Art Tools of Cherry Sweig

For this installment of Art Tools and Gears, we have guest artist Cherry Sweig from the USA.

Originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, Cherry is now currently based in La Jolla, California. Having graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and Painting from San Diego State University in 1978, Cherry is a talented Fine Artist who is versatile with oils, watercolor and Gyotaku paintings. We have invited Cherry to share with us her art-supply lists and paintings, as well as offer some insight for artists.

Qn: Could you introduce yourself to our readers? How, when and where did you learn art?

I have been an artist since I can remember, my whole life of almost 60 years.

Throughout my elementary and high school years, I focused on art and continued through college with a degree in Graphic Design and Painting from San Diego State University. (1978)

Early on, I knew that just one technique was not enough for me. I have explored watercolors and oils more traditionally, before I discovered the Japanese art of Gyotaku. For many years I struggled with the fact that art galleries prefer artists to have one style. I could not give up any of my passions and it is only recently that I have begun to embrace all three (and more). Like a hummingbird, I love many techniques.

It's the whole adventure of painting and creating that excites me as an artist. I am blessed to have acquired a large collection of art supplies, in multiple techniques that allow me to a paint what I love, when, even where I love to.

For instruction since college, I read countless books, have taken workshops with other masters and have now settled down to painting full time on my own, while traveling worldwide or teaching here in La Jolla.

Qn: What is Gyotaku Painting, and what art-tools do you use for Gyotaku painting?
Gyotaku was originally developed by Samurai Fishermen in the early 1800’s, before the invention of the camera, to record a prize fish in a tournament. Gyotaku translates to: Gyo=Fish, Taku=Impression by hand. It has grown into a nature printing technique using fish, flowers, insects, leaves and many object found in nature.

The tools used:

  • Fish or subject, cleaned and prepared, set up on paper towels
  • 1-3” flat brushes, for large, consistent applications of paint
  • Misc Fine point brushes, for painting eyes
  • Acrylic or oil paints
  • Water in containers or oil mediums
  • Handmade Oriental Rice Papers (my favourite ones are Unryu, Mulberry even SILK)
  • Spray bottle with water for misting to keep paints moist.
  • Scissors or tweezers for preparing subject

Qn: I see from the 5 steps to your watercolor painting below, that you need to apply several layers of watercolors over the first few layers, do these watercolor paints tend to soak through the paper you use or any other type/s of paper? What type of paper/s do you use?

YES, I build up layers of color, saving the areas of white- painting light to dark in value. It's also important to allow layers to dry in between or use a blow dryer to speed up the process. When painting wet paint onto another layer of wet paint, in some areas, I allow the paper to stay wet or I mist it with a water sprayer.

Layers do not tend to soak, as I use various amounts of pigment ratio to water and high quality watercolor paper. There’s so many brands and kinds — I have my favorites, then they change — so I am always in a state of trying out new papers. 140-300 lb- Fabriano, D’Arches… Coldpress, Smooth, or Rough…

It's a difficult question to answer as it depends on the desired effect. They’re all so rewarding to explore.

Qn: Could you share with us what are the art-tools you have here in your studio below? And what do you use them for?

  • Drawing Table (I stand usually)
  • Angled board made of foam core: to give an adjustable angle for the watercolor sheet
  • Rolling Taboret at my right side, contains more supplies and holds the tubes of paint on top for easy access


Flats, Filberts, Mops & Chinese

  • Dick Blick Bristle Filbert, size 50
  • 1/2” & 20 Master’s Touch, Filbert
  • 2” Loew Cornell Flat, Glazing
  • 2” Rosemary & Co, Series 241
  • 3 Winsor Newton Mop
  • 8 Yarka Siberian Squirrel
  • 1 1/2” & 2” Zoltan Szabo Angled Chisel flat
  • 2” & 3” Langnickel 788 Glazing
  • Isabey, Rosemary and Da Vinci Petit Gris, sizes 0, 00, 1, 4, 7
  • Misc Chinese Calligraphy brushes
  • 1 1/2” & 2” Robert Simmons Flat
  • 3/4” & 1/4” Master’s Touch Angled Shaders
  • 3/4 Daniel Smooth Angle


  • Escoda 8,10,14,16 Kolinsky
  • Da Vinci 24 Synthetic 871
  • Da Vinci 18 Cosmotop
  • Sablinsky 20
  • Da Vinci Maestro 8, 10, 12 series 10


  • Simply Simmons 1, 2,3,4

Misc Rounds for details

  • American Painter 1,2,6
  • Winsor Newton 1,4,6
  • Master’s Touch 1,4,6
  • Fan: Silver 2
  • Flat Washes: 1” Princeston, 3/4” & 1” Royal Gold
  • Vario tip: 12 Da Vinci 1381
  • Watercolor Paper: Artistico Extra White, 100% cotton COLD PRESS 140 lb.
  • Tom Lynch Palette
  • Water spray bottle: for misting and controlling moisture
  • Water container, with compartments to control pigment pollution


  • Winsor Newton Cobalt Turquoise Light
  • Winsor Newton Viridian
  • American Journey Green Light
  • American Journey Joe’s Green
  • Holbein Sap Green
  • Holbein Lemon Yellow
  • Holbein Quin Gold
  • Winsor Newton Perm Rose
  • Winsor Newton Yellow Ochre
  • Winsor Newton Burnt Sienna
  • Winsor Newton Cad Orange
  • Winsor Newton Alizarin Crimson
  • Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet
  • Holbien Manganese Blue
  • Winsor Newton Cobalt Blue
  • Winsor Newton French UltraMarine Blue

Other items

  • Paper towels: Viva
  • Color Charts, handmade/painted to match colors in palette
  • sketching holder to hold ceramic fish
  • Black sharpie pen

Qn: What do you use to create the 'special effects' in your paintings? (Could you tell us how you create these 'special effects' and the results?)

Special Effects that I use:

  • Aqua Spray: creates unpredictable textural effects when pigment is ALMOST dry
  • Wax resist sticks: for making textural areas that save the whites: example: for highlights on trees
  • Iridescent Medium: Great for clear sparkling effects, like scales of a fish or glass
  • Masking fluids: Used for intricate areas to save whites. Best removed with a rubber cement remover (shown)
  • Elephant Sponges; My favorite for endless texture effects- dry over dry, wet into wet- or both. They come in endless squeezable shapes.
  • Toothbrush: I use this for a splatter effect. Depending on how you aim it, how much water or paint is in the brush- it can be soft, detailed or large and watery.

Qn: Have you encountered the risk of watercolor on your paintings running if anything liquid were to spill on it? Are there waterproof paints or spray for protecting watercolor paintings?

No I have not….hmmmm.

There are varnishes available for watercolors, to protect them. I question whether they would yellow or tarnish over time…

Golden UV resistant spray varnish (to fix the finished painting).

Either Golden brand or Liquitex brush on varnish, (Gloss) for final varnish.

Qn: Can you tell us what are the tools in your Plein Air set-up above?

  • Plein Air Pochade Box, by Open Box M
  • Tripod- any camera style with solid neck…has to connect to bottom of pochade box (most pochade companies sell them) — I also like EasyL also known as: Artwork Essentials
  • Brushes: Misc watercolor
  • Paper: Fabriano Artistico, 300lb
  • Mijello Palette
  • Water container, collapsible
  • Hand-painted Color Chart (see photo below)
  • Paints: In travel pans
  • Viva Paper towel
  • Duct Tape, clamps, velcro: Those saved the day…
  • Sketchbook - small: @ 5x7” or 5 x 8.5”

Qn: Do you have any advice to share on brushes?
A word about brushes: For oils, I prefer brushes by the specific tasks and what I have become comfortable using. You will get a lot of miles out of them if you take extra care with cleaning & storing.

Filberts are somewhat like using a flat and a round all in one.

Flats are great for plein air work to lay down fresh applications of paint.

You can get lost in the maze of brush types, so try to keep it simple and buy a medium grade quality. Sizes: 3, 6, 10, 12, 14.

I also use a fine rigger for detail work and a rubber shaper tool.

I use walnut medium for mixing and cleaning my brushes instead of Gamsol, while traveling. Baby oil also works wonders to clean brushes back in the hotel.

Qn: Have you read any art-book/s or instructional medium/s related to art?

I have literally hundreds of books on art. Most are in storage after my big move.

Here is a list of books I have been referring to lately.

And there's also 101 Paintings in 101 days which I have written.

Qn: Do you have any tips to offer fellow artists?

Art is a journey and an adventure. Never stop learning and referring to nature for the best of inspiration.

Regarding art supplies, I find that making your own, repurposing items and combining many brands works best. That way, you can collect what works best from each one — as they usually have downfalls in some areas. Its a fun activity for me to always be re-creating my art supply set-up for all of the techniques I explore. It was a challenge for this interview, for me, to list my exact supplies. Its an ever-changing process, just like my art. That’s what makes each of us unique.

Qn: Lastly, which other artist/s do you think we should interview next?

Grace Ann Swanson, Anthony Salvo, Marsha Rebstock, Jackii Molsick, Linda Doll, Julia Grey and Laurel Daniel.

Check out other artist interviewees at

We thank Cherry Sweig for sharing with us her art tools and experiences in this insightful interview. If you wish to find out more about Cherry or her artworks, you may visit her website or blog.

Additionally, there is also a Youtube video on Cherry Sweig.


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