
I've had two small Meeden aluminum travel palettes for a while. These are just your standard enamel-coated metal palettes, with slots that fit half or whole pans. While they are sturdily made, offer generous mixing surfaces and can fit 24 half pans (using the empty 'middle row' between the 2 metal trays that hold the half pans), they are quite heavy when filled. I've been wanting to lighten the load and perhaps fit in even a few more colours. Even though a small Meeden can usually fit 24 half pans, they have to be packed in pretty tightly, so it isn't easy to pl…

art workspace facelift

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Over the weekend, we made a trip to the new IKEA that opened up in Dartmouth this summer. It's a 2-hour drive one way, but rather than pay for shipping we decided to make a nice day trip out of it. 
It's a huge store where one could easily get lost. Rem said it's the exact same layout as one of the stores in The Netherlands not far from where we lived. I love the styles offered there; usually clean and contemporary, but also a lot of urban rustic looks that I love. Prices are almost always very reasonable! We went to pick up my desks. They come disassembled, of course, so the boxes fit easily into our SUV. Hubby was a sweetie and did all of the desk assemblage for me.
So... here’s my new art work space. If you compare it to my old space in my prior photos, you’ll notice quite a change. It needed it big time!




Hubby added shelves, made with a $5 reclaimed old barn wood plank that we found at a local antique shop (metal brackets from hardware store). The large fabric baskets ar…

Original Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art

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I finally completed filling my Pocket Palette yesterday! It looks so pretty - though I'm sure it won't stay like this for too long. I purchased this lovely piece of kit a while back, but I am just now getting it ready to use. I will be taking it with me to paint on work breaks.
At only 3.6″ long, 2.25″ wide and 0.25" thick, it is truly the smallest watercolour palette that I have seen and only a wee bigger than the size of a regular business card! It's made from aluminum which makes it extremely light weight, even with the paint pans filled - weighing less than a small travel bar of soap. However, at the same time, it doesn't seem like the palette would be easily dented or dinged, so it's obviously good quality. I have seen that they used to come in a shiny finish, but the one I have is a very nice 'brushed/matte' finish which I prefer (prevents fingerprints from showing, unless they're paint covered!) 
I chose to fill my palette with mostly Da Vinci…

art workspace & wishlist

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I am absolutely nutty about seeing other artists' workspaces/studios! Yup, I'm a "studio voyeur". I also love seeing fellow artists' watercolour palettes and what's in others' travel art bags, but that is fodder for other blog posts in the future! :)

So, on to workspaces...
Mine certainly doesn't classify as a "studio" whatsoever, but it's a workspace and not really something I have the time or funds to change too much right now, so I work with what I've got!
Here’s my little space, shoved in the corner of our study. It isn’t ideal, but it’s one of my favourite spots to be.


Right now, I mostly paint at work on my breaks (30-45 minutes) in my sketchbook. When I paint at home, I paint at my desk here in the evenings after work in the dark where I need my LED lights, obviously. What you can't see much of (thankfully, because it's UGLY) is that I have one of those white plastic storage towers with drawers, stowed underneath the left …

Featured Artist on Doodlewash

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Every 4 or 5 days, Doodlewash features a watercolor artist from around the world. Today, I am the Featured Artist on Doodlewash! Huzzah! You can see it here: Beverly Wong-Kleinjan Artist Feature
Many thanks to its talented founder, Charlie O'Sheilds, also the creator of World Watercolor Group on Facebook, for allowing me to share a bit of my art and journey with watercolours.

I am feeling under the weather today, but this definitely gave me a case of the 'happies'! :)

The most important watercolour rule...

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The most important watercolour rule that I have learned is ...there are NO RULES!
Enjoy watercolours the way you like. Too many times I have been told that watercolour has to be this or that. Balderdash! There is no one set style, no one way of painting with this medium. Enjoy painting in a realistic style, a loose style or somewhere in between... it's all possible with watercolour. 

Of course, like anything, it can take time and a lot of trial and error to learn the ways of the medium, to get it to work how you like it. The only real way to improve your skills is to "practice practice practice". There are no shortcuts. The more you practice painting, the more natural it will come to you. But the best part with painting is that practicing never has to be boring. Allow yourself to have fun! Let each painting be a learning experience, but enjoy it. Don't expect a masterpiece. Did we ever expect masterpieces when we painted as kids? Of course not - we did it because it wa…