Category Archives: In The Studio

BEHIND THE PAINTINGS

Art supply shopping is one of my favorite pastimes, but it can be quite daunting if you’re not sure what you’re looking for!

I’ve put together a personal guide to some of my favorite tools and supplies; things I use almost every single day. Although, every once in a while I like to pick up something I’ve never tried before. Often times, new materials will inspire new work. Try it sometime…

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PAPER

Let’s begin with paper. I’m a huge fan of Aquarelle Arches Grain Satiné Hot Pressed watercolor paper – I rarely buy anything else. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but the quality makes it more than worth it. Many cheap papers will warp or flake away with too much brush and water action. My suggestion, buy a cheap paper to practice on, and use Arches for your final piece. It’s often on sale at Blick.

The reason I go with Grain Satiné Hot Pressed, is simply because I love the smooth white finish – much of my work ends up being scanned to use digitally, and the smooth finish eliminates the rough background texture you often get with watercolor paper (which is nice as well!). It’s a personal preference.

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I prefer buying Arches paper in watercolor block form, but I occasionally buy the bound pads for quick access. When I’m using the watercolor block, I leave it attached until the painting is finished. That way the paper is held down to prevent warping. Once the painting is dry, I’ll remove it with a dull palette knife (like the one below) – it’s the easiest and safest (for the paper) tool to separate your block.

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PALETTES

I fluctuate between watercolor and gouache paint, so my palettes can get a bit messy. I usually keep the two paints separate – using a well palette for watercolor (has a thumb hole to hold while painting), and using porcelain trays for gouache (round or rectangular). Occasionally, I’ll buy vintage plates at thrift shops to use as my palette! You can usually get them cheaper than most art palettes.

For gouache, I also like to use a wooden painter’s palette if it’s a larger piece. That way I have more space to mix, and can easily hold the palette in my hand while painting.

I also like to store my paints in wooden artists’ boxes.

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GOUACHE

Now, let’s talk paint. Like I said above, I mainly use watercolor and gouache paint. They are similar, but gouache has more of thickness to it- but can still be worked similarly to watercolor… think of it as being in-between watercolor and acrylic paint.

When it comes to gouache, I love Winsor & Newton Designer gouache and Holbein Acryla gouache. Both nice quality, but keep in mind that the acryla gouache can’t be reused once it dries since it’s acrylic based. The Winsor & Newton gouache can be rewetted because it’s water based.

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As you know, I love using metallic paints! Below are some of my favorites. The interference colors are a sheer iridescent paint – which can create a beautiful effect on top of other colors, or on their own. The Golden brand is wonderful. I also LOVE this gold metallic gouache.

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WATERCOLOR

Now, watercolor! The below set is one of my favorites. Mission Mijello Gold watercolors have really incredible and vibrant pigmentation, although they are on the pricier side.

If you’re looking for something a little more budget friendly, Winsor & Newton are great quality. One step below (a student quality) are Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors, which are great for learning watercolor. I used this travel set for many, many years – which I still love (Cotman version here).

Having the most expensive watercolors isn’t going to make painting any easier- it will just make the colors more pigmented and you will have a nicer consistency to work with…

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BRUSHES

Now for brushes. I’ve found brushes to be a very personal preference. Try different types out, and see what works best for you. I prefer short handle brushes, because I usually paint quite small- so I like to work with my hand close to the paper.

I also love angular brushes. They are a multi-purpose brush in a way, as they have a flat wide surface as well as an angled tip to create smaller lines. I usually use the 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 sizes.

Natural hair brushes hold much more water with their natural ridges and scales, and often maintain their shape much longer than synthetics hairs. However, natural hair brushes are much more expensive. Many synthetic brushes will shed hairs as you use them, and could disrupt your painting process. For watercolor, I highly recommend natural hair brushes (typically from the tails of siberian weasels (kolinsky sable), foxes, squirrels, red sables, etc).

Love these synthetic brushes. Great options for natural hair brushes here. Also love this set.

There’s a great article here if you’d like to get more info on choosing brushes.

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Brush care. It’s important to care for your brushes, especially when you are investing in expensive natural hair brushes. Leaving natural hair brushes face down to soak in water for periods of time (I’ve been guilty of this), will ruin them. It bends the point and ruins the entire shape forever.

I don’t do an intense cleaning everyday (although I should), but every now and then I’ll use the brush cleaner below to keep them nice and fresh.

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DRAWING PENCILS

As for drawing pencils, I prefer to use woodless graphite (allows you to use the sides of the point as well) and Faber Castell pencils. I usually go for softer leads as they lend well to my style, allowing me to sketch softly and still get wonderful line weight differences. A softer lead allows a much more fluid line with ease. 9H is the hardest, whereas 9B is the softest. I typically stick with 6B and 8B.

More info on pencil grades here.

I use this Mobius and Ruppert brass double hole pencil sharpener.

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I prefer this eraser.

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Now, let’s talk about embellishments!

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SEQUINS

I’m sure you are aware that I’m an avid crystal and sequin user (and glitter every now and then). There are really no rules to this… it’s something I’ve been experimenting with for a while, and have developed my own personal method. Always be opening to exploring… never feel the need to do exactly as someone has told you it should be done!

I purchase my sequins per color/size from here. Most of the containers I use for supplies, I find at the Container Store. Browse the cosmetic storage section- it’s a gold mine for art supply storage!

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GLITTER

I love Martha Stewart glitters. She has just about every color under the sun, and they also come in various textures.

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SEQUIN & GLITTER ADHESIVE

To adhere the sequins and glitter to my artwork, I’ve found gold leaf adhesive size to work wonderfully. There are a million different types of glue that work for this, but I like that I can apply a thin layer of this and let it dry a bit so that it gets tacky, and it gives me a good amount of time to apply the sequins before it sets. Super glues work as well, but you need to be careful you aren’t drenching the sequin in glue – if the glue puddles over the sequin, it will be left with a dull finish. (this glue pen is wonderful for glitter)

To apply the sequins, I apply a tiny bit of the adhesive size to the tip of a needle or mechanical pencil, let it get tacky… and then use that to pick up and apply each sequin.

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CRYSTALS

I strongly prefer Swarovski crystals flatbacks over any other option- they are the sparkliest, and come in a wonderful amount of colors, cuts, and sizes. I purchase them individually here. These are my favorites.

To apply the crystals, the Crystal Katana works wonders!

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CRYSTAL ADHESIVE

For crystal adhesive, I typically use GemTac, or super glue (I prefer this one, even though I have the thick version shown below). As with the sequins, be careful to only use a bit of glue so that it doesn’t come up over the top of the crystal and make it dull once it dries.

Read more on crystals and adhesives (a complete guide!) here.

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So there you have it. A brief intro to some of my favorite tools and supplies!

For more info and video tutorials on illustrating, check out my online classes:

Illustrating Your Favorite Runway Looks & Basics of Watercolor Painting

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FRAMED AND MATTED GIVEAWAY / NOW CLOSED

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Framing artwork, especially your own, is no easy task! There are an infinite amount of choices, the prices are usually outrageous, and it can take a good amount of time before your final piece is ready. I decided to give Framed & Matted a shot, and I was beyond impressed!

I ordered the free frame and mat samples on their site, and as soon as they arrived, I knew exactly what I wanted. I love when you’re presented a handful of quality choices (having too many choices make decisions ten times more difficult). You build your frame around your artwork dimensions online, and voilá! It only took about a week and a half for the frame to arrive. I set the artwork inside the frame (super easy), but you also have the option to mail in your piece for them to place inside the frame for you.

My framed piece turned out beautifully.

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This week I’m giving away a limited edition print to one reader, which Framed & Matted will have framed in the frame of your choice. Head over to instagram to find out how to win!

*Must enter by Friday, January 31st*

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WINTER DREAMS

Watching the snow fall…

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There’s always been something about snow that gives me the most wonderful energy. I can’t remember a time that the sense of wonder and excitement didn’t come over me as soon as I got the news of an incoming storm. Of course, growing up in Georgia, that didn’t happen too often.

Since living in the northeast, my love affair with snow has not faded even the tiniest bit. If it’s snowing, there’s a good chance I’m out wandering through it’s momentary beauty.

Lucky for me, snow seems to be a common theme this winter in New York City. It surprises me how negative snow’s reputation is around here. Yes it can get messy, it’s accompanied by bitter cold air, repetitive shoveling, etc… but if you stop to look around, it’s really one of the most beautiful sights to see. Your entire world blanketed in a soft glowing white. Snow casts a silence over the city like nothing else… with just the sounds of the winter wind and crunch of fresh snow under your feet.

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The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park.

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Central Park glowing in white.

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I hope this inspires you to look at snow differently (if you have a negative view of it), and see what a truly beautiful gift it is! 

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A LITTLE ABOUT ME

It feels like I’m starting the New Year a week late since I’ve just returned home to NYC. 2013 was a wonderful year full of new adventures, and fulfilling dream projects… but I have even bigger dreams for 2014!

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Walt Disney
 

I thought I’d start this year off by sharing a bit more about myself.

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How did you begin illustrating? 

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. It’s always seemed natural to me. I first began drawing gowns as a little girl, and it quickly turned into a passion of mine! Although, I did go through a brief stint of drawing horses (I was obsessed).

Did you study illustration in college? 

I did not. I studied Industrial Design in college… it was still a creative field and had a much more promising ‘career path’ than the fine arts. I never even considered being a full time illustrator back then; it was purely a hobby of passion. Luckily, I realized Industrial Design wasn’t my dream half way through school… and somehow tailored my ID degree to include jewelry, shoe, and costume design.

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What are your favorite supplies?

I’m forever a fan of Aquarelle Arches watercolor blocks (Graine Satine), Mission Mijello Gold watercolors (very saturated colors), Winson & Newton watercolors, and Princeton brushes. See more info on my favorite supplies here

How did you come up with the name Paper Fashion?

It seemed like a no brainer. I was sketching fashion on paper… and voilá!

Have you always been artistic? 

Almost all of my earliest memories have an artistic link to them. My cousins used to say I was an artist when I was just a little girl drawing with crayons. My aunt gave me a set of watercolors and taught me to use them as a young girl- something that has stuck with me forever. I’ve just always felt a strong connection to creativity. It’s what I thrive on.

Why watercolor? 

Like I said above, I was introduced to them at a young age. Watercolors make sense to me… they seem like a natural extension of my mind, and so they are the method of which I choose to share my creative thoughts.

Do you think art can be self taught or something that requires lots of experience and time?

I think it can definitely be self taught. Art is something that is personal. I do think studying art techniques is ideal, just as learning the technicalities of music are important to being a great musician. There are exceptions of course, but learning the rules of a field gives you the power to break them. This is where you find truly unique work.

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Was there a defining moment you knew what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? 

Absolutely. I’ve always had this creative side to myself, but the moment I realized I needed to find a way to do it for the rest of my life was during my first trip to Europe. I studied fashion and accessory design abroad in Florence, Italy back in 2007, and it forever changed my world. I became so obsessed with fashion, I wanted to know everything about it. During school, usual world history classes seemed boring to me.. but my first fashion history class, I couldn’t get enough!

My fashion professor worked for Moschino when he wasn’t teaching, so I asked him if there was any chance he could get me tickets to a show during fashion week in Milan. He granted my wish, and made my dream of attending my first fashion show come true. It was QUITE the experience.

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How has the transition from Boston to New York City been?

I will always have a love for Boston after nearly six memorable years there! I love change, and the new experiences it brings with it, so moving to New York seemed like the right step for me. It’s always scary taking new risks, but they have always been my best decisions. I don’t quite feel at home in New York yet, but I’m loving every minute that I’m here, creating a new place of memories. The inspiration here is ever flowing in both the landscapes and the people… and it’s true what they say, New York is where dreams are made. 

What is the best way to stay inspired?

To never stop looking. Whether I’m traveling or in the same place I’ve always been, it’s important to look and observe constantly. You’ll be surprised what you can find with an open mind and a curious eye!

Images at desk by Ashley Weeks Cart. Outdoor images by Emma Jane Kepley.

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SHADOW PLAY

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If you follow me on instagram, you are well aware that I have an obsession with shadows and shadow puppets. There’s something so wonderful about the simplistic silhouettes cast onto the wall, taking on a life of their own with the right amount of imagination. It’s little things like these that inspired me as a child. I remember spending hours with my hand shadow puppet book, trying to get every figure just right.

I built a few shadow puppet ladies (which I’ll show you later on) and they took on a life of their own against the natural morning light.

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