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  • a happy, ordinary, middle-aged, suburban woman who paints odd pictures, gardens in a straw hat, lives with the love of her life, is owned by one cat and the ghosts of several others, and walks a little funny 'cause she has a fake leg. She started this website because there's more to life than what we lose, and we need to let each other know what's possible, even if it's only a happy, ordinary life.

November 2011

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  • E-mail me at:

    sara at saraarts dot com

    Make sure the subject line of your correspondence is clear and specific. I do not open e-mails from strangers unless I can tell in advance that I want to read them.

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  • I Took The Handmade Pledge!

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Please read this before answering the below question, or at least skim the first post. :D

Has this happened to you? I see all those Prismacolor pencils there and I raise an eyebrow and nod impressedly, and then I wrinkle up my nose remembering just how incredibly horrible the pencils I got were. So I have to wonder.


I really don't like Prismacolor pencils. The Verithin have their uses because of their hardness, and Prismacolor really does offer a lot of colors in its basic pencil line, even a line of particularly lightfast shades now which is a breakthrough for this medium, but I really don't like the way they "lay down" as that first commenter put it. I prefer Bruynzeel. Those things are like paint.

My first love was Design Spectracolor, but Sanford, which owns Prismacolor, bought it and then immediately killed it off in favor of the Prismacolor brand. I hoarded as many DS as I could before they disappeared from art supply stores forever, and they are mostly what I still use. I think I have a five-lifetime supply of crimson lake, but whatcha gonna do, right? I bought whatever I could.

What Prismacolor sells that I love are the Art Stix, which is what came in that big box featured in the above picture. They're like pastels made of colored pencil leads, so (a) you're not killing trees just to house pigment, and (b) you can do all the same things with them that you do with colored pencils, but also with crayons, pastels, etc., only they're that hard, waxy Prismacolor medium, so they don't snap like pencil leads.

Oh, and I totally use an electric sharpener. Mine's a Panasonic, it cost $40 new, and I've had it something like 11 years. I only use hand sharpeners in the field.

Now I really do have to go use them, all of them. They are impatient about my delays. I can sense this as they gather behind me, with all their fierce, pointy points. They do not like this computer thing, not at all. They are jealous, jealous. I must go pay attention to them or goodness knows what the price will be.


Oh, and incidentally, I really like and strongly recommend Rexel Derwent for watercolor pencils. Those are the grey ones in the picture above that are ranged in the black stand on my chair. They come in a lot of shades, and I especially love their range of very useful pale shades that work really well for adding light over patches of thick, furiously burnished color.

In case you might have wondered...


I spent a crapton of money on my Fabercastell Polychromos (although less than I would've because I got my box set ( ) on sale a long time ago. I've had some... issues lately that've kinda blocked me from really drawing much. Not exactly the same as artists block, but close enough.

Anyway, I din't much care for WC pencils, although I do like Derwent a lot. My favourite color pencils next to my polychromos are Bruynzeel from the Netherlands. They're actually soft chalk pastel pencils, but they lay down like a gentle lover seducing you awake.


Wow, I'm a pretty decisive person, but I wouldn't know where to begin in that sea of beautiful of luck :)


Jeannette, I am sorry to hear about your issues. Boy do I know what that's like, though obviously I don't know what your specific ones are right now. I hope they resolve soon or at least clear a space amongst themselves big enough for you to get back to your artwork.

Meanwhile, let's get back to that crazy pencil talk! I am a big fan of the Bruynzeel. You have described their stuff aptly, though I don't use the chalk pastel pencils, just the wax. And I only use watercolor pencils of any brand for very specific fine detail work on large, mostly wax-based works.

That is a gorgeous box you bought. Personally, I'm not crazy for the Polychromos because I just find them too hard, though I do have uses for hard pencils, limning fine detail for example. Mostly I make really big pictures, though, three by four feet sometimes, and I like to lay on the color in layers and blend and burnish until the gradients become undetectable in some places. I like to feel like the pigment is being licked off the pencil by the paper.

Of course, the paper does have something to do with that, too. I highly recommend the Fabriano Tiziano for work with colored pencil. I especially love the black, but I don't always have a specific idea that will make use of it. You can see one old example here (and this also shows a lot of highlights made with Rexel Derwent water color pencils), and another newer one here. Oh, and then there's this old sketch I made with a Design Spectracolor white pencil and a silver Art Stix stick for the Year of the Dragon (head detail here).

Another thing I've learned over years is to buy open stock when at all possible. I became a visual artist I think because of a lust for color more than anything else. I want to own every color. I practically want to eat color. I don't think it's a good idea to analyze that last statement too closely, but it makes me susceptible to shiny packages full of pretty colors. Expensive shiny packages. Lovely wooden boxes. You know what I mean. Clearly you've felt it, too.

Of course, standing in front of a rack of open stock, I have the same problem I have in my own studio. Which one(s)? Which one(s) today? When I'm just replacing something, it's easy; I kind of tunnel in on what I need, and usually end up walking out with only three or four things I didn't mean to buy. But when I'm trying something new, oy.

I have an awful lot of different brands of black and white. I have a Polychromos in white. :)

Sognatrice, thank you for your good wishes.

While I'm confessing, uh, I guess I should admit that this isn't even all the colors I own. You should see what I have managed to stash away in my plein air kit. The things in this picture are all either nonessentials or extra copies.

When I'm doing fine art, I just start with graphite, just touching on outlines with a 9H pencil or using graphite paper to transfer things I've worked out elsewhere and traced onto parchment. The nature of the image tells me which color to pick first, a light wash over large areas of whatever will be the background. But I'm experimenting with some craft media right now to test materials for a big fine art project the likes of which I have never made, but the specifics of which I've been mulling over for something like eleven years. I'm going to sell the crafty little results and some other stuff I make just for fun at my looming Etsy shop, but I need to make little gift tags. And I was totally baffled last night where to start!

And I can't help but think that's kind of hilarious. Gah! Foiled by a gift tag! Heh -- it's always something.


Heh! I totally know what you mean about the gift tags. I usually leave them off and just pile on the ribbon because I'm a dork like that. :)

I do the same about open stock. My local art store is le suckation extreme, but does occaisionally stock a few polychromos. I went there and got some open stock, but mostly I get them from Blick, assuming they send me the right thing anymore.

I'm hoping that this week I can finish cleaning out my studio which (for the oh so cryptic reasons mentioned above) I have more or less let become a temporary storage place like an idiot.

Today a broken chair goes out and then stuff gets shredded and tomorrow hopefully I can clean my drafting table off. :D

So do you have an art blog too where you post your work, or is it all a "pile in the closet" thing or somewhere in between? The things you linked are quite georgous, you do nice work!


Heh -- I went to your blog, Jeannette, so some reasons now do seem a trifle less cryptic. I have no advice, of course, nothing useful to offer, just sympathy and good wishes. But that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee at the gas station, I know, so back to the art stuff!

My basic website is Everything I publish online is sort of a branch off that tree, except for some things I've published here which haven't made it to that site yet. There is a big pile in the closet, some of which hasn't even been scanned or photographed yet. There is stuff hanging in other people's houses, too, though not enough, and one of my short-term goals is to amp that up a bit. (I need the closet space for more supplies.)

I started this blog as a resource for amputees. To my surprise, over the course of the first year I discovered from surfing around and from the kind of search queries I got that one of the resources amputees and people who care about amputees really need is the kind that shows them that even though amputation, like every awful physical thing that can happen to a person, sucks for sure and can really suck big, it doesn't have to be all-consuming. I discovered that there is a real need to increase the amount of positive or at least ordinary images in the world of amputees since most (but not all) media images tend to be agents of objectification, and of metastatic cancer patients, specifically metastatic malignant melanoma patients, all of whom die young and tragically on TV. The world who is none of these things needs to see us as human beings with real, full lives, and it needs to start thinking of us as part of the big diverse pool of what is truly "normal," not frightening, not scary, not innately titillating, and no more pitiable than any other poor suffering human with his/her own problems. Those of us who actually live with these conditions or are currently facing the prospect of living with these conditions need to see examples of people just carrying on with their real, mostly "normal" lives, not being prevented from enjoying life, not being prevented from living life, as well as being honest about the complications and openly sharing various solutions. So I decided, instead of starting a third blog, to just go ahead and start including stuff that had nothing to do with amputation. I needed the material for NaBloPoMo anyway.

I hope I haven't waxed pretentious. It's not like I'm holding myself up as inspiration or any crap like that, just as yet another variation on the theme of real person with a complete package of real problems to deal with and real gifts to revel in, celebrate and share. I actually think that, besides allowing me freedom to rant and laugh and the opportunity to exchange information with people who know stuff I don't, not to mention just share pleasure at being alive, this kind of thing, the "full picture blog," has a lot of potential to be of use to others. I know that reading other people's blogs has really helped me, has cracked my mind wide open, over and over again, and also given me all kinds of delight.

So no, no separate art blog. My main art site, assorted online stores to come, the much neglected Poem of the Day project blog, and this all-inclusive one will have to be it.

I think that'll be enough of me for one internet, don't you?

Speaking of art sites, though, you have a lot of nice work posted at Blank Pixel. I particularly love your ink drawings a lot. A serial rethinker and second-guesser, I'm horribly intimidated by ink, but so impressed by people who can make something other than Rorschach blots out of it. Of course, you've done a lot more than that!

Nice work. I hope you'll be able to enjoy a nice clean studio space and nice clean life space in which to create more soon. Sounds like you're doing a lot of work toward that end.

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