Art Paraphernalia

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014, 1 week, 1 day and 19 hours ago

Where ever your interests lie; whether you like to cook, sew, build models, or take photos, or tumble rocks (or climb them!), don’t you find that looking at all of your equipment and supplies just makes you so happy? I admit it, I am a total art supply hoarder. I love looking at other people’s stuff, so I thought I’d show you some of mine!

A happy tin of drawing things: fineliners, graphite pencils, conté and charcoal sticks, erasers and sharpeners.

Acrylic inks.

A lovely box of 34 Sennelier watercolour half pans with brushes, ceramic palette and masking fluid (a present from last Christmas!)

I made a colour chart for my watercolours.

Some of my brushes. I only have synthetic ones because I don’t want to use animal hair. My latest purchase is a Winsor & Newton “Cotman” round brush for watercolours (highly recommended if you’re looking for a decent quality synthetic brush).

A plethora of pencils! Clockwise from top left: set of 12 Stabilo pastel pencils, set of 12 Conté a Paris graphite and carbon pencils (which I didn’t use until recently because they didn’t fit into any of my pencil sharpeners!), set of 24 Staedtler “Aquarell” pencils (I also have a set of 42 Derwent watercolour pencils), set of 24 Winsor & Newton soft pastels (that I’ve barely used – not my favourite medium), set of 12 Derwent “Inktense” watercolour pencils, set of 12 Bruynzeel-Sakura “Design” graphite drawing pencils.

This tin of 72 Derwent colour pencils is very dear to me because I’ve owned it since I was a young’un (the eighties!). I actually typed out a colour chart – on a typewriter! Side note: my grandma once told me that when she was in primary school they used a tray of wet sand and a stick to learn how to write the alphabet (almost as good as an iPad)!

And now for some “shelfies”…




And some of my favourite things…

I only bought these Bruynzeel-Sakura “Design” graphite pencils earlier this year, but they are my favourite drawing pencils ever. They range from 2H to 9B – previously I’d only used up to 6B, I didn’t even know they made 9Bs! They’re nice and smooth (not scratchy) and dense. I have two sets, one that I keep with nice sharp points for detail, and one with rounded points for shading. This works out to be quite economical in the long run because you’re not constantly sharpening pencils you’ve blunted from shading.

One thing I forgot to take a photo of is my tin of General’s Charcoal White pencils, which I absolutely love. They’re not too soft or crumbly, incredibly smooth, never scratchy, and have much denser pigment than even the softest colour pencil I’ve tried. I love drawing on coloured paper with them. There was one problem…they were impossible to sharpen. I was driven to distraction trying to maintain a fine point, because no matter what I tried, they would always break. Then the lady at the art shop recommended the (rather unfortunately named) KUM Automatic Long Point sharpener, which is the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent – not a single breakage since! This is the bees knees of pencil sharpeners, and I’m a total convert to the long point. It sharpens the wood first, then the point, and works out to be quite economical because sometimes when your pencil starts to get a bit blunt you can get away with just sharpening the lead, so your pencils last longer! The only little downside…it doesn’t sharpen pastel pencils, you’ll still need a special sharpener for those.

You might already know how great erasers are when it comes to drawing and blending, not just for erasing mistakes. I used to use kneadable erasers for fine details, but I’ve always found them a bit messy, so here’s a little tip of mine… I slice off little pieces of eraser with a sharp knife and mitre the ends to a fine point, and they’re incredibly precise for those little details. When the eraser gets blunt and/or grubby you just cut it to a pointy edge again. My favourite eraser (again, another recommendation from the art shop lady) is a Moo Professional Eraser. The art shop lady (maybe I’ll refer to her as “ASL” from now on) described it as a cross between a kneadable and a regular vinyl eraser, and that pretty much explains it. They come in a big block, are quite soft (perhaps a little too crumbly), and work with graphite, colour pencils, charcoal and pastels. Rather than all those little messy bits that you normally have to brush from your drawings, this eraser just kind of gathers into one bit so your artwork is easier to clean up. Because of its softness you don’t get any shine or damage to the surface of your paper and it does a really effective job of erasing.

Some new(ish) things that I really love…

These Molotow markers are amazing! I bought two; a 1mm fine tip, and a 1mm brush tip “Softliner”, along with a couple of spares (the tips are replaceable) and some refill paint. I was only interested in white because I wanted to use them to add details to monochrome ink drawings, but they come in a range of colours. What’s so great about Molotow markers is that instead of ink, they hold acrylic paint that although quite thin, has incredibly dense pigment – the white is truly opaque. They have a pump action (but beware of over doing it and causing the paint to flood) and absolutely amazing flow. They’re refillable, and you can mix and/or dilute the colours. A couple of downsides… The paint takes a little while to dry (especially on non-porous surfaces) so you do need to be careful not to smudge your work, and you also have to be careful the tips don’t dry out and become clogged. Some people recommend soaking blocked tips in acetone, but I just rinse them in water after each use and let them dry thoroughly (this takes a few days, so if you plan to use them again in the immediate future, best to leave the tips in but make sure the caps are properly sealed). They write on a huge range of surfaces, and all in all are very versatile and totally nifty. Whatever will they think of next?!

I tried Derivan “Liquid Pencil” and found it lumpy and difficult to blend. Disappointing, because the idea of watercolour graphite is really appealing. Then I discovered Viarco “Art Graf” water soluble graphite. It’s very smooth and blendable and nice to use. One small criticism…I haven’t been able to achieve a really dense dark grey-black, but it’s great for washes and easy to build up lovely tones.

So there you are; a little wrap up of some of my art stuff. I hope some of you fellow art supply hoarders found it interesting!


Posted in Art, Process & Progress

Postcards Sent!

Saturday July 12th, 2014, 2 weeks, 4 days and 18 hours ago

So I had a little giveaway of some of my new postcards and got a fantastic response. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone out there, still reading my blog. Facebook has taken so much traffic away from independent blogs, which is a real shame, so this is a perfect opportunity to thank you for still being there, reading and commenting and emailing – it means a lot!

Off the little postcards go (I posted them Thursday), some within Australia (all in Victoria, isn’t that odd?), as well as the US and South Africa. I’ve blurred out people’s names so they don’t know which they’re getting, but I thought I’d still post a photo. I wanted to write something different for each one; so someone’s getting a list of girls’ names that were popular 100 years ago, another is some fascinating facts about moths, another is a snippet of a poem I read recently, a little witticism from Oscar Wilde, an interesting fact about chairs, and my recipe for Green Tea Citrus Syrup – all with a few little drawings.
Some of the lovely postcard recipients have beautiful blogs of their own… Rebecca has a gorgeous blog called Needle & Spindle which is dedicated to knitting and sewing and other creative pursuits. I am obsessed with sewing blogs at the moment, so it’s lovely to see Rebecca’s inspiring posts pop up in my Feedly feed! Natasha’s blog, Bamboo Blossom, is also a wonderful record of her creative life, with cooking, sewing, travel, etc, and I think Natasha’s made my vegan cheesecake recipe more times than I have! It’s really amazing to think that here’s someone on the other side of the world making my cheesecake (and doing such a great job of it)! Last but definitely not least is Cadry’s blog, Cadry’s Kitchen, which is a vibrant celebration of vegan cooking with recipes, cookbook reviews, etc, and everything is so beautifully presented. Another one of my faves! Isn’t the blogging community great? I learn so much from the things people generously share on their blogs – always so much inspiration!

This giveaway was a lot of fun, so I will do it again soon. Next time, rather than the first five responses, I’ll draw the names randomly so that different timezones won’t be an issue. Sorry to the people who didn’t get a postcard, but please try again next time!


New Promo Postcard!

Wednesday July 9th, 2014, 3 weeks, 15 hours and 40 minutes ago


So this is my new promotional postcard…what do you think? I kind of like postcards more than regular business cards, they’re just more fun, and I think people are more inclined to keep them instead of hurling them in the bin. I’m really happy with the way they turned out!

Boy, did I struggle with writing the spiel on the back. I wanted to say something that captured the essence of my work, but didn’t read like an artist’s statement, and wasn’t written in the third person (everyone knows you wrote it yourself, so why do that?). I wanted it to be clear and concise and not pretentious or boastful, but still positive (after all, I am trying to promote myself!). Urgh, I wrote about a thousand drafts and over-analysed every single word back to front and inside out until none of it seemed to make any sense anymore. *Sigh* I had to get it right since I was having 1,000 cards printed – it’s hard to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences!


In case it’s difficult to read in the pic, this is what I wrote (some of it I stole from my about page, which is due for a rewrite I think): “I find inspiration in the ghosts of our past; memory, nostalgia, and the things we collect that record our personal stories. Both newfangled and old school, blending digital and traditional media, my work is a bittersweet mix of levity and melancholy. Above all, I hope it is friendly, accessible, and brings people some of the happiness it gives me to make it.  ~ Karena”

I thought it would be fun to give a few cards away. Would you like one? Just email me and let me know if you’d like a postcard, and I’ll post one out with a little handwritten message on the back to the first 5 people who respond (no need to email me your name and address just yet – I’ll let you know if you were one of the 5 and get your details then). Doesn’t that sound like fun? Come on, it’s better than the usual stuff that shows up in your letterbox, eg. bank statements and electricity bills.

PS. I’m having trouble with my blog feed. I realised that people were only getting a text preview with no images showing up, so I’ve tinkered with the settings, but I’m still not sure it’s working. It’s always disappointing to follow someone’s blog and find you don’t get any enticing photos in your feed! So if you happen to be subscribed to my blog and do get my pics appearing in your reader or emails, please let me know, I’ll be so happy if it’s finally working properly!

EDIT: Well that was fun! The five postcards have gone, but I think I’ll do another postcard giveaway down the track a little. Sorry if you missed out this time!


Adventures in Surface Design

Sunday April 13th, 2014, 3 months, 2 weeks and 6 days ago

I thought I’d let you know I’ve opened a Spoonflower shop and have some of my designs available as fabric. I have a little collection called Lilium, which you can see below, as well as an assortment of some of my other patterns, and I have a few more I’ll be listing for sale in a few weeks. (See what I did there? I made the layouts look like plates from The Grammar of Ornament!) Anyway, you can visit my Spoonflower shop right here. I really love designing patterns and have other pattern-related projects simmering away that I’ll tell you about later. Patterns! Patterns!! Patterns!!!

How are you? I’m so happy about the lovely autumn weather and that daylight savings is over and I finally got that hour back I’d been missing all summer – pity about it getting dark so early though!




Australian Home Journal: Part One

Wednesday March 26th, 2014, 4 months, 1 week and 1 day ago

I used to make my own clothes waaay back in the eighties and nineties, but for some reason I stopped. I think I was just much more focused on the result rather than the process and eventually grew tired of it. I’ve recently revisited my sewing machine and I’m loving it! This time, I’m much more engaged in the whole process and and I’m finding it really rewarding; not to mention all of my past sewing projects were pre-internet so I’m now discovering for the first time all the fabulous resources that are out there – so many great blogs, fabric shops and downloadable patterns – yaaay!

All of this sewing buzz prompted me to pull out my stash of vintage Australian Home Journal magazines. Some of them still have the dress patterns inside, but I’m more interested in looking at the beautiful covers for now. My collection spans thirty years from the early-30s to the early-60s, so I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to sharing this beautiful cover art with you. Here are the first seven that I’ve selected, spanning 1932-38; just look at all of those gorgeous dresses! As a bonus, here’s a sassy lassy in a sporty tennis pullover from 1932…










Rosalind, Bertie and Lucille

Tuesday February 11th, 2014, 5 months, 3 weeks and 1 day ago

Here are a few more portraits. The first is an ink drawing on a collage of vintage and found paper, and the other two are graphite pencil and watercolour. Deciding on their names is so tricky. I wait until I’m finished and then look into their eyes and think, “Hmm, what’s your name?” I hope I got them right!Rosalind




Some New Drawings

Sunday February 9th, 2014, 5 months, 3 weeks and 2 days ago

Hi! Here’s a preview of some new originals that I’ll be listing in the shop in a few weeks’ time – some ink and graphite drawings, collages, watercolours and mixed media pictures. My friends Mark and Stevie bought me a beautiful set of Sennelier watercolours in a gorgeous wooden chest for Christmas and I love them so much! I’ve been feeling very inspired lately, and thought perhaps I’d do a blog post this week that’s shameless art supply porn. I love taking a peek at other people’s tools and materials, so thought I’d share some of my favourites. By the way, I discovered the best pencil sharpener in the whole world (do pencil sharpeners excite you as much as they do me?) that sharpens white charcoal pencils without breaking – I will share the details.

I’ve been doing some quirky portraits – I like faces with character. I also decided to do some portraits of toys because there’s not a time in your life when you love a lump of plastic with as much passion, or imbue it with as much personality as when you’re a kid and have a favourite toy. Expect more creepy dollies and chubby-cheeked animals!





Capturing a Likeness

Wednesday October 30th, 2013, 9 months, 1 week and 1 day ago

I made this sketch of a young Jessica Mitford for my sister Cass’s partner Dave who had a birthday recently – Jessica Mitford is a hero of his. Overall I’m happy with the way it turned out (especially the frame) but she does look a little like Nicole Kidman in my portrait, which was not deliberate!  I recently scrapped a sketch of F Scott Fitzgerald I was doing because he looked way too much like Dick Van Dyke for my liking! I think it’s important to do your best to capture a likeness when you’re drawing a specific person, but for me, I also like to stylise my subject somewhat – I guess it’s all about achieving that balance.

I’m totally hooked on white charcoal and tinted paper at the moment. Speaking of white charcoal…does anyone know how to sharpen the General’s pencils to a nice point without them breaking? If so, please let me know! At the moment I just sharpen them to a dull point and use a sandpaper block, but you can never get a really fine point that way. This paper’s made from recycled sugar cane pulp and I really love it; lots of colours and beautiful textures. I wanted to decorate the frame and echo the design in the collaged part of the drawing. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and would like to do some more of these to sell in my shop before the year’s out.