Studio Intentions with the New Ensō Collection from Pilot Pen

(Thank you to Pilot Pen for kindly sponsoring this post! All opinions are honest & completely my own. I never work with a sponsor or product that I don’t love. <3 )

On most days I can be found working to balance multiple painting projects, a commission or two, website updates, art event planning, house remodeling adventures… things can get a little chaotic here relatively quickly. To combat the pull of the messy, paint-y abyss I keep a studio planner and strictly manage my time, but that only covers the physical, actionable parts of the tasks and goals I have set.

EH Sherman for Pilot Pen

One of my goals for 2019 was to work on visualizing the emotional, bigger picture, intangible and abstract responses to the day as well.  In the same way I would brainstorm and examine how to tackle a project, brainstorm and examine my hopes and plans for my painting practice.

So I started recording my studio-intentions.

EH Sherman Pilot Pen Studio Intentions

I mean ‘intention’ here in the way a yoga instructor might; these non-concrete thoughts that embody the ideals for the day, week, year or beyond with essences that I can reach for and visualize. These serve as a reminder that though there are physical steps to complete projects, frame of mind is just as important. Some are solitary words, some are short sentences. What matters is how I connect with and reference them throughout the day.

So when Pilot Pen reached out to me about working together, I knew exactly how I would use their new Ensō Collection of Watercolor Brush Pens.

EH Sherman Art using Pilot Pen.jpg

The kit features 7 super vivid and precise felt tipped pens (black, brown, red, orange, blue, pink, green) and a black pen with a very long brush tip for sweeping lines and shapes. Using these with varying amounts of pressure I can create a number of different lines, exploring and defining the nature of the word, learning from it and emblazoning it on my practice for the day. I’m able to just play and create knowing the pen is going to give me amazing control and beautiful color.

EHSherman Studio Intentions.jpg

The pens write beautifully and effortlessly, letting me focus on the design and nature of the word. I record these in a number of different sketchbooks; scribbled on top of old paintings, hidden in the margins, wrapped around sketches and the rich, vibrant ink allows the words to stand out in the chaos. The fine-tip allows me to be precise when I want to create fine lines, while applying a bit of pressure helps to create bold, broad lines.

Using the Watercolor Brush Pens as my tools for these intentions has become a little bit of a ritual at this point. Get into the studio, make coffee, find a good sunbeam (or comfortable spot by a plant) and use the Ensō Collection Watercolor Brush Pens to design the intangible goals for the day.


Again, big thanks to Pilot Pen for sponsoring this post, these new pens were fast favorites of mine. Do you have a practice of recording your studio intentions? Do you also love writing out words with really beautiful pens? Leave me a message, I’d love to see how you work these into your practice.

EH Sherman using Pilot Pens

Sketchbook Workshop at Teaspressa (1/13/19)

That first blank page can be an absolute doozy.

EH Sherman Sketchbook - blank page

It sits there, beautiful in it’s emptiness, complete as a book dedicated to the texture of the fibers, the tone of the paper.

And we intend to mess it up, to mar those beautiful pages with our marks and thoughts. This is one of the hurdles just high enough that it can keep artists and non-artists alike from truly committing to a sketchbook practice and from developing a discipline to connect regularly with our creative selves.

I’ve been there and it is incredibly uncomfortable.

EH Sherman Sketchbook Workshop

Which is why I decided to put together this workshop!

Join me on January 13th at Teaspressa in Ann Arbor at 1pm for an afternoon of sketching, discussion, material exploration and of course, delicious tea beverages.


Who is this for?

Artists! Non-Artists! Anyone who wants to take a few hours out of your day to sit with a sketchbook, learn about my methods for sketching and engage in a few creative exercises designed to help you dig deeper into your sketching practice. Even if you’ve never held a pencil to a blank page before, but you are interested in exploring your creativity, there’s something for everyone on each step of their journey.

What is provided?

Materials that I use and love particularly for working small format and on the go. Feel free to bring your own supplies as well! The $45 ticket also includes a sketchbook if you’d like to start from scratch. We’ll be filling at least 4 pages in the books, so if you bring your own consider how many pages you have left.

Is this ONLY in person at the location?

For now, yes. I have plans for an online offering, but for now - this is only accessed by attending the workshop in person.

EH Sherman - Sketchbook

Head over to the RSVP page to sign up, I’d love to see you there!

A Day in Life of my Sketchbook; featuring The Mercer Refillable Sketchbook from SLATE COLLECTION

Thank you to SLATE COLLECTION for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

One of the most important parts of my art practice is my sketchbook. (If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably gotten that impression already.)

EH Sherman with Sketchbook

My paintings are an aggregate of so many different inspirations; contours of flowers, the colors of leaves on a run, words that stay stuck in my mind, patterns on the water, rhythms in remembered landscapes… all of these factors inform my work, so it is crucial that I have a sketchbook with me literally at all times, to record all of these.

Keeping a sketchbook is a discipline I cling to, rely on and owe much of my current practice to.

Currently I’m using the Mercer Refillable Sketchbook by SLATE COLLECTION and I’m in love with it. The cover is soft and supple (and in the case of my book, my favorite color; INDIGO!) and yet incredibly sturdy. I put my supplies through a lot, and it has held up beautifully.

How I use my sketchbook;

I get a fair amount of questions about my process when it comes to keeping a sketchbook, so I thought I might break down a typical day in regards to my sketching habits. I’d love to hear about your sketching routine too, make sure to leave a comment so I can learn about your practice!

7 am; Wake up (slowly, I’m awful at shaking sleep!) and quickly record thoughts from dreams, or colors that creep into my pre-dawn thoughts.

These are small notes generally, unless I’ve had an amazing dream, or spent the morning lying in bed visualizing a new series. It’s important for me to have a sturdy sketchbook, as I don’t sleep with it, but if I’m scribbling notes during the night, it can get caught in between the bed and the frame pretty regularly. The Mercer is both thick and rigid enough that this isn’t a problem.

9 am: Back from my run, I’ll write down thoughts that I’ve mediated on, colors from our local landscape, lyrics or moments from the music that empowers my run, and I’ll start to make plans and notes for the day ahead.

EH Sherman SLATE COLLECTION sketchbook

(This particular morning was spent watching a few busy squirrels outside my studio window. I put the pencil on the page and dragged it around according to the squirrels movements. Like a little treasure map to their buried nuts.)

11-1 pm: Errands and meetings! I make notes in my sketchbook of orders that need to go out that day and any supplies that I’m low on. Since I’m already out and about, I try to schedule meetings and meet-ups around the same time (and, Ann Arbor has such great food that lunch meetings are automatically THE BEST). My sketchbook is in tow for all of this, acting as a list for supplies, and as a mini portfolio if I’m meeting with a client or gallery space.

2-3 pm:   My favorite part. Unless I’m knee-deep in other paintings, this is my project time; when ideas take form and the next paintings in a series starts here. Here is where I distill morning sketches, break apart words that have been stuck in my head, examine memory, color, and make thumbnails.

EH Sherman - thumbnails in Mercer Sketchbook

These can be super clean, super messy, made with lots of types of paint, or just pencil - so it’s important to me to use a sketchbook that is multi-purpose. Paper that is too thin will tear with water, paper that is too thick feels too final and I’m less likely to get deep into the experiment phase. I’m looking for a quality paper that can take a few layers of exploration, and the pages of this sketchbook (Mercer Refillable from SLATE COLLECTION) are perfect for that.

Once I’m confident in the idea, the movement and color scheme of the piece transfers from my sketches to canvas as I begin to create the painting. If I’m not totally feeling the pre-painting sketches, I’ll just keep exploring the composition and colors in thumbnails until I feel like I’ve got a better handle on the message I’m trying to convey. Or, the idea gets scrapped / shelved for tomorrow and I’ll come back with fresh eyes.

10 -11 pm: A slow unwind. At the end of the day, orders shipped, progress made on paintings, space (relatively) clean, I like to take stock of the last 16 hours and make sure if any thought is still rattling around upstairs - that it is written and/or sketched out for tomorrow. I’ll use this time to journal in my sketchbook a bit, reflect on things from the day or the days to come.

Keeping a sketchbook and being disciplined about the process is a huge part of my practice, and using the Mercer Refillable from SLATE COLLECTION has been the perfect book to use for this. If you’re an artist looking for a new sketchbook (refillable too!) check out their books. And if you know an artist, none of us is ever upset at a new sketchbook for the holidays!

What sort of sketching schedule do you keep? Is it a daily activity or more of when the mood strikes? I love looking at other artist’s sketchbooks and hearing about their process - feel free to share your habits below!

Happy sketching friends!

A Look into my Composition Book

The other day I posted a look into my composition sketchbook on instagram and received a flurry of questions on the process, materials and ideas behind keeping this collection. Rather than write out paragraphs to respond there, I thought I’d take some time to provide a more detailed look into these studies.

This book cover has seen a lot of paint/chalk/pencil.

This book cover has seen a lot of paint/chalk/pencil.

The Book:

I’m a big fan of keeping multiple sketchbooks at one time - each with a very clear and defined purpose. Color tests, travel sketches, morning sketches, still life contours, and a composition book. Keeping things separated like this allows me to reference sketches and images faster and it just appeals to the side of my personality that likes to have a space for everything, and everything in it's space.

For the Composition book I use a large sketchbook from Canson. This book serves two methods of organizing compositions;

1.) Collecting sketches from other books/cut paintings with particular compositions that I feel could use more exploration and gluing them in.

2.) Creating purely compositional study sketches on the pages.

By adhering to these two tenants I end up with a book of painting ideas divorced from color (mostly) and subject - but focused on rhythm, movement and motion.

Lines and movement.

Lines and movement.

The Why:

I use these pages to explore ideas for paintings in a pre-sketch phase. If I’ve got an idea that I want to work with, but it lacks form I open up this book and search through the studies until something clicks. If nothing does, I make however many more studies are necessary.

The Result:

Often times at first glance the final painting doesn’t look very similar to the composition work. With so many layers and lines making up the final piece the initial blocking out can be hard to spot - but if you look close enough most of the time it becomes apparent. (I say most of the time, as there are definitely cases when the final work morphs into something totally diffferent!)

Looking back on years of composition studies has been pretty enlightening as to the evolution of my process. The forms I work with are so dependent on location and my surroundings that’s it’s pretty easy to pinpoint when I moved from Miami, when I spent time in Ireland, Thailand and Japan, when we were snowed in last year and couldn’t leave for 4 days… at this point it functions almost as a journal with no words.


Testing indigo/gold/gray.

Testing indigo/gold/gray.

Glued-In page.

Glued-In page.

Cut pieces.

Cut pieces.

Sketching 101; How I start my pieces

**Welcome to the first of a multiple post series, each one breaking down one aspect of how I work, spending a little more time with the basics. Want to see something specific? Let me know!**

Sketching 101

My sketches come from a number of places. A memory of a place, color changes noticed during my run, remnants of a dream (or I’m just out to play with my paints!).

I keep a pile of sketchbooks in my studio, each one with different paper textures, tone or sizes, and I’ll reach for whichever book calls to me that day. I tend not to worry too much about matching the final in terms of size ratio of paper type at this point, these moments of exploration are all about spontaneity and discovery. I’ll hammer out the sizing and materials later.

EH Sherman Sketchbook

It’s not always just paintings either, sometimes I’ll scribble little poems or words that call out to me as I work. It’s important to me that my sketches are quick and totally free of restrictions. 

EH Sherman sketchbook

Each final painting is usually born from a multitude of sketches, exploring different facets of the composition/color choice/subject until a few feel like they address the question I began with. Occasionally I’ll move on straight from there to the final work, or I’ll tape the sketches on the wall and consider their movement and rhythm for a few days until I feel satisfied enough with their language to move forward. 

Sketching is one of the most magical parts of being an artist, it’s a time purely for me and my thoughts. (And having a pile of years and years of work to go through has been an excellent tool to chart how my process has changed over years.)