Art Graf Stick (Viarco): Review

Viarco is a family-owned Portuguese art supply company. They make the highly-water-soluble graphite stick called Art Graf Stick. It may be my best impulse purchase of the summer.

Viarco makes the graphite stick.

I’ve used graphite for reductive drawings, and I’ve used liquid graphite, only to discover that it is not my medium. The Art Graf Stick  is interesting, easy to use, and fun. I tried it on watercolor paper and Bristol board, both with good results.

Because of its water-solubility, it lays down a love gray wash, smooth and even. A gradient is easy to lay down if you keep enough water on the surface of the paper.

Gradient wash made with Art Graf Stick

Because of its elongated square shape (9 cm long), it can cover a large surface quickly. But you can also use a corner or an edge to draw with.

It’s soft enough so that harder pressure leaves a thicker line. When the line is blended with water  and a brush, the lines flow together. The more water, the lighter the gray. Once dry, re-wetting doesn’t pick up the color like watercolor. Once the color is down, it’s staying there.

I made the painting above by using a wet #4 Teklon watercolor brush stroked against the blunt surface of the graphite stick. To make the shades of gray, I picked up water or blotted on a blank sheet. And I sketched the under-drawing with the stick as well.

The stick can be erased prior to wetting. After the wet portion dries, an eraser picks up some color, but you’ll need an electric eraser (I paid $7 for mine) to make all the graphite disappear.

The stick is versatile and for those of you who love black and white tonal shades, it’s great to work with.

Disclosure: I purchased the stick at Arizona Art Supply.

Mascara Tree Sketch

There’s a clip on YouTube of a man drawing Bette Davis with mascara. It’s speeded up, and it may be edited, but the result is amazing. He uses the mascara wand as a brush and makes it work with line, shading and value.

After seeing it, I wondered if it was real. So I grabbed by two mascaras–Avon and L’Oreal Voluminous, both in brown/black, and went to work. Surprisingly, neither one had enough color to make it work well. The Avon wand was also quite flexible, great for applying mascara to eyelashes (after all, that was what it was designed for) making it hard to control.

A trip to the drug store, and I had my teen-reliable mascara–Maybelline in double black. The bottom of the container is pink, the top green. I don’t think it’s changed in 30 years. And it worked.

The trunk worked best because the uneven application makes great rough spots. The branches benefit from the the application of the brush held so the bristles create the long leaves of the willow tree.

Ink, brush, paper: cheap. Art in mascara: Not priceless, but washable.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She is a collage artist and teaches workshops, but not in mascara painting. Yet. Image: “Don’t weep, willow” Mascara on paper. (c) 2008 Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved.

Looking v. Seeing and Time for Art

While waiting for my husband to sell the house and join me in Arizona, I moved into an apartment. I work on borrowed card tables, sit on borrowed folding chairs. Of all the things I don’t have, I miss a lemon zester the most.

It’s lemon season in Arizona, with lots of fat, juicy, fragrant yellow fruit hanging on trees in parks and bus stops, there for the picking.

But this isn’t another lemon dessert post. It’s about the thing I don’t miss: TV. My new acquaintances are shocked when they hear I don’t have a TV.
“What do you DO at night?”
“I’d die without a TV!”
“Don’t you care what happens on [name of program]?”

The writer’s strike is still on, so I gather I’m not missing much. I gave up TV right after I watched, in embarrassment for writers and TV producers alike, Donald Trump honking, “You’re fired!” in the first show of the first season of The Apprentice.

When the TV went dark, I began to develop a whole evening life. Previously, I had always been “exhausted” and “so tired I just want to be passively entertained.” Without a TV, I read books, walk every evening (and have lost 20 pounds doing it, without denying myself chocolate), write these posts, read other people’s posts, and . . .draw. I always thought of myself as a horrible illustrator. It turns out that drawing skill is not magic or secret. It lies in seeing the world around you. Not looking at it, but seeing it. There is a difference.

pear sketchWith the TV off, the apartment is quiet. The same quiet that makes people nervous is actually soothing. I put on some ambient music, grab a pencil and something to draw. I look at it first, noticing the shapes, sketching them in. Then I refine the shape. After that comes the shadows and textures. This takes time. Which is exactly why I didn’t draw before.

You can’t draw a good picture in 30 seconds. Well, I can’t anyway.

My evenings now include some drawing time. I find it has benefits. My blood pressure dropped. I’m calmer. I have more patience. I think more clearly. I laugh more often.

You know that time you always want and don’t have? Your TV sucks it up, along with hours of your busy life.

Spend two nights away from your TV, and you may never turn it on again. If you think you will be shunned by your peers, you can listen to them talk and ask questions. People like being listened to and no one will know your secret.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who lives in Mesa, AZ. See her work at Pear painting: one of the things she drew while not watching TV. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.