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All Things Ampersand

Featured Artist: Ranjini Venkatachari

“Epiphany”, at the UKCPS show


Washington based artist, Ranjini Venkatachari, another wonderful colored pencil artist, has shared her work with us and her process of working on Pastelbord™.  She explains why Pastelbord’s surface has worked so easily for her style and experimentation.  “I like working on surfaces that have a little bit of texture compared to smooth ones like a hotpress paper. I do not make my work look completely smooth, I really like the texture of the board showing through to some extent in the end.

With Pastelbord, Ranjini uses the grit in the surface to blend her Neocolors and colored pencil, working with a stiff bristle brush.  She has also mastered a technique to correct mistakes by working through the layers of pigment down to the grit of the surface, which remains intact. “If there is a mistake in the Neocolor layer, the board can be cleaned off with just plain water. If I have something to erase after I have started the colored pencil on top of the neocolors, I use the battery operated eraser.  Even if you have to get through a painted neocolor layer, the battery-operated eraser easily gets right through and the grit still remains to add color on top.” 

Line Drawing, Necolor II, then Colored Pencil on top


Pastelbord has even inspired Ranjini to test oil pastels and to combine her colored pencil with soft pastel.  She originally began working in graphite, as she has always had a tendency for drawing.  Pencils are portable, easy to clean up and little health risk.  So, it was natural for her to gravitate to colored pencil once she moved to the United States from India in 2003. 

When she first began using colored pencils, Ranjini was working on paper.  But quality materials, in both Pastelbord and Neocolor II, dramatically changed her work.  She was able to work more quickly, layer the colored pencil as she was accustomed and work in both wet and dry media together.  Plus, no framing needed!  Ranjini finishes her work with 4-8 coats of Lascaux fixative and then sprays with a Damar/UV varnish.  

“Cherry Delight”, 9″ x 12


To catch a glimpse of Ranjini’s colored pencil works in person, you can see her show at the Nuneaton Art Gallery for the UK Colored Pencil Society through November 25, 2012.  She is also showing with Women Painters of Washington’s Traveling show starting in November at the Schack Art Center in Everett, WA.

To see more of Ranjini’s work online, keep updated on her workshop schedule and shows, or to see works in progress, visit her blog and website.  

And just for fun, check out this video demo of Ranjini’s work on Pastelbord:


All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Featured Artist: Jeff Leedy



It is rare to find a fine artist that works in oil pastels.  Rarer still to find one whose subject matter is humorous, drawing in the viewer with laughter and amusing captions rather than conceptual design, strong lines or photo-realism.  It’s not that Jeff Leedy isn’t a gifted draughtsman and designer, but his career has found a niche in bringing the public funny art, in oil pastels, on Aquabord™.

Jeff Leedy began his art career out of college, working for ad agencies as an art director for years before becoming an illustrator.  His path led him to working in freelance illustration for several years before starting to do shows, giving him the ability to be a full-time artist.  During his work as an illustrator, Jeff took a hiatus to Europe, taking along acrylics and oil pastels, enjoying the flexibility the pastel gave him.  This combination of mediums allowed him to draw and paint, work in layers and add acrylic washes to tone the substrate if needed.   It was the perfect fit for his style, and he has stuck with it.   Jeff chose oil pastels because they are the right match for his art, the same way he chose Aquabord years ago.

“Board Meeting”


Aquabord made its way into Jeff’s studio when it kept appearing in his favorite art supply catalogs.  After doing some research and finding out that Ampersand was close to his home in Marble Falls, Texas, he made a visit to the factory in Austin and got to know the company and their products.  He quickly discovered that Aquabord was the perfect texture and finish for his oil pastels.  Aquabord holds many layers of oil pastel and even allows for acrylic washes to tone the surface first. Jeff uses solvent and brushes without concern for overworking the surface. Not to mention, Aquabord provides him a rigid substrate that needs no glass or framing if cradled, even with oil pastel. Jeff uses a spray fixative, Sennelier oil pastel fixative, and then a final gloss varnish, Krylon, to protect his finished images and pop the color. Depending on the size and whether or not he uses a cradled board will determine if the artwork requires glass or not.  When using frames, Jeff purchases wholesale frames made to all sizes for his originals; when using the cradled Aquabord, Jeff paints the sides.

“Me? I’m just up here to help”


Besides working as a humorist, artist, and a gallery owner, Jeff teaches workshops and speaks to both art and non-art groups.  You certainly don’t have to be an artist or know about art to appreciate Jeff’s wit.  And if you are looking for an instructor who brings talent and humor to his classroom, look no further.

“I can still make par”


Jeff strongly believes in the power of good drawing, “Drawing like a Painter” is one of his most popular workshops.  He believes that the medium shouldn’t get in the way of learning to draw, nor should the subject matter.  If the subject matter becomes too difficult, the medium will seem harder to manage as well.  Jeff’s personal specialty in teaching is to help students overcome their “blocks” to creativity.  “My goal is to lift each student up one whole level of ability,” he explains.  He does this with humor, patience and with an understanding of the power of good drawing skills.  Jeff teaches his students by having them work alongside him, giving feedback along the way.  He is scheduled to teach a few workshops in Mendocino, CA this July and more in September in Marble Falls; you can find more details on his own website:  artthatmakesyoulaugh.com/workshops