How my Tools and Space Inform my Process

My favorite paintings to work on usually are borne out of two conflicting modalities; Chaos and Order.

The push and pull between the two forces drives a lot of the interaction and movement of my work - and it’s something I only “half” control.

I control the sketches, the fine details, the colors of the paints I mix - but I don’t control the way the paint moves on the surface. I don’t control the spills, the drips, the intermingling of pigment and resulting colors. Working in this intuitive way imparts a focus that I haven’t found with another process. The work is informed by the process and the process informed by the work. It’s a cyclical opposition that relies heavily on my space and tools.

EH Sherman - tools and process

My space is crooked.

My studio is in a building that pre-dates 1891 and the floors show it. There is a 2.5 inch slope from one side to the other, which doesn’t seem like much - but when you are working with water media it’s very noticeable. I absolutely could have evened the floor out, but chose to accept another facet of the unplanned; gravity was going to change my work. When I put down a pool of paint it runs downhill. I can leave it as it, or spin the work to change it’s course, but that is about the extent of my control. I can’t leave a work unattended either, as sometimes in the drying process areas of the painting will overflow into another, pushing the paint down the canvas. This has resulted in a relatively different studio experience for me - rather than leave as a work dries I now sit there (usually with another painting or some other facet of my job that needs doing - like blogging!) and literally - watch. Paint. Dry.

Sometimes I catch the drips and move the painting, sometimes I happily let them spill all the way down, grabbing other colors as it moves.

It’s another part of the chaos and I love it.

My tools also have a part to play in the balance between planned and unplanned.

Probably best characterized by my two favorites; the loose hake brush and the precise rubber wedge (or squeegee). I frequently have one in each hand and move the drying paint around with both, one making hard to control splutters of the pools, the other cutting through and leaving small, tight lines in it’s wake.

Eh Sherman squeegee
Eh Sherman Fine Art - hake brush

It’s in their interaction that I learned to love and embrace the dichotomy of chaos and order and begin to seek it out as I worked. And then, I saw it everywhere.

The flower growing in the crack in the cement; just a flower in a field - but here in this moment it’s transformed into something miraculous.

But I have to love it loosely. If I let myself get too caught up in the order aspect and find myself ‘planning’ the chaotic elements, I lose that magic that the flower possesses. Then the work is an exercise in making something look ‘unplanned’ and in my mind, fails at it’s purpose.

Allowing my tools and my space to contribute their essence and spirit to my process has made for a far more fulfilling and challenging studio practice.

I’d love to know more about your practice - do your tools inform your work? Does your space change your paintings? Leave me a message below!



US Art Factory Watercolor Markers

I do a lot of my work on the go. Painting from cafes, parks and passenger seats has always been an important part of my practice. Sometimes I lug a full backpack of paints, large brushes and big papers/canvases with me, but other times I need small, quick supplies for flash color studies and sketches.

EH Sherman Watercolor Marker test

I was sent a package of Watercolor pen brushes by US Art Factory to test, and I am happy to say that these will be a part of my travel supplies going forward. I really appreciate the form factor with all the pens and a small pad of paper fitting easily into a slim snap-enclosure case that doesn’t take up too much room in my backpack. Big win.

The markers themselves deliver a decent amount of pigment, but I did have to press relatively hard at first to get them going. 

EDIT!!!: I learned from the company that this dry tip can happen when the markers are shipped/stored with the tips facing up. I was advised to leave them upside down for 24 hours and see if the tip wetness improved. It absolutely did. I added a new video below to show the line width variation now that the brush tips are functioning correctly.

I love these for moments on the go when I want to quickly get movement and tone down onto paper, knowing I can take a waterbrush to the page at my leisure later. I’ve played with other watercolor markers, but none with the brush tip (as opposed to a marker tip, and I really appreciate the fibrous texture this tip leaves behind. Using these markers I don’t have to worry about the pigment drying on the page in an exact line, which can be difficult to fade with water later. This can dry fully and still feel like a watercolor application with the introduction of the water brush.

EH Sherman US Art Factory Watercolor Markers

The pigments blend together really nicely, making it easy to create dreamlike, meditative color fields. I’m planning a quick little trip up north to paint the lakes in all their frosty wonder before spring and will definitely be bringing these in my pack.

EH Sherman Art Watercolor marker tests