Sunday, April 26, 2009

new large A3 Moleskine - Folio books - REVIEW

Moleskine Folio Books

There are some new sizes of moleskine sketchbooks and watercolour books available - in much better sizes for creative images. They are now doing A4 and A3 in both the sketchbook and watercolour books. At the moment they are on a special introductory offer. They call them Folio books.

acrylic ink over oil pastel in moleskine sketchbook

I bought the A3 watercolour book. A3 for those unfamiliar with European paper sizes is equivalent to 2 sheets of computer letter paper side by side - about 15 inches across the landscape format page - so 30+ ins approx across a double page spread. A really nice size :>) A4 is computer letter paper sized at half A3.

I like the elastic band closure and robust construction of my moleskine sketchbook, so, thought this was worth trying out. The previous small size of the 'large' watercolour moleskine meant I had never bought one. I believe the paper is the same. This book has the same format and pocket in the back cover for odds and ends - another nice feature.

I've been playing with the water based media I'd be likely to use when sketching plein air to see how the paper behaves.

a mixture of watercolour, acrylic inks, a little acrylic, inktense and watercolour pencil, coloured pencil and oil pastel in moleskine watercolour sketchbook - the things I would often use when sketching.

This is the first page - just quick scribbly experiments to see how it takes the media I like. It took them very well. No buckling, and I used some quite wet washes of paint, dribbling other colours in, pushing it about, scratching into it etc. It tolerated it all very well.

Watercolour and acrylic inks worked beautifully, flowing freely. Acrylic works on almost anything of course.

watercolour with a little coloured pencil over it in places, in moleskine watercolour sketchbook

acrylic ink with coloured pencil and a little inktense in the moleskine w'col book

acrylic ink, acrylic, coloured pencil and inktense in moleskine w'col book

This one was done with acrylic ink, a little acrylic paint and inktense pencils drawn through the wet washes so that the colours gelled, then there is a little coloured pencil (polychromos) added in touches.

inktense scribbles

Inktense didn't work quite as fluidly as in my Canson, hot pressed, hardback watercolour book when used alone. But I rarely work with inktense alone - I normally use them along with watercolour or acrylic for scribbles and graphic marks and it worked very well for those.



I'm very pleased with it. It takes liquid media beautifully. The texture of the paper is a fine grain that doesn't intrude on my mark making.

Good with watercolour, acrylics, acrylic inks.

Good with coloured pencil, oil pastel and inktense when used over or with watercolour/acrylic/acrylic inks.

Good for not buckling, taking a reasonable amount of scratching and working.

Good with Charcoal, Pitt Pencils, charcoal pencils, Tombo double ended water soluble pens and pencil. (not shown here)

OK with watercolour pencils and inktense - though I feel they work even better on a hot pressed, smooth paper.


It is quite expensive!

Coloured pencil alone isn't wonderful with the paper, though it can be made to work reasonably well. Not a major problem as it doesn't claim to be suiitable for them. The dark image at the bottom of the whole page image is in coloured pencil.

The A4 and A4 moleskine Folio sketchbooks

The sketchbooks are also available in A4 and A3 sizes now. If I read it right on Amazon's description in the email advertising these, the paper is different in these larger books. I think that may be a mistake on moleskines part if so. The oily smooth surface of the usual moleskine sketchbooks is a unique surface. There are cheaper alternatives if the paper is simply cartridge paper. Their own site doesn't seem to describe any difference in paper - I wonder??? Does anyone know?

I would like a moleskine in A3 with the same paper as the books traditionally have for times when that smooth surface is exactly what I need.

You can see them here

Have you tried them? what do you think? Do you like these new larger sizes?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day, Pollution

Swans nesting amongst plastic bags and floating rubbish. photograph: Vivien Blackburn

It's sad how uncaring people can be of our environment.

The canal and river wind their way through the city with a footpath enabling you to walk the entire length, a green lung for the city. Unfortunately parts are spoilt by sights like this. There is a wealth of wildlife including kingfishers in quiet spots - but swans here are nesting amongst floating plastic bags and rubbish. :>(

This is at the shallow edge of the water just beneath where I sat to draw the scene below.

The recent move by supermarkets to persuade people to stop using plastic carrier bags can only be a good thing :>)

Why don't they go back to the paper carriers for those who come without a bag of their own? from sustainable sources of course, they are much more environmentally friendly - and look much nicer too.

previous work done here

and more

and more

and go and read Sue's post today about the 4 P's - absolutely brilliant!

Monday, April 20, 2009

setting up an Etsy shop

Goody Two Shoes, ACEO, Glen Heath

One of my friends, Glen, is a very gifted painter but has only recently started to get interested in computers, websites, blogs and internet sales. I've featured her work here before.

This afternoon I helped her to make a start on creating an Etsy store - take a look. So far there are just half a dozen aceo's but more will be added, including larger works.

Glen did her BA (Hons) Fine Art as a mature student and gained a Distinction. She then went on to do her MA.

Glen's website

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tulips and Tudor

photos from a trip to Oxborough Hall, a 15C moated Tudor House yesterday.

before tobacco and potatoes arrived here or settlers arrived in the US :>)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Artists work: David Poxon

David Poxon - Made in England

Following the review I did of the Watercolour Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, David Poxon emailed me:

Hi Vivien- I always read your blog!
Thanks for the nice mention- it is much appreciated.
Attached is my pic Made In England in this years RI - please put it on your blog if you like. Size is 27" x37"- pure watercolour of course! With the current state of the nation it seemed like an apt title!
My website is if you would like to post a link .
Many thanks- heres hoping I get in the 2010 expo!
best wishes

This was an absolutely amazing painting and his website is well worth browsing - I particularly like the rusty hinges and padlocks and decrepit wooden doors - something I've always found strangely beautiful.

Thank you David for the picture and permission - and for reading!

I wouldn't think there would be any problem getting into the 2010 exhibition!

Browse and enjoy everyone :>)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Visiting the museum archives

Durer etching

This morning I was at the local art gallery and museum with an art group I belong to.

One of the members had organised for us to be taken down to the basement and be given a tour of some of the 800 oil paintings and 3,500 watercolours, plus hundreds of prints, miniatures, 3D works and more, that they store there.

Simon Lake, curator and conservator gave us a fantastic tour.

A highlight for me was a lovely polished wooden sketching box with a palette in the lid and bottles of powdered pigments and oil to mix them with. It belonged to Sir George Beaumont and was from the mid 1800's - before tubes were available. Paints were freshly mixed and stored in a pigs bladder. We saw his paintings (interesting but not having a wow factor for me) and the box that he'd used :>) There were still dry pigments and oils in the containers and some more in papers sealed with wax. I love the 'real' and human elements like this. It was absolutely delightful.

(I loved the Marmottan museum in Paris with Monet's palette on display, alongside begging letters to friends when he desperately needed money - not to mention the fabulous huge waterlilies and willows paintings in the basement).

He also handed round some 18C miniature portraits and an 'eye miniature' (which I'd never heard of) - that was particularly fascinating. It was of Maria Fitzherberts eye, misstress of the Prince Regent in Georgian times. He was buried with a miniature of her. These eye miniatures were apparently commonly of forbidden loves - they couldn't be identified simply from an eye!

He gave us a fascinating insight into the extensive collection of German Expressionist work and how our museum came to have so much - from German collectors who came to Leicester escaping the Nazis in the 1940's.

British museums, he told us, are bringing out books on their collections and our local one will be published later this year. What is needed is to catalogue everything online and have it available in the museum (like the National Gallery), especially works on paper that are rarely displayed.

Upstairs in the gallery I looked at an exhibition of Durer's etchings, including the one above, this incredible rhinoceros. These were amazing and so old - German Renaissance - they were in pretty good condition too, so sharp and clear.

We saw lots more - it would be worth enquiring whether your local museum does these archive visits.

PS Jean sent this link from her research into eye miniatures and it's well worth a look

Thanks for the website. I checked it out and actually was impressed by the range of topics covered--but nothing on eye miniatures. So I googled and came up with this interesting blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

still life completed

Still Life, acrylic, 16x20 ins. Vivien Blackburn

I decided today to paint the edges (deep pthalo blue to work with the painting) of the still life I did a couple of weeks back and finish off bits I hadn't had time to complete.

Here is the original post showing it as it was

Reducing the size to this thumbnail makes it look a bit tighter than it is really. It's quite loosely painted.

I like the way that the colours move through it better now

what do you think?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the tiny canvasses in a group

the 4 inch canvasses grouped - Vivien Blackburn

Jean asked about seeing the small canvasses together - here they are Jean :>)

Friday, April 10, 2009

and another tiny canvas

Beach, Winter Evening, 4 inch square gallery wrap canvas, 1.5 ins deep, Vivien Blackburn

Winter evening light at the beach, acrylic on deep sided, gallery wrap canvas, another for the Etsy shop.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

and another tiny canvas

Winter Morning, acrylic on deep gallery wrap canvas, 4 inches square, Vivien Blackburn

Another of the series of mini canvasses destined for my Etsy shop. A windy morning with the surf crashing on the sand and pools reflecting the sky.

The sides are painted to match the painting so that framing isn't necessary.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

more small canvasses

Early Morning, 4 inch square canvas, Vivien Blackburn

Here are a couple more from the series of tiny canvasses I'm putting on my Etsy shop

The striped cliffs at Hunstanton, 4 inch canvas, Vivien Blackburn

The first is the far tip of Cornwall where the weather fronts from the Atlantic first hit land. It's from the same spot as the one in the last coast (stormy one) but turning 180 degrees to look the other way.

The second is Norfolk, the east coast, where there is a section of cliff at Hunstanton that is banded in white chalk, brownish Carr Stone and red sandstone - a bit like an Angel Cake :>D

I enjoyed doing these and trying to keep a sense of space and light and place and freedom of mark making but on a tiny scale. I need to get on with my big canvasses as soon as I can though. Exhibitions loom.

What do you think? What range of sizes do you work?

Monday, April 06, 2009

4 inch seascapes on deep sided canvasses

High Winds and Surf, 4 inch square canvas (deep sided). Vivien Blackburn

Instead of working on my planned 40 inch canvas I was in a mood to work with these little 4 inch canvasses I'd bought to do some work for my etsy store. This one is based on a wild day with the surf pouring over the harbour wall and the rocks offshore.

Below is a side view so that you can see the painted edges and depth of the sides. It's a little bleached out by the flash - the accurate colour is above, which was taken in daylight.

I'm going to be uploading them to Etsy if anyone wants to take a look.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Watercolour exhibition in London

Yesterday I went to an exhibition of The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour in London at the Mall Galleries. It was wonderful and vibrant and extremely diverse.

What I love about this society is their openness - to them watercolour is about making paintings and not making pictures in narrow confines dictated by some committee who are full of 'thou shalt nots'. Watercolours were mixed with acrylic, gouache, pastel., oil pastel, charcoal, collage and more making for vibrant imaginative work alongside beautifully subtle pieces.

Photo realism sat next to sensitive painterly realism, dynamic abstracted pieces and pure abstracts.

Here are some links to work by the artists, sadly there is nowhere to see the actual work in the show - the Mall Galleries really need to improve their website.

It was well worth the trip and Ros and I had a great day. The weather was fantastic - warm and sunny,


The knockout of the show for me was Bob Rudd. They were large paintings, beautifully simplified down to the key elements, with a wonderful sense of light and place. Lovely loose marks and variety of expressive marks - I wanted to own one!

Shirley Trevena had some interesting landscapes but 2 were framed in deep burgundy mats and frames which made them look hot and bothered and really didn't help the painting at all I felt.

One artist at least had done hideoously grandiose multi layered framing on what would have been a nice enough work and the signature was too large - an ego problem here?

Quite a few limed wood frames very similar to mine - which of course looked good! ;>)

I was interested by the deeply angled insets in wood used by quite a few in place of mats - I liked them.

Well known people like Mike Bernard, Moira Huntly, Ann Blockley, John Hoar et al had good pieces in . David Easton. local artist I know had some abstracted landscapes. Leslie Goodwin local artist and art critic had some lovely free sketches in minimalist colours.

Martin Caulkin had some lovely work.

Andrew Boult had a fun one of just legs, a small painting - his other work is more traditional.

Marjorie Collins had a nice still life but I can't find any links for her.

Richard Cook had a couple of nice landscapes,. loose with lovely light

Ian Cook had some vibrantly coloured nudes but I can't find a link

Ron Ford had beautiful light and simplified elements

Peter Folkes work appeals to me but the group we went with thought he had 'issues' and that gravestones were a strange subject :>D all his work there featured gravestones, some with ghostly images of a face half seen (wasn't so keen on that idea, it didn't quite work for me)

Chris Forsey had some nice work in.

Tammy Gray had just one work in, a loose abstracted beach

Roger Griffiths work seemed John Blockley influenced but more stylised

Steven Allan Griffiths had the most incredibly detailed painting of an unfolded map book

Robin Hazlewood had the most wonderful sketchbook in a glass showcase, I love to see the sketchbooks.

Maggie Herbert-Jobson had one lovely loose landscape again seeming influenced by John Blockley

I liked the work of Cliff Howe but can't find a link - other than to my blog as I liked his work last year!

Colin Kent had some lovely painterly elements full of light that didn't quite gel with stylised elements for me - I wish he'd go with painterliness and forget the more illustrational feel of buidlings - there was a lovely area of light on water in one

Harry Price reflections in windows/outside view were interesting.

I like the stylised work of Michael Morgan and Rosa Sepple

Lisa Graa Jensen and Ronald Maddox - I like the way they use the patterns in the landscape. I can't find a link for Maddox which is a shame as I like his work.

Neil Meacher who does quirky illustrational paintings had an equally quirky, lovely little sketchbook on show. no links.

David A Parfitt - lovely loose abstracted landscaped but I can't find a link

Sylvia Paul had some interesting collaged pieces framed with torn edges.

Richard Plincke had a gorgeous sketchbook on show His paintings were very abstract and totally unlike the sketches

David Poxon
showed incredible photo realist work

Jane Puckering had some interesting work with unusual viewpoints - I like it

Sue Read showed a couple of exquisite little painting of delicate bowls, isolated, with space around, seen from above - beautifully done but I can't find a link.

John Tookey showed one lovely landscape . He's generally pretty conventional, but good.

Vivienne Tribbeck had some lovely Barbara Rae-ish landscapes but is unknown to google!

Naomi Tydeman had some lovely charcoal/watercolour pieces, where the charcoal was wet, mixed with the watercolour and granulated - interesting and a little reminiscent of Lindsay's mud paintngs (see Watermarks blog)

I've used charcoal with watercolour before and liked it and it reminded me to do some more.

Michael Wrigglesworth had a wonderfully loose painting of a motorbike

Geoffrey Wynne had wonderful close ups of people and boats, lively, loose, vivid, tightly cropped (much closer in than the one in the link)

There was a lovely diversity of approaches and mixes of mediai with watercolour and it kept us interested and buzzing. I like the fact that the cafe is in the middle so that you can sit and look at the work.

Other work didn't earn a comment in my catalogue so I can't remember it - some as always, was poor (IMO!) but only a very small proportion in this show.

Ok so now I'm buzzing and want to start a 40 inch canvas of the trees/reeds tangle against the blue water that I'd done in my sketchbook.

We went and enjoyed the sunshine in Regents Park across the road afterwards it was beautiful weather

I came home planning to consider the wooden angle insets some used in place of mats - if I can find out how to get hold of them. Anyone know what I mean and where I can get them?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Old Flooded Slate Quarry, Swithland Woods, Waterways project

Flooded slate quarry, Swithland Woods, Watercolour/mixed media, 11x14 ins approx, Vivien Blackburn

The pale colours here in the ground are a little bleached out - they should have a pale pink/amber colour.

Old flooded slate quarry, coloured pencil, approx 11x14 ins, Vivien Blackburn

I've been looking at the old flooded quarry near Swithland woods in watercolour and coloured pencil.

The slate that was quarried there is very ancient pre-Cambrian rock - the oldest rocks in Britain. Until recently it was thought that no fossils were preserved in this ancient rock - but recently fossils of ferns have been found (details of this and the geology and history of the area are in the links below).

It's thought that the woods are the remains of primeval forest, having been there from at least 5,000BC.


The history of Swithland Woods,
which may be the remains of primeval forest from 5,000 years BC

Geology/History/walks in the area

Photo of a larger pit nearby