Badgers and Cheap Watercolor Paper

By Justin Gerard

HAPPY AMERICAN ELECTION DAY. Let's not talk about it. Instead, I have a garbage review of some cheap paper for you!

I've found that sometimes, the cheapest materials out there are all you need. Like hot dogs. You don't need Châteaubriand and caviar every day.  (Maybe I don't need hotdogs everyday either but let's stay on topic) In a world of spectacular art materials, a sheet of basic copy paper and a Bic pen, which together cost less than pocket lint, are still fantastic tools. Perhaps you can't paint the Sistine Chapel with them, but they are more than sufficient enough to sketch out the idea with.  Being cheap doesn't always mean being bad. 

Recently, like a plague of Kudzu overtaking the interstates of eastern America, I've seen more and more of these Canson XL pads cropping up anywhere that sells art supplies. And like most other aspiring artists out there, I still hold out hope that there is a secret set of materials that, if found, will do all the hard work of painting for me.

All I have to do is find it and the fountain of youth, a comfy chair, and I am set!

To this end, I often try out a lot of the new stuff, regardless of wether or not it is being marketed towards students, weekend watercolorists, or panda bears.  

Canson's student grade XL series offers a variety of paper types, Bristol, Drawing, Mixed Media, Watercolor, Sketching, and so on. All of which are priced amazingly low compared to other similar papers on the market. They are also all recycled and made using sustainable means and whatnot. So you can feel smug and superior to everyone else while you draw.

I gave each of the papers a try (since they are basically free). They all feel surprisingly okay to work on and do a serviceable job at what they are marketed for. I was most impressed with the Mixed Media paper. While it has not done anything for me as far as mixed media goes, it was wonderful to draw on. 

(It just seems to be poorly branded.  It should probably be called, "VERY Dry Media Paper" or "Use Pencils Only Media," or "Only Self-loathing Masochists Use Watercolor On Paper Like This."  I leave the exact phrasing up to Canson's Branding division.)  

One of the more interesting aspects of the XL paper, is that each page offers 2 separate drawing experiences on the front and back. One side is smooth and the other offers more texture.   

For testing out their wet media I picked up a pad of the XL Cold Press Watercolor Paper. I'll be honest: I usually hate cold press paper.  It is often absurdly textured, as if painters only ever wanted to paint on cinder blocks or tree bark but were duped into using smooth papers by the Illuminati and Lizard people. However, Canson's XL paper is a very lightly-textured cold press, and actually feels a bit like something in between a Fabriano hot press and a more Strathmore cold press. So it works great for someone who prefers something in between.    

So how does it handle?

I like how it takes pencil and I love how laying in initial colors feel on the paper. Paint goes on smooth and can be pushed and pulled rather easily.  It allows a little bit of lifting out of light colors, and dark colors can be pulled out all together if you like. This is great if you don't care too much about using very wet washes and you prefer to noodle the colors around as you paint.  (As someone who probably applies too many washes this is annoying, but that is why I tend to work on vellum bristol over cold press papers in general anyway). Bottom line: if you like watercolor paper that behaves like watercolor paper, it does the job.

VERDICT:

As far as a purely watercolor paper goes, Canson's XL cold press paper is a lot fun and I would recommend the paper if you are looking for something basic and affordable to work with every now and then.  

If you plan on painting the Sistine Chapel, I might recommend some of the heavy hitters of the watercolor world,  but at a tenth of the price, this is a great alternative.

If you do want to try some of the more expensive papers with similar feels to them, try out Fabriano's 300g Hot Press paper, Strathmore's 500 series illustration board for wet media, and Canson's own Montval Cold Press.

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Note 1: In closing, I should note here: Materials are important, but they aren't THAT important. A good artist could work on anything, even tree bark and it would still be impressive. But what materials can do is make your life easier and may allow you to better play to your strengths as an artist.  However, there is no silver bullet or secret formula that can make up for lack of practice and technical ability.

 

 

IlluXCon preview

Gallery Gerard will be in Reading, PA at the Goggleworks center for IlluXCon 9.  Here are the brand new pieces we will be debuting at the show this year. 

"Guardian of the Gate" Annie Stegg Gerard, 6x6, oil on canvas, September 2016

"Guardian of the Gate" Annie Stegg Gerard, 6x6, oil on canvas, September 2016

"Hylonome in the High Forest", Annie Stegg Gerard. 16x20, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Hylonome in the High Forest", Annie Stegg Gerard. 16x20, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Chariclo and Chiron", Annie Stegg Gerard, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Chariclo and Chiron", Annie Stegg Gerard, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Autumn Moon" Annie Stegg Gerard, 8x8, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Autumn Moon" Annie Stegg Gerard, 8x8, oil on canvas, October 2016

"Wizard's Revenge", Justin Gerard, watercolor and acrylic, October 2016

"Wizard's Revenge", Justin Gerard, watercolor and acrylic, October 2016

""Sketchbook Portrait #9", Justin Gerard, 11x14, oil on mounted board, October 2016

""Sketchbook Portrait #9", Justin Gerard, 11x14, oil on mounted board, October 2016

"Sketchbook Portrait #12", Justin Gerard, 9x12, watercolor and acrylic, September 2016

"Sketchbook Portrait #12", Justin Gerard, 9x12, watercolor and acrylic, September 2016

"Treebeard", Justin Gerard, 11x14, oil on board, October 2016

"Treebeard", Justin Gerard, 11x14, oil on board, October 2016

Sketchbooks shipped

Hey guys!  "The Gryphon Hunters" and "Fairy Tales and Folklore" shipped out on Friday.  Thank you all SO MUCH for making this such a successful 2016 sketchbook release. While all of the limited edition books have been sold, we still have some of the standard edition books in our shop!

Through Dangers Untold

Come see our work at Gallery Nucleus SEPTEMBER 17 from 7-10PM in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1986 fantasy film, Labyrinth.  There will be over 35 original art pieces paying tribute to this Jim Henson classic. Cory Godbey's new book "Labyrinth Tales" will also be available for purchase.

THROUGH DANGERS UNTOLD: A LABYRINTH 30TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE EXHIBITION
September 17, 2016 - October 2, 2016
Opening Reception / Sep 17, 7:00PM - 10:00PM

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"Goblin's Bane", 8x10, watercolor on paper, Justin Gerard

"Goblin's Bane", 8x10, watercolor on paper, Justin Gerard

If you live in the Atlanta area, be sure to check out the Center for Puppetry Arts special Labyrinth exhibit.  They will be holding a costume contest judged by Brian Henson, Chairman of The Jim Henson company.

"None May Pass", 8x10, oil on canvas, Annie Stegg Gerard

"None May Pass", 8x10, oil on canvas, Annie Stegg Gerard

Labyrinth 30th Anniversary tribute show

We will be participating in Gallery Nucleus' Labyrinth 30th Anniversary tribute show next Saturday.  Here are some sneak peeks of the paintings we will be exhibiting!

"None May Pass", 8x10, oil on canvas, Annie stegg Gerard   

"None May Pass", 8x10, oil on canvas, Annie stegg Gerard

 

"Goblin's Bane", 8x10, watercolor on paper, Justin Gerard

"Goblin's Bane", 8x10, watercolor on paper, Justin Gerard

THROUGH DANGERS UNTOLD: A LABYRINTH 30TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE EXHIBITION
September 17, 2016 - October 2, 2016
Opening Reception / Sep 17, 7:00PM - 10:00PM

2016 Sketchbook PRE-ORDERS are LIVE!

The pre-orders for both the standard editions and Limited Editions of our 2016 Sketchbooks are now available in our store!

ALL pre-orders received before September 1, 2016 will receive a bonus matted and hand-signed 5"x7" mini-print FREE!

This year, Justin is offering 50 and Annie is offering 25 Limited Edition copies. Each Limited Edition Sketchbook includes an original drawing by the artist on the title page. Check out some of last year's original drawings here!

 

Each Limited Edition copy is hand-signed and numbered and comes with a separate signed and matted 5"x7" mini-print. 

Faeries are the theme of the mini-prints this year, and Justin and Annie's prints each reflect their own unique take on the subject... 

SHIPPING: All Pre-orders are scheduled to be shipped out by August 29, 2016. All books are sleeved and shipped in sturdy mailer boxes for increased durability during delivery.  Please allow 2 weeks for Continental U.S orders and 3 weeks for International orders to arrive. 

Also! For those of you who plan to attend DragonCon in Atlanta, GA on September 2-5, we will be offering advance copies of our Standard Edition Sketchbooks for sale!

PAYPAL Orders: We've received many requests to allow customers to pay with Paypal, and we've heard you. So this year, we are offering an Etsy listing for both our Standard and Limited edition sketchbooks which will accept PAYPAL at checkout. Check out our Etsy for more information. 

Sketchbook 2016 preview

Most of the time I try to provide, thoughtful, in-depth, considered blog posts that are hopefully informative, thought-provoking and interesting. Well today I'm taking a break from all that to bring you some shameless self-promotion.  No more salad and steamed vegetables, it's time for cheeseburgers made of donuts and bacon! 

Today I'm sharing a preview of Annie and I's Sketchbooks for 2016, which will be available for pre-order August 25! For Justin's sketchbook, this year will feature many gryphons, dragons, dwarves, orcs, and all manner of pestilence and assorted villainy.

As with previous years this sketchbook will include a great deal of development sketchwork as well as finished paintings. It gives an overview of the development procedures that go into designing and illustrating the scenes I paint. 

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While my book focuses on misadventures and monsters both foul and wicked, Annie's sketchbook focuses on creatures a bit more magical and refined... 

Annie will be showcasing 5 new oil paintings in her sketchbook as well as the preliminary sketches, drawings and developmental work it took to create each one.  It also features and in-depth tutorial where Annie outlines both the tools and techniques she uses to achieve the classical feel of her work. Her book covers a variety of fairytales and folklore from the early 19th century including works by Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and J.M. Barrie

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Both books will be available for pre-order on August 25 at 12 noon EST from our shop. Each book in this limited run is hand-signed and numbered by the artist and will ship in September.

The first 50 individuals who order will receive a highly limited signed and numbered mini-print. (More on that soon!)
And as with previous year's book we will be offering a limited edition run of books with a hand-drawn original inside.  We hope you will drop by to take a look on the 25th!

For A Few Dragons More...

Quick post today! After my last post A plague of Dragons wherein we saw some wonderful dragons that have been illustrated throughout the ages I couldn't help but start scribbling a few myself. So today I am sharing a few fine scaly fellows that will be appearing in my Sketchbook 2016 later this year.
Hope you enjoy!

Bonus: This is a spread from my 2013 sketchbook which shows briefly how I tend to work up a sketch of a dragon.  I hope to do something more in depth in this year's sketchbook:  

One of Those Days: Development Work

By Justin Gerard

Traditional Watercolor on Bristol

Traditional Watercolor on Bristol

Digital Color Concept

Digital Color Concept

Last year I started on a painting that I never was able to get around to finishing. (That's one point for Life; zero points for Justin) Now that we are a little ways into the new year I was able to find some time to finally go back and see if my dwarves will survive their encounter.  It has also been a chance for me to get back into Photoshop and play around with some of the new features that have been languishing in the toolbox. 

 

Transparent digital work over Watercolor

I generally prefer to keep the digital aspects of my work as minimal as possible in order to preserve the nice textures of the watercolor underneath. Apart from just liking the look of watercolor on paper, I also strongly DISLIKE the flat, synthetic look of most digital work. When I do work digitally it is almost all transparent, (multiply, color dodge, screen and soft light layers) with just a touch of opaque work at the end.  

However, in the recent versions of Photoshop, they have included a wonderful new tool for brush creation which does a quite reasonable job of emulating traditional textures. Now, in theory, a digital artist could work and each brushstroke will at least "look" like it was painted on a traditional surface. (Sadly the golden apple of an actual digital brush with fiber optic hairs is still not within our reach) This is valuable since it will mean more color variety will show up through our brushstrokes, we will see more detail, and the painting will have a natural, more human look. 

 

 

 

To take advantage of this new tool, select window and then select 'brush' which brings up the above brush dialogue box.  The third option down is a rather unassuming-looking little option called 'texture'. With this option you can scan in your favorite substrate and use it as a basis for all your various brushes.  Below I have changed my watercolor, chalk and oil brushes to have a matching canvas texture.  

 

 

 

This is no magic silver bullet that will suddenly give digital brush strokes wings  and halos to look like a Rembrandt, but it can go a long way to killing the flat, synthetic quality that many Photoshop brushes (and paintings) suffer from. 

I am still working my way through the painting and am finding that, perhaps for the first time ever, I am actually enjoying painting opaquely in digital.  


Who is Charlemagne?

Since we started this project, I have had a lot of emails asking who the mysterious grey cat is hidden in each of the main paintings for the story.  So, I thought I would take a moment to talk about Charlemagne, or as he is referred to in the studio, Charlie. 

I adopted Charlie about nine years ago.  I had seen him several times at the open adoptions they held at my local pet store each weekend. I would go on Saturday to pick up pet food, or look at the animals. I was not intentionally looking for a cat, but Charlie had a certain mystery about him. The shelter said he had been returned to them a few different times since arriving in their care.  I was intrigued! Weekend after weekend, there he was.  A big grey, regal cat.  

On the third weekend I had decided if he was still there he was coming home with me.  I will admit I was disappointed to find his kennel empty.  His name tag was still hanging, but there was no Charlie.  I started to walk away, when one of the volunteers asked if I was looking to adopt.  I told them I had seen Charlie a few times, but was apparently too late.  But to my surprise, she pulled me into the back room where this cat king had somehow mind controlled all of the volunteers into not making him stay in his kennel, and feeding him copious amounts of treats. I took him home that day.  

All of the animals in the studio while I work on this series. Charlie takes the best seat in the house, of course.

All of the animals in the studio while I work on this series. Charlie takes the best seat in the house, of course.

Charlie was an old cat when I adopted him, and I often wonder what his life as like before he came to live with us. He reigns in my bedroom, under the bed.  While the other furry residence in our home gather by us for meals eager for scraps, Charlie silently watches from a distance.  Once he is assured that we are occupied, he will return to his domain.  Where we will hear (for nearly an hour straight every single day) banging and thumping.  Running.  Jumping.  As if he is fighting his own secret cat battle against unknown intruders in our home.  But when we enter the room, he is always still.  Silently watching. 

So, Justin and I wrote a book about a mystery surrounding an old mirror, an old man, and an old cat.  There is nothing more interesting to me than the secrets of the past.  And I know that cat of ours has some of his own.


Moonlight Parade

Hey guys!  Here is the centerpiece image for our series "The Other Side of the Mirror", which debuts this weekend at Gallery Nucleus.  "Moonlight Parade".

"Moonlight Parade" 24x36, oils on panel

"Moonlight Parade" 24x36, oils on panel

ANNIE STEGG & JUSTIN GERARD EXHIBITION
November 14, 2015 - November 29, 2015
Opening Reception / Nov 14, 7:00PM - 10:00PM

Online sales start Saturday at midnight PST (3am EST Sunday) in the Gallery Nucleus shop.

 

 

Sketchbook 2015 shipping out!

Hey guys!  We have finally assembled all of the orders from our 2015 sketchbook.  Wow.  Thank you all so much for the overwhelming support and for your patience.  I know the orders are going out a little later than usual, but we were not expecting so many!  It was really exciting, especially now that we are working on the hardback storybook version.  Thank you!

Here are some of the drawings from the special edition books.  Justin still has a few left!

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All special edition books come with a signed mini print of "Renard and the Strawberries".  Prints are double sided and printed on glossy 110lb paper.

And also, a shout out to Micah Epstein who was kind enough to come over and help up pack everything up!  Go check out his beautiful work!


Sketchbook 2015 preview

This Thursday at 10am EST, we will be releasing our 2015 joint sketchbook in our shop!  This year's sketchbook will contain all of the preliminary drawings for our new book/gallery show "The Other Side of the Mirror".  Unlike previous year's sketchbooks, this book is 58 pages with 30 pages of tutorials.  

The tutorials will cover:

Oil painting techniques for "Renard and the Strawberries" by Annie Stegg Gerard

Ink Illustration by Justin Gerard

Painting Process of "The Merchant's Daughter" by Annie Stegg Gerard

Oil painting techniques for "Renard and the Strawberries" by Annie Stegg Gerard

 

The first 400 books will be signed and numbered.  We will also be offering 100 limited edition copies that come with an original drawing in the front, as well as a mini print.  



On the Easel: Sketches for The Other Side of the Mirror

These fine folks are sketches from the upcoming Sketchbook 2015: The Other Side of the Mirror, which will be a companion sketchbook to the hardback edition appearing later this year.

Annie and I are going to be doing something a little special this year with the sketchbooks! This year our sketchbook is going to be a joint sketchbook, and it is going to offer a heavy focus on step-by-step demonstrations on ink work, painting, and drawing.

We also have a few other surprises in store this time around which we will be announcing this month, so stay tuned!