|Art Journal page from my Kid's Made Modern watercolor paper journal (see Part 1), craft paints, simple ephemera|
GessoGesso was one of those products that continually frustrated me, because it seemed no matter where I went, it was expensive. I was even going to attempt to make my own with talc and white paint at one point (er, don't do this), because that's pretty much what it is - chalk, titanium white pigment (or black/gray/brown, depending on the brand and color) and acrylic binder. I didn't use any for a few years, because I wasn't gonna pay $15 for 8 ounces of chalky paint. But oy, I broke down, waited for a sale, and tried Golden's Gesso. And it's lovely, and feels lovely to the touch, and only covers previous layers slightly, so there's this mystery peeking out from behind it. But, alas, it's too much to keep up that habit.
Then I found Martha Stewart's Gesso (sold at Michael's with her paint line, in the craft paint aisle), for $7 for 6 ounces. So, with a 40% off coupon, that's about $4. And it's wonderful stuff. It's slightly thicker than Golden's gesso, so you can lay it on thick and then texturize it (write in it, stamp into it, create designs in it). It comes in a pourable squeeze bottle, too, which I find a plus. It's got this wonderful, fine tooth to it. It's the closest I've come to Golden's Gesso, at a price that doesn't make me gulp.
I will just say this about Liquitex BASICS Gesso - I love all of Liquitex's products I've tried, except this one. This gesso is not just toothy - it's actually gritty, bumpy even. So, if you try to glue down anything on top of it, the grit will prevent the piece from adhering completely. It's the kind of gesso that needs to be sanded down between layers. This goes for their Clear Gesso, too - same texture. For some people, this isn't a deal-breaker, but for me, it is. If I want a clear gesso, I'll just stick to Matte Medium - it's clear and has tooth to it - problem solved. (Tip from the pro, Less Herger of Comfortable Shoes Studios - The professional gesso of the Liquitex line is smooth as silk. What I'm talking about is their BASICS line).
WatercolorsLots of people in the mixed-media world use watercolors, both tube and pan varieties, in their art journals. I've seen people mix watercolors with acrylic/craft paints, with delightful results. I've also seen art journals that are all pen-and-ink work, with watercolors for color. I use watercolors on the faces of the girls I draw, because it lets the graphite shading I've worked on shine through. But, for the most part, I consider watercolor paints to be an add-on with my pages, not the "main event" (like my craft paints), so my research on this is pretty slim.
In this arena, I will just say this - buy what you can afford. What you're paying for is quality/amount of pigment (just like with artist quality acrylic paint vs. craft paint). I would say if you're just starting out, and really want to try out watercolors, but are on a budget, then head to Michael's, and get the $5 Artist Loft set. They're actually a little opaque, closer to a gouache-type paint, but the set has fun colors, and you'll get to see if watercolors are something you really want to work with. If they captivate you, then consider saving up for a good, artist-quality set of watercolor (either pan or tubes).
Water-Soluable Oil Pastels/Gelatos/Watercolor Crayons/Twist StixI've grouped these together, because you can achieve similar looks with all four of these products, with only slight differences in what they each do. I just don't want you to feel like, if you watch a technique video using Gelato's, that you need to run out and buy those, when you're sitting on a set of Portfolio Water-Soluable Oil Pastels at home. Or if you see that really pretty set of NeoColor II Watercolor Crayons, to pine away for them, when you can work the same magic with a set of Crayola Twists Slick Stix.
What each of these products will do is lay down a thick, slick, smooth layer of color, that can also then be activated with water, for all kinds of fun effects. They range from oily to waxy in their finishes, but many techniques between them overlap. Here is how I break them down:
- Portfolio Water-Soluable Oil Pastels: Oil-based, they have a wonderful smooth creamy finish to them. They lay down thick color, and are finger-blendable, for soft effects. You can get a set of 24 colors for $10 at Staples.
- Crayola Twist Slick Stix: I found these at Joann's, in their kids' aisle, where a set of 12 was $10 (used a coupon - that's pretty pricey in my book). They come in a thick tube, and lay down thick, blendable color. They are water-soluable, too, and have the added bonus of coming with a metallic silver and metallic gold color. I would say their finish is like Gelato's, somewhere between oily and waxy - right in the middle. Like lipstick.
- Gelato's (or Faber-Castell Gel Sticks, for the budget conscious): I pined for Gelato's for about a millisecond, when I realized that they're Faber-Castell's answer to water-soluable crayons, and do the same thing as all the other products. They come in "chapstick" form, and go on just like lipstick. If you have your heart set on a set, try out the Faber-Castell Gel Sticks, in the kids' aisle of Joann's - same stuff, different marketing. I believe it's again, $10 for a set of 10 (use your coupon!).
- Caran D'Ache Neocolor II Watercolor Crayons: These are priciest ones of all - $18 for a set of 10 from Dick Blick (and that's the best price I've found). They have a definite waxy-finish, and are not as finger-blendable as the other products. When laid down, the color is muted, but when activated with water - oh wow - bright and vibrant color! They are a lovely product, but if they're just accents for your art journal, and you're on a budget, then I'd go for one of the other products. Or, if you can, I'd go to a local art store, and buy a couple in colors you like, to try them out, before investing in a whole set.
Next up, we'll wrap up this series, and go into things like washi tape and ephemera, and how the more you art journal, the more you'll have an eye for things to use in your art journal.