July 12, 2009

Don't buy one of these things

I normally try to keep this blog focused on ink, paper, and digital from time to time, but enough cartoonists use gouache and watercolor often enough for this to be a good topic.

The contraption above is one of the pieces of equipment I've owned over the years where the relationship started as a dazzling, starry-eyed honeymoon, but ended in tears and bitterness. If you don't recognize it, it is a Masterson Sta-Wet Palette, and if you have ever worked with tube watercolor or gouache and had your perfectly mixed color dry onto the palette, never to be quite the same again after re-hydration, you are probably already ordering one online after reading the name.

Don't enter your credit card quite yet.

First of all, let me say for the record that this product does exactly what it says it will. It will keep guache and watercolor and acrylic wet, even in the thinnest of layers, for days to weeks. It's a sealing plastic box that comes in various sizes. Inside is a sponge pad and a sheet of acrylic coated paper that you use as a disposable palette surface. You soak the sponge and get the paper wet, put the paper on the sponge, blot off the excess water and you put your paint on that. Close the box when you're done, come back to still wet paint. I'm not panning their product because it doesn't work.

I'm panning it because they charge $obscenity.bullshit for it. The small palette costs ten bucks and the large one costs 15. The flimsy paper, which paint will often leak through and stain the sponge, costs 4-7 bucks for refills of 30. The sponges, which have to be replaced occasionally due to paint leaking through the paper, and which are prone to mold (evidently they have no antimicrobial treatment like many kitchen sponges do) are 7-10 bucks for three. It all works but it's all shitty and cheap, and you can do better for less money, and NOT have a mono-tasker tool taking up space in your studio to boot.

All you need is:

  • A piece of cheap-as-you-can-find tupperware like Gladware, or whatever off brand gladware is, or a deli takeout containter, or anything that seals up watertight that's large enough to fit your paint mixing area into. (either use a large one or a bunch of small ones.)
  • A piece of cotton fiber paper. Most watercolor papers and decent stationary paper are cotton. If you're an artist you probably have scraps of this lying all around. Those scraps can be put to good use as stay-wet palettes, and then you can doodle on them when you dry them out.
  • A sponge or sponges.
  • Water.
Here's what you do:

Below you can see I had a soaked sponge in my plastic tub. I chose a small one so the photos would come out better. The sponge is really wet, I did not wring it out.
Next I took a piece of light weight watercolor paper and soaked it till it was floppy, then blotted it so it wasn't slick with water on the surface.
On top of the sponge it went.

Then I took some red gouache, because I figured it would photograph well. Left on it's lonesome this guache dries despair-inducingly fast.

I spread it around to show that even the thinnest skim will stay moist and workable.

Then I sealed it,

And out it in my closet:

That was Thursday night. Tonight I opened it, and voila- as you can see it is quite moist, yet it has not bled or been dilluted. It is exactly as I left it:

With some scrap paper and your tupperware you can have your own stay-wet palettes for cheap, and you can use them for food when you're done. Why buy one?

By the way, I want to say an odd sort of thank you to all my readers. It's common on the internet for people to develop a strong sense of entitlement to content they like, to the extent that people will harass bloggers and movie makers and comic artists about not updating their totally free whatever that they earn no money from and don't even get ad revenue from. As you've all undoubtedly noticed my updates have been less frequent lately, which is because I've been trying to get past a stage in my book for First Second and it is just a freaking slog, and, well...no one's given me shit about it. Not one single person. No one's even asked me the uncomfortable to answer question of what's been wrong, why am I not updating as often. I've gotten some very kind comments about people's appreciation for the blog, and that's been it.

So, thank you all, for not being self-entitled pricks and being really kind to me. I'm really pleased to see that's the kind of classy audience I attract. I'll tell you all this, the best of the blog is not behind me. Two of my biggest tutorials are still in the pipeline, as well as several requested topics, and I am always finding new stuff. I'm having a hard time finding time lately, and when that's over, I'll post weekly or maybe even more once again.

Thank you all again.


July 6, 2009

So I have totally loved Jillian Tamaki's stuff since I first found a copy of the single issue of Skim in Giant Robot in like, 2005 or something, and the finished book totally lived up to the hype. And Matt's already posted to her before, but since then she's put up one of her handouts on keeping a sketchbook from her class at Parsons. There's also one on idea generation, both of them good reads.

Also, Eddie Campbell has been posting about his upcoming Alec book on his blog, which have always been my favorite of his comics. But I've had this link saved for two years now, the first of seven posts about paper he uses, though the others are image specific, and at times things that materialized somewhere in his studio that seemed to fit the purpose.

Part 2,, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7