Stig-Ove Sivertsen, Norwegian watercolor artist

sivertsen in the woods 1

I keep "finding" Scandinavian watercolor gems. Here is the newest addition to the Artist Website section of my recommended links: S.O.Sivertsen

sivertsen in the woods 2 watercolor painting scandinavian
landscape sivertsen watercolor painting scandinavian norway

Another jewel from Sivertsen's website is this beautiful video that gives you a peek into why the process of working with watercolor is so exciting and addicting:

It almost doesn't matter what the end result is. You can just watch it move, bleed and blend for hours...

Nice soundtrack, too. Some Norwegian Radiohead :) Correction: Icelandic Radiohead (Wikipedia told me so). Sigur Ros.

Oh, and the other video on his website "is not available in my country."  Thanks so much, Sony.

Can you use makeup brushes for painting?

Before writing this post, I did a google search about using makeup brushes for painting and almost all the results were actually about using painting brushes for makeup (some even claim it is cheaper). So let me tell you my story. After attempting a couple of half and full sheet paintings recently, I discovered that my 1 1/2 inch taklon (good-ish synthetic) brush was no longer coping when I wanted to cover a large area in paint and achieve a smooth wash. Nor was my #36 round brush (also synthetic). It logically followed that I need a big brush with good paint-holding capacity (i.e. natural hair). If you ever looked for one, you know that even squirrel brushes start somewhere at $40 for 1" flat.

And so I had an idea. I was looking for a powder brush at Target when I saw "natural bristles" on the package. $5, worth a try? If it didn't work for watercolor, I still needed a powder brush, right? But it worked! It holds a bucket of water and paint and it is perfect for covering a large area. It even sort of holds a point when it's wet. So here is the brush (Studio Tools Powder Brush):

And a very quick wash on a half sheet (22x15"). I haven't even tried to make it smooth, hence some streaks. It is still a hundred times better than something I would get with my synthetic flat.

It took me maybe 5 loads total to cover the whole sheet - and not because the brush ran out of paint, but because I wanted to change colors or get more saturation. I was also afraid that the brush would shed profusely - but it didn't. It shed two hairs, and I can deal with that :)

Lena Amstrand, Swedish watercolor artist

lena amstrand watercolor

...who is another architect addicted to watercolor and whose influence I can now clearly see in Rebecca Elfast's work (Rebecca is an architect, too. I feel like I'm not that unique in having an architectural background and a burning passion for watercolor. I only hope they aren't doomed to sitting in front of a computer screen wishing they'd rather be painting). Amstrand's paintings make me think of the so-called Scandinavian design and of quiet places that are great for things like pondering and reminiscing.

lena amstrand watercolor
lena amstrand watercolor

Art in the Village review and my interview

art in the village poster

A couple of things happened since my last post. First of all, we participated in our first real art fair last weekend - Carlsbad Art in the Village. Here's the poster with my "Cherry Blossom II" on it :) :

Unlike with our local markets and swaps, we actually had expectations for this one. It was supposed to show whether or not we are ready for large regional events and whether it is worth paying $200+ to participate. Well, when it comes to generating interest and attracting visitors, I think we are ready. A lot of people stopped by. It is the beauty of an art-dedicated event: all who come there come for the art. It was great to have an "audience" with a genuine interest in and appreciation of my work and art in general.

When it comes to wasn't that good. We did make our money back with a very small profit on top which disappears when you count things like gas and food. We didn't have to pay for a night's sleep (our friends at Camp Pendleton were kind enough to let us stay with them AND they came to the show AND they bought an original painting and a print) or for childcare (my family was visiting and they were more than glad to watch the kid while chilling at the nearby beach). Still, we didn't lose money, and that's something, right?

Some of the highlights of the show:

  • being in Carlsbad. Perfect weather. Beautiful streets. Intelligent people. Don't ask me why I moved to the high desert, it's too prosaic...
  • seeing our friends and family who came to the show and made me feel special :)
  • the smell of the ocean! And almost getting soaked in cold water when I was sitting on the sand breastfeeding Elijah and didn't notice a particularly strong wave sneaking up on us. We were saved by my husband :)
  • some comments people made...Like, coming from a dark-long-haired young man with a guitar, "All these colors...This is just too happy for me. I like Gothic...And why so many babies?" - the babies (five of them) are on the wall with examples of my portraits.
  • being a Yupo-evangelist. I even gave a little piece of Yupo to one lady.
  • a friend of ours buying an original painting. I didn't feel like I was giving my baby away, but it was still very special. The painting is the "Cheeseburger in Paradise", I mean, "Lahaina, Hawaii" ;)

For my husband's review of the fair, go to

A few days before the fair, I was email-interviewed by Jennifer The Milk Mixer. Jennifer is an artist herself, and maintains a blog where she writes about creative people she meets. She found me through Twitter (@YevgeniaWatts) and liked my paintings. She asked me if she could feature me on her blog - and of course, I was all for it! You can read the mini-interview here.

Artist Network TV free weekend review

So, did you do the Artist Network TV free 4-day weekend? I did. And even though I felt that there was too much basic stuff and not enough good watercolor videos, it was nice. I "discovered" Stephen Quiller. That is, I've definitely heard the name before and saw some works, but last weekend, I discovered the way he paints. Fantastic. If I ever have a chance to take his workshop, I will.

Charles Reid turned out to be very boring, imho. Maybe he should stick to books :)

I enjoyed Mark Mehaffey's watercolor on Yupo workshop, even though most of the techniques and tricks he showed I already learned by myself and with the help of my online artist buddies. It was still fun.

A couple of things I learned from around 10 workshops that I watched:

  • When working from a photo, put it away as soon as you can. Copy machines do the copying, you do art. When you don't have the photo to imitate, you have to refer to your own mind which is a good way to bring a bit of you into the painting. When doing portraits, of course, I tend to hold on to the photos longer, but I still like to finish the painting without looking at the photo. It's not a "find 20 differences" game, it's a work of art.
  • Stephen Quiller, for example, along with many others, works from a black and white sketch (instead of a color photograph). It gives you the values, but also the freedom to make stuff up :)
  • I knew that most American watercolorists prefer flat brushes to round ones, but now I saw the flat brushes in action. I still like the round-ness of the round brush, and its ability to pick up the paint from my St Petersburg 24 pan set (a good size flat brush is too big for it). I still think that a round is better for some things - but I will be experimenting with flats, too.
  • A masking liquid tip that I already tested and determined that it's great: When masking, dip your brush (that you dedicated to masking for life) into water, then watered-down dish soap, then water. Repeat as needed. This keeps your brush clean!
  • It's better to under-do a painting than to over-do. Everybody knows it but we still need to be reminded now and then. Quiller actually said something along the lines of "When you're beginning to have a really great time doing something (like splashing paint or placing your trees in a landscape) - STOP!"

And that's a nice end of a blog post, don't you think? ;)

About some books

One of the books I'm reading now is Danny Gregory's "Everyday Matters." I've always liked books where pictures take up more space than words. It is great, and my only regret is that it is so short. One quote that I wanted to share is about the process of drawing: The reason why most people draw badly is because they draw symbols instead of what they see. A nose is a sort of triangle. An eye is a circle with another one inside. An ear is a circle with a squiggle. The brain has an inventory of shorthand symbols for stuff and that's what we draw.

Everyday Matters
By Danny Gregory

It's very human. Assigning things to categories, using symbols and signs; these skills separate us from the beasts. Unfortunately, these symbols are a screen through which we come to see the world. We say, "That person is rich, that one's crass. He's a criminal type, she's a blonde, they're famous, she's in a wheelchair..." We lump people and things and experiences into categories and deal with them accordingly. It's efficient but it strips the world of texture and chance, like eating every meal at McDonald's or wearing the same uniform every day.

This kind of thinking shows itself when we try to draw. In fact, that's the reason most people will say, "Oh, I can't draw." Kids never say that, until they reach the age of twelve or so, and their symbols are hard-baked.

I think this is very true and it's also true when it comes to painting and seeing color.  A yellow lemon is not always yellow, and white is not the absence of color but pretty much any color you like...I love looking at colors around me. I get excited about colors and my husband shakes his head and calls me a dork. I savor the warm reds and oranges and deep blues, I decipher the grays into yellows and purples and greens. Colors make me happy :)

On a different note, another book I'm reading is "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women" by Gail McMeekin." It has glowing reviews on Amazon but so far, I'm finding it quite disappointing.  The best thing about it is the quotes on the margins. It could be useful to somebody who is stressed, depressed and lost in their life and has no creative outlet. I was looking for practical advice and this book is more like a counselor. Get in touch with your intuition, spend time with yourself, and fuel your creative energy. All good stuff but nothing new.