Held - Introduction.jpg

If you are anything like me, I love supplies but sometimes I get stuck in using the same thing over and over again.  So we are going to go back to basics like the humble pencil, playing with dry mediums and paint of course.  Working on and with different substrates and just thinking about different ways of doing things.

I know we all have our "go-tos" and our favourite tools and some of us off the beaten track have to use what we can get.  Often I am forced to think outside the box which I kind of like to too.  We really are spoilt with choices but sometimes we have the most incredible things right in front of us... like an old tattered teabag.

Like what if I couldn't get "this" or "that"...  what would I use?  What if we were in the middle of war and we didn't have the luxury of supplies but we were desperate to create something, anything.  Would a burnt stick really suffice as long as we could create beauty?

I would like to think I would even scribble on an old used teabag with a charred stick.

When we think outside of our spoils... beautiful creative and innovative things come to mind and we find new places and ways to create.


When I get together with other artists, the number one thing I look at and ask is:  "what is your favourite substrate?"  I am always a little intrigued to see preferences and how they compare to my own victories and struggles.  I'm sharing this section not only to start this conversation but maybe to see that we aren't alone in our struggles with certain substrates.  I love the notion that we can work on absolutely anything and I do kind of work with that in mind.  I love finding different things to paint on.  I can work on a piece of bark or an old clothing tag.

I'm game to try anything and with the miracle of gesso... the world is your substrate.



What is Gesso???

Gesso is a white/black paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it. - According to Wiki

Well you can pretty much prep any surface with gesso.

 Clear Gesso

Clear Gesso

 Black Gesso

Black Gesso

 White Gesso

White Gesso

I'm utterly in love with Gesso and it has saved me many times, not only in prepping surfaces but also in painting over mistakes and starting over.  It can  help with damaged substrates and can even be used to paint with.

To me, it's genius stuff.


Lesson 1 - Different Substrates and fixing Damaged Canavases


Testing Testing 1, 2, 3...

I was quite keen to test various substrates that weren't stretch canvas.   I have victory on canvas but I seldom have victory when painting on watercolor paper.  I'm perplexed by this fact and I'm often intrigued by others' successes on watercolor paper.  I want to understand why and I want to get beyond this frustration.  I continue to learn by trying new things and push myself to dig deeper.


Lesson 2 - Paper Based Substrates


The Verdict...

In terms of this exercise and of all the paper substrates I tested, my favorite without a doubt was the textured wallpaper and the brown toned paper.

  1. Textured Wallpaper
  2. Brown Toned Paper
  3. Fabriano 100% Cotton paper
  4. Canvas Sheet Paper
  5. Munken Paper
  6. 200gsm Mixed Media Paper

Remember that piece of wallpaper?  

I had it block mounted/cradleboarded for you to see what you can do with offcuts of various different substrates.


Bonus - WallPaper Canvas

Music - I'll be good - Jaymes Young

DIY Canvases

I love the notion of making my own canvases by hand.

I know it's a little romantic but I love working on something that I've made from scratch.

It's a beautiful feeling and I love the process.

Plaster Boards / Sheets


Lesson 3 - CanvasBoards / Sheets


  • 6 Inch Plaster of Paris bandages and a tub of water
  • Cardboard scraps, ruler and blade
 PaperClay and Plaster Boards

PaperClay and Plaster Boards

Handmade substrates have such an old worldly feel to them, like working on something sacred and ancient.  I'm a little in love with the delicacy of it and being able to make a piece of art out of almost nothing.


Lesson 4 - PaperClay Canvases


  • Jovi PaperClay or any clay of your choice
  • Clay tools and rolling pin

Music - Winter Song - Saraa Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson


Lesson 5 - Painting QuirkyLove

Music - Little House - Amanda Seyfried, Love Somebody - Army of 3, Wash - Bon Iver


It’s not about the bike
— Lance Armstrong

No, it really IS about the bike....

In this instance, I really do believe working with good quality brushes makes all the difference in the world.  

I've always had my choice of brushes and I never really changed on that.  They were always entry level cheapie brushes which were always good enough for me.  However, the past few years I have changed my opinion on brushes and I've been experimenting with a variety different ones.

Two of my sweetest friends, Robin and Betty both sent me Princeton Catalyst brushes and I instantly fell in love.  I just couldn't believe the marked difference.  My painting style changed and I wasn't fighting with the paint so much anymore.  It was a smoother experience in general.

I've become addicted to buying brushes but I am careful to select these days because good brushes are expensive.  I know it seems extravagant at times but dare I say, it's worth it. 


Lesson 6 - Brushes

I love working with large, flat square brush.  They have helped me become more expressive in my brush strokes and have contributed to a more loose style of painting.  The larger surface area of the brush helps me be less restrictive and bolder in my movements.  Personally, I say the bigger the brush the better.

It's really challenging to push yourself to do finer details with that large flat brush and you will be amazed at what can be achieved. 


Dry Mediums


In my drawing section - this will be your primary tool - if this is all you have it will be plenty.  My friend Renee Plains sent me two of these pencils a few years ago.  It was a delightful surprise and I can't tell you how grateful I am that she sent me these magic wands.  I use mine daily for everything and now I've found refills erasers too.

 Marie's 5.6mm 4b Mechanical Pencil

Marie's 5.6mm 4b Mechanical Pencil

 Derwent Electric Eraser & refills & CretaColor Eraser (highly recommend)

Derwent Electric Eraser & refills & CretaColor Eraser (highly recommend)


My drawing bowl

  • A clean soft paint brush for dusting - limits smudging and Paper Blenders
  • Eraser
  • Pentel 500 0.5mm HB Mechanical Pencil
  • Mares 5.6mm 6B Mechanical Pencil 
  • Lyra graphite water-soluble and non.

I had forgotten how in love I am with drawing and graphite.


We can only get Willow charcoal in these parts but I think any kind will do.  I have a small collection going that I've grown through the years.

A charcoal drawing mixed and gesso/gel medium are great ways to start off a painting.

Charcoal is a great way to help loosen up and expressively map out larger works.



Conte / Pastels

How gorgeous is this pencil?  I found this precious one in Siena, Italy and it was love at first sight.


5.6mm Clutch pencil - Pastels / Charcoal colors - Creatcolor / Lyra / Koh-I-Noor

I am having so much fun with these beautiful compressed color sticks.


Stabilo / Inky Pencils


If I am doing a painting, I will most likely use brown Stabilo All Marks.  

I don't use black stabilo to draw up anymore.  It makes my paint dirty and muddy as it keeps re-activating when it gets wet and the black ink is a bit intense in comparison to the brown.  When I discovered the brown, I moved on swiftly.  I am also having a lot of fun with the red and blue Stabilos lately.

I do still use the black Stabilo for other things though... it's wonderful.

Acrylic Paints

I'm in the same boat as a lot of you in terms of my beloved Italian paints.

My Maimeri distributors won't be bringing them into the country anymore which has me forced me to start testing new brands and colors again.  I know change is good but what about my beloved favourite colors?

I've started making notes about the pigment codes so I can blend my own if I can't find a suitable replacement.

 See my pigment chat below.


Lesson 7 - Understanding color and pigments

When I started understanding pigments and how each color I was using was made up, it changed the way I approached color.



Lesson 8 - Talking about my Acrylics

  Perm Red Light  -  Hansa Yellow G PY1 and Naphthol AS PR112

Perm Red Light - Hansa Yellow G PY1 and Naphthol AS PR112

  Venetian Rose  -  Red Iron Oxide PR101 and Titanium White PW6

Venetian Rose - Red Iron Oxide PR101 and Titanium White PW6

  Kings Blue Light  -  Titanium White PW6 and Phthalo Blue PB15:3

Kings Blue Light - Titanium White PW6 and Phthalo Blue PB15:3

  Olive Green  -  Yellow Iron Oxide PY42 and Chromium Oxide PG17

Olive Green - Yellow Iron Oxide PY42 and Chromium Oxide PG17

  Warm Grey  -  Titanium White PW6, Yellow Iron Oxide and Mars Black PBK11

Warm Grey - Titanium White PW6, Yellow Iron Oxide and Mars Black PBK11

  Raw Umber  -  Yellow Iron Oxide PY42, Red Iron Oxide PY101 and Carbon Black PB6

Raw Umber - Yellow Iron Oxide PY42, Red Iron Oxide PY101 and Carbon Black PB6

  Ivory White  -  Titanium White PW6 and Yellow Iron Oxide PY42

Ivory White - Titanium White PW6 and Yellow Iron Oxide PY42


Let's talk about Red...

I know quiet a few of you have asked about my Perm Red Light, the substitute I've managed to find is Cadmium Red Light.  Both have Red and Yellow pigments in them.


Bonus - Red

  Perm Red Light  -  Hansa Yellow G PY1 and Naphthol AS PR112

Perm Red Light - Hansa Yellow G PY1 and Naphthol AS PR112

  Scarlet/Rouge  -  Monoazoic PR4

Scarlet/Rouge - Monoazoic PR4

  Cadmium Red  -  Cadmium Red PR106

Cadmium Red - Cadmium Red PR106

  Vermiion Hue  -  Naphthol Red PR9

Vermiion Hue - Naphthol Red PR9

  Naphthol Red  -  Naphthol AS PR112

Naphthol Red - Naphthol AS PR112

  Pyrrole Red Deep -   Pyrolle PR254

Pyrrole Red Deep - Pyrolle PR254


I found this YOUTUBE video about Cadmium Red Light.  Hope you find it helpful.