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by Deb Shaw

Buzzfeed's finished DIY pencil holder, open. © 2016 Buzzfeed Nifty.

Buzzfeed’s finished DIY pencil holder, open. © 2016 Buzzfeed Nifty.

I don’t know about you, but I have a collection of palettes and pencil holders and pen holders and brush holders to rival the inventory in any art store. Some I’ve made, most I’ve purchased, and some have been gifts. They all look perfect at first glance, but then there is always something that looks better about the newest version, and, well…

Thank you to Amanda Krauss Nguyen for sharing Nifty’s Do-It-Yourself instructions on Buzzfeed for this easy and fabulous holder with the facebook group The Nature Journal Club. Full instructions are on the Nifty page: http://bzfd.it/2b8n2UB

by Deb Shaw

Blick Art Materials Bamboo Gallery Frame. Image courtesy of Blick Art Materials website.

Blick Art Materials Bamboo Gallery Frame. Image courtesy of Blick Art Materials website.

Blick Art Materials is having a sale on a selection of their Bamboo Gallery Frames. Save 60 percent off list price for the 14 x 18, 16 x 20, and 24 x 36 sizes. The 16” x 20” (#18858-­7916) is the frame specified for the upcoming BAGSC exhibition “Capturing the Arboretum: The Art of Botanical Illustration.”

Support ASBA while saving money! Go to the ASBA website > Support Us > Shop Dick Blick and click on the link (or click here: https://www.asba-art.org/support-us/dick-blick). ASBA receives a portion of your purchase price at dickblick.com when you link to their website from ASBA’s.

Questions about BAGSC exhibitions and framing? Contact Janice Sharp.

by Deb Shaw

Cover, "A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener", James P. Folsom, © 2016, all rights reserved.

Cover, “A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener”, James P. Folsom, © 2016, all rights reserved.

It’s here! Jim Folsom, has just published his ebook as of February 29, 2016: “A Botanical Reader for the Curious Gardener.”  The Reader is a wealth of resources; Jim’s Botany for Artists is just one chapter in a line-up of content that Jim lists in his introduction:

  • Introductions (Chapters 1, 2, and 3) explain the organization of the Reader, suggest places and activities of interest, and lay out overarching themes that pervade the study and cultivation of plants.
  • The Literature Review presents some commonly available texts and resources, suggesting which might be most useful for different readers.
  • In Botanical Terms is a series of short essays dedicated to highlights that showcase topics fundamental to plant science and eliminate barriers presented by useful but arcane botanical terminology.
  • Conversational Botany is a Primer that tells the story of plants in textbook-style.
  • Issues – Plants, Politics, & Practice includes background and discussion of topics that are part of today’s public discourse as well as transcriptions of presentations I give on current topics.
  • An annotated Plant Trivia Timeline gives snippets of plant-related stories and discoveries in chronological sequence, so as to provide historical context to plant use and cultivation.”
  • Hands-on Discovery suggests particular plants and instructive techniques that will help students make their own observations and learn-through-doing, which is the most effective and delightful method.

    Excerpt From: James P, Folsom. “A Botanical Reader.” James P. Folsom, 2016. iBooks. https://itun.es/us/XDT5ab.l

Chapter from "A Botanical Reader", listing "Botany for Artists" as one of the sections. James P. Folsom, © 2016.

Chapter from “A Botanical Reader”, listing “Botany for Artists” as one of the sections. James P. Folsom, © 2016.

Easy to read, this is a book of RESOURCES. In addition botany, horticulture, gardening, food, and the secret world of plants, Jim introduces his readers to his favorite Plant Destinations (where we can see the “wonders of the plant world”) and compiles a list with descriptions of the books we should have on our shelves and the websites we need to have bookmarked in our browsers.

ASBA and BAGSC members will be treated to a three-part series, starting in the March issue of The Botanical Artist, excerpted from Jim’s chapter, Botany for Artists.

The ebook is downloadable for free from iBooks, at https://itun.es/us/XDT5ab.l  It’s listed in the category of Life Sciences, and is available on the iPad, iPhone and Mac. Search in iBooks under “A Botanical Reader” or “James P. Folsom” and it will come right up. The print length is 332 pages. 

Jim Folsom lecturing during the "Weird, Wild & Wonderful Symposium." Photo by Clara Josephs, © 2015, all rights reserved.

Jim Folsom lecturing during the “Weird, Wild & Wonderful Symposium.” Photo by Clara Josephs, © 2015, all rights reserved.

About Jim Folsom, Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Jim Folsom, PhD., rides the demographic peak of baby boomers, having been born in southeastern Alabama in 1950. His lifelong love of plants is reflected in a BS in Botany from Auburn University, an MA in Biology from Vanderbilt University, and a PhD in research botany from The University of Texas at Austin. Though his research has centered on the orchid family, with much of the research time spent in Tropical America (including a year in Colombia on a Fulbright Pre-Doctoral Fellowship), Jim’s botanical interests are wide-ranging. As Curator of the Botanical Gardens at The Huntington in San Marino, CA, he dedicates much of his effort to educational programs that increase public interest and understanding of the science, culture, and history of plants and gardens. He lives at The Huntington with his wife, Debra (also a botanist) and children Molly and Jimmy. Jim was recognized as a Friend of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America in 1996, a Member-at-Large of the Garden Club of America in 1998, and presented a Professional Citation by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta in 1999. The Garden Club of America awarded him their Medal of Honor in 2007.

posted by Deb Shaw

For those who follow the online award-winning blog “Colossal,” you make have seen the post “A New Japanese Painting Supply Store Lines its Walls With 4,200 Different Pigments“. A spectacular store design by architect Kengo Kuma uses bamboo to create beautiful open, airy spaces that display a stunning array of art supplies and tools like museum pieces.

One wall contains thousands of vials of every imaginable color (more than 4200 pigments), lending the name, Pigment, to the art supply store and laboratory, just opened in Tokyo. Pigment provides the latest colors, along with hard-to-find, rare pigments and tools used in art preservation, as well as brushes, special glues and binders, papers, canvas, wood frames and more.

Supplies are available online.

by Deb Shaw

From top to bottom: Rosemary and Company, Series 33 Kolinsky Sable brush, #4; Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable Brush, #2; Winsor & Newton, Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush, #1. Photo by Deb Shaw.

From top to bottom: Rosemary and Company, Series 33 Kolinsky Sable brush, #4; Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable Brush, #2; Winsor & Newton, Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush, #1. Photo by Deb Shaw.

I’ve been hearing rumors for the last couple of weeks that US Customs has released the Kolinsky brushes that have been locked away during the ban. I now have confirmation (sort of): the brushes that have been held have been released, but the ban is still in effect for future shipments. So, for art stores, it looks like there is a little relief on their long list of back orders, but no significant headway for future shipments.

Here’s what this means for us artists who want to order/buy Kolinsky brushes:

  1. Check your local and online art supply stores. You may find most standard watercolor brushes are now in stock, but not all brands. For example, Nate, from Dick Blick confirmed that Dick Blick now has the Winsor Newton Series 7 line (except for a couple of sizes, namely #10) in stock, as well as the Winsor Newton Series 7 Miniatures (except for #5). They do not, however, have the Rafael 8404 and 8408 in stock. [NOTE: If you are purchasing anything from Dick Blick, click on the Dick Blick website FROM the ASBA website. The ASBA gets credit and donation support from Dick Blick.]
  2. You can still purchase Kolinsky brushes online from select vendors in the UK and elsewhere, including Rosemary and Company, L. Cornelissen & Son, and Ken Bromley Art Supplies.

Calling All Brush Reviews

I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic reviews of different brushes that fellow artists have been trying out, including other sables, synthetics, you-name-it. Some have been in direct conflict (“love it” vs. “hate it”) Obviously, how we each use a brush determines how we feel about a particular brand and style.

I’d love to publish a synopsis of all our testing on watercolor brushes (with full credit of course). If you would like to participate, please email me, and be sure to include the following information:

  • The name, product number, size(s) and where you purchased the brushes you are reviewing;
  • What substrate you paint on: paper (brand name please), vellum, board, etc.;
  • How you paint (wet washes, dry brush, etc.);
  • Any other helpful information;
  • How you want your name listed.

I’ll compile the information and publish the results (provided I get enough information) in early December.

Happy painting!

by Deb Shaw with A LOT of contributing authors. Please see the contributors’ list at the end of this article.

I’ll begin with two apologies: the first is for the length of this article. There is a lot of information and misinformation about the disappearance of Kolinsky brushes from art suppliers in the US. It’s a complicated subject, and I’m attempting to gather everything together in one place. The second apology is for the delay in posting this article. Each month I’ve heard rumors that the stockpiles of brushes being held in US Customs were about to be released, and so I’ve erroneously concluded it was a moot point to publish. We’re still waiting, so I’ll dive in.

Background, History, Rumors and Facts

Kolinsky brushes are made with the hair of the Siberian weasel, Mustela sibirica. Some internet information about Kolinsky brushes states that the best brushes are made only with the hairs from the tip of the tales of male weasels, gathered in winter. Some sources claim the hair is gathered from wild populations where the weasels are a pest; some say the hair is a by-product of the fur trade; others state the hair is collected only from humanely and sustainably farmed animals. There is also information that says the animals do not do well in captivity, so it’s impossible to “farm” them. All sources agree that Siberian weasels are not endangered: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies these animals as “least concern for extinction.”

Siberian Weasel (Mustela sibirica), Zoo Dresden, Winter 2002/2003, By Altaipanther (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Siberian Weasel (Mustela sibirica), Zoo Dresden, Winter 2002/2003, By Altaipanther (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Barry MacKay described them on the GNSI ListServ: “These weasels weigh about 360 to 820 grams, with males, on average, larger than the ladies. That puts them bigger than most animals tagged with the name “weasel”, but smaller than our mink. They are a lovely soft brown in colour, with a blackish face mask and a touch of white near the tip of the muzzle.” In addition to his bird art, Barry works on animal trade issues, and has attended several Conferences of the Parties to CITES. His understanding is that Mustelids do not do well in captivity, due to their high metabolism, activity and home range sizes. Apparently, they have a lot of stress-related illnesses in captivity.

Weasel hair for brush manufacture typically comes from Russia, China, India and Japan. Mustela sibirica populations also are found in Bhutan, Korea, Nepal, Laos, Burma, Taiwan and Thailand. Once gathered, the hair is then made into brushes either in China or the country of origin, or is sent to Europe or the UK to be made into brushes there.

For us to be able to buy Kolinsky sable brushes in the United States, the appropriate paperwork is required for exporting the hair from the country of origin, and then “re-exporting” the brushes from the country of manufacture. The problems with our supplies of Kolinsky brushes started in 2012, when a US Fish and Wildlife Service inspector was requested to research paperwork and permits from Europe for “re-exporting” Kolinsky hair.

Research and interviews about the disappearance of Kolinsky brushes turned up a multitude of reasons, rumors and innuendos. I emailed the US Fish and Wildlife Service directly, and, much to my surprise, on February 14, 2014, received a reply from Craig Hoover, Chief, Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch, Division of Management Authority. I’ll confess, I’m still impressed to have even received a response. I’ve edited Mr. Hoover’s reply slightly (for example, taking out my complaints about their website not working), but am posting his answers verbatim below:

Dear Ms. Shaw,

…We appreciate your inquiry and the concerns raised by the industry. We’ve had numerous consultations on this issue and are happy to share additional information with you. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Kolinsky hair brushes use hairs derived from the Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica). This species was added to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1989 by India. CITES, as you may know, is a treaty to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade. Under this treaty, countries work together to regulate the international trade of animal and plant species and ensure that this trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations. Appendix III includes species for which a particular country has sought help to regulate international trade.

Under the terms of the Treaty, and US regulations implementing CITES, any export of an Appendix-III species from a listing country (in this case, India) requires the issuance of a CITES Export Permit after a determination is made that the specimens in question were legally acquired. Exports from a non-listing country (such as China) require the issuance of a CITES Certificate of Origin essentially indicating that the specimens did not come from the listing country.

Under CITES, member countries have an opportunity to take a reservation to a listing, essentially meaning that the country chooses not to implement the listing. With regard to Mustela sibirica, 22 European countries have taken a reservation to the listing. Neither the United States nor China has taken such a reservation.

Much of the Kolinsky brush hairs are produced in and exported from China to Europe where they are then made into brushes. Because the importing countries in Europe have a reservation to the listing, they do not require a CITES document from China. However, because we require a CITES document for import into the United States, European exporters have obtained CITES re-export documents to send shipments to the United States. However, it came to our attention that the shipments going from China to Europe were not accompanied by CITES documents. We have confirmed with Chinese CITES officials that they require a CITES export document and were not approached to issue one. Therefore, because the shipments were exported from China to Europe in violation of CITES requirements, the subsequent re-export to the United States was also in violation of CITES requirements here.

We have explained this to our European CITES counterparts and advised the industry that specimens that are not lawfully exported from China will not be accepted in the United States. It is incumbent upon Chinese exporters to obtain the necessary CITES Certificate of Origin for export to Europe or directly to the United States.

[In answer to my question as to when or if we can expect the brushes to once again be imported into the United States]:

There is no prohibition on imports to the United States either from Europe or directly from China. However, if the brushes are made with Mustela sibirica hair, then the specimens must comply with all CITES requirements.

[In answer to my question as to whether or not it is legal for an individual artist to receive a gift of Kolinsky sable brushes from a fellow artist in Europe]:

If your question relates to whether someone can receive a gift of such brushes in Europe and then import them to the United States, I would refer you to our CITES regulations for personal and household effects, which are found at 50 CFR 23.15 and are  found at:

(d) Personal effects. You do not need a CITES document to import, export, or re-export any legally acquired specimen of a CITES species to or from the United States if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) No live wildlife or plant (including eggs or non-exempt seeds) is included.
(2) No specimen from an Appendix-I species is included, except for certain worked African elephant ivory as provided in paragraph (f) of this section.
(3) The specimen and quantity of specimens are reasonably necessary or appropriate for the nature of your trip or stay and, if the type of specimen is one listed in paragraph (c)(3) of this section, the quantity does not exceed the quantity given in the table.
(4) You own and possess the specimen for personal use, including any specimen intended as a personal gift.
(5) You are either wearing the specimen as clothing or an accessory or taking it as part of your personal baggage, which is being carried by you or checked as baggage on the same plane, boat, vehicle, or train as you.
(6) The specimen was not mailed or shipped separately.

[In answer to my request for information about whether these animals are farmed, are caught from the wild, and/or are in danger of extinction]:

The requirements described above apply regardless of the method of production or the status of the animal in the wild. The CITES Parties are obligated to implement the provisions of the Convention unless they have taken a reservation. Just as we would expect India to enforce CITES provisions for a U.S. native species for which we have sought assistance, we will do so. And the CITES document would in fact make clear whether the specimens were produced in captivity or collected from the wild as well as the country of origin. Thus, it would give the industry some level of assurance about the impacts of the trade on the species.

Other Explanations and Updates

Most of our art store suppliers belong to The International Art Materials Association (NAMTA). NAMTA has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, CITES, Global Arts, and European brush companies to resolve the problem. They have been posting updates on their website page “What’s Going On With Kolinsky Brushes?” (although their last post was in February, 2014). Their update postings include links to a copy of NAMTA’s letter to CITES Secretariat-General John Scanlon, and email addresses for people on the NAMTA team who will respond to questions.

Some of our art supply retailers have posted articles and sporadic updates as well, although many have simply labeled their Kolinsky brush stock “indefinite back order.” Dick Blick has a posting on their facebook page from July 26, 2013, titled “Tip of the Week – Why can’t I get my favorite Kolinsky brush?

Current Status as of Today

For the last few months, art store buyers I have been checking with have been clinging to a rumor that NAMTA had finalized negotiations with US Customs to release the back inventories currently being held. They thought the negotiations, however, only applied to the “back orders” and that there are ongoing negotiations for FUTURE deliveries of Kolinsky sable brushes. The days and months have dribbled by, and as of now there still are no brushes on the shelves. Perhaps we will find our store shelves filled to capacity soon.

So, Where Can I Buy Kolinsky Sable Brushes? (US and Canada)

Unverified rumor has it that Canadian art stores were cut off from Kolinsky brushes that came to Canada through the US, but that Canadian art suppliers could order directly from the UK and Europe and receive those brushes without problems. I don’t know whether or not they can then ship orders to the US. If you reside in the US and have a favorite Canadian art store, check with them before ordering.

There are art stores in England who have informed me and other contributors to this article that they can ship directly to customers in the US, either because they use a single-source hair supplier, and/or they have all the necessary documentation. Three wonderful UK resources are Rosemary and Company, L. Cornelissen & Son, and Ken Bromley Art Supplies. Each of these companies are great to work with, and have said they can export brushes from the UK to the US, no problem. Given how quickly the situation (and inventory) keeps changing, I highly recommend double checking before ordering. See the review of Rosemary and Company brushes below. If you’re ever in London, be sure to stop off at the L. Cornelissen & Son store, for a jaw-dropping treat of an art shop. It’s a wonderful step back in time, with an incredible array of supplies.

A Quick Review of Brush Options

From top to bottom: Rosemary and Company, Series 33 Kolinsky Sable brush, #4; Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable Brush, #2; Winsor & Newton, Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush, #1. Photo by Deb Shaw.

From top to bottom: Rosemary and Company, Series 33 Kolinsky Sable brush, #4; Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable Brush, #2; Winsor & Newton, Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush, #1. Photo by Deb Shaw.

As artists, we are not alone in our desperate search for Kolinsky brushes or substitutes. Art suppliers have been amazed at the wide variety of industries using sable brushes—industries they never knew they served. These include archeologists, the dental industry, various sciences, curators—the list is long. Some of the brush options described below have been well-loved in other industries. It may be time to look in new areas for supplies.

In the course of online discussions and correspondence, many of the participants discussed their favorite brushes, or new brushes they were trying out as substitutes for favorites that are no longer available. Please double check availability in the US and that the brushes meet international regulations. There are numerous brick-and-mortar art supply shops and online stores. The following is a brief, and by no means comprehensive, synopsis. There are other favorite online suppliers we did not have time to research.

Rosemary and Company: There are many wonderful hand-made brushes from Rosemary and Company, all top-notch quality. Kathleen Garness and Patricia Savage had enthusiastic endorsement of Rosemary brushes on the SciArt ListServ, comparing them to Winsor Newton Series 7. Holly Butlett liked the sable points, water holding capability and the feel. Bruce Bartrug endorsed their brights. (Added advantage for Bruce, “The brushes were also carefully packed in crumpled newspaper, and it was fun reading through the Yorkshire Post.”) Everyone commented on how quickly they shipped. Personally, I find the 33 series is a little long for botanical art (I tend to prefer shorter brushes anyway, especially for working on vellum). Margaret Best extensively tested the Rosemary 33 and 22 series. She thought the 22 series was too long; the 33 series seemed a touch long at first, but by the end of her painting it had become her favorite “go to” brush for botanical watercolors. Margaret also received a Series 323 Spotter she has yet to test. Rosemary and Company makes these for botanical artists, and Margaret reports that it looks like what she would call a miniature.

Pro Arte: I know a lot of folks who adore the Series 1 Pro Arte brushes. These are from the UK. Pro Arte also has a combination synthetic/sable brush called The Connoisseur, a blend of Prolene and Sable. Some artists are testing these out, but I haven’t heard any definitive feedback yet. The Pro Arte Connoisseur brushes are available in the US at Jerry’s Artarama, and other venues.

The Pro Arte brush above is not to be confused with the Connoisseur 007 brush. These are Kolinsky sable brushes, and, from their website, appear to be available in the US. Again, I know some artists who are testing these out, but I haven’t heard any results as of this writing. I also don’t know if they are readily available. Margaret Best will be testing this brush and reporting back. She says, “It is not a normal round brush length and also not a miniature. Somewhat in-between. May be better suited to vellum.”

One of the product buyers at Dick Blick, Nate, (who is also a watercolor artist), has been testing out synthetic brushes for his own work, using synthetics whenever he can to prolong the life of his Kolinsky brushes. He has the following recommendations for us to try: The first is the Escoda Versatil brush, a synthetic brush which is supposed to perform very much like the Escoda Kolinsky Sable brush. Nate also liked the Raphael Kaerell Synthetic—he said he even preferred the point on this brush to those on a real sable. He said that it would not be a great choice for those artists who need a fuller body for large color washes, but it has a good snap and keeps its point for a long time.

1026 Interlon synthetic brushes from Japan, in sizes #2 and 3/0. Photo by Deb Shaw.

1026 Interlon synthetic brushes from Japan, in sizes #2 and 3/0. Photo by Deb Shaw.

At the ASBA conference in Chicago, 2012, Asuka Hishiki introduced her masking fluid workshop to a lovely synthetic brush, especially in the small sizes: the 1026 Interlon Brush Japan. It turns out that this is the go-to brush for the dental industry in Japan, used for whitening teeth. The brush keeps a sharp point, is great for dry brush work and is inexpensive (approximately $3.50)! Here in the States we were under the impression that the brush was only available in Japan, and we’ve been imposing on our Japanese colleagues to send us brushes. I just found them available at Best from Japan, who ships worldwide.

Several artists have reported decent results using Princetons for dry brushing, but I’m not sure which ones they used.

Cat Hair Brushes: In the September 2014 issue of “The Botanical Artist” (the Journal of the ASBA), Akiko Enokido wrote a techniques article in which she mentioned using a hand-made cat hair brush. She also mentions that these beautiful brushes, used in fine Japanese lacquer painting are not available for import into the US. Customs regulations for the United States bans importation of anything from any part of any cat. I haven’t investigated the reasons behind that ban…

Last, but not least, the beloved Winsor & Newton Series 7: I have heard many reports that the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes has been discontinued, and am embarrassed to confess that I had just accepted the news as fact. This too appears to be misinformation; we will have to ask Winsor & Newton directly. It looks like the Series 7 is still available in the rest of the world, and will continue to be manufactured, but Winsor & Newton pulled shipments to the US due to the Kolinsky Sable ban. Just goes to show we need to check everything from the source these days.

What We Can Do

  1. Make your voice heard. It’s time for us to start voicing our concerns to manufacturers, governments and international agencies. Speak up about safety, quality, availability and sustainability.
  2. Organize a “BRUSH OFF.” (My name—feel free to use it.) I spoke with our local art supply store about bringing our BAGSC botanical art chapter in to test various paint brushes for a nominal fee. They were enthusiastic, and it is something we will organize in the future. They don’t want to lose us as customers, and it’s expensive for each of us to test new brushes for the qualities we need as individual artists.
  3. Scour the internet and art supply stores for leftover brushes. Brick-and-mortar art stores have been allowed to sell the Kolinsky brushes they already had in inventory throughout the ban. I’ve found one or two of the last, lonely Kolinsky sable brushes in some out-of-the-way places.
  4. Let other artists know your finds. Have you discovered some new favorite brushes? Some suppliers for old favorites? Post comments to this article and let us know, or post to other online resources or publications.

The Big Picture: Green Art Supplies, Vegan Art Supplies, and Sustainability

An interesting side discussion has developed while talking about Kolinsky Sable brushes and the Siberian Weasel. Many of us didn’t realize where our brushes came from, or how they were made. Artists who wouldn’t think of wearing a fur coat are taking a second look at their supplies. There are efforts to recognize the impact of our art supplies, and artists are discussing balancing environmental and philosophical concerns against the use of synthetic materials (largely made with products derived from oil and plastic). It is worthwhile to have an ongoing debate about the responsibility, safety and sustainability of our materials. There are lots of resources on these topics—food for thought, and for another article.

Contributors:

There are a LOT of contributors to this article—more than I can possibly thank for sharing resources, opinions and information. It’s been a long process, and my apologies if I’ve forgotten to include your name here:

  • Businesses and Agencies: Dick Blick, Ken Bromely Art Supplies, Mr. Craig Hoover, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NAMTA, Rosemary & Company
  • ASBA and BAGSC members: Margaret Best, Akiko Enokido, Asuka Hishiki, Clara Josephs
  • Facebook, Botanical Artists Group: Laura Dicus, Marilyn Garber, Kathleen Marie Garness, Vicki Lee Johnston, Jessica Rosemary Shepherd, Leslie Schramm
  • GNSI SciArt ListServ: Karen Ackoff, Bruce Bartrug, Holly Butlett, Kathleen Marie Garness, Gail Guth, Mary Beth Hinrichs, Barry Kent MacKay, Kathleen McKeehen, Mali Moir, Lore Ruttan, Ph.D., Patricia Savage

by Deb Shaw and others

There are always new tempting art supplies available, but this year there seems to have been a cascade of new art products that make traveling with art supplies a breeze. Below are just a few of our current favorites. Disclaimer: I’ve included some links and prices where it’s easy and I know the resource. I haven’t done extensive research on who carries what, or who has the best prices. If you click on any of the links below, you’ll go to the exact product page for that website, rather than the home page.

Do you have some favorite new products? Write a review and let me know and we’ll put together another column in the future.

Derwent Carry-all

Closed Derwent Carry-all

Closed Derwent Carry-all, image courtesy of the Ken Bromley website.

Not yet available in the US, this is the best portable art studio I’ve found! I can fit everything I need for pencil and watercolor artwork, all into one 10″ x 8″ x 4″ canvas satchel. Everything I need now lives permanently in my Carry-all, whether I’m working in the studio, or I’m on the road or in classes.

The Carry-all comes with three “leaves”, held in place by six small notebook-style snap rings. The leaves snap in and out, depending on your travel requirements, and have elastic straps to hold pencils, pens, brushes, etc.

Open Carry-all

Open Carry-all, image courtesy of the Ken Bromley website.

There’s a zippered mesh pocket on the inside front, and a strap on the inside back to hold an A5 sketchbook and other necessary items.

An external pocket, carry handles and a detachable shoulder strap complete the kit. The Derwent Carry-all is available at Ken Bromley Art Supplies (among other UK art suppliers), on sale now for about $26.00 (£15.99). Deb is putting together a BAGSC group order. Watch your email for an offer to participate!

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel

Invisi Lightweight Display Easel, image © Ken Bromley Art Supplies website.

This one is a Ken Bromley exclusive that I’ve tested extensively and will be ordering a lot more (BAGSC members watch for the email to participate).

Originally designed as portable display easel for art exhibitions, the Invisi Easel is made from white corrugated plastic (the same material out of which the Post Office constructs its boxes). Reusable, they lay flat for storage and transport, and snap together in one easy motion to set up.

In addition to using the Invisi Easel to set up an artwork display, I’ve also been using one as an easel in art classes. My neck and back no longer allow me to work hunched over a table, and I work sitting upright at an easel in my studio. The need for lightweight packing for airline travel, however, doesn’t allow me to drag my easel along for art classes.

I’ve been setting up my Invisi Easel, adhering it to the table with a bit of kneaded eraser or tape (so it won’t scoot away as I work). I have my paper (or vellum) on a piece of foam core as I usually do, and I’m ready to draw or paint. No, you can’t put a lot of pressure on the painting as you work, but I haven’t had a problem with painting or drawing. And my back and neck are grateful as well.

The Invisi Easel is about $9.11 each (£5.65), or approximately $40.24 for a 5 pack (£24.95), or approximately $72.50 (£44.95) for a 10 pack. If enough BAGSC members are interested, a pack of 50 is available for about $272.00 (£168.50).

Porcelain Tinting Saucer

Porcelain Tinting Saucer

Porcelain Tinting Saucer, courtesy of Ken Bromley website

This item comes from BAGSC members Elaine Searle and Pat Mark (who discovered it in Elaine’s class). Again, it’s another one of those things we don’t seem to be able to get here in the US yet. A small (only 3.3″ diameter) white porcelain saucer, it has four divisions for mixing paint and is easy to pack. It’s about $3.60 each from Ken Bromley (£2.25). This too will be on our order list for BAGSC member who want to participate, so watch your email.

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set, image courtesy of the Dick Blick website

Thank you to Tania Marien for discovering this gem at the SCAD bookstore at the GNSI conference in Savannah, Georgia. These are available all over, including Dick Blick and my local art store (where I bought mine). Each wheel measures 3-1/4″ in diameter, and set comes with four wheels (trays) that stack and screw together. Each tray holds six colors (seven if you use the middle space, for a total of 24 – 32 colors. The transparent cover can be used for mixing, if you don’t mind mixing in plastic.

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set, courtesy of Dick Blick website

Be forewarned; it’s not easy to pry, soak and scrape the original colors out of the pans. Once you do, however, your own palette neatly and easily fills the spaces. I created labels with the paint names and information for the underside of each well. Two sets gave me enough space for my entire palette, plus extra spaces for that squirt of color that I didn’t know I needed from a friend in class.

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Faber-Castell Clic & Go Water Pot, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Expanded water pot, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Expanded water pot, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Everyone seemed to discover this one at the same time! Easy to find everywhere (at Dick Blick for $3.86 — 26 percent off list), this ingenious water pot collapses for travel (or for a small amount of water) and then expands to hold at least double the amount. Easy to clean, and nicely designed scallops on the rim are the perfect holders for brushes.

I use two.

Caran d’Ache Pencils

Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 Colored Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 Colored Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Thank you to Margaret Best for steering me to the Caran d’Ache Luminance Lightfast colored pencils and graphite.

The Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) worked with the American Society for Testing and Material to develop the ASTM D-6901 standards for lightfastness in colored pencils. After two years in development, the Swiss company Caran d’Ache released their Luminance 6901 Lightfast Pencil Sets: the only brand to offer 76 colors, 61 of which are in the most lightfast (Lightfastness I) category.

The chromatic range of the soft leads is very similar to the watercolor palettes used by botanical artists, and contains the highest level of pigments of any colored pencil. Additionally, the Luminance 6901 colored pencils have been awarded use of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label, guaranteeing that the logging of the California cedar for the pencils is environmentally-friendly and socially and economically sustainable.

The colored pencils come in sets of 16, 38, and 76 from many sources in the US, including Dick Blick, Cheap Joe’s, Jerry’s Artarama, Rex Art, and more. Jerry’s Artarama is the only site I’ve seen in the US that also sells individual colored pencils, but there may be others.

Range of Caran d'Ache Grafwood Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick's website

Range of Caran d’Ache Grafwood Pencils, courtesy of Dick Blick’s website

Caran d’Ache also offers a spectacular line of graphite: their Grafwood pencils range from HB through 9B, as well as F, H, 2H, 3H, and 4H. They also carry water-soluble graphite (Caran d’Ache Technolo Water Soluble Graphite Pencils), Grafstone Woodless Graphite Pencils, Charcoal Pencils, and Grafcube Graphite Sticks. The pencils are “color-coded” the entire length of the pencil; the harder the pencil the lighter the silvery-gray color of the barrel.

The only adjectives I can come up with to describe these pencils are the same ones I would use to describe food: luscious, buttery, smooth, creamy, all come to mind. Warning: they’re not cheap. Take a deep breath before looking at the sticker price. As far as I’m concerned, however, they’re absolutely worth it.

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