Cáscara


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I recently started my very first health journal. Not a diet journal or a fitness journal but a health journal. It helps me keep track of my daily physical activities, food intake, how many cups of coffee I consume, my mood for the day, general thoughts about health, etc. It also helps me plan our menu for the week. I’ll delve more into that in another journal entry. Today’s entry in my health journal is about this “tea” that I recently discovered through Everyday Coffee PH (Not affiliated with them BTW, I’m just a happy customer. They’re my main source of freshly-roasted coffee beans).

It’s called Cáscara which is Spanish for husk. It’s made of coffee cherry skin and pulp that’s dried and lightly roasted. It’s actually not at all like tea leaves but it’s called coffee cherry tea. It’s also called sultana in some places.

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A few grams of these husks are steeped in hot water for about 5-7 minutes and can be enjoyed hot or cold. I’m not an avid tea drinker but I really enjoy this drink. By itself, it tastes sweeter than other teas that I’ve tried. You don’t actually need to add any sweetener to it, but you can add a bit of brown sugar or honey if you want it to be a bit sweeter. It tastes like sweet raisins and has a subtle hint of berry. If you use honey, it tastes a bit like wintermelon tea. It’s surprisingly good, actually.

It’s also found to be rich in flavanols. This secret superfood is said to have more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s great that Cáscara gives coffee farmers another stream of income from what used to be considered as a byproduct of harvesting coffee beans. It gives an additional income boost for the farmers.

If you want to read more about Cáscara, check out: The Truth About Cascara.

Travelers Notebook Olive


Traveler's Notebook Olive

I knew I wanted one the moment I heard that Traveler’s Company is coming out with an olive green TN. I got this from Everything Calligraphy last month, and decided that I would use it as my calligraphy and watercolor journal.

Traveler's Notebook Olive

The color is a little hard to photograph. It always comes across darker than it actually is in person. The color is a dusky green, more like the camo green in my opinion, rather than olive green. It’s a deep color that I think will become more interesting as it ages. In photographs, it looks more like black than green. In person, the color is a bit ambiguous, depending on the light. I’ll post more photos of it in the future as it develops a patina. I’m curious how the texture and color will change once I start applying leather balm on it (maybe next month). My brown TN became shinier and the brown color became deeper and richer.

Traveler's Notebook Olive

I decided to keep it thin with only two inserts so that it won’t be so heavy. I use my brown TN as my primary journal anyway. I made those monkey fist charms and bookmarks with the elastic bands from an old TN repair kit that I haven’t used yet because I only used the dark-colored bands. I thought the bright colors popped pretty nicely against the color of the leather. If you want to know how to make your own monkey fist knots, this is the tutorial I used.

I made my own watercolor insert from 200gsm Canson paper. Here’s the cover I DIY’ed for my first insert.

Traveler's Notebook Olive

I didn’t realize that it had a rough side and a smooth side, so some pages have the textured side on the left, some on the right. It’s alright, though, it can handle light washes on both sides, albeit with a lot of warping.

Travelers Notebook Olive

Traveler's Notebook Olive

I enjoy bringing it around with me. It’s comfortable to hold and gosh, it’s so pretty in person. Next time I’ll try and find watercolor paper that’s textured on both sides, though. Overall, I’m pretty much in love with this TN. It’s a great addition to my EDC.

Something’s Fishy


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I find human and animal forms very challenging to paint. I’ve tried fishes before but I never liked how they turned out so I don’t often try them again. Last week I thought I’d try ink and wash for my fish paintings and I think I like how the first ones turned out.

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I used my Sennelier watercolor block for these paintings, and I’m pretty happy with it. The texture made it really easy to create the illusion of scales. It also took the ink from my Rotring Isograph pretty well. No bleeding or any difficulties sketching on it. I wish I can capture in the photos how delightful the texture of the finished paintings feel.

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Ink and wash seems to be my comfort zone, and I’m enjoying it a lot right now. I’m learning new things and discovering new techniques along the way.

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Here are the colors that I used for the fishes, in case anyone would find it useful:

  • Black goldfish – Payne’s Grey
  • Veiltail Goldfish – Bright Red, Lemon Yellow, Warm Sepia, Payne’s Grey
  • Salmon – Payne’s Grey, Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Lemon Yellow

DangerShrooms


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After a couple of paintings on edible mushrooms, I made a series for poisonous ones. They’re really interesting, I wish I had more time to study and explore them, but it was a busy week at work. Looks like poisonous mushrooms have more interesting, vibrant colors than edible ones. ^_^

Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue, Forest Green, Phthalo Green, Vert Sapin Forest Green, French Vermillion, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

Ramami!


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Last night my husband and I hung out and had dinner with a couple of good friends. There’s a spate of budget ramen carts and stalls all over the south and one of them happened to pop up beside our favorite shawarma place. It was okay, though a bit confusing to the tastebuds because it’s like a cross between a Japanese ramen and Chinese noodle soup. Haha. The shawarma was on point, though. We had dessert and coffee at home. After a long week, it’s a relief to hang out with friends who are low-key and can enjoy simple pleasures.

On a side note, I used my new cat’s tongue brush for this painting. It’s so much fun to use! I thought I’d only use it for botanical paintings but it’s a very versatile brush. I was able to drop by ArtNebulaPh at BF Homes yesterday and after playing with a whole lotta brushes, decided on a Raphael cat’s tongue (#6) and an Isabey blue squirrel round mop (3/0). Really great brushes, these two. They can hold a point very well. I also got a few Sennelier halfpans to complete my travel palette.

Overall, a fun day! ^_^

More Shrooms…


I enjoyed my first mushroom paintings so I thought I’d make a second set the next day. Still fun! Who knew there were so many varieties of edible mushrooms. I feel so deprived. I saw a video yesterday of really odd-looking shrooms, I should try those next.

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I wish I can see these in person. Especially the green one. It looks like the 1Up mushroom in the game Mario Bros.

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Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue, Forest Green, Phthalo Green, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

‘Shrooms


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I was sick with cough and colds last week, so I wasn’t really able to sit up too long and paint anything. I’m feeling much better today, though. I thought I’d have a little fun. I had the idea while having dinner with my husband and a friend last Sunday. We had some awesome mushroom chicharon (deep fried mushrooms that taste like pork cracklings)  for appetizers and oh mah goodness. Those things are delicious! If I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have guessed those were oyster mushrooms. I thought the little folds and textures were interesting.

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On this page, I drew/painted oyster mushrooms (yum), morel and chanterelle mushrooms.

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On this page, shiitake, enoki and porcini. It was lots of fun! I had a great time exploring different kinds of browns, yellows, and reds.

Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

Moleskine Watercolour Album (First Impressions)


I must admit that I’ve never been particularly impressed with Moleskine notebooks before. They’re not very fountain pen-friendly and they’re quite expensive. Since I’ve been trying out different watercolor journals that I can take around with me in my bag when I go out, I thought I’d give their watercolor notebooks a try. Maybe they will be suitable for urban sketching. I bought the smallest size first so I can try it out before committing to a bigger sized journal.

I was pleasantly surprised with it. The size is 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, it has 30 leaves (60 pages) of 200 gsm, acid-free, cold-pressed paper that have 25% cotton content. I’ve only used 100% cotton paper and I love them a lot, but I wanted to try something smaller and with thinner paper.

Since it’s not 100% cotton, I expected it to buckle a lot after several washes, but it actually held up pretty well with a few light washes. You can add several layers without the paper warping. I do mostly ink and wash drawings, so I think the paper holds up pretty well because I don’t do a lot of super wet washes.

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I like that the blank ink of my drawing pen pops on the paper. It seems to be very picky about fountain pen inks. Some bleed horribly while some don’t, but pigment ink work very beautifully with it.

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It’s easy on my brushes too, since the paper doesn’t fight it too much. On the flip side, the paper absorbs the water pretty quickly so I have to work very fast if I want to do some basic blending. I need to be careful with blending washes on paper, though because it doesn’t seem like it will take a lot of abuse like 100% cotton paper does.

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I like the subtle texture of the paper too. It adds some character to the paintings.

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I picked this size because I thought I’d just test the paper out, but turns out I like this pocket-sized notebook a lot. It’s just big enough to accommodate some simple sketches, but it’s great for practicing layers and drawings.

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I like that the binding allows the little book to lay flat easily, and the hard cover also makes it easy to hold up when sketching without a hard surface. I think it’s great for urban sketching.

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I’ve tried other journals that have about the same cotton content and I’m so disappointed that the paper somehow makes the colors of the painting look dull. This one stays true to what it’s supposed to look like. It looks so vibrant, especially in person. It’s hard to capture the colors in photos at home (it’s a bit too dark in my study), but the colors really pop on the page.

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So far, the ink that works best with this paper (aside from the pigmented drawing inks) is J. Herbin Perle Noire, in case you want to use fountain pens in your drawings. I don’t have waterproof Noodlers inks yet, so I wasn’t able to test them. Iroshizuku inks don’t fare too well. They spider out and feather like crazy.

It’s also pretty nice that the paper doesn’t show a lot of warping, as you can see below.

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Overall, me likey. It fits my preferred style, at least. If you’re fond of using a lot of wet washes, I’m not sure that the paper can hold up well to it. But for urban sketching and some light washes and layering, it works well enough. I think I can commit to a larger notebook now.

Review: Sennelier 24-Watercolor Half Pan Walnut Set


Something awesome came in the mail last week. My husband’s Christmas gift came early and I was so over the moon with it.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

I’ve been coveting this watercolor set from ArtNebulaPH for quite some time now. I agonized for months about buying it but always ended up buying a half pan refill here and there just to try out the colors. I’ve tried a few brands but I really like Sennelier best. I just remembered that he was even the one who encouraged me to try out the Aqua Mini set, because I’m always a bit slow on pulling the trigger on some things that I want for myself.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

The watercolor set came in a gorgeous walnut box. It’s got some weight to it, most probably because of what’s inside. It feels solid and the box looks and feels well-crafted. There’s nothing shoddy about it, even the steel clasp.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

The hinge opens easily, all the way to the back, so you can lie the set flat. Inside is a whole assortment of gorgeous colors, all wrapped up like candy treats.  The colors included in the set are Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Deep, Phthalo Blue, Cinereous Blue, Warm Sepia, Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow, Naples Yellow Deep, Bright Red, Venetian Red, Carmine, Opera Rose, French Vermilion, Quinacridone Red, Alizarin Crimson, Payne’s Grey, Ivory Black, Phthalo Green Light, Viridian, Forest Green, Cobalt Violet Light Hue, and Dioxazine Purple. There are two brushes inside (A #2 Raphael mop brush and a tiny Sennelier #3 detail brush). I know the Raphael mop brush is made of squirrel hair, I’m not sure if the detail brush is synthetic or natural, but it’s also quite a nice brush. I decided to keep using it.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

Unwrapping all the pretty half pans is quite the thrill. It’s my first artist-grade watercolor set, so I was so excited to see all of them lined up and unwrapped, pretty as a picture.

It also had a porcelain palette included in the box, which is the thing that added to the weight of the whole package. It’s my first time to use a porcelain palette and I must say that I find it easier to unload water and pigment from my brush instead of in my regular plastic palette which has more surface tension, I think. It just feels like the porcelain palette takes water easier than my plastic one. It’s easier to clean too, and doesn’t stain.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

Here’s the color chart for the set. 🙂 I don’t usually keep a color chart of my little watercolor palettes, but I realized it’s helpful because some colors tend to dry differently from what you expect. You can’t really judge a color just by looking at what’s in the pan.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

I like Sennelier watercolors because the ones that I have tried have very vibrant hues and the consistency is like butter. It’s easy to lift up with a brush, easy to mix, and apply on paper.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

The colors I tried so far have a nice transparency to them. It’s great with layering colors and building up values.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

This flower painting was done on a Strathmore watercolor journal. The paper was okay, though I prefer Arches and Khadi paper better because it shows off the vibrancy of the pigment very well. The painting below is on Khadi paper.

Sennelier 24-Color Walnut Set

Overall, it’s a very beautiful, well-presented set. I wish there were more kinds of green, though. It may not be portable compared to pocket watercolor sets, but it’s a nice set to have at home or if you don’t mind bringing it around with you. The pigments are beautifully vibrant and varied. The brushes included are also pretty good, they’re a lot of fun to use. This set will probably last me a long time, since I mostly do small watercolor paintings in my journal, anyway. Any color that I use up, I can easily order a refill of online.

It’s awesome that there are online stores like ArtNebulaPH and others that already sell these wonderful, premium watercolor brands. I’m very happy with it.

Also, cheers to my wonderful, supportive husband. 🙂

Year 5


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Last month was my mom’s 5th death anniversary. I still think of her all the time. She’s a remarkable woman, and many times I ask myself if I am living in a way that she would want me to live. She’s like a compass that always points me to my true north. This is a great loss that still aches so much whenever I think about her.

My mom had a rough childhood. Actually, “rough” would be an understatement. But her childhood was like a refining fire that made her better, not worse. She and papa were determined to be good, God-fearing parents. I take after part of my mom’s temperament. I was melancholic, always kept to myself, and had trouble making friends because I was painfully shy and was perfectly happy by myself. She made an effort to make good friends, though. I remember when I was young, she made it a point to ask me how I was doing at school and if I made any friends. She told me that being an only child, we didn’t have aunts and uncles from her side of the family. She asked God to give her good friends who will also love her children. Good relationships are from Him too, she said.

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She and papa started out with very little. This was the house where we grew up. It’s a cluster of old homes in E. Pascua St., a jumble of old, patched up wood and rusty roofing materials. We were poor, but my parents did gave their best effort for us. We would eventually move out of this neighborhood to a better one, but I would always carry in my heart our humble beginnings and how my parents taught us to live with integrity and a healthy sense of self-worth.

My mother also showed me by example that women can be strong and successful. During my teenage years, I remember her telling me that if I decide to get married, I should choose a man who isn’t intellectually insecure. I always kept that in mind. I saw how my father was always so supportive of her and gentle in his ways, and I married a man who is the same towards me. 🙂

I also saw how my mother treated everybody the same. She treated their office janitor with the same dignity that she gave the company CEO. Ayaw ni mama sa matapobre.

She was a voracious reader, and she encouraged this habit in us too. She’s the original Serial Doodler. 🙂 She was always writing, writing, writing. When she passed away, I gathered all of her journals and kept them in a drawer so I can read them later and hear her voice again inside my mind. I am thankful that she kept journals because her thoughts are precious to me.

It’s the fifth year without her. Though the grief has faded into a dull throb, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to that point when it won’t hurt anymore. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

Pens Through the Years


Fountain Pen Network Philippines will  be joining the celebration of Fountain Pen Day on the first weekend of November. I was invited to submit some artwork along with other fellow members of FPN-P. I’m usually really shy about showing people my art in person, but I figured that it might be a fun way to give back to the community and meet other artists as well.

I kind of agonized over what to submit, what paper to use, etc. I redid this a few times because I had some details wrong (plating color of a clip here, nib color there). But last night I was able to finish my final pieces.

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Overall, I enjoyed the process of making these two pieces a lot. Using fountain pen ink in the washes is challenging because it gets absorbed by the paper almost as soon as you brush it on. Mixing it with a lot of water helps. It’s also very fascinating to read about the pens again and see the tiny little details that make each pen unique. These two are collection of pens from Sheaffer and Parker through the years. There’s a lot of different kinds of pens to choose from, so I picked several that were made in different decades. It was really so much fun, and it reminded me again why I love vintage pens, especially Parker pens (I’m a Parker gal). They don’t make ’em like they used to.

This year’s Fountain Pen Day celebration will be on November 5-6, at the 3rd floor Atrium of SM Aura. Aside from the art exhibit, there will be other activities like calligraphy demonstrations for adults and kids, and pop up stores for fountain pen/calligraphy fans.