Thursday, August 15, 2013

Experiencing Stillman & Birn's Zeta Series Sketchbooks - PART 3

After spending some time getting to know my new Zeta sketchbook from Stillman & Birn, I took it along on a family vacation to Maine. (To see Parts 1 & 2 of my review, click here and  here.) Although I packed several sketchbooks for the two-week trip, I found myself reaching for the Zeta more often than any of the others. I really like how my pens glide across that smooth paper, and I'm loving it for watercolor.

I sketched this sunset view of Otter Cove in Acadia National Park one of the first evenings we were in Maine...

7" x 7", Noodler's Lexington Gray ink & watercolor

To paint the sketch, I wet the entire page then dropped in rose violet, ultramarine blue, and cadmium yellow light, allowing the colors to merge a bit, and tilting the sketchbook to direct the flow of the washes on the smooth Zeta paper. I like how that initial wash helps to tie the parts of the painting together through color repetition.
   
Table salt and spattering added texture to the rocks in the foreground...

Detail of salt texture and spattering

Scratching in a few highlights made the water sparkle...

Detail of highlights scratched in with Xacto #11 blade

Stone Barn Farm, built in 1820, was just up the road from where we were staying. The historic old barn was just begging to be painted.

7" x 7", Pigma Micron pen & watercolor

I used the wet-in-wet "blooming" effect of watercolors to represent rusty patches on the the old metal roof of the barn.

Roof detail

And I was able to achieve some nice dry brush edges in the foreground, even though it's a bit challenging to do on the Zeta paper.

Foreground detail

Bar Harbor is a fun town with cute shops, great restaurants, and a village green complete with bandstand. The main street leads downhill to a picturesque harbor area, where I sketched this fountain. And, yes, that's a moose on top of the pink building!

7" x 7", Pigma Micron pen & watercolor

This next sketch is kind of silly, but it shows how I was feeling that day - relaxed and mellow, swinging in a hammock under a shady tree, looking out at the water, watching the sailboats go by...wishing I could stay there forever!

7" x 7", Pigma Micron pen & watercolor

On this sketch of Otter Point in Acadia National Park, I played around with many of the texturizing techniques from my sample pages. I spritzed alcohol, sprinkled salt, and did plenty of spattering.

7" x 7", Noodler's Bulletproof Black ink & watercolor

The effects of the alcohol and salt are subtle here, because my paint color on the sunlit rocks wasn't very intense. Spattering paint with my round brush and with a screen worked much better in this case. I even scattered shavings of watercolor pencil "lead" into the wet paint to add texture to the rocks. The prolonged drying time of the Zeta paper allows a more leisurely approach to adding salt, alcohol, watercolor pencil shavings, or additional paint colors.

Dark brown flecks of watercolor pencil, center right

Gray watercolor pencil shavings

Although I began my Zeta experience feeling like I had no control over what the paint was doing on the page, I gradually learned how to control it to get the effect I wanted. In the sky of the Otter Point sketch, I washed on cerulean blue, then lifted out the clouds with a damp tissue, and, after that had dried, added a light overglaze of pale gray. Layering wet-on-dry works just fine when you do it with a light touch.

Sky detail

But Maine wasn't all pine trees and rocky coastline. We also visited Thuya Gardens, tucked away on a hillside overlooking Northeast Harbor. The flowers were amazing, inspiring, and at least twice the size of similar plants here at home. The snapdragons were gorgeous!

7" x 7", Noodler's Lexington Gray ink & watercolor

Learning to paint on the Zeta paper took some practice. I'm glad I didn't let my first panicky experience discourage me from continuing. In just twenty pages of sketches, I learned how to better handle the slick paper and capitalize on its unique qualities. And I had a lot of fun just playing around. I hope my experiments have encouraged you to "test drive" a Zeta.

Detail

Stop back tomorrow when I'll be announcing a
Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook
GIVEAWAY!

Detail


22 comments:

  1. These are all wonderful paintings but I think it would look wonderful on anything you used. Loved the one of the toes showing and on the paper too. almost feel like you could just keep seeing that scene go on and on. :) Your colors are so soft.

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    1. That's funny, Cris. I almost didn't include the toes sketch in this post, because it's so silly. Now I'm glad I kept it in!

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  2. Your art is just beautiful. The Zeta books look very nice. Thanks for the oppertunity to win on of them.

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  3. Your Snapdragons are beautiful! Looks like it was a wonderful vacation! Thank you for sharing and for all the info on this type of journal! :)

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  4. Just beautiful Leslie. Thanks for sharing your inspirational work. I would love to do a workshop with you. I follow your blog so look forward to the news you will be doing an online class. In the meantime I continue practising....

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    1. I'd love to do an online class, but I have no idea where to begin with the logistics of it. I need to do some research and get it figured out, because I agree that online classes are a great, affordable option. I'll start looking into it.

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  5. Love the snap dragons!I too use Lexington grey and some of the Noodler's inks. Unfortunatly Stillman and Birn sketchbooks cannot be found here in Quebec. Still looking for them.

    I too love strawberry shortcake and lace curtains.:)
    Marie.

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  6. I love that you took on the challenge of adapting your method of working to suit the new-to-you paper, and with such beautiful results.

    I particularly love the hammock sketch. :-)

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  7. Your work brings back some wonderful visits that I have made to Maine. Wish that I had done travel journals from my trips there! Lovely work. Thanks for posting!

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    1. I have lots more ink drawings that I did while I was there in July, but probably won't have time to add watercolor to them until this fall or winter. I'll post them when they're finished. We can dream of summer in Maine while the snow piles up in January. :)

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  8. I have been journaling for about a year and new to watercolor also, wow another product to try.

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  9. The Otter Cove painting is just gorgeous. I love how soft and clear the colors are. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Just found your blog through Life Imitates Doodles. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful sketches. joyflower@sbcglobal.net

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  11. I am going to follow you; I learn a lot from these reviews.

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  12. I learned from your blog to keep trying. Even if you don't like something to start, jeep trying different thing!! You may like it. I love Stillman and birns, have not tried the Zeta yer!

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  13. Mount Desert Island, a heavenly place..I have a sketch of that fountain too from several years ago...it was so nice sitting on a park bench there in Bar Harbor...Thuya, such a contrast to the natural plant environment of Mt Desert...your sunset view reflects the enchantment that one can feel on Mt Desert Island...Otter Cliffs, has been a longtime favorite place for me...Thanks for sharing...

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  14. Leslie, your review of the Zeta series is so useful! Thank you for sharing your research and experiments with so much detail. I'd very much like to try one of the Zeta sketchbooks!

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  15. I have learned so much about the Zeta sketch books from your reviews. I love your art!

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  16. Beautiful paintings!! Love them so much!!
    <3 J

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  17. love your sketches/watercolors and the 7x7 is a cool size of sketchbook.

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  18. Wonderful sketches and paintings of Maine...especially those Acadia rocks. Maine is near and dear to my heart and I go up there a few times a year. You work with what the book does best. I haven't unwrapped my Zeta yet...still working on the Alpha I have.

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