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Shop: New Artwork Added!

Early November Shop News

Time is flying by! I have piles and piles of original paintings, matted drawings, matted and unmatted prints just laying around my studio, waiting to be uploaded to the shop. Soon, I will be transitioning from Etsy and adding all of my new works here, as they are made. Check out some of the new items I added to the shop today!

Newly Added Original Paintings

Coupon Code Alert!

PS. All of my existing original artwork and prints are 50% off until January 1st. Use website coupon code 50off2019 at checkout! I usually ship all artworks for free, and if you live in Calgary, I can deliver the artwork to you. Keep an eye out for new posts with new art in them! Next up will be a batch of prints added to the shop. Thanks and happy shopping!

Ljubica Todorovic
Art of Luba, Sketch Art & Framing
November 11th, 2019

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Event: HEX Con, Calgary AB AA #128

Find Luba and her bunnies at HEX Halloween Expo this Thanksgiving weekend, down at the BMO Centre, Stampede Park. Artist Alley #128! Francis V of Bleeding Rose Tattoo will be my table-mate! More info on the website, including ticket info, here: Show opens TOMORROW (October 11th) at 5 pm. There will be guest movie stars like the guy who played Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund), a bunch of haunted houses, vendors and a decent sized Artist Alley. Also – BEER GARDENS. Yes. We will all be selling spooky art! Woo! Come on down to find some amazing originals, prints and who knows what else.

Floor Plan for HEX Halloween Expo 2019

Art of Luba T & Francis V will be in the BMO Centre (Stampede Park), Artist Alley table #128. Just look for a bunch of bunnies, pinup monster girl prints, and our fugly mugs if you’re lost and confused! Hah! We probably won’t have signage because we have a lot of art to cram onto one 6′ table.

Social Media & Affiliate Links

  • Francis V of Bleeding Rose Tattoo: Check out his Instagram here, and his business page here
  • Art of Luba: You are here! This is my website. Here’s my Instagram, which I’ll be updating during the show
  • HEX Official website, with all the goodies including Celebrity Guests, Ticket info and more!

See you there!
– Luba & the Bunnies (and Francis says hi)

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Review: Palomino Blackwing Pencils

Introduction & Background

Disclaimer: I was not paid to review Palomino Blackwing pencils & I was not given product for free – all of my art supplies are fully paid for with my own cash. Purchased at Reid’s Stationers in Calgary, Alberta. JetPens also sells them and has an amazing in-depth review and purchasing guide on their website. [Click to open link]

Palomino Blackwing Pencils were once an Eberhard Faber product. They have a cult following, and are supposedly THE pencil for artists, animators, and general creative types. I personally like using the Faber-Castell Castell 9000 line of pencils, so when Blackwing was re-introduced to the market a few years ago, I was unfazed about it and did not jump on the bandwagon. They were difficult to find in Calgary and I was not able to stock them in my artist supplies shop (I owned an art supply store for 8 years – Sketch Art Supplies).

Is Eberhard Faber the same company as Faber-Castell?

Sort of. The von Faber family ran two separate businesses in both Germany and the USA. From the Faber-Castell website: “Lothar von Faber (1817-1896) fourth generation, took over management of the company as the oldest of five siblings after the death of his father, George Leonhard, in 1839. However, he saw to it that his two brothers Johann and Eberhard were also involved in the management of the company. Eberhard managed the subsidiary in New York – later, he became independent under his own name.” Source:

Assortment of Palomino Blackwing pencils, September 2019

Where to buy Palomino Blackwing Pencils in Calgary

Reid’s Stationers shop in Calgary, AB is a stockist of Blackwing pencils. They are $2.49 a pop. Three of them – the special edition ones dubbed “Volumes”- were a dollar extra at $3.49 each. I purchased the following pencils: Right to left: 4 Blackwing, Pearl, 33 1/3 Black, 611 Green Volume, Natural, 602 Blackwing, Original Blackwing.

Actual Review

My Background: I’m an artist. I enjoy using art materials which are tried, tested and true. I support Canadian brands whenever I can. I owned and operated my own art supplies shop for nearly a decade (Sketch Art Supplies, which I renamed to Sketch Art & Framing after I closed the art supplies portion of it). I was picky with the brands I carried in my shop, and I tested out the samples that distributors sent me. I would tell the distributor or manufacturer if the product was good or if it was crap and I’d tell them why. I gave out samples to customers so that they could try them too, and asked for their feedback afterwards. I will review artist materials differently: from an everyday user perspective; not a collector or a casual use perspective. Please keep this in mind when reading my reviews. Thank you.

First Impressions: Pencils felt nice to hold in the hand, and the heavy metal/eraser back gave it a pleasant balance. I looked for grading information on the pencil but could not find any. Reid’s did not have any sharpened pencils for testing, so I blindly grabbed a few different ones plus a sharpener so that I could figure it out at home. Turns out, the grading system was on the website and is confusing. Extra Firm, Firm, Soft, Balanced and Extra Soft. Ok… no comparisons to the existing grading system for pencils, however. Strike one, Palomino Blackwing. You guys should know better. Mysterious grading is not intriguing – it is annoying and does not help with efficient studio workflow.

Lead Grading system: Palomino Blackwing is on their own planet when it comes to lead grading. Totally non-standard. Does not line up with the “standard” 9H to 9B graphite grading in the art supplies industry. Can be difficult to remember what the heck you are using because the pencil grade is not printed on the pencil. Actually, its mildly infuriating. I would really like to know what I am grabbing when wanting to use the pencil.

Graphite Use: Wears down relatively quickly. The least wear was on the “Firm” which is actually an “F”, not a 2H as the lady in the shop first told me. It is actually between an F and HB, in my opinion. Firm was the 611 Green Volume. Palomino Blackwing “Natural” is supposedly Extra Firm in grading, but it feels softer than the 611 Green Volume. Weird. The rest in my random purchase bundle are a great example of Palomino Blackwing’s convoluted grading terminology gone awry. I can’t really tell the difference between “Soft” and “Balanced” and I really could care less to learn what the differences are, because they are SO similar in feel. Damn you, Palomino Blackwing. Why?!

….Oh, I know. You wanted to create shopaholics which collect trendy pencils via marketing and cross-branding (oh yes, I feel like I’m sitting in an old-ass library when I pick up that 611 Green Volume, and visions of dusty old books and rickety tables swirl around my head as a stare blankly at the gaping white sketchbook page in front of me, wondering, hey, aren’t I supposed to be INSPIRED by these pencils which told me that I WOULD be inspired?! Now, where’s the damn image I’m trying to deposit out of my brain and onto this paper…), and you really didn’t think that actual artists would be using your pencils daily. Instagrammers are the new market, I am told.

Pencil Sharpener & Lead Tips: KUM (Kunstoff Metall) Germany manufactures the Palomino Blackwing branded double sharpener. Quality is good. Sharpener blades are replaceable with item #KUM 801.07.11, which is a bonus. Left-hand hole removes the wood, exposing the graphite. Right-hand hole sharpens the 2mm lead, much like a 2mm leadholder sharpener. Two birds with one stone. Retails at Reid’s Stationers for $12.00 CDN in Sept 2019.

Eraser: Cool design. Gives weight to the back of the pencil. Neat idea. Meh performance. Just meh. I found that the black, pink and white erasers were equally meh. Some felt “spongy”, some felt “floppy” and some felt “firm”, yet they all erased equally terribly. If a Palomino Blackwing were in my sketching arsenal, I’d still carry around my Faber-Castell Latex-Free 184120 eraser, which will erase dead, encrusted bugs on a polar white matboard.

Sketchbook Test

Assortment of Palomino Blackwing pencils tested on Pentalic Nature Sketch 130 lb 25% Cotton Sketchbook paper. The erasers all performed terribly and are more of a decoration then a utilitarian item. No doubt, the Eberhard Faber vintage ones were possibly much different than whatever they are using today; however, I cannot confirm this information and can only speculate. I’ll have to find some vintage ones to test out, one day.

Palomino Pencils tested on Pentalic Nature Sketch 130 lb 25% Cotton Sketchbook paper
Palomino Pencils tested on Pentalic Nature Sketch 130 lb 25% Cotton Sketchbook paper

Final Thoughts

Yeah, Palomino Blackwing pencils are just ok. They are like any other pencil to me, except that the grading is convoluted and not easy to deal with when you are a working artist, since it is non-standardized and not even printed on the pencil. Palomino Blackwing can’t even get their own grading right, as the “extra firm” felt softer and performed smudgier than the “firm”. So weird. Extremely inconsistent.

I do like that they feel substantial in the hand and have a bit of weight to them due to the gigantic eraser. I also like the feel of the wood, and the design of the metal eraser holder. My favorite pencil was the Palomino Blackwing 611 Green Volume and I would repurchase that one only.

I found that the erasers do not perform their erasing duty very well, especially on textured or thicker paper, and I’d still carry around my “MOO” eraser and Faber-Castell Latex-Free 184120 eraser.

Faber-Castell Latex-Free 184120 eraser is a heavy-hitter which will erase pretty much any offending mark, including hard-to-erase marks on matboard. I am a picture framer as well as an artist, so my fellow framers will understand when I say that once you find “THE” eraser, you will never want to run out of them and you’ll end up buying them in bulk just so that you never have to go on the hunt for a good eraser ever again.

I’ll use my pencils up and I am not sure I’d buy them again. I’m probably one of those old fogies who will stick to her Faber-Castell 9000’s because they use the proper grading numbers and have clearly labelled the pencils with said numbers. If I want to use a 2H, I will buy a pencil that is labelled as such. I am not a fan of manufacturer-invented grading systems which can confuse users by making it incredibly annoying to have to memorize which trendy colours and names go with what graphite softness. Meh.


Today’s Palomino Blackwing pencils are marketed towards a trendy, stylish crowd. Companies like to market environments, experiences, and feelings to consumers. Nostalgia is a big hit in retail and it isn’t going away. These pencils are not for working artists who require graphite grading consistency and variability. Palomino Blackwing pencils are for consumers who wish to feel nostalgic as they are thinking about writing or drawing, or for artists who use only the one grade of pencil and nothing else (value scale renderings require graded pencils, for instance).

The Animators of Yore probably used Blackwing pencils because of several reasons.

  • Lack of product competition on the art supplies market,
  • Supply deals between manufacturer and animation studio.
  • Combine the two above points and you get: Animation studios were stocked with supply deal products.

Blackwing fell out of favor over the years for several reasons.

  • Animation studios lost traditional artists due to computer animation debut,
  • The need for pencils in animation studios dropped due to lack of animation artists,
  • The most notable reason is that the eraser ferrule manufacturing machine broke [source], and Faber-Castell/Sanford (the last owner of the brand) decided to cease production of the pencil entirely. Sale were low at only 1,100 units a year and thus the repair cost outweighed the profits. See source for more info.

The company which owns the brand today is relying solely on nostalgia and story to fuel the sales of these pencils. Fine Artists, art students, and anyone else wanting a clear grading system for their work should avoid this pencil. It is a nice pencil to use for everyday writing, or for basic sketching and drawing. If an artist requires a consistent grading system for their graphite artwork (value scale drawings), I would avoid this brand entirely. Stick to Faber-Castell 9000, Derwent, Lyra or Staedtler. Caran d’ache is another good brand but it is expensive.

I would revisit Palomino Blackwing pencils if the graphite grading issues were resolved (please print the standardized equivalent on the pencil – 2B, B, etc.), and if the eraser issues were resolved (pair up with someone like Faber-Castell, just as you did with KUM of Germany on the sharpener).

Assortment of Palomino Pencils. Right to left: 4 Blackwing, Pearl, 33 1/3 Black, 611 Green Volume, Natural, 602 Blackwing, Original Blackwing

They sure look pretty. Don’t you want to buy them (by the way, the bill totaled just under $50 for the above items) and then stare at your blank sketchbook, wondering if you needed to pay some bills instead of buy a handful of Palomino Blackwing pencils? Nah, you can survive off of ramen anyway. Artists do that, right? Right? Starve, and give the money to the companies that really need it. You know, to create jobs. You gotta spend money to make money. I think.

As always, take my words with a grain of salt, because ultimately, it is one opinion in a sea of opinions. Thanks for reading. I am usually sarcastic and full of fun ideas to share! ‘Till next time…

Ljubica Todorovic
September 28, 2019
Calgary, AB

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Studio: Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem

Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem
16″x12″x1/8″, oil on Jack Richeson toned MDF panel board
Based on Lewis Carroll’s caterpillar character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

I’ve always wanted to illustrate a scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I own a small variety of editions, perhaps 4 or 5 copies. One is very old and one is very new (found in the discount section of Chapters). My process involved reading the passage where Absolem appears and trying to visualize the scene. His color or species was never mentioned, so I decided to loosely base him off a swallowtail caterpillar. I also decided to give him a little rabbit or cat-like face, just for fun. After all, Wonderland is a magical and mysterious place, so Absolem’s appearance could shift around.

I started the oil painting in March 2018 and did not get around to finishing it until March 2019. I was just not feeling the initial under-painting, pictured above on the left. The concept sketch on the right was created in Feb 2018 and it was a bit too cartoony for what I was visualizing my in mind. Sometimes I like bits and pieces of my in-progress work but rarely does the whole image come together in the first shot.

Smoke & Mirrors – Absolem will be exhibited at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, April 25 – 28th 2019. I will be in the Artist Alley at table #5223 . The painting will be in the 2019 Art Book as well. Be sure to stop by my table and say hello. A framed giclee print of Absolem will be at the Calgary Expo in the Charity Auction. All proceeds will be going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Art of Luba, Table #5223 in the Big 4 @ Calgary Stampede
Calgary Expo, April 25 – 28, 2019


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Travel: Tokyo, post-trip thoughts

TOKYO SUBMARINE – Original oil painting by Ljubica (Luba) Todorovic.

Tokyo Submarine, original oil painting by Ljubica Todorovic 2018

An abstract representation of Tokyo nights. It is difficult to prepare one’s self for the brighter-than-daylight, otherworldly light which emanates from tightly packed towering buildings. I don’t travel a lot, and having grown up in a rather quiet place like Calgary, the “light pollution” of Shinjuku, Tokyo was quite a shock to me. I can see where Blade Runner took inspiration from. In my abstract interpretation of light-filled claustrophobia, angular structures have been softened and turned into round, sea-creature like shapes. 

Medium: Oil paint on 2″ profile deep MDF panel with plywood sides.
Year: 2018 | Size: 8 x 8″ x 2″ | Framed: No; wired & ready to hang.
Notes: Varnished with Gamblin Gamvar (gloss finish)

I visited Tokyo a year ago. I’ve made only two paintings about it so far, but the places lingers in my mind still and more will come.

Night time in Shinjuku was very, very bright. It seemed to be brighter than daylight, over in the Shinjuku and Shibuya area. We did manage to find pockets of quietness and dimness, crossing on foot from Shibuya to Ueno, but it was mostly Blade Runner-eseque the entire time. Interestingly enough, the city does quiet down after 11 pm.

Tokyo Study (Shinjuku), 5″x7″, oil on canvas board. SOLD

Daytime was a different world; people everywhere, walking to the trains. Suits rushing by, high heels clacking, tourists leisurely strolling around the working-hour streets. Best coffee and eggs I have ever tasted, and I can’t even write – or think – about the maguro (tuna nigiri) because it was so damn good. The cuts we get in Canada are pale, watery and metallic-tasting. “Red tuna” isn’t even a thing in Japan, because all tuna is red. Canadian sushi joints use the wording as if it were a different species altogether. What I didn’t know was that in Japan, tuna has different textures and fatness levels.

Daytime also smelled of really old wood, particularly in the shrines, gardens and forest areas. I am not sure what species of tree was used for all of those shrines. We were in Tokyo for barely two weeks and its like we only saw 1% of the city, maybe less. I would like to go back there someday.


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Studio: Make way for Elf Bunnies

Santa Claus has elves, sure. Sure he does. But what about the real bosses, eh? Yeah, yeah! That’s us, the Elf Bunnies! We tell the rest of ’em what to do, yes we do. If we don’t get our North Pole Carrots.. oh boy, you’ll be sorry! We’ll turn around and all you’ll see is our rumps. So, get back to work and give us our delicious carrots! We mean business!

Hand-painted original art with attached hanger, for all your Christmas tree decorating needs! 
Originals only. No reproductions to be made. Gouache, acrylic on 140lb Saunders rough watercolour paper, glued to 8 ply acid-free matboard. 
Hanger and pompom attached at back. Approx size is 1 1/2″ x 2″.

The story behind these buns is very simple. I was tasked with the challenge of creating a set of Christmas ornaments, and so this is what I came up with. Basic bunny drawings using gouache and acrylic on Saunders 140lb Rough watercolour paper, glued (using Lineco bookbinding PVA glue) to acid-free 8 ply matboard and finished with gold elastic and a pompom on the back. They were sprayed with Golden MSA Archival spray varnish in Satin. 

Ok, so! I start the bunny drawing out with a Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour/watersoluble/aquarelle pencil. They are my favorite pencils ever, and I used to sell them in my art supplies store, Sketch Art Supplies. I don’t have an art supplies store anymore, but I do still recommend them. Expect to pay upwards of $4 a pencil when they are not on sale, but you can sometimes find them for as low as $2. That is all in Canadian currency. I use them as underdrawing pencils for my oil paintings as well because turpentine will not thin them out. Be warned, however, that the Faber-Castell Polychromos WILL be dissolved with turpentine because they are oil-based pencils. Not so with the Albrecht Durer watersoluble pencils.

Finished just in time for the Calgary Expo Holiday Market which ran for two days at the BMO Centre, December 1st and 2nd, 2018. I displayed them on a miniature Christmas tree which was placed on a lazy Susan for interactive viewing. 
My Gouache palette is an old Corelle dish. I know, I know. It looks crazy messy! I do wash it from time to time so that I can actually see what I’m doing. Also, I prefer to use it wet but I will re-wet dry gouache if I am just starting a work, to get the base colors. 

I’ve tried many different watercolour papers over the years. Lately I am really into the Saunders Waterford papers because they accept wet media unlike any other that I have tried, including Arches. The Saunders I used for the Elf Bunnies is “Rough”, which has more tooth and grain than the Cold Pressed (NOT) or Hot Pressed (HOT). It is made in England by St Cuthberts Mill and features deckled edging. It can be difficult to source, but it is well worth the hunt in my opinion.

Construction of Bunny Elves. Hot glue, how glamorous! I don’t often use hot glue, but when I do… I stick pompoms to things! Mwahaha. For serious though, don’t use hot glue to affix artist quality paper to matboard! I use Lineco PVA Adhesive, which is acid-free and brushable.

Ljubica Todorovic
December 13th, 2018
Calgary, Alberta

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Studio: Handmade Art Magnets

One day, on a day like any other day, an idea popped into my head after walking past a page out of my sketchbook, pinned to a cork board  in my studio. It had a few quickly sketched watercolour landscapes on it that were in the shape of business card sized thumbnails. What if I turned those thumbnail sketches into finished tiny artworks? Better yet, what if I put a magnet on the back and then sold them as fridge magnets?!

So, I did it. I unpinned the sketchbook page from the cork board, cut the watercolour thumbnail out, glued it to a piece of matboard, cut that out, sanded the edges and then stuck a magnet on the back. It was awesome! I was pretty happy with my creation.

My tiny original art magnet! Cows in a field.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was more useful to me now than a sketch, hidden away on the shelves of my studio. This project led to me thinking about creating artwork specifically for magnets. Also, another reason to create more bunnies! Like I needed a reason anyway! Bunnies as magnets will be discussed in the next post.

Finished Cow Fields magnet, approx 3 1/4″x2″
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Studio: Bunnies everywhere!

Bunnies come in many forms around here; magnets, prints, original drawings, paintings.. the list goes on. Bunnies are red and black, pink and grey, mauve and even lime colored. They can be quick to anger but also quick to please if you have little treats for them. Some of them are snooty and some of them are cuddly. All bunnies enjoy being loved, so wander around and see if you can find a bunny to adopt!

Day of the Dead Bunny, Original Oil Painting by Ljubica Todorovic