Monday, 30 July 2012


I promised a quick look at some interesting and useful extra bits of kit for us artists.  All of these were discovered on a recent sortie to a stationery shop rather than an art materials shop, and they were really "cheap and cheerful"  and are proving to be fun to use.

The first fun gadget is a battery operated eraser!  Am I lazy or what?  Well, sometimes, but that is beside the point. You can really have a lot of fun with these gadgets.  Look, as you can see from the pic above, you can even buy one to match your mood.....(!)  You can actually DRAW with it, it will take lines and areas OUT of a patch of pencil tone or scribble, as you can see from my example.

comes with little spare erasers, and one can buy refills.    Wherever you are in the world, just put "battery operated eraser" into Google, and see what is available.  In the UK, these can be found in Rymans, they are very inexpensive.

Next.......I do use a craft knife for sharpening pencils, but there are times when I get frustrated with broken leads, and for everyday pencil use, you cannot beat a gadget where you stick the pencil in the hole and one second later (literally) you have a nice sharp pencil.  I HATE blunt pencils with a vengeance.

Here it is, a battery operated pencil sharpener
No mess, no fixing to a desktop, no broken leads, just speed and sharp points. No huge investment.   Great.

Finally, less useful but actually sometimes quite handy and saves that mess you can get when you erase something and then try to brush off the crumbs with your hand - and you smudge the drawing in the process. This little wee thing has an eraser at one end, and a "brush" at the other.  You can, actually, if you press hard, make marks with the brush part, or soften an area of tone,  which could be useful.  Used very lightly, it does get rid of crumbs quickly and easily.

Last but not least............a word of warning for pastel painters.
I recently created a small pastel on a piece of suede board - that is mount board with a kind of velour finish.   I have used it before for some portraits, and rather enjoyed working on it.

This time, I used more soft pastel layers than I have done before, and used some of my softest pastels. Previously, I had used mostly harder pastels.   And this time,  I was a little horrified to notice, when I picked up the picture, that a lot of the pastel on the surface, in particular the lightest colours,  simply SLID OFF when I tilted the board!!!  So I decided to give it quick burst of fixative.......and to my horror, every little spot showed and stayed.
I had to rework over the entire image.  I suspect that the burst of fixative helped, since no more has shed since.
I do know that other artists use suede board, and velour surfaces, successfully, and I plan to ask them how they fare with it, but in the meantime, please be very wary of putting on lots of layers, and in particular, using very soft pastels for the topmost layers, when working on any kind of velour surface.

Here is the little picture, it is 6" x 6".   The grey mottled surround is the untouched surface of the suede board.

and here it is, should I decide to frame it  as one for my Open Studio event.  I am liking these small black frames.


  1. wow! thank you for all of the information! beautiful painting!

  2. I was so stunned at this little painting today when I read your Artyfacts in my inbox. What a beauty! I love the feeling of bright light, and think its just wonderful. Also am very impressed with the size, how do you manage that? Small is very hard for me, and I am sure its a lack of experiance on my part. Even doing things large I have a hard time "Placing" things right in my comp's - - - but am still learning so much with each try. Thanks for writting this blog, I look forward to it.

  3. Thanks so much to both of you for taking the time to comment. So pleased you like this. Ida, it is a very simple composition in fact....powerful because of the light contrasting with the dark and the position and shape of the figure. To place within the square, the important thing is to consider the negative space around the figure, and judge the balance. I do little thumbnails to check this out before I work on the image. How to work small? Smaller strokes than usual! For me the bigger the picture, the bigger the shapes and the bigger the strokes I will use. You should try it. I was nervous to begin with, because I have NEVER worked small...but actually, it is rather fun. For placing elements of a still life I use a viewing "rectangle" this case, a square, cut out of a small piece of card. This helps enormously.

  4. i've got one of those little battery operated erasers - they're great - and I love my pencil sharpener - if I sharpened pencils with a knife I'd cut my fingers off! Love the pastels I haven't painted in pastel for a long time!


please feel free to leave me a message