design projects

My DIY Portable Watercolor Kit

DIY postable watercolor kit

My work space at home is still the most ideal location for painting but there are times when I need to work outside the house like when I do demos or live portraiture and also when I meet with friends for art dates so I DIY-ed a portable watercolor kit that comfortably allows me to bring my at-home work experience wherever I go. In case you’re in the process of making a watercolor travel or plein-air kit too, I’m sharing mine with you. 🙂

DIY watercolor travel kit

The actual kit is a red pouch that measures 11.5″ x 8.5″ that I purchased for P88 years ago in Daiso. I think it’s a travel accessory pouch but I’ve found it suitable for storing my painting materials especially since the mesh front pocket allows anything that might still be wet inside it to air dry even when already packed. The kit is sitting on a wooden book stand (bought from Fully Booked but it’s similar to this one) that I use as an easel when doing on-the-spot portraits. I have a portable table easel too, you’ll see it in use in this video, but it’s bigger and heavier so I only use it for outdoor events or when I hold workshops.

DIY watercolor plein air kit

The back of the pouch has two more pockets where I store watercolor journals, pads and paper towels. See just how sulit this P88 bag is? By the way, the Clester journal is from Sekaido in Tokyo (I also use the Albireo journal which is slightly cheaper) and the Bockingford pad is from ArtWhale.

What’s inside the bag:

  1. Brush stnad (given by my friend Jovan (@starshuffler). I believe she bought this in an art store n Hong Kong), Never leave your brushes submerged in water, guys. You can rest them on paper towels when not in use but I particularly like how this holder lets my brushes’ bristles dry while keeping their shape.
  2. A roll-up tool case I bought from crafter friend Nikki of Tweed & Twine. I like that this tool case has wide pockets so I can keep rulers and small pocket palettes in it too. Also, fabric = breathable!
  3. Flat water bottle from my Holbein Pro Compo II travel set – a kit I stopped using because it’s quite heavy and bulky. I transferred the paint from it into a folding palette.
  4. My husband‘s 20-year-old Schmincke watercolor palette (video of when I first discovered it here), resurrected for my personal use.  😛
  5. Collapsible water pail that I bought in Sekaido (Shinjuku main branch) last year.
  6.  Little tin container bought for P29 in Landmark. I have lots of these and I use them for storing extra paint pans or graphite sticks.

The usual art materials:

  1. Silver Black Velvet Brush #8, a gift from my cousin abroad, locally available from Craft Carrot. The bristles are synthetic and I like how I can make both fine lines and semi-thick washes with it.
  2. Artetje Canlon Pro 5/0 brush I bought in Sekaido. I think it’s meant for miniature work and I only use it for detail work if necessary.
  3. Escoda Aquario #12 Squirrel Mop from ArtWhale — my all-time favorite brush. It’s a great mop for laying down initial washes of transparent color and if I forget to bring my other brushes, the pointy end is awesome for sketchy detail work too.
  4. Escoda Reserva #8 Kolinsky Sable Brush, also from ArtWhale — my next favorite brush. It’s collapsible so it’s perfect for travel. It can hold a lot of paint and is great for laying down juicy strokes of color which supplements the initial base washes made by the Aquario. I have a video of the two brushes in action on my Youtube watercolor tutorial channel.
  5. Some of the paint in the original palette has dried up so I filled it with colors I actually use which is a combination of Shin Han, White Nights, and leftover Shcmincke pans. I alternate this palette with my other folding palettes (see photo below), depending on what I’ll be painting that day.
  6. Viarco ArtGraf Water-Soluble Tailor Shape Graphite Block in Sanguine and ArtGraf Graphite Stick, both from ArtWhale. These are awesome and dissolve unbelievably smooth with no obvious streaking, perfect for live figure drawing sessions.
  7. Selection of paper — usually Strathmore. Khadi and Bockingford from ArtWhale, Hahnemuhle from Deovir Arts, Fabriano from NBS, and Canson Montval or Arches from IFEX or NBS. See my old blog post comparing different watercolor papers and on my watercolor tools (part 1, part 2)

watercolor palettes

My alternate folding palettes. I love this kind of palette since they are light, inexpensive and they have ample space for mixing colors. The one on the left is the palette I use the most since I’m already accustomed to the paints in it. You can refer to this old post for the colors / brands it contains (though I replaced 3 or 4 of the colors since writing that post). The palette on the right contains Holbein paint from that I transferred from my Pro Compo II travel kit which, as mentioned above, is really too bulky for me to lug around.

And finally below is what the portable setup looks like when in use.

Also here 😀

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How about you? What’s in your portable watercolor kit? If you have blog posts about it please do share the links with me in the comments section. 🙂

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Pinoy Food Stickers, Awit Awards, and other Updates

If you’ve been checking my Instagram, it might seem that I have been making nothing but stickers…

Pinoy Food Stickers — Ulam, Panghimagas, Almusal, Kakanin, and Merienda

…which is partly true. The reason for this is I am mostly working offline to prepare for a major project I’m undertaking this year. Something very much-delayed in my life as an artist. 😛 Before I reveal details though, I would like to talk about my current batch of stickers. Pictured above is the Filipino Food Sticker Set which consists of my watercolor illustrations of common Pinoy food for almusal (longganisa, itlog na maalat, taho…), ulam (sinigang, bulalo, lechon kawali, adobo…), merienda (fishball, isaw, turon…), kakanin or native delicacies (bibingka, puto bumbong, sapin-sapin, palitaw…) and panghimagas or dessert (leche flan, halo-halo, sago’t gulaman…). It was a challenge to draw the ulam or Filipino dishes especially because our food is so brown and saucy! How to make them look appetizing, right? My solution was to choose food that had vegetables in them to add color, or if they’re just really brown, I placed them on a colored plate. 😀

If you’re interested in these stickers, they are available online at my shop and at Hey Kessy (UP Town Center) and Common Room (near Katipunan Ave cor. Dela Rosa St. QC).

Other designs available are the following: dreaming dogs, smartly-dressed cats, bread and cheese, sushi, girls & kitties, and coffee. Each one is die cut for easy peel-off and size ranges from .5″ to 2″ — perfect for your planners and journals, yes?

stickers philippines

These can be purchased online from my shop too. In-the-making / painting photos are on www.instagram.com/arncyn.

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Other updates since the last time I wrote here:

1. My design for Callalily’s album “Greetings from Callalily” won at last yeat’s Awit Awards for Best Album Packaging. I was in Tokyo when the guys sent me a Viber message so I couldn’t attend the event but it was such a pleasant surprise because I completely forgot about the nomination hehe. It’s my sexond Awit Best Album Packaging Design Award — the first one was for the Eraserheads’ “Fruitcake” in 1997 — 20 years ago OMG. Who knew.

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2. I’ve been working on honing my figure drawing skills by attending WhoAreMaro Live Drawing Setup events. Aside from Arnold, I usually attend with my art date friends Arlene Sy and Kuki Ulpindo of ArtWhale which makes it fun and less nerve-wracking. 😀 Drawing from life is great exercise and WhoAreMaro’s setup is pretty cool. It’s just like the ones we had in school (UPCFA) where the model poses in 5, 10, and 15 minute increments but it’s more hip and millennial-y since they invite guest DJs to provide live background music and serve food & drinks at intermission. Here are drawings from the first one I attended:

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3. I’ve also had two on-the-spot-portrait sessions since 2017 rolled in — one was at the BGC Art Mart and the other one at Hey Kessy’s Valentine Pop-Up. Tin of Hey Kessy took a video while I was at work (below).

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4. I help my good friend and soul sis, fashion designer Tippi Ocampo with her blog every now and then. This time we changed her blog theme and updated her logo. Tippi has always had a hook and eye logo but she had an idea to use her initials “TO” as the hook & eye and I executed it in graphics for her. 🙂 Please visit her site for her updates — she is one of the most talented and insightful people I know. <3

A post shared by Tippi Ocampo (@tippiocampo) on

5. Have I mentioned that I have an online wedding invitation store (and moderately active wedding blog) called Poptastic Bride? I was very active about updating it from 20011-2014 until I got pulled into the arts & crafts scene. The blog is still up and I post updates and freebies (printables) every now and then. I also made an Instagram page for my invitation portfolio. 🙂 Below is one of my bestsellers:


That’s all for now. I promise to update more often this year!

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Googoo&Gaga Artist Collection – Watercolor Series + Musings

Excited to tell you guys that super cool apparel brand Googoo&Gaga has invited me along with fellow artist Wiji Lacsamana to come up with designs for their 2016 Artist Collection series. This year they’re focusing on watercolor art. 🙂 I’ve always been a fan of Audrey & AJ Dimarucot’s Googoo&Gaga’s quirky designs (and designer AJ has been a friend since the late 90s) so I was happy to be a part of this collaboration.

Here are the designs I came up with. They come in all sorts of clothing styles too — onesies, tees, lap t-shirts, t-shirt dresses, leggings, and even swimsuits which is pretty cool, right? The pre-order period is over but I believe you can still place orders through this link or by clicking on the image below.

googoo & gaga x cynthia bauzon arre

Googoo&Gaga x Cynthia Arre

I wanted to come up with designs that were fun and quirky without being “cutesy” since these qualities are what sets Googoo & Gaga apart from the other kiddie brands so I thought of drawing animals sporting human clothing and acting like they couldn’t care less. ;P I chose a zebra and giraffe because I read somewhere that these animals, normally found in Africa, actually exist here on our shores — in Calauit to be exact. I thought it would be interesting to set them against tropical foliage to reflect that fact. 😀

I had a great time working on them — and making illustrations for a brand for a change — and would love to have another opportunity like it again. So if anyone out there reading has an idea for a collaboration, please shoot me a message and let’s see what we can do.

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via GIPHY

To you guys subscribed to this blog (yes, all three of you ;p) I must apologize for the lack of updates and for also being a little impersonal lately. I know I’ve mostly been posting ads for workshops or new products in my store and the occasional product review. Where have all my musings and indirect confessions of inadequacy gone, right?

Well, here goes. I often find myself wondering about what I’m really doing. Shouldn’t I busy myself with making money instead of art? Obviously I can earn more as a designer since that’s what I do professionally but I have stubbornly been focusing more on improving my skills at drawing rather than pursuing what I already know how to do. If there’s something I’ve clocked in over 10,000 of hours on, it’s graphic design. But here I am trying to get into the world of illustration, unknown territory. Perhaps it’s because I almost had it — I was on that route a long time ago. I used to paint everyday. I drew portraits of my idols (River Phoenix, Ralph Macchio, and, okay, the Menudo guys) in charcoal back in high school. The late Jose Joya, a *National Artist*, gave me the honor of being a recipient of his award in 1988. And then I slipped down the rabbit hole of commercial work and all traces of my previous budding illustrator self disappeared.

Around 10 years ago, a friend / fellow artist I greatly admired complimented my portfolio but then asked to see my personal work. My mind went blank. I asked him sheepishly, “what do you mean, ‘personal work’?”  He said, “you know, art you’ve done just for fun.” And so it struck me that I had absolutely NONE to show. Everything was for a client. Even the band stuff. I had fun working on them, yes, but they weren’t for *me*.

BUT. 2014 happened and I’m back on that track or so I’d like to think. I have a long way to go still but whenever I feel like giving up and going back on familiar ground, I scroll down my Instagram, look at the body of *personal work* I’ve amassed, and keep soldering on.

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p.s. Incidentally, I do almost always post personal musings on Twitter more than any other social network because I know I can write anything and my post will get buried in a few minutess so maybe I’ll see you there? 😀

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CandyMag feature, live watercolor portraiture at Hey Kessy, new items in stock!

Just a quick update! This week’s highlight is definitely the feature on my painting beginnings and works-in-progress on Candy Mag (*heart eyes emoji*).

candymag feature

I was just telling friends that it would’ve been nice to have a publication like Candy when I was a teen. Locally we only had Panorama and MOD(ikr?) so I resorted to saving up and buying copies of Tiger Beat and Bop! at the bookstore near my high school UPIS along Katipunan (now transformed into what’s known as the UP Town Center).  I don’t remember what that book shop / magazine stand was colled but I remember it being at the back of Vinzon’s Hall in UP so I had to cross the bustling Katipunan avenue just to get there — kind of risky for a 13 year old, now that I think about it.

So anyway I was happy to have been chosen by Candy to feature in their section called “Creative Space”, many thanks to Macy Alcaraz and the team! <3

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Speaking of UP Town, I had another live portrait session at Hey Kessy’s “Better and Brighter” party/launch at the spanking new location on the 2/F of the Urban Turf wing a few weekends ago. 🙂  Here are photos of the lovely ladies I drew. (Were you one of them? :))

cynthia bauzon arre watercolor portraits

There are more behind-the-scene photos in my Facebook Page (here’s the direct link to the album) and on Hey Kessy’s blog. Here’s a video too, in case you’d like to see me in actio.

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A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on


And finally, I’ve updated my online store! Please do check out the new stuff when you have time. <3

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What Colors to Choose for a Minimalist Watercolor Palette + White Nights Review

Since White Nights (a.k.a. St. Petersburg) Watercolors from Russia became available here in Manila via Deovir, I’ve read a lot of reviews online and have even heard from art-friends that they are easy to re-wet and are highly pigmented. So, being low on EQ I decided to get a few pans for myself. You might already know that I’m not a fan of buying sets (though I have some but they’re either gifts and/or were purchased when I hadn’t the slightest clue about pigments and lightfastness) so I made sure to do my research before buying the paints. My self-imposed rules:

  1. I must be able to use the colors and their combinations in what I love to draw the most — faces, food, and felines (okay, animals in general :))
  2. The colors must consist of single pigments — this is to ensure lightfastness and also reduce the incidence of mud when layering.
  3. They have to fit into my handy DIY mint tin palette, meaning a maximum of 9 pans was in order.
  4. I can’t spend over P1,000.00 because do I really need another set of paints? Umm, no  (see previous post), but then need is sometimes < want. Fortunately White Nights, like ShinHan, isn’t as expensive as the other brands so I was able to stay below my limit.

White Nights Watercolors customized palette

So taking all that into account, here are the colors I ended up with along with their pigment info & light fastness ratings:
— 2 reds (1 cool, 1 warm): Madder Lake Red Light (PR 187 / LF ***) and Cadmium Red Light (PR 108 / LF ***)
— 1 warm yellow: Cadmium Yellow Medium (PY 35 / LF ***)
— 1 green: Emerald Green (PG7 / LF ***)
— 2 earth hues: Raw Sienna (PBr 7 / LF ***) and Burnt Sienna (PBr 7 / LF ***)
— 2 blues (1 warm, 1 cool): Ultramarine (PB29 / LF ***) and Prussian Blue (PB27 / LF ***)
— 1 neutral: Payne’s Grey (PBk7, PB15, PV3 / LF **)
[source]

The last one, Payne’s Grey is not a single-pigment color (it’s made up of 3 pigments) and is something I could’ve gone without since I can mix greys using some of the colors so it’s really just a handy “convenience hue” for days when I can’t be bothered to do extra mixing. 😀

Just to show you the range of colors that are possible using just these 9 pans, here are a couple of watercolor charts I made:

White Nights Watercolor Chart

This one (above) shows the range of color combinations and tonal ranges that can be achieved from mixing the brights with the darks. And just because I always paint portraits and people, I made a separate color chart mainly for the reds and yellows (below). I just added the column for green since there was extra space.

white nights watercolor chart skintones

Here’s something I painted using just the colors in the palette (you can view the work-in-progress video on my Instagram). I used them on Khadi Paper purchased a while back from ArtWhale.

white nights watercolor palette

My capsule review for White Nights Watercolors:
1. Indeed they are easy to re-wet, pick up with the brush and are highly pigmented (some colors more than others though)
2. They are also highly transparent — except for the Cadmiums which are opaque — so they are great for layering.
3. At only P87.00 per pan (except for the Cadmiums which are I think P120 / pan), they are quite affordable. My customized set amounted to around P849.00 and it consists of colors that I will actually use. (Sets usually have 3 or more pans that I always end up never using.) Also, these are FULL pans, not half pans, so you get a lot of paint for your hard-earned cash. 😛

And here is something else I painted using White Nights, a simple maguro sushi for my Youtube Channel (hah! If you’re one of my whopping 3 regular viewers, thank you for not laughing at my attempts to make these home videos <3)

Other observations:
1. ShinHan, Holbein, and Daniel Smith are still my favorites in terms of color intensity and flow but I’m happy to have this inexpensive set of vivid paints for drawings that will be scanned and for practice work. Van Gogh, my student-grade set that was a birthday gift from Arnold last year, is my other go-to for practice work but they are strangely more expensive than White Nights.
2. The pans remain moist for a while so I can’t close the lid of the tin until they dry completely because they might stick in the lid when I store them sideways.

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My favorite watercolor papers

I recently blogged about my watercolor paints and brushes in two parts — ONE / TWO

However, what good are those wonderful paints and brushes for without beautiful, high-quality paper? For daily practice work, inexpensive student quality pads like the Canson papers with the hot air balloon drawing on the cover that you can find at NBS and a Monologue Sketchbook (which I’ve also been abusing using) are great to have around but for commission work, it’s more appropriate to use paper that will allow illustrations to shine and last for a long time.

Here are some of my staples (so far) along with close-ups of samples of my illustrations using the different papers so that you can see their textures up close as well as how colors respond to them

.comparing watercolor papers

L-R and in no order of preference, these are the paper brands I keep going back to: Arches, Hahnemuhle, Khadi, and Canson. I’ve been hearing good things about Fabriano and Strathmore too but I have to wait for my shipment to arrive so I can try them out. The red, yellow, and blue paint I used for the comparison shot above are Shinhan PWC Permanent Red, Cadmium Yellow Deep, and Peacock Blue (from ArtWhale).

All of the above are acid-free and, save for Canson Montval Torchon which uses 100% cellulose, are fine artist quality papers made of natural fibers like cotton rag and bamboo in Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media Board’s case. Below are some notes:

arches watercolor paper sample work

Arches Cold-Pressed Cotton Watercolor Paper, 300 gsm (available at NBS and some Fully Booked branches though I got mine from Amazon.com)

I prefer cold-pressed to hot-pressed watercolor papers because I love the rough texture which IMHO lends an organic feel. Arches 100% cotton paper has a nicely coarse “tooth” that seems to absorb pigments easily which allows colors to remain vibrant and intense. I’m also able to paint big juicy washes and draw fine details with minimal buckling, even when I don’t stretch the paper (which I really usually don’t, being lazy). At 300 gsm, it’s also thick enough to handle re-wetting with no visible damage when I make mistakes. 😛

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Hahnemuhle matte watercolor paper

Hahnemuhle Mould-Made Watercolor Paper (Matte), 200 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

Arnold introduced me to this paper so it was the first “fine art” paper I ever used. (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that all of my watercolor work from years ago were done on yellow-backed illustration boards and sketch pads). Because of that, this has become my “benchmark” paper. It’s awesome for wet-on-wet painting (the paper drinks up the water & pigments without diminishing color vibrancy) and as you can see above, I can also do crisp-edged drawings on it with no problems. At 200 gsm, I avoid painting large washes though it may be possible if stretched beforehand. Mistakes are also easy to re-wet and “erase,” making it an ideal choice for beginners. It’s very economical to buy big sheets of these and tear them down to a more manageable size. The deckle edge is a nice touch and it’s inspired me to keep the torn edges when I tear it up into smaller pieces for a raw handmade look. 🙂

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Hahnemuhle mould made watercolor paper rough

Hahnemuhle Mould-Made Watercolor Paper (Rough), 300 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

This one comes in block form and has a rougher, slightly raised and woven texture compared to the matt variant. A block is very convenient since you can immediately apply large washes with no need for stretching. I found the weave-like texture off-putting at first since I was already used to the fine-grained fibrous texture of Hahnemuhle’s matt paper but after using this for a while. I learned to like it as well. It appears that the pigments sink and “sit” in the grooves and so deep, rich colors are preserved.

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khadi handmade watercolor paper circle

Khadi Handmade Paper 320 gsm, circle (above) and A5 (below) — (available at ArtWhale)

At 329 gsm, this paper handmade in India is thicker than all the other natural-fiber papers I’ve tried and because it’s made of long-fiber cotton rag (upcycled t-shirt cuttings, anyone?), it seems to be more absorbent than the other papers. The painting above was done on the circle variant (which reminds me of pita bread 😉 ) months ago using ShinHan Korean Colors but because the pigments were fully absorbed by the paper, it looks as if it was painted just yesterday. Also, as you can see almost the entire surface is covered in watercolor but at 320 gsm, the paper didn’t buckle much and actually stiffened a bit once the paint dried — possibly because the rag combined with the pigments.

The A5 variant (below) has a slightly finer grain. Since my first artwork is almost opaque, I tried to see how the paper react to a transparent wet-on-wet technique and it performed beyond my expectations. 🙂 The paper was able to soak in a lot of water and it never once buckled. Also, just look at how rich the colors stayed even after the paint dried (I used ShinHan PWC paints for the test below). The A5 size is perfect for portraits too and the deckle edges add a beautiful handmade touch.

khadi handmade watercolor paper a5

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hahnemuhle bamboo mixed media board

Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media Board 265 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

This is an all-in-one artist-grade paper made from 90% bamboo fibers and 10% rag which can be used with watercolour, gouache, acrylics, colored pencils, chalk and oil pastel, stamp pad inks, etc. It comes in sheets at Deovir (for around P118 per 19″ x 25″ sheet) which is great value since you can cut it up into smaller pieces and it can handle almost any media. The surface is smooth and watercolor glides on it with ease. I like using this paper with the wet-on-dry watercolor technique since colors seems to maintain brilliancy that way.

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Canson Montval Torchon watercolor paper

Canson Montval Torchon Watercolor Paper, 270 gsm (available at NBS and Fully Booked)

Among relatively inexpensive student-grade papers, this is the closest I’ve found that can mimic the behavior of premium watercolor paper. Made from archival cellulose, the texture is similar to that of Hahnemuhle Bamboo’s — smooth but grainy enough to absorb paint and give paintings a “watercolory” look, meaning it won’t look like the paint is just sitting on top of the paper. At 270 gsm it’s not prone to much buckling unless you’re doing heavy-duty washes. Remember though that this isn’t fine art paper and drawings might eventually fade so make sure to use this only when you will scan and digitize your work.

I would love to know what brands and kinds of paper you like using. Please do share in the comments section. 🙂

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I'm Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, a Filipino illustrator, graphic designer, and craft hobbyist. I live in QC with my talented graphic novelist hubby Arnold and our friendly marmalade tabby Abbas. This blog has been chronicling my life, likes, and loves since 2001. [ more ]

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