Category Archives: pen and ink

Will your artwork last?

One thing that has concerned me since I first became a professional painter (over 35 years now) is the quality of the materials that I use and how to make sure my art lasts.  This is important to me not because of my ego but to ensure that my customers can expect a painting to last for years, even decades or centuries with proper handling.  I educated myself early on about the greatest causes for deteriorating artwork, especially works on paper.

Some of the greatest causes for paintings to fade or change are:

  • Sunlight! Yes, while the sun is great for so many things, it is not good for paints or papers.  Even over a long period of time, it will fade the colors and break down the fibers of the paper or canvas.  Sun will even fade wood over time.
  • Damp enviroments invite mold and organic changes to the supports.
  • Insect damage. Those little silverfish love to eat paper.
  • Using cheap materials. This is my personal pet peeve.  Why put all the time and effort into creating a work of art and use cheap materials?  Doesn’t make any sense to me.

What can you do as an artist or art owner?

  • Always choose the best materials you can afford. For instance, if you’re an artist, use artist-grade paints rather than studio or student-grade paints.  The artist-grade paints contain more pigment and better quality.
  • If you’re creating works on paper, use 100% rag, linen, or cotton fiber. These will hold up decades longer than  pulp papers.  Wood pulp contains chemicals which deteriorate almost immediately.  Remember that pile of yellowed newspapers in the garage?
  • Ensure that the matting and framing is archival or museum-grade. I always use museum rag mats and archival backing.  If the work is under glass, you can help prevent sun damage by using UV filtering glass.

So, if you are an artist, take pride in your work and make it with the best materials you can afford.  If you are an art collector, ask the artist or gallery about the materials or framing.  If it isn’t framed, have your framing shop frame it archivally.

My personal experiment.

Many years ago I decided to test my materials by putting samples in a south-facing window of my studio.  Both of the samples shown are on 100% cotton rag paper.

This was the test. Two pieces of Arches 100% cotton rag with ink and paint samples in a south facing window

I was testing four things.

  • How well the paper withstood the direct sunlight.
  • How the watercolor paints held up.
  • If there was fading to the computer printed color paints.
  • If any of the commercially available inks and ink pens held up to the sun.

The time frame for this experiment has been about fifteen years.  I folded the art pieces over and they have just been sitting in the window for that long.

This is the outside of the mini watercolor painting. I was surprised that the red didn’t fade over 15 years. It is usually pretty fugitive.

Each piece was folded over with part of the experiment covered by the fold. In this case, it was an old mini painting. As you can see, the actual watercolor paint held up pretty well.

On the inside of this piece, I tested several commercially available pens as well as the standard India ink. Some faded totally away while some others held up surprisingly well.

As you can see, there is some small damage to the paper along the edges.  I attribute this mostly due to water damage from condensation of the window, not to direct sun.

The watercolor paints (Winsor and Newton) held up surprisingly well.  I was somewhat surprised that the reds held because that is a color that has a great tendency to fade.

And the pen inks.  What can I say?  Some, like the Zeb Roller Ink totally faded.  But others, like the old standby India ink and newer Vision Elite haven’t changed at all.  That is good news.  I’m now testing a carbon ink from Japan and have high expectations for that.

In this test piece, I printed color ink from my computer onto rag paper. Pretty faded, eh?

The fading is even more noticeable when the covered part is revealed. Note to self: don’t use standard office printers for original artwork.

The computer printed paper totally faded. So much for archival inks. My experience has been that the black computer ink will last but not the colors, however, inks may have changed over the years.  And I’m sure that commercial-grade printers and ink will fare better.  But best to ask if you are purchasing a print.

The takeaway is to use or buy quality art materials and frame them in a way that will prevent damage, particularly from sunlight.

Please note:  I am not a scientist so this was just a personal experiment.  Use your own judgement in the end.  Check out this article from scientists who are actually fixing old artwork.  https://www.livescience.com/13536-winslow-homer-van-gogh-fugitive-art.html

Winter vacation in the Florida Keys

My husband and I were able to take our first winter vacation in a very long time.  We chose the Florida Keys which we hadn’t visited for over 30 years.  Oh, it was so nice to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

One of the nicest parts about the Keys is that there are so many places that visitors can pull over to fish…or in my case…paint.  The Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8) is perfect for painting broad landscapes. In the first painting, I was sitting in the shade while trying to capture the feel of being tucked away in the mangroves.  The photos don’t do justice to the amazing aqua waters but it’s a nice memory.

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

The second painting was from a small park in the heart of Marathon.  I liked the way the house across the inlet was framed by the pine tree.  I took liberties to emphasize the house, actually more than I could really see it.  Oh, well, that’s what artists do.  Enjoy

Sage Cottage

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA  Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We were in Georgia last month for a wedding at the Barnsley Estate. We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast a few miles away called the Sage Cottage.  Owners, Jim and Sharon Southerland, were such gracious hosts and made us feel welcome in every way.  The house is actually quite large with really beautiful grounds. Another wedding party had taken over most of the remainder of the rooms.  There was plenty of space to roam so I decided to use my time to make this watercolor / pen and ink sketch of the main house.  It was difficult to choose a view as the grounds were laid out so well, with hidden nooks, statuary, and gardens.

This was painted in a Pentalic Aqua Journal which has really thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I use a couple of clips to hold the pages open but otherwise, there is no buckling from watermedia.  I only wished later that I had used a larger sheet of paper, maybe an 11 x 14.  This is 5 x 16 (5 x 8 landscape notebook).

Plein air painting, old buildings

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Today I decided to paint this old factory building.  It has undergone so many renovations and additions over the years.  Very interesting from many aspects.  I selected this broad scene (and it really could have been a panorama if I had brought larger paper with me).  I may end up doing some close-ups of the interesting architecture over the coming months.

Today’s challenge was to work with some speed in order to beat the changing position of the sun and the shadows.  This is why so many artists like to paint on cloudy days.  I don’t so I just have to paint quickly or remember where I want to keep the sun and shadows even as they move.

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Painting the Ordinary

Old Oak on College Avenue, watercolor, pen and ink, 11 x 14

Old Oak on College Avenue, watercolor, pen and ink, 11 x 14

I have a lovely long drive to work every day, about 20 miles through fields, woods, and small villages.  This is a great time for taking stock of my thoughts, listening to recorded books, and looking for future painting subjects. One place that I pass every day is this field with the giant old oak tree.  The past week the field in front of it has been showcasing an abundance of Black-eyed Susans.  I couldn’t resist heading to town on Saturday to paint this scene.  It was so serene.  Cooler weather, mocking bird singing, a doe and her fawn stopped to peer at me across the field.  The occasional jogger and walker.

The point here is that sometimes when you’re searching for a subject to paint, you don’t have to go very far.  Look around you.  Beauty is everywhere.

Preparing to paint the old oak tree and field of Black-eyed Susans

Preparing to paint the old oak tree and field of Black-eyed Susans

Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

Peonies en Plein Air

PeoniesattheEndoftheSeason

Peonies at the end of the season. Watercolor / pen and ink. Plein air. Kit Miracle

I had a little time today after doing the heavy gardening to do this watercolor / pen and ink of our peonies.  I love them in the spring but it seems their season is always too short.  They’re gone before I really get to enjoy them.  The weather was warm but breezy with a few spritzes of rain.  I tried to capture the blowseyness of the blossoms but I’m afraid that this painting makes them look better than they are.

Sketching in New York

The Three Graces at the Met

The Three Graces at the Met

I was in New York last week.  At the end of my trip, I had a few hours before I had to catch my plane so I went up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is a favorite haunt of mine.  Big surprise.  This time, I decided to spend some time in some different areas.  First I went to the Greek and Roman sculpture area.  Very inspiring.  I whipped out my small sketchbook that I always keep with me and practiced on these beautiful statues.

I believe that every artist should practice sketching as much as possible, daily at least.  This is the artist’s equivalent to a musician practicing scales or an athlete throwing pitches.  You should do it enough that capturing what you see before you becomes second nature.

I usually travel with at least a small sketchbook, a commercial permanent ink pen, and maybe a set of colored brush pens.  I like Faber Castell shades of grey or their landscape package.

The subject doesn’t really matter although my sketches are usually just memory joggers.  My hotel room, at dinner or the theatre, in the museum, on the street.  Sometimes people will approach you to see what you are doing, however, most people won’t even notice.  I’ve leaned up against buildings at night and have drawn street vendors on Times Square, stretch limos, the night buildings in fog.  The drawing makes me “see.”  There are many better draftsmen than me…but it works for me.  Try it yourself.  Also, check out Urban Sketchers for some real inspiration.

Aphrodite at the Met

Aphrodite at the Met

Boy Wearing Wreath

Boy Wearing Wreath

Stephanos Youth

Stephanos Youth

 

Christmas in the artist’s life

The holidays are often a busy time for artists.  Although I don’t seek out the sales that I used to – I’m too busy with my day job – I still get busy around Christmas time.  I sold Dos Palomas which was exhibited in a small, local exhibit.  That was a nice surprise and the person who bought it was totally smitten with it.  I’m so glad she has it.

Last month I received a call out of the blue from someone asking if I’m the Kit Miracle who does house portraits.  Yes, but I don’t do many any more.  I really don’t have the time.  As an aside, this used to be a big part of my bread and butter painting business.  I’ve done a lot of house portraits!  So the lady who was interested in one more house portrait was a client for whom I’ve done four others in the past.  She wanted the final one to be by the same artist in the same style.  So….I agreed.  This was a simple watercolor with pen and ink overlay.  See the photo and the details.

Watercolor house portrait with pen and ink overlay

Watercolor house portrait with pen and ink overlay

House portrait detail

House portrait detail

Small Christmas paintings, w/c - pen and ink, painted in multiples

Small Christmas paintings, w/c – pen and ink, painted in multiples

This year I also decided to create some small paintings as Christmas gifts to my staff.  I used to do these a lot, also.  They are 4×6.  Although they’re all hand-painted, I do them in sets of four.  It’s more efficient that way.

Framed mini paintings

Framed mini paintings

Painted child's sneakers

Painted child’s sneakers

Finally, I decided that my granddaughter needed some hand-painted shoes.  These are just cheap canvas sneakers with dinosaurs, dancing lady bugs, butterflies and flowers.  She’ll outgrow them before the paint wears off.

 All in all, it was a very merry Christmas!

How to combine watercolor and a pen and ink drawing

Cats at Grandview, watercolor over printed pen and ink

Recently I received a phone inquiry from a young man in New Jersey about how to apply watercolor to a pen and ink drawing.  Basically I have done this two ways.

One way is to do a pen and ink drawing , then add the watercolor on top of the drawing.  In this case, you must first make sure that the ink is waterproof.  I like to use traditional India Ink with a dip pen.  But there are also several waterproof, fadeproof pens that will work well for this.  The ones that have worked best for me are:  RoseArt Superview, Uniball Deluxe, Uniball Vision Elite.  I have tested these in the direct sunlight of a south-facing studio window and they have held up without any fading for at least ten years.  Some that have NOT worked well are the Zeb Roller and the Sharpie Fine Point. 

I use a rag watercolor paper, either cold press or hot press, of at least 90 or 140 pound weight.  After I draw the sketch, I let it dry at least a day to ensure that it won’t lift at all.  Then I paint over the top.  See the examples.

The second way to combine watercolor with pen and ink is to do the watercolor painting first, then add the details with the ink on top.  I used this technique for years when I created house portraits for clients.  I would first do a pencil sketch, paint the picture, then add the ink.  This allows the artist to paint very loosely and then add details which seems to be very popular with clients.

Nest, pen and ink printed, watercolor added

One neat technique is to scan your plain ink drawing into your computer, then print it on watercolor paper with black ink.  Then you can paint on top of that with watercolors after it has totally dried and set.  Allow at least a day for this. This only works with the black printer ink which is archival.  Again, I have tested this in my studio window and it has not faded in ten years.  To do this, you will have to trim your paper to fit through your printer and only use a weight that will go through the printer, probably 90 or 140 pound paper.  You’ll have to test this with your own printer.  Do NOT try to do this with the colored inks from your printer as those will definitely fade over time.  Again, I have tested this.  I have only used this with a regular home HP printer.  If you have access to a full-size art printer, you will have to run your own tests.

Nest, detail

Using the latter technique will allow you to scale your drawing to many sizes and is especially nice for note cards, postcards, and small works on paper.  I am also assuming that you are using only high quality, non-fugitive watercolors.  As a side note, nearly any watercolor will fade over time so they should never be exposed to direct sun for long periods of time.

I welcome any comments or questions about using this technique or any others that I have discussed in this blog.