Interested In Conte Crayons But Don’t Know What They Are Or How To Use Them? Here’s Your Guide!

By Nicole Tinkham

conte

They resemble pastels and are even located in the same general area in your typical art store, but Conte crayons are actually much different. We’ve found that when the average person doesn’t quite know what a product is, how to use it, or what results it produces they skip right past it and move onto something they are familiar with. Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? While that’s totally normal, we dare you to try at least one new thing this month. That’s right; we’re kicking off the year doing something completely new! And we will strive to bring you a new art supply guide each month to help you pick up a new medium and learn how to use it. This month is all about Conte crayons. Funny thing is, as we were browsing the Keeton’s art department, we glanced at these and instantly thought of pastels. So we did our research, found out how these differ from pastels, how to use them and then came up with this helpful guide. Read on to discover the possibilities of Conte crayons in your next masterpiece.

What are they?

Conte crayons (or sticks) look similar to that of a pastel but are much different. These are a drawing medium made up of compressed charcoal or graphite with the addition of wax or clay mixed in for the base as well as natural pigments for color. Conte crayons are actually commonly used for the initial sketch for a pastel drawing as the colors mix well.

Paper to use them on

You’ll want to use a rough textured paper with Conte crayons as this will hold the pigment better. You can also use a primed canvas for your drawing. Just keep in mind that Conte crayons are better suited for hatched work, not bold lines (as with soft pastels). You’ll notice that many Conte artists use a tinted paper for their drawings, something to consider for a different look.

Conte Crayons versus Pastels and Charcoal

Although Conte crayons look similar to pastels, they are harder and waxier. This means they produce less dust and are easier to control. They actually produce a similar line as charcoal but since they are harder, lines with a Conte crayon will be finer. You’ll also notice that Conte crayons come in different colors but are most commonly found in natural browns, reds, tans, black, and white (great for highlighting). This makes Conte crayons perfect for figure drawing and portraits.

Features

The square sticks are great for producing blocks of pigment, as you would with oil pastels. As mentioned previously, the harder crayon is also great for producing very fine lines. Conte colors are very easily blend-able (we recommend a blending stump) and since they aren’t powdery like charcoal, they work well in layers.

Sharpening

The typical Conte crayon is in a block stick form but it is possible to sharpen. Just use a little sandpaper to sharpen the stick to a chisel point. You can also break the sticks into smaller pieces that are easier to handle.

Working in a medium you’re not too familiar with doesn’t have to be all that scary. It’s important to understand what the medium is, how to use it, and the results it produces before you begin. We also recommend researching helpful techniques and example pieces for inspiration. So now that you know a little bit more about Conte crayons, will you be giving them a try? Let us know in the comments!

New Year Checklist – 10 Things Every Artist Needs To Do

By Nicole Tinkham

new year.jpg

Getting ready for the New Year doesn’t have to be crazy and overwhelming with serious goals and planning. It’s great to have some goals laid out, an idea of where you want to be by the end of the year, and to get organized too. But we also think it’s important to HAVE FUN!! On this list of 10 things every artist needs to do for the New Year, you’ll notice that something fun is included in more than half of the tasks on the list. And if you find a daunting task you don’t want to do, turn it into a game or reward yourself for completing it!

•    Have a new sketchbook ready to go (open it up every day!)

•    Get organized for peace of mind

•    Make a list of things you want to learn – Plan to attend an art workshop, save YouTube videos, buy a new art book, or subscribe to an art magazine

•    Plan something fun – we all need a break. Plan a vacation at some point next year or even a staycation if you have nowhere to go

•    Have your goal and action plan written down

•    Plan regular friend and family time! It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own little world that we forget to spend time with the ones we love

•    Have an open mind – Do something wild, crazy, unexpected, out of the norm, and anything that takes you out of your comfort zone

•    Buy fun colored Post-it Notes to write yourself positive notes and reminders

•    Change up your art room for creative inspiration and more room for new supplies 🙂

•    Get your artist portfolio in line

We believe that having fun is the best way to start the New Year, wouldn’t you agree? Doing something you enjoy is easier to stick with than something you don’t. Start doing some of the things on this list, have fun with it, and don’t stress about starting a new year. Tell us, will you follow this checklist when heading into the New Year?

6 Ways To Give The Perfect Gift This Holiday Season

gift
By Nicole Tinkham

The holidays shouldn’t be a time of stress but often times the panic sinks in when we see the long wish lists of our family and friends. It can be overwhelming to come up with the perfect gift for each person not to mention pricey! We believe that giving should never be a hassle though. It should be easy and come from the heart. No taking the gift card route this year! We challenge you to pick out a gift for everyone on your list that is something they truly want and need in their life. Give meaning to the gifts you give! Ready? Here are 6 ways to give the perfect gift this holiday season.

1. Pay attention

Start this ahead of time. Spend some quality time with the people closest to you and really study them. Figure out what interests them. Discover the little things they like. They’ll most likely drop subtle hints about what they like and what they need. If you’re really good you can pick up on these little things without the recipient even realizing that they needed that item! Remember that people don’t always ask for what they want which is why it’s important to pay attention well before the holidays. You need to dig deeper. Consider what would make their life easier. What’s something they need to replace? What could they benefit from? This is all about them! So put yourself in their shoes.

2.  Consider personality

When you’re shopping for someone else, look for things they absolutely love and are a little obsessed with (like cats, art, the color purple, a certain football team, coffee). You can actually combine the first point in this blog with this one. Here’s a little equation we came up with..

What they subtly hint they want + something unique to them = the perfect gift
Here’s an example: Someone who loves to read needs a new bookmark. They also love monkeys. Monkey bookmark!

Be sure to find something unique. If everyone knows this person loves monkeys, then they’ll most likely be getting them anything they can find with a monkey on it.  Find something different that no one else would think to get them.

3.  Consider their hobbies

Hobby gifts are so meaningful because they allow the recipient to do something they absolutely love to do. Consider what can help them achieve their goals. What do they want to learn more about? What can help them in their career? What do they like to do just for fun? What do they like to do with their friends and family? These are the types of gifts that can drastically change lives! It’s all about learning new skills, becoming a better person, and moving forward with a passion.

True story from Nicole: One year I got my husband a bunch of medical books (what to expect in med school, a medical dictionary, and some other fun ones). It may sound like a boring gift to some people but that’s where his passion lies. It helped him get excited for med school and the journey he’s on.

4.  Give to a cause

Even with the incredible ideas in this blog post, there’s bound to be someone on your list who’s impossible to shop for. Some people honestly don’t want anything or they just seem to have everything already. That doesn’t mean you can slack off with a gift card though. A really creative gift idea is to give to a cause they’re passionate about. You’ll still have to get to know that person and determine the charity they would most want to give to. Do your homework on the recipient and give to a cause under their name. It’s a unique gift idea that they’ll truly appreciate.

5. Give your time

Never underestimate the value of time! We are all short on time so when we can give our time to help someone else out, it becomes such a powerful gift. You’ll have to get a little creative with this. Think about what skills you have to offer. Can you help with a home project? Watch their kids or pets? Make them a nice dinner? It may seem like a simple gift but just allowing them some extra peace and quiet in their lives can go a long way.

6. Make something

You are a creative person! Whether you’re an artist or not, we believe that you do have a creative side. We all do! Get artsy and make gifts like ornaments, baked goods, goodies in mason jars, poems, and more. If you don’t make the actual gift, consider adding your personal touch through handmade cards and wrapping paper. Crafty gifts are meaningful because they require time and effort. There’s endless possibilities when it comes to handmade gifts so get your thinking cap on and create something perfect for the person on your list. Remember, you always have to keep them and what they like in mind first.

Giving gifts should only put you more into the holiday spirit. It shouldn’t stress you out or make you dread the holidays. Use this opportunity to get to know your friends and family a little more. Follow these 6 ways to give the perfect gift and have fun coming up with clever ideas they’ll absolutely love. If nothing else just spread love and joy to everyone you see. Tell us, what type of gifts are you giving this holiday season?

Everything You Need To Know About Bullet Journaling And Keeping Your Life Organized

buet-journaling
By Nicole Tinkham

There’s a new cooler way to keep track of your happenings! Go ahead and ditch that non creative planner and jump on board with us as we discover the craze of the year, bullet journaling. Having a creative mind doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be unorganized. We’ll show you how you can be artsy and still have everything in order through a journaling/planning technique that can change your life. Read on for everything you need to know about bullet journaling and keeping your life organized.

What it is

Put simply, a bullet journal is a customizable to-do list, journal, planner, organizer, calendar and note taker all in one book. With this type of journal you can create your own pages which allow it to work with you and your schedule rather than you having to fit your priorities into a pre-made planner like we’re used to doing. Before you get all crazy with your notes and ideas, know that your bullet journal should be super structured and there’s a reason for that. It’s designed for you to be productive, keep up with reaching your goals, and weed out the unimportant tasks that can hold you back. Not everyone is a structured person and that’s fine. Your journal should have at least some structure but you can also make it your own.

Why you should try it

Not all planners will suit your needs. Have you ever bought a planner that doesn’t provide enough room to write the tasks and appointments you need to? Or maybe the planner is too big when you’d really like something smaller. Or maybe you’d like to track something (like a food journal) that a typical planner doesn’t allow for. This is why you need a bullet journal for total customization!

For the creative thinkers who don’t like structure but also need to get organized, this is for you. It’s perfectly acceptable to doodle in a bullet journal. In fact, it’s highly encouraged. You can make it your own and it’s a fun way to get used to organization in your life.

So many times we think having a different list for everything helps us stay organized when in reality, it just stresses us out even more. Think about it. You have your grocery list, your to-do list, your brainstorm of creative ideas list, and more. Having all these different types of lists everywhere can be distracting. With a bullet journal it’s all right there in one notebook making your life easier.

You can set goals for yourself and actually make them happen. Since you can customize this journal, you can include your big goals and areas that you need to work on and fill them in daily. Having your goals and tasks clearly written will keep them in the front your mind so you can achieve them.

You can be totally unique and artsy! Add some color, doodles, fancy handwriting, fun washi tape, and more. This seriously takes planners to the next level.

Every day can be organized differently and you can change things up as needed. You can’t do that with other planners. You won’t get bored and you’ll discover new and better ways to staying organized.

You can add in a habit tracker to help you stay on track with good habits. It’s simple too! Every day you do something right, you fill in a square for the day. This will show your consistency, where you need to improve, and will help you get better at doing that habit. This is especially helpful to visual people who like to actually see their progress on paper.

You can put in as much time as you want. You can set up your day in just 2 minutes or you could spend more time reflecting and jotting down each detail. You can make it super simple but most people like to spend some more time on it and make it look nice too.

You don’t need any fancy supplies, unless you want them! All you really need is a grid journal and a pen. Colorful pens, highlighters, stickers, and other embellishments are just an added bonus.

Different ways to do it

There are two ways to go about bullet journaling: Setting it up 100% yourself as we’ve talked about or purchasing one with premade pages.

It may sound like the premade books go against everything we’ve said about customizing your own journal but hear us out. If there’s a specific goal you have in mind, there may be a journal out there to help you reach that goal specifically. For example, we’ve seen nutrition bullet journals that are set up to plan for meals as well as other things. Even if you go with this option, it won’t be like a typical planner. These are creatively designed and provide you with what you should need to achieve your goals.

If you take the DIY route, all you’ll nead is a gridded journal (in any type and size) and a pen. You’ll be writing everything out yourself but you can use the guidelines below for marking tasks to help you stay organized.

Simple dot = Task
X = Task complete
> = Task Migrated
< = Task Scheduled
O = Events
= Notes
* = Gives task priority
! = Creative idea/inspiration
An eye drawing = Further research required

You’ll also want to leave a few pages in the beginning of your journal open for the index which is what brings everything together. You’ll have to number your journal pages which can be time consuming but it’s definitely worth it in the end. As you work through your book, simply add topics to your index and indicate which page number they are on.

Top tips

•    Create a weekly log where you brain dump all the things you want to get done for the week but not sure which days you’ll do them.

•    Break your days up into time periods. Several tasks don’t feel so daunting when they’re grouped by time and importance.

•    Separate your events in a creative way with doodles or washi tape.

•    Include your reading and movie wish list into a to-do list

•    Get a quality notebook that you absolutely love. We recommend Moleskine.

•    Use a ruler to help you create straight lines.

•    Use planner stencils to help you create fun shapes.

•    Use colorful page flags to help you easily find the page you need.

•    Create a “waiting on” list. This is great for when you place an order for something and are waiting for it to be delivered. Be sure to include the arrival date so you can track it!

•    Have a section to set monthly and weekly goals.

•    Create fun themes by doodling around your lists.

•    Log your memories. Jot down certain words that remind you of a particular event or doodle it.

•    Include a gratitude section.

•    Have fun with your headers on each page. Learn new creative lettering and just have fun with it.

•    Develop a planning routine. Sit down to plan each month, week, and day. Take the time to do this and in the end you’ll be more organized and will actually save yourself time.

Still don’t think bullet journaling is for you? We DARE YOU to give it a try just for a month or two. We totally believe in the power of keeping goals organized and how fun you can make this normally boring task if you do it right. We think bullet journaling will blow your mind! It’s totally different than anything you’ve ever seen before.  Give it a try and be sure to let us know how it goes!

How To Transition From Student To Instructor

instructor
Nicole Tinkham

Stepping outside your comfort zone (as a student) and becoming an instructor is a scary thing! But the best way to grow as an artist is to do something totally new. Just think about all the art instructors out there who must have started somewhere. They got started right where you’re at now. We bet that at some point in your art career, an art instructor changed everything for you. They opened your eyes to the creative possibilities and inspired you to do something incredible with your life. Now it’s time you paid it forward by teaching your own skills to others and help them before they make some of the mistakes you made when first starting out. Read on for how to find your niche, learning how to teach, understanding the various ways people learn, different ways to practice teaching a class before you actually do one, how to be in control of the class, and the perfect time to get started.

1.    Become knowledgeable in a specific area

It’s nice to dabble in a bunch of different areas and expand your skills. But when it comes to teaching others, it’s highly important that you know exactly what you’re doing and can answer any questions that come up (to the best of your ability, anyway). Pick an area that you’re passionate about, that you know a lot about, that you’ve been doing for awhile, and that you’ve learned and grown in.  You should feel the most confident in this area. If you’re unsure what that thing is for you, think about what you get the most compliments on. What techniques do artists continuously ask you how to do? Where do you feel your strongest abilities lie?

2.    Take a course on teaching

Just because you’re an expert in a certain area in the art world doesn’t mean you’re ready to go off teaching it just yet. Some of us were born teachers and can explain things well while others don’t naturally have that skill. Like anything, you can learn and grow as a teacher and that’s where books, videos, and classes come in. Taking speech classes may also help if you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of others.

3.    Understand the ways of learning

Everyone learns in their own unique way. Some people prefer to read instructions while others rather see it in action. Some people even learn best by actually doing it. Keep this in mind when structuring your art workshops and don’t become impatient with a student if they just aren’t getting it. Try a different method with them and see if it helps them pick it up.

4.    Practice makes perfect

When you’re doing something totally new and out of your comfort zone, remember that you will get better with time. All it takes is lots and lots of practice! To practice instructing your workshop, you can record yourself going through the class to see where you need to make improvements. You can also go through a trial run with your friends or just a small group and see what types of questions or confusion arises. Or you can just jump right into it and start your workshops with a full class. People are forgiving so no worries if you mess up! Just do your best and strive to get better each time.

5.    Get organized

Half the artists we talk to struggle with organization and the other half are very good at it. We’re all different and that’s ok! But when it comes to instructing workshops there has to be some level of organization. Plan out when each class will be, how long it will be, and exactly what will be accomplished in each one. With instructing, you have to lead in a step by step process so your students can easily understand the instructions. The key is to be very clear. Of course you’ll also want to be on time and do the things you say you’ll do. This will build trust with your students and they’ll want to come back for more.

6.    Don’t wait for perfection

So many people never try anything new because they’re afraid to start! There will never be the right timing and you will never be perfect. As we mentioned in #4, you will get better the more you do it. So just get started. If you don’t take the opportunity in front of you, it may never come around again. Now is the time to start!

Teaching art workshops isn’t for everyone so don’t feel pressured to transition from student to instructor. It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see if it’s for you though. You can always start small and work your way up to larger and more frequent classes. It really doesn’t have to be that scary! You will learn and improve as you go so don’t sweat a bad class if they come up. Remember to choose the topic you’re passionate about, get really good at teaching others, understand how they learn, never stop getting better, get yourself organized, and get started right away. You can do this!

Have you ever instructed an art class? If so, what advice would you give someone just starting out?

Is A Hake Brush The Brush For You?

By Nicole Tinkham

hake-brush

We recently showcased our brand new display of Hake brushes (now with more variety) on our Facebook page and have received a lot of interest and questions on how to use these brushes. There’s nothing fancy here. Hake brushes are basic, inexpensive and larger, used mainly for wetting the surface or for washes in watercolor paintings. They may not seem too exciting but these unique tools are definitely different to work with. Since they’re so inexpensive, we highly encourage you to try them out! Here are just a few more things you need to know about the Hake brush before getting started.

What is a Hake Brush?

A hake brush is an oriental wash brush with a long, flat wooden handle used in watercolor painting. The brush is typically synthetic, squirrel, goat, ox or bristle. These brushes hold a lot of water so they’re perfect for wetting the surface, doing a large wash, or for picking up excess paint. There are things people love about the Hake brush and there are things that frustrate some artists. The downside of a Hake brush is that the bristles can fall out easily. The good thing is, this type of brush is inexpensive and is perfect for holding water if that’s what you’re looking to do. It’s also a soft brush so it won’t lift previous layers of color.

How to prevent the loss of hairs

A simple trick you can do to prevent your Hake brush from losing its hairs is to remove as many loose ones as you can and then apply crazy glue at the bottom of the bristles along the handle. Using a needle, you can press the glue even further down into the center of the brush. Be sure to let the glue dry completely before using it.

Different options

As you can see from our new display (YAY!) below, there are many options when it comes to the width of Hake brushes. Which one you choose really depends on the project you’re working on. You’ll notice different handle types but the bristles are consistently flat among all options.

blog-brush

Is it for you?

Not every supply is for every artist especially when it some to the unique Hake brush. Yes, the hairs fall out and the brush tends to be a little too bendy for some artists liking. But they also hold a large amount of water, great for wetting the surface or creating washes, and they’re totally affordable.

We recommend the Hake brush to anyone who…

•    Needs a boost in their artwork. When the creative juices aren’t flowing, we always recommend trying something new and different to mix up your style.

•    Works on large pieces.

•    Does not give up easily. These take some time to get used to (like any other new tool you aren’t used to using).

•    Is on a budget. Hake brushes are inexpensive so why not pick one up and give it a try?

•    Likes to work wet. These are great for washes since they hold a ton of water!

•    Goes with the flow. We’ve heard many stories that every Hake brush is totally different.Artists find certain ones they love to work with and others they dislike. Don’t be too discouraged if they don’t work out for you!

Have you or would you ever give the Hake brush a try? Let us know in the comments and how your experience has been with them.

5 Hidden Benefits You Didn’t Know About Journaling

By Nicole Tinkham
journaling

In your younger years you may have kept a diary or journal of the things going on in your life but as we get older we tend to drift away from doing this. If you’re still doing it, that’s excellent! But if you haven’t thought about keeping a journal in ages, we have some surprising benefits of journaling that you probably didn’t know. Read on for why you should start journaling again and how it can change your life.

1.    It helps you think creatively

Studies show that while sleeping your subconscious mind wanders and makes connections with different parts of the brain as it does during creative activity which promotes creative thinking right after sleep. With that being said, you can purposefully direct your unconscious mind by thinking about specific things before bed. To do this, jot down the things you want to accomplish in your journal right before falling asleep. Write down any thoughts or questions you want to figure out and be very specific about it.

Right after waking up, grab your journal again and have a thought dump where you unleash any creative ideas or answers you’re thinking about. Just write down whatever comes to mind, be loose with it and let the ideas flow. Don’t be worried if they’re good ideas or not. Just get them in your journal. It may take some time but eventually this could help you come up with new creative ideas for future projects.

2.    It reduces stress

Having too much on your mind or scattered thoughts can lead to stress. You may have a difficult time concentrating on one thing at a time and that can be overwhelming. Use your journal to unload all the ideas you’re storing in your head. Once you have them down on paper they aren’t going anywhere and you can get back to them later. You’ll notice that doing this makes life a lot less hectic and you can finally relax.

In addition to your ideas, journaling also releases the emotions you’re holding on to. When you get your feelings written out, you can begin to let go of the things that are holding you back. You’re more likely able to let go and move on with your life by doing this. View your journal as a way of therapy.

3.    It helps with your memory

It doesn’t matter how great you think you are at remembering information, writing things down is proven to help retain that info. When learning something new, it actually helps to write it down versus type it out. By writing things down, a different part of your brain is engaged which helps things stick. Try it out next time you go grocery shopping if you don’t normally write out a list. You’ll be amazed by what you remember to pick up without even looking at the list! Writing things down also helps you work out problems and helps with your learning process, just an added bonus. So next time you’re in a rut, grab your journal and do a little brainstorming to find a solution.

4.    It makes you a happier person

If you use your journal to jot down what you’re grateful for each day, you’ll draw more positive things to your life and just be all around happier. You can start by listing the big things but eventually you’ll realize just how many small things in your life that you appreciate and may not have noticed on a daily basis prior to doing this. The little things sometimes matter more than the big things.

If you have a relationship that’s going downhill and you’d like to revive it, jot down one thing a day that you love about that person. This will get you thinking about them and all of their good qualities. Soon you won’t even notice the things that once bugged you and instead you’ll notice how much love you have for them. This can drastically change your relationship.

5.    It improves your communication skills

Believe it or not, as you write in a journal you’re speaking to someone. Maybe it’s just to you but that doesn’t matter. You still have to make sense of what you have written down. With time, journaling will improve your writing which also improves your communication skills. Start jotting down little stories and scenarios to keep your creative mind sharp and discover your voice!

Before you go on thinking journaling is a lot of work, remember that a little bit goes a long way. Also, you won’t see a drastic change overnight but with time it could boost your creativity, increase your learning and memory, help with your communication skills, strengthen your relationships, and reduce your stress. Journaling is not just something for teenage girls! Invest in a nice journal, let the ideas flow, and allow it to change your life.

Tell us, do you write in a journal? What types of things do you write in it? Let us know in the comments!