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One persons attempt to become a good artist painting in watercolour, experiences along the way and discussion of all things connected with it.

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    Watercolour painting is an expensive hobby, especially if you buy the best (most expensive?) materials. I refer primarily to amateur artists, who are leisure painters and may have limited funds. Fortunately I can buy within reason what I want, as I don't spend a lot of money on other things, apart from a few books. Even here I get the majority from the local library. Nevertheless having been brought up in a household and period when ordinary people had little money I am loath to be profligate. The following statistics are based on Jacksons current prices which I think will give a good average, but obviously you will get variations between different suppliers, and also some of the above do have special offers from time to time. Some of the prices of first line makes are extortionate. I don't think there is any other way of describing them, so here is an attempt to suggest ways of economizing on price if not on quality. Another suggestion is, where available, buy the smaller tubes of colours that are not used regularly. I was once told, on posing the question when visiting Daler Rowney, that paint was good for at least ten years so it is feasible to buy the larger tubes.

    The first question arises Student or Artist Quality? Student quality are usually defined - apart from price - by the number of colours available, forty or less with the more expensive pigments, like Cadmiums, Cerulean  and Cobalts, replaced by substitutes. My experience only runs to Cotman, Van Gogh and Venezia, amongst which are some very acceptable paints. There are others and some new ones have come on the market in recent years including own brands from the larger mail order suppliers. Invariably the own brands are listed as `artist quality' while we also have the Korean Shin Han and Mijello together with Turner from Japan. These three have been marketed as `artist quality' and have a larger range than the `student' brands. In fact they `ape' the leading brands. Prices are way below the leading makes. Can the quality be the same at these cheaper prices - less than half that of the leading makes? Another question might be have we been ripped off  by the big names for years? I know artists who happily use Shin Han, one even who switched from Winsor & Newton, and some decent artists, who paint in more than one medium, have used the very inexpensive (pans) Russian St Petersburg range whenever they paint in watercolour. The Handprint assessment of watercolours, even though now well out of date, is worth reading since much of it is still relevant. One longstanding problem with watercolours is the longevity of the paints - in other words will they fade if exposed to light over a period of years? Despite being much improved, with the many new pigments that have been introduced, there are still doubts about some pigments, even though the makers give them good ratings. Are the cheaper paints likely to last as well, or will they fade after a few years? I don't honestly know but I am always suspicious of claims made that paints at much cheaper prices are `equal' to the best.

    Currently the most expensive watercolours, and I refer specifically  to the UK and Europe, are Golden QoR and Daniel Smith. Based on cost per ml, as tube sizes vary, are Daniel Smith (15ml) 63.3p with Golden a ridiculous (11ml) 94.5p! Golden are reviewed in the latest issue of `The Artist' magazine. Somebody called David Parfitt gives the review and is generally positive although, in my opinion, less than effusive and the high cost isn't highlighted. For the huge premium these paints ask you would expect something earth shattering. After all they claim a breakthrough with the `exclusive' binder. Unsurprisingly a full page ad for QoR watercolours fills the back cover. I haven't tried them and I have no plans to do so as I am happy with a number of other makes at much lower prices. I'd be interested to know how they are selling.

    When Daniel Smith appeared a few years ago with a huge and ever increasing range they caused an enormous stir, especially in America. Prior to this Winsor & Newton held the premium position and still do with many top artists although there is no doubt they are under serious attack. Daniel Smith are very innovative, perhaps excessively so and when I asked a question about the claim they made regarding their alternatives to Cadmiums and Cobalts I received no reply. A repeated request brought a similar lack of response. The range is huge but I suggest you read what Bruce McEvoy of Handprint says including his piece on the Primateks. They certainly have some wonderful paints but with prices that range from £9.50 for bog standard colours like Raw Sienna, up to a whopping £21.50 for the more exotic ones I won't be buying much if anything from them in future. Prices seem more flexible in their home country and they do frequent offers, but unfortunately not so far in the UK. Professional artists who command high prices will no doubt take a different view and some high profile ones have indeed effused about Daniel Smith paints. I have and still use Graham paints but again they are exclusively on offer from Lawrence of Hove and I have had some issues with them. I don't plan to buy any more at the moment. See my piece on Graham - they are one of the favourites of Bruce McEvoy of Handprint. The problem with the Lawrence approach is that they offer better prices if you buy six tubes but, contrary to the policies of Jacksons, Bromley and Great Art, have a compulsory carriage charge. I took up this point with them but they wouldn't budge. `Service' was mentioned. All I want from a supplier are the correct goods supplied without delivery problems and I cannot accept that `service' comes into it beyond that.  

    Having analysed the current costs - and this is a snapshot in time because things change - this is how it pans out. I have calculated what the costs are per ml based on the largest tube sizes, except where 37ml tubes are offered. I haven't looked at pans which are available from most and also many offer smaller tube sizes mostly 5 ml. Sennelier have a 10ml size. Should you really want to go overboard Windsor & Newton have a limited range in 37ml tubes and so do Da Vinci. I have no experience with the latest Da Vinci range because of the way they are marketed in the UK, exclusively by Lawrence of Hove. However they do look good and very tempting.

    The dearest paints are, as already stated Daniel Smith and QoR. Winsor & Newton are next but here, certainly in the UK, they have fairly frequent special offers at reduced prices. Also note that the dearest W & N series cost £13.40 and this is exceeded by Holbein, Old Holland, Bloxx and Maimeri. However one has to consider W & N have a 14ml size tube, whereas the others mentioned are 15ml - in Old Hollands case 18ml. The paints are grouped in series from 1 to 6, this applies to Holbein, Daniel Smith and Old Holland. At the other end of the scale Daler Rowney and Lukas have only 2.  Most of the others have 4 or 5 and Rembrandt 3. You will also find variations in ratings of the same pigments between makers.. I always recommend - based on Handprint and other writers on the subject like Michael Wilcox and Hilary Page - that you should look at what the pigments are not go by the often fanciful names given the paints. Pigments not colours. If you wish to pursue this further read the various posts I have published on the paint makers which go into more detail.

    The Handprint assessment of paint ranges is very detailed, although in some respects becoming out of date. He had some harsh things to say about some of the longstanding European makes in particular,  while seeming to favour the American ones, most of which are of more recent vintage. Bias? I think Bruce McEvoy  too professional to be overly biased but human nature being what it is......

    My view as an amateur artist is that all the leading makes listed have their good points and  you won't go far wrong in using any of them. I also see nothing against using a mixture of paints from different makers. In art we have some people who try to lay down laws, which in fact are not laws but their own opinions. This includes, at the most extreme that you must only paint plein air, use only one brand of paint on the basis that different makes are incompatible, and have a limited palette, sometimes as low as 4 to 6.. I don't believe any of this.

    We now come to best buys. This again is my interpretation based on a combination of quality allied with price. Others may differ and are welcome to do so. I don't claim any sort of monopoly over this subject. I know from my own experience that different artists will say they like this or that particular paint range and will give their reasoning. Personal preference is a factor here as it is in most other things.

    Getting beyond the Daniel Smith and QoR ranges I think Winsor and Newton (60.7p per ml at usual prices but often cheaper) are still a top buy primarily when they are on offer. They have a large range with many superb colours and I especially like Cerulean, which is well priced compared to other leading brands. I also like their earth colours. Earth colours do show considerable variation in colour tone amongst the leading makes. I've never tried Bloxx at 54.3 per ml. They were panned by Handprint leading to an exchange of e-mails between Bloxx and Bruce McEvoy. Schminke are good paints and I particularly like their translucent colours. At 48.6p per ml they are competitive but this is the series one price and they tend to have  fewer paints here than some other makes. Holbein are 51.3p per ml and are a favourite of, amongst others Charles Reid. In Charles case he likes the way they don't crack and remoisten easily. Maimeri are an excellent buy- 45.3p per ml - in Series 1 and 2, where most of the paints are listed, but become expensive thereafter. They are a high quality make with the odd reservation. See the post on them.. This applies to all those where I have done a more detailed analysis of the range. Old Holland, with a huge range, costs 46.1p per ml for the 18ml size. They also do a 6ml tube. 

    I now come to those I consider the best buys. I repeat these are my personal opinions and others may differ. I explain my reasoning which is that I consider the quality of the paint - again my opinion - and compare this with the prices combining the two together. An acceptable quality (to me) with a good price. The winners are Daler Rowney and Lukas with Sennelier coming up fast. You should also consider Rembrandt, especially the 21ml tube which they do in a limited range - unfortunately not by Jacksons. Trevor Chamberlain, one of the very best British artists, said in his book that the Talens (Rembrandt) Viridian was the best he had found.

     I have been buying Daler Rowney at a local art shop at 38.66p per ml for the last year. This is cheaper than Jacksons price which equates to 45.3p. I might add that Cass Art, the London art shop group, have opened a shop in Bristol and the Winsor & Newton prices are excellent, better than mail order . They appeared to me to be the regular price rather than a special. The best buy is actually Lukas, who do a 24ml tube that works out at 33.5p per ml. This is based on the Great Art prices as Jacksons do not sell Lukas, although this may change soon. Lawrence also sell Lukas. Again you need to read my post, where listed for a full analysis and explanation. I mentioned Sennelier who revamped  and increased their range comparatively recently. Sennelier do a 21ml tube size, also a 10ml,  and the larger one costs 35.7p per ml.. I haven't yet purchased any of the new Sennelier range but Yvonne Harry of my AVA group bought two colours recently and they certainly seemed quite liquid. Honey is used just like Graham and their are different views about the use of it in paints. Schminke in particular are opposed. There are colours I particularly like in Daler Rowney (Indian Yellow PY153, Green Gold PY129 and Cobalt Blue Deep PB72). Lukas Permanent Orange ( PO71) plus Turquoise (PB16). Reservations would be the earth colours from both Daler Rowney and Lukas. In Daler Rowneys case they seem on the heavy side (to me) and quite opaque. With Lukas I don't like the pigment approach they have with the earth colours, again see the specific piece on them. I may well continue to buy some odd colours in other makes that I  prefer. Some years ago I attended a number of workshops with the artist Trevor Waugh. At the time he was sponsored by Daler & Rowney and his paintings were fabulous. He did say he preferred some colours in other makes. Permanent  Rose from Winsor & Newton, a favourite of many flower painters was one such. Although Permanent Rose is PV19, which is available freely in most makes under various names, there is something about the W & N version that makes it stand out. Earth colour choices would be Maimeri, Winsor & Newton or Holbein depending on price at the time. I haven't yet tried Sennelier. One different choice is the Schminke Translucent Brown (PBr41) that has virtually replaced Burnt Sienna in my palette..

    DEC 2009/SEPT 2014
    OCTOBER 2010
    MARCH 2012
    JUNE 2012
    OCTOBER 2013
    JANUARY 2013
    JUNE 2013
    JULY 2013
    AUGUST 2013
    OCTOBER 2013
    APRIL 2014
    JUNE 2014
    JULY 2013
    OCTOBER 2014
    NOVEMBER 2014
    NOVEMBER 2015

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  • 01/08/16--03:03: The AVA Resumes!
  • Yesterday the 7th  Avon Valley Artists resumed our Winter programme, the subject being `Food and/or Cooking'. On this occasion only eight members were present with various apologies for absence. Still we enjoyed ourselves as we are allowed considerable latitude in how we interpret the task.

    Peter Ward

    Pat Walker

    Yvonne Harry

    Pauline Vowles

    Quite a modest selection but it got us all started again after the Xmas and New Year festivities.

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    Winsor & Newton have introduced another limited edition of 6 `special' paints they are calling the `Twilight Edition'. Once again the paints are listed as Series 3 and are only available in 5ml tubes. The implication is that they will only be available for a limited time. I'm puzzled by the logic of this. What if you are particularly taken by one or more of them and want to continue using these colours? Methinks the marketing men (or women) are driving things these days, possibly a reflection of the way W & N have changed ownership over the last few years - no longer a British company. I also think this is another reaction to the success of  Daniel Smith and I'm sure the lights are burning late into the night in the W &N marketing department to devise ways of countering this  innovative company.  Is this also a tryout of new colours to see if demand justifies them being added to the main range?

    Another innovation is the availability (free) of a dot card containing the six colours, just like the dot cards that Daniel Smith pioneered. This dot card refers to the first limited edition but presumably they will be providing one for the `Twilight' one.

    Here are the paints individually:

    Cobalt Green Deep:  PG26 (Pigment Green 26).This is known as Cobalt Chromite Green (according to the pigment database) or alternatively Cobalt Chrome Oxide (Handprint). PG26 is available in several other makes under Cobalt Green or similar.. Handprint say `dull blue green'. 

    Aqua Green: Colour Index Name N/A: What does this mean. I have tried to find anything under `Aqua Green' without success, ADDED:Aqua Green is actually  `Palomar Turquoise' which is chlorinated Cu-Phthalcyanine and is` lightfast, transparent and granulating,  It hasn't yet been allocated an Index number.So say W & N. Thanks to Greg for providing this information..

    Quinacridone Violet. PV55 (Pigment Violet 55). PV55 was first introduced by Daniel Smith as Quinacridone Purple. Described as a `bluish violet to violet blue'. An excellent pigment.

    Chrome Black. PBk29. (Pigment Black 29). Jacksons list this as `PBr' not `PBk' - possibly a mistake but maybe not as W & N describe this paint as `unique' to W & N. Colour just `black'. Described by the pigment database as `Iron Cobalt Black'.Not listed by Handprint.

    Sanguine Red. PR187.(Pigment Red 187).the colour is described as `Permanent Pink' by the pigment database or alternatively `bright bluish red'.. Not listed by Handprint.

    Smalt. PV15 (Pigment Violet 15). PV15 is a common pigment known usually as Ultramarine Violet. Most makers list it and Handprint calls it a TOP FORTY pigment..Added:  Genuine Smalt is PB32 and is made from powdered glass with Cobalt in it. Daniel Smith offer a `Genuine Smalt'. The W & N is a substitute for it based on PV15.

    Looking at the pricing they are all listed in Series 3 - which makes them expensive. As they are only available in a small 5ml tube this works out, at the discounted price being offered by Jacksons and the SAA (Society of All Artists), at around 80p per ml. Are they worth it? That's for others to decide as I have no plans to purchase any since, apart from anything else, replacements aren't on offer - at the moment.

    The lack of information on Handprint is a pity but reflects Bruce McEvoy's decision to stop updating things a while back. Really sad.  The pigment database is an excellent source of pigment information and lists hundreds of pigments, of which only a proportion are utilised in watercolours. If anyone can add to the above or has experience with this limited edition set I'd be delighted to hear from them

    Perhaps it's necessary to point out that just because paints from different makers have the same index number it doesn't mean the shades will be identical. Pigment suppliers vary and it can happen that pigments from different sources, although supposedly the same, may well vary. In addition those like PV19 have a number of versions which is reflected in the finished paint. Another factor is how the paints are made by eack maker and what binders and other additives are used. I don't pretend to know the technical details and differences but they do exist.

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  • 01/15/16--03:21: Watercolour Paintings (14)
  • Observant readers may note I have omitted 13 in this series. I'm not particularly superstitious but just left it out on the spur of the moment! Once again a mixture of well-known and not so well-known (at least to me) artists from all over the World. They illustrate the wide range of styles and subjects that watercolour encompasses. Whatever your likes and dislikes there should be something for everyone here.

    Burhan Ozer - brilliant as usual

    Amit Kapoor

    Ewa Ludwiczak

    Djusan Dukaric

    Gerard Hendriks - a change from birds and animals

    Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey - brilliant young African artist

    Cesc Farre

    Jem Bowden

    Gerda Mertens - the renowned Belgian Artist

    Alvaro Castagnet - a leading light in the World workshop scene

    Charles Reid - The Reids residence in the background

    Ali Golbaz

    Elke Memier

    Chen Chung- Wei

    Ilya Ibryaev

    Anything more to say? Not really just admiration of the brilliance of many of these paintings. Some I like more than others but that's just personal preference. 


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  • 01/22/16--08:54: Two Recent Paintings
  • These are my two most recent paintings, excepting failures that is!  The first is of a Kickapoo warrior.

    A Kickapoo Warrior - 16" x 12" Centenaire. 

    The head band colours are purely imaginary and his complexion seems quite light, this because the guide photo was like this. Other photos I've seen of Kickapoos show them somewhat - not all -  darker.

    The Kickapoos are one of the lesser known and least numerous tribes of Amerindians and today there are about 5000, with three or so locations in the Southern USA and one in North Mexico, this latter group remaining true to their original culture. There is a book called `The Mexican Kickapoos'. They originated in the North East of America but were inclined to migrate and this plus the pressure exerted by white settlers, over the course of many years, drove then far South.In the 1870s some were located in Texas and clashed with the US Army. They were regarded as great warriors and although never very numerous, feared and respected by other tribes. I was interested in them and eventually obtained a used ex library copy from an American bookseller of `The Kickapoos' by A.M Gibson. This is in the fantastic Civilisation of the American Indian Series published by the University of Oklahoma Press with more than 100 titles. Many of my books like this are ex library copies, some  rather battered like this one, but as I'm more  interested in the content rather than condition I'm pleased to own them.

    This next one was painted  last Thursday at my AVA weekly session. The subject was `reflections` and as usual we are allowed considerable leeway in interpretation.

    Reflections in an Eye - 16" x 12" Centenaire.

    I  sometimes paint unusual subjects and  was attracted to the many subtle shades and interesting colours. Colours used  vary from Ultramarine Violet, Transparent Brown, Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Coral, Cerulean. Turquoise, Burnt Umber and others., often heavily diluted and allowed to mix on the paper.  I used just two brushes, both Isabey, a 6 travel brush and a 6 round in the normal Kolinsky series.

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  • 02/02/16--02:29: Watercolour Paintings (15)
  • Here are the latest batch of watercolour paintings. Once again a mix of artists old and new, some well-known others not so. I also try to show a mix of styles so that there is something for everybody.

    Morten E Solberg Snr - Have a look at his video demo on Youtube

    Yuko Nagayama 

    Somewhat different from her normal work.

    Rachel Walker

    Don't know this artist but love this study of Kingfishers

    Vickie Nelson

    Ewa Ludwiczak

    Ewa paints lots of female nudes but this one shows the influence of Charles Reid - as does her figure painting..

    Janet Rogers

    More usually known for her portraits

    Trevor Waugh

    I studied with Trevor some years ago. He has a thing about Venice, so have many others, and has had exhibitions devoted entirely to paintings of Venice and its festivals. 

    Gerard Hendriks

    This is a change of emphasis for Gerard but I think it superb and shows his versatility.

    Lance Johnson

    Gerard Hendriks

    Stan MIller

    Stan has a wide range with portraits strongly featuring but this flower one is different.

    Milind Mulick

    Steven Rigby

    Steven Rigby is new to me but I like his work a lot.

    Steven Scott Young

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  • 02/06/16--04:24: More on Pigments
  • My recent piece about the latest Winsor & Newton limited edition set raised a number of interesting questions. One of these was what was the point of buying them and wanting more, when you would be unable to buy replacements? Primarily due to the researches and knowledge of  a Facebook friend Zvonimir von Tosic we now possibly have some answers. I know that many artists are not that interested in pigments as such but it is a subject that fascinates me, even though I don't claim great technical expertise in either knowledge or approach. Without Zvonimirs input this piece would not have arisen so I am greatly indebted to him for discovering things are not as simple as they sometime appear.

    Previously I have always consulted Handprint - and still do  - even though Bruce McEvoy ceased to update it several years ago.Much is still relevant but like all things nothing stands still. The pigment database- - is also a good source of information but quite technical.

    Here is what Zvonimir has to say and I quote him in full:

    "All right, I think I have an answer Peter. I have explored a little, so here is a brief summary. When producing certain types of pigment, say PV15 (this is one of the pigments used in a paint they call  `Smalt' in the latest W & N limited edition -PGW)., pigment manufacturers can obtain different `shades' of the colour, perhaps hundreds, depending on manufacturing process (errors, trials, beginning of run, end of run, stability of process etc).

    However when analized spectographically, the wavelengths of all those batches are still within the acceptable range to be named PV15. But, our eyes being very sensitive to nuances, can tell the difference. In your tests of paints made `from seemingly same' pigments, but coming from different paint manufacturers like W & N, DS or Schminke, they may appear to differ. Therefore numbers`after' the number 15, and all manufacturers try to buy batches closer to their chosen shade.

    What if all of them want to buy same, and at the same time, and there isn't enough ?

    See chart (above). It shows variations on PV15 and PV14, which one pigment manufacturer is able to obtain( or has saved them in stock) in quantities ready to be utilised. They may keep batches piling up, or offer them to some paint manufacturers at a discount, who can make an interesting product out of them.

    W & N reads industry newsletter, makes a phone call, takes a few tonnes of (PV)15583 for example, which looks bluer than what they used to buy for PV15, (in this case it may look like old Smalt). W & N purchases it, makes a limited run tube paint - perhaps because the manufacturer of that pigment does not or can not produce that specific variation in large quantities, and W & N knows what their users normally buy, with what types of colour shades users are happy with and can appreciate.

    Colour recognition is a cultural phenomenon, and they play by the rules"

    This has certainly widened my understanding of this subject. As said many may not be interested but to me it goes a long way to explaining why Permanent Rose from W & N (PV19) is such a favourite. And this applies to certain colours from other makers. I was aware that there are variations in pigments and have done posts where this has been highlighted,  for example PV19  where we have  red, rose and violet shades. 

    One thing puzzles me slightly. Basically pigments are in two categories, natural and synthetic. With natural pigments like the earth colours there is considerable variation in shades, but I can understand this as they are mined and colours vary. Although it has been said these natural supplies are running out, and synthetics (PR101)  are replacing them,  there are still many available sources, perhaps not in such  large quantities. If you visit Provence you'll see this with shops selling nothing else and all sorts of colours visible in the rocks. In the Forest of Dean about thirty miles from where I live, between Bristol and Bath, are Clearwater Caves, a tourist attraction. Several earth colour shades are still mined there and sold in the shop, and on the internet I believe. 

    With synthetics I would have thought they would be more consistent, being produced by a chemical process. I know the final result is determined to some extent by how the paint maker process the pigment and what additives they use. 

    Here are five swatches, three of Ultramarine, two of PV14. The Graham Ultramarine Blue looks much darker than the other two but this may be my fault. Holbein and W & N look much closer. The above swatch is actually W & N French Ultramarine, and they also offer an Ultramarine `Green Shade'. With PV14 I've had problems with the Rowney version changing colour, a sludgy brown, and going hard in the tube. Another violet shade PV16, from Graham gave all sorts of problems and even the so-called final one - the third I received, using pigment from a different source according to Graham, has now also bitten the dust and has set like concrete!

    As a final word Zvonimir has established from Graham that nowadays the same pigments are used in oils, acrylics and watercolours and the particle sizes are the same. This was apparently not so in the past. 

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  • 02/17/16--05:10: Latest Paintings
  • Although I haven't been painting as much these days I do try to maintain a reasonable rate and the following are recent efforts. I stress they aren't shown as good paintings just mine.

    Ready for War - 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb Not

    This particular painting was in response to the most recent AVA subject which was `Rainbow of Colours'. I decided to do another of my Indian portraits but colour it up with a `rainbow of colours'.Does it work? Not sure but I did study a number of artists who paint portraits using a surrealistic array of colours and don't worry about realism or a good likeness. My wife took one look and described it as horrible! It is true though that, when painted for war or even involved in ceremonials, some of the Indian warriors looked pretty ghastly, the idea being to frighten their opponents.He is wearing some sort of cap on his head which seems to incorporate a dead rook. 

    The following was started when I finished early and completed it  the following week. I like animal subjects and have a number of studies of Orang-Outans ready for future paintings.

    Old Man of the Forest - 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb not.

    I used mostly Transparent Orange (Schminke PO71) and Cerulean with some added Cadmium Red Light.

    The following painting was in response to a subject called `Roofs and Chimneys'. 

    Roofs & Chimneys - 16" x 12" Centenaire.

    Although I wasn't enamoured of the subject in the end I think this works quite well. Limited range of colours, blues, browns and yellows, some greyed down..

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  • 02/22/16--07:26: Last Weeks Paintings
  • These are my latest efforts. The first in response to the subject `Flowers', the other just a quick 40 minute painting to fill in time as I always finish earlier than the  others.

    16 " x 12" Centenaire.

    I think it okay - nothing special though. I used masking fluid where the `whiskers' are. 

     16" x 12" Arches Hot Press 140lb

    This is a simple study of a Japanese Macaque monkey. These amazing creatures live on a mountain in Japan and in the very hard winters, with severe ice and snow, immerse themselves in the hot springs that luckily for them happen to occur there.This took about 40 minutes at most. 

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    I am pleased to report that Lukas watercolours are now stocked by Jacksons. I like Lukas as an excellent range combining good quality with very keen prices. I'm rapidly coming round to the view that watercolourists are getting a raw deal with the pricing structure of many leading artist quality paints. Lukas have  70 colours which is enough for anyone.. Yes, there may be colours in other lines that you must, must have but you could easily fill 75% of your palette from the Lukas range. The cost per ml is super competitive. See the full review of Lukas JANUARY 2013. If amateurs are concerned about buying such a large tube they shouldn't be. According to Daler Rowney (and others) paints are good for at least ten years. The only reservation I have with that would be with those paints containing white, like many of the Naples Yellows offered. My experience is that they go very hard after a while and are unusable. See also problems I've experienced with Mineral Violet from Graham and  Cobalt Magenta from Rowney.

    See the size difference between the 24ml tube and a Winsor & Newton 14ml.

    I approached Jacksons several weeks ago and asked if they would consider stocking Lukas and they were very receptive. I'm not claiming it was solely due to me but they now have them so go on the new Jacksons website and put `Lukas Watercolours' in the search box and you'll find them.

    Prices are very competitive. They have only two series, as compared from 3 to 6 with most of the other leading makes,  Compare the prices with the others, mostly 15ml or 14ml for Winsor & Newton.

    I will be buying more but at present only have experience with four paints, Permanent Orange (PO71), Turquoise (PB16), Cadmium Lemon (PY35) and Cadmium Yellow (PY35) - all excellent..

    We now came to the really good bit  - prices! Series 1 are being sold at £7.30p and Series 2, which includes genuine Cadmiums and Cobalts, Cerulean etc are only £8.10p and this for a 24ml tube.. Compare this with other makes! I know personal preference plays a big part in choice, and some may say we prefer this or that make. That's fair enough but at the moment these are  the best prices by far for an artist quality paint, excluding Korean, Russian, own brands and other makes claiming to be artist quality.. I will continue to buy the odd paint I like from some of the others but Lukas will fulfill most of my needs. Try them and see.

    Artists outside the EU do not pay VAT, so even with carriage charges - at cost - this is a very good deal.

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  • 03/02/16--00:38: Mystery Animal
  • This was the latest subject at my art group. We were given the same  photograph on arriving at the hall where we paint. This turned out to be a polar bear with two cubs. 

    Photo on the left. I'm afraid the drawing looks faint on here.

    I made a pencil drawing, as accurate as I'm capable of with not too much detail, basically just outlines.

    Initial colours. Very difficult this as the colours of the animals are various shades of (dirty) white with hints of blue and violet in the background. There are also suggestions of yellow in places on the fur.

     16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb (300gsm) not.

    I think I got the basic outlines fairly correct and overpainted with the same colours, when the original washes were dry, a series of blue or yellow greys, mixed from Ultramarine and Transparent Brown (Schminke) heavily diluted then added some yellow to give a yellowish tinge in places. The background was again heavily diluted and comprised Cerulean and Violet/Mauve. I actually used some pan paints for this - Schminke I think.

    The above are the work of my fellow artists. I just wonder how Gerard Hendriks or Charles Reid would tackle this in terms of colour? 

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  • 03/08/16--02:33: Watercolour Paintings (16)
  • Here are some more watercolours I have selected. Some artists are `regulars' others are new. I keep finding new artists all the time and, as usual,  have picked a mixture of styles and subjects. There should be something for everyone. There are some quite complicated paintings with breathtaking vistas. I'm often amazed at how the artists paint them, quite beyond me. . I hope you like them.

    The fabulous Yuko Nagayama

    Gerda Mertens - strong colours

    Morten E Solberg Snr 

    Genevieve Buchanan - simplicity itself.

    Orhan Gurel

    Viktor Retuerto

    John Salminen

    Same Altuncu

    Linda Norvelle

    Hiew Yv

    Ellen Brennerman

     I have to confess I don't know for sure if this is watercolour. Her website doesn't mention what medium she uses, at least I can't find anything. She certainly uses liquid paint and water. It may well be mixed media. Fabulous painting though.I have to confess I'm not sure.

    Bev Jozwiak

    Gerard Hendriks

    Milind Mulick - rather different to his normal works

    Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey

    What an impact this young African artist has made over the last few years

    Charles Reid

    Two Apaches from the last hostile band. This encompasses one of my other interests.

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  • 03/16/16--10:15: Water
  • This was the latest subject at my AVA group `Water'. As I've explained before we are allowed considerable licence in our interpretation of the subject.

    16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb not

    I don't find `water' an inspiring subject but combined with waterfowl or ducks! I made the drawing the day prior to the meeting as this gives me more time to contemplate my approach on the day. I can concentrate just on the application of paint.

    The duck colours are Raw Umber and Burnt Umber in various dilutions. A little black and some Quinacridone Gold (DS PO49). The blues are Cerulean, Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Ultramarine Blue. At the end when dry I also added some acrylic white (Vallejo). If any masking fluid is called for I use the Pebeo Drawing gum. I once criticized this product because it is lethal if you get it on your clothes. However all masking fluid is similar and Jacksons now sell a product for cleaning it off clothes and such like.

    Brushes used were the Isabey retractables and sizes 4 and 6 Kolinsky, together with the Da Vinci Mop Size 2.

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  • 03/24/16--07:41: Latest Paintings
  • This first one was the result of the subject `Sunshine and Shadows' at my last AVA session. I know I stretch the subject but this is allowed and I like painting offbeat subjects. I've no idea what to caption this painting!.

    16" x 12" Waterford 140lb Not 

    The idea is that sunlight is being caught in strips across the cats face. The lines should really be straighter from the actual reference.

    WOLF - Apsaroke 1908 
    16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb Not

    Actually not a great resemblance. I'm getting some of these subjects from a book on Edward Curtis and many photos are quite small.I did this quite quickly in the time I had left at my AVA session. Probably foolishly I posted it on my `Portraits' group on Facebook to get the comment `this is a waste of paper'! probably right. I'm now working on another which (I hope) will be much better.

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  • 04/05/16--02:04: Watercolour Paintings 17
  • Here are the latest watercolour paintings I've downloaded. A varied selection with many different styles and approaches. Hope you like them at least some of them!

    Ali Sajid

    Genevieve Buchanan

    Another from N B Gurung

    Charles Reid

    Sergei Kurbatov

    Rose Ann Hayes

    Gerard Hendriks

    Trevor Lingard

    Another from Charles Reid

    Robert Wade

    Yuko Nagayama

    Jem Bowden

    Nirupam Kanwar

    N B Gurung

    Another from Yuko Nagayama

    Catjherine Rey

    ishfarque Ali

    Another very varied selection from well-known and lesser known artists. I include some of my favourite artists as well.  Some wonderful paintings amongst this batch with hopefully something for everybody. 

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    I recently tried out Cornwall watercolour paper from the well-known German manufacturer Hahnehmuhle. They have quite a range and Gerard Hendriks uses their Andalucia 500gsm paper - so does Viktoria Prischedko.. The interesting thing about Cornwall is that is  a slightly heavier paper at 210lb rather than the more common 140lb.Yvonne Harry the leader of my AVA group and a very fine artist, quite the equal of many professionals, had purchased some and used it at our AVA sessions. I was quite impressed with the results so decided I would give it a try. It isn't a cotton-based paper, presumably cellulose or similar and being slightly heavier than the norm doesn't buckle quite so easily. Because the weight is heavier the cost is roughly equivalent to a 140lb cotton paper so you don't save in that respect. 

    Cornwall comes in both rough and matt surfaces, the rough being quite pronounced with a distinct pattern. Both come in blocks of ten in various sizes and you can also buy sheets. I bought blocks of both surfaces in the 30 x 40cm size, my favoured size. Current Jacksons price for the 10 sheet 30 x 40cm block is £12.20p.

    I recently tried the rough surface at an AVA session. The subject was landscapes, which I don't do very often these days so I was very rusty. getting my excuses in first. The surface of the paper is quite rough with  pronounced vertical lines. Brushing across them produces a broken effect. I initially tried a portrait subject and it was a disaster. It just didn't suit the subject at all. Whether the matt surface would be okay I've yet to find out.

    Winter Scene - Cornwall 30 x 40cm rough 210lb/450gsm

    A few years back I tried another Hahnemuhle paper Britannnia available in rough and matt surfaces. For a while I quite liked it. It has a hard surface so the paint doesn't sink into the paper and remains bright. Being 140lb it is cheaper than Cornwall and the 12 sheet 30 x 40cm is only £9.40p. A good budget option. My favourite papers these days are Fabriano Artistico Extra White and Waterford High White. I'm inclining more to the Waterford and  prefer the 16" x 12" size rather than the 18" x 12" of Fabriano. The Waterford High White took a little time to get used to as it is different from the normal off white,but is a lovely paper used by many top artists. Unfortunately being cotton it is more expensive but there are occasional special offers. I should mention I also use the Great Art Centenaire paper, another of 100% cotton and it is good but not quite as good as the Waterford (my feeling), although a little cheaper. 

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  • 04/15/16--06:14: Left Hand
  • This is my latest Indian portrait, a Comanche Indian with the name of Left Hand. I haven't been able to find anything else about him. The guide photo is from the Edward Curtis collection, freely accessible on the web. The First People site is a good place to start.

    Left Hand 16" x 12 " Waterford High White 140lb (300gsm) not

    I feel I've been slipping away recently so went back to basics, studying Charles Reid but also one or two other portrait artists like Aime Devine. This is the result. The original photo is black and white or more correctly more sepia-like. Colours therefore are guesswork even the facial ones. 

    Colours featured included Transparent Brown (Schminke PBr41), Cerulean, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber Raw Sienna and Cadmium Red Light. I think that's it. Usual brushes, Isabey 6228 and 6201 sizes 4 to 8.

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    As we have already discovered there are several variations of Ultramarine Blue, each pigment batch defined by a five figure number. I think this applies to many other colours,  PV19 Quinacridone Rose /Red/Violet being examples.

    Ultramarine Blue is the modern synthetic replacement for the original natural Lapis Lazuli.  The pigment database describes it thus `...either the pigment extracted from Lapis Lazuli or the synthetic form Poly sulfide of sodium potassium, lithium or silver alumino-silicate' I hope I've got that all right! We then go to colouir shade which is described as: `Deep blue, violet to bright bluish green shades, usually slightly duller in natural forms...' Lapis Lazuli can still be obtained from a very small number of sources and there are purists who will hunt such out but it is exceedingly expensive, while the synthetic Ultramarine is usually in the lowest price range..

    Ultramarine has to be amongst the most popular and widely used paints. In general it doesn't suffer from the surfeit of  fanciful names applied to many other paints (pigments). In the majority of cases it is called Ultramarine Blue but also sometimes French Ultramarine, Ultramarine Light or Deep, with a green shade sometimes offered ( W & N).  Schmincke rather bizarrely  have an Ultramarine Blue made with PB29/ PB15 but also offer `Ultramarine Finest' which is PB29! Daler Rowney do something similar with an Ultramarine Blue but also Permanent Blue which is also PB29..Not having tried these paints I don't know what difference there is in shade between them but looking at the swatches on my col.our chart the Ultramarine Blue looks a deeper more reddish purple with the Permanent Blue `bluer'. The Sennelier  French Ultramarine Blue has PV15 as well as PB29 plus both Ultramarine Light and Deep, both PB29. Several makers, Holbein, Maimeri, offer both an Ultramarine Deep and Light. One of the more recent ranges, the reworked DaVinci call their one (PB29) Lapis Lazuli Genuine while also offering both an Ultramarine Blue and the same again `green shade'. The latest `sensation', the ultra expensive QoR are similar to Sennelier in that PV15 is added to the PB29 and called French Ultramarine Blue. I could go on but is there any point in doing so? I have no real preferences in this colour and will almost certainly give Lukas a try, with both a light and a deep as they are such great value. Currently I have a little Graham Ultramarine and a new tube of Holbein.I've used several makes in the past and have a slight feeling that the ones called French Ultramarine are brighter but I haven't done a proper comparison so may be wrong. 

    It has been suggested that a possible alternative to Ultramarine Blue is Indanthrene or Indanthrone Blue which is PB60. This is one of the darkest value paints but on the dull side. I mainly use Ultramarine Blue to produce darks (or even greys) coupled with Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber or Translucent Brown (Schmincke Pbr41)) , this latter colour resembling a brighter Burnt Sienna. There are other alternatives like some of the reds which will make very strong darks. Plenty to choose from!

    Not much more to say really with personal preference playing it's usual part in determining what you buy.

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  • 05/01/16--04:27: Latest Paintings
  • These are my latest efforts.

    16" x 12" Centenaire

    16" x 12" Waterford High White - An Amerindian mother and child.

    16" x 12 Waterford High White -Left Hand - Comanche

    16" x 12" Waterford High White 
    Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in `Game of Thrones'

    Usual brushes and colours. I'm painting a bit more often and the rust is beginning to disappear. .

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  • 05/03/16--04:35: Watercolour Paintings (18)
  • Here is this months batch of watercolour paintings. Again a mix of well-known  and lesser known artists with a variety of styles. Naturally I include a few of my favourites.

    Robert Wade - Doyen of Australian watercolour artists

    Gerard Hendriks - A master of colouir and movement - and much else

     Nirupam Konwar - another new one to me

    Ewa Ludwiczak - very Charles Reid.

    Trevor Waugh - I've seen him paints flowers like this.years ago

    Christian Couteau -Very much a colourist

    Samiran Sarkar - Simple yet effective

    Milind Mulick - colourful and profilic, great use of greens

    Charles Reid

    Marie Christina Tintane - Like her work very much

    Javed Chowdhury - New to me

    Another from Gerard Hendriks

    Valentino Veriato - |Quite amazing

    Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey - Amazing young African artist with a growing reputation

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