Saturday, March 31, 2007


The CrashOctopus Blog, An Ode to Art and Beer, is now being updated at

Please update your bookmarks!


Art Blogging

I began "An Ode to Art and Beer" with a few specific goals in mind. First, to rate beer - for anyone who drinks it. Second, to discuss art - for anyone who loves how-tos, WIPs, and lessons learned. There are so many "art bloggers" out there whose sole focus is showing artwork. It's a great venue to keep collectors and fans up-to-date about what you have on the easel, and to sell art. However, I focus my blog on the process of making art, not the end result.

I'm on a journey of learning. My successes and setbacks as an artist are being recorded with the hope that someone will find the information useful in their own journey. My "Links" section contains the blogs of other artists whose goals are similar - they aren't just there for the end result. That said, I would like to post more often than weekly, but time is precious. So I'm considering throwing in some completed artwork posts during the week, and continuing with the beer and "lessons learned" posts on the weekends.

My desire for constructive criticism also gave me an idea: to set up a website for all of us artists who want to improve, where we could get valuable critiques and do the same for others. That'd be the sole purpose of the site. If any of you readers are interested in participating in a site like that, please comment & let me know.


Nathan's foray into website design introduced me to the realm of Wordpress. I have long felt restricted by the formats Blogger allows, and having built my own website, I knew I could do a lot more outside the confines of Blogger. I downloaded Wordpress and have a new blog URL: I've migrated all the relevant archives and comments, so it's an exact copy of the Blogger site. This site will remain as-is, but I won't post here anymore. Update your bookmarks now to see new content!

With the freedom of hosting my own blog, I'm also looking into making money with it. It will come in the form of Sponsored Links, so that whenever I talk about a particular product, I'll link to a site where you can buy it. I will also have a "Meg Recommends" page with all past product links. For example, has an affiliates program, and if a reader buys a product after clicking the link on my blog, I get a small cut. So, if you want to buy something at, doing so through pays me. (bwahaha!) If you do, I'll bake cookies for you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gouache Supports, Part 1

O Gouache, most versatile of mediums, bestow upon me the strength to remain calm and encouraged despite the fact that you frustrate me daily.


Yesterday I spent 2 or 3 hours working and reworking a simple ocean background. The gouache wasn't behaving. Or maybe I just wasn't handling it properly. But it brought to my attention that although gouache can be used on just about anything, not all supports are created equal. I was able to spend hours reworking because my support could handle a lot of abuse.

I've used gouache on a bunch of different supports. Specifically, nine, with one waiting in the wings for its debut. Ten supports are far too many to rate in one blog entry, so this week you get half of them, hence the "Part 1." I won't go into too much detail here, so if you want more info, let me know!

First: Watercolor papers. Most of the advice you'll find says to start off with watercolor paper. Good advice, but "watercolor paper" has a bunch of variation. I've tried three kinds.

Strathmore 400 Series Cold Press: I've only tried the blocks. They come in weird sizes, like 13x17". They're toothy and durable. The surface is fairly rough, and the gouache tends to puddle and granulate if too wet. It scrubs well, and can take a fair amount of abuse. The paper buckles even in block form. Strathmore's Aquarius II paper is smoother and more flexible, but although the packaging says you don't need to stretch it... it still buckles under a wash.

Work on 400 Series
Work on Aquarius

Arches Cold Press Cotton Rag: This paper holds gouache very well. I toned a piece months ago, and it stayed relatively flat. I painted over it with great success. I had to lift a few times to fix mistakes, and the toning didn't lift, just the new paint. I didn't scrub much because of the toning, but I bet the paper would handle it well. My only complaint is that it buckled a bunch... but then again, I didn't stretch it first.

Work on Arches Cold Press

Sennelier Hot Press Cotton Rag: Another great gouache support. It's a verrry smooth paper. I have a small landscape-shaped block, and although I used washes and wet-on-wet, it didn't buckle at all. The gouache responds very well to brushwork on this paper - it blends more than lifts, which is a breath of fresh air. I haven't found a downside to this one yet.

Work on Sennelier Hot Press

Bristol Board
: I've worked on Strathmore 300 and 400 vellum and smooth. They're both very smooth surfaces, and work well with one opaque application of gouache. The final result looks very smooth and velvety. Bristol board can't handle washes or large applications of color - it just curls up. Because of this, I've only done a few color tests on it, so I don't have any finished works to show you.

Crescent Illustration Board: Make sure you check out the link for this one. It is an awesome matrix of all of Crescent's flavors of illo board and their compatible media. I have used #300 and #1. The #300 is single-sided, and it is nice and sturdy. It reworks pretty well, but I didn't test its scrubbing capability. It warped severely under a wash, but didn't buckle. The #1 is excellent. It warps just a tiny bit. It's very thick, so it can handle a lot. It reworks very well. Crescent rates these boards "marginal performance" with watercolor and gouache, but in my opinion, the #1 is better than the #300, and both are pretty darn good. Plus, the #1 comes in 22x30" sheets that you can cut to whatever size you like.

Work on #300
Work on #1

Well, that's it for this week. I'll post "Part 2" next month.

Left Hand Blackjack Porter

Today's beer is the last of the Superbowl beers: Left Hand Blackjack Porter. It was the best of the three, although not our favorite from this brewery. It does have a cool label, though:

To help describe this beer, I'm creating a new term: the “First Taste.” It is defined as the immediate impression of the beer, and lasts for a very short time before the full flavor hits your tongue. You could also associate it with food - some foods taste strong at first, but the taste fades away to nothing by the time you've eaten the whole pint of ice cream in one sitting. Anyway, Blackjack Porter's First Taste has a lovely hint of chocolate. The overall flavor is very mild and smooth. It's a bit like Guinness, but a milder. The aftertaste is bitter and strong.

A pretty good beer, but after tasting Left Hand Milk Stout and Imperial Stout, we were expecting better.

M: 7.5
N: 7.5