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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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  • 05/09/16--10:33: The Green Man
  • The subject at the latest AVA session was `Greens'. This isn't beloved by many but, as is my usual method, I entered the search on Google and came up with the Jack in the Green festival at Hastings. Previously my association with Jack in the Green.was in regard to the primrose flower of the same name, due to the green ruff _ leaf like - in which sits the flower. I used to  raise them when I was hybridizing primroses. The Festival is based on an old Pagan ritual, involving Morris Dancing and is held on May Day. It was revived at Hastings a few years ago. Look it up - quite amazing what the participants get up to in terms of dress, covered with leaves and much else to give an overall green impression..

    The Green Man 16" x 12" Waterford High White

    I completed the drawing two days before the AVA session so was ready to start immediately and perhaps take more time over the painting. I have a tendency to rush in where others fear to tread.

    What to do about the greens. Well here I simply went into my box of greens and picked out several, Sap Green and Hookers Green (Graham), Cascade Green and Apatite Green (Daniel Smith), Sap Green (Lukas) and a couple of others. They weren't all used in the actual painting but most were. I also added Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50), a lovely colour with a greenish tinge that is often difficult to fit into a painting. Here it featured quite strongly. Other colours were Translucent Brown (Schminke PBr41) and Cerulean for parts of the pipe. Some Burnt Umber in the pipe as well as the Translucent Brown.The eyes were Cadmium Red Light with a little Raw Sienna and Ultramarine added for the darker areas and the iris.

    I started off with the eyes then the nose followed by the mouth. I didn't do these in isolation but ventured into the areas adjacent to them. Once I'd done that I completed the green leaves around the head and painted his beard with lots of Cobalt Teal Blue as well as some green.

    Brushes used were the Isabey 6201 travel brush for the main detail plus Isabel Kolinsky sables 6228 sizes 4, 6 and 8.

    Overall this went well and I am happy with it as it achieved my aim of a loose interpretation which I felt caught the subject quite well.. I had a slight problem with the eyes and am still less than 100% happy even after remedial action the day after the AVA session.

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    I may have mentioned this book before as Charles Reid told me, when on a workshop, that he considered it the best book on drawing. This is a bold statement as there are hundreds of books on drawing and Charles can't possibly have read all of them. They vary from the classical style `Atelier' type publications to every variation on the theme. Having bought it I certainly agree with him from my point of view. I have several others, including classics, but I prefer the `looser' style of Charles and Dodsons book, while covering all types, is more to my taste. 

    Keys to Drawing - Bert Dodson. North Light Books this edition paperback 1990
    Current Amazon prices - Hardback £16.30p, Paperback £14.88p approximately 81/2" by 103/4", From Amazon partners used and new from £6.64p Also Kindle edition.

    Here are some examples from the book.

    I imagine this book won't suit everybody, who might prefer a more orthodox approach although Dodson does cover all types of drawing and we get none of the `this is the only way to do it' approach.. I think it excellent and refer to it more than any other drawing book. He did publish a second book but it didn't seem to me as interesting as this one.

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  • 06/01/16--13:35: Watercolour Paintings (19)
  • Here are the latest batch of paintings I have collected. Another very varied batch with (hopefully) something for everyone. Several of these artists are unknown to me but all are on Facebook so it should be possible to track them down if you are especially taken with any particular one or more.

    NB Gurung

    Yuko Nagayama

    Milind Mulick

    Charles Reid

    Shahanoor Mamun

    Carlos Santos Marques

    Siriak Shepherdson

    Another from Charles Reid

    Morten E Solberg Snr

    Pasqualino Fracasso

    Gerda Mertens

    Dusan Djukaric

    Frank Eber

    Constantin Sterkhov

    Roland Palmaerts

    It never ceases to amaze me how vibrant the watercolour scene is in many other countries outside Europe. It seems to me watercolour is considerably more popular and all sorts of events involving watercolour seem to be taking place. The standard is also very high.

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  • 06/04/16--12:42: New DVD from Gerad Hendriks
  • A few days ago arrived in the post a copy of this new DVD from Gerard Hendriks - I think it his first. This was most unexpected but not really a surprise as I've benefited from Gerards generosity previously, as readers of the blog will know.

    Animals in Watercolour - DVD - In Dutch and English (English in subtitles) 1hr 12 minutes - 29.95 euros (may be extra postage (?) to countries outside Europe) e mail enquiries to Her website is :

    The first demo two blue tits

    Demo in progress

    This was sent to me sometime ago, again out of the blue, by Gerard and I've had it framed.

    The DVD has five sections. 1 to 3 are demos, blue tits, followed by a chimpanzee and finally a cockerell. In the 4th section Gerard explains his methods again, as he talks about them throughout the paintings. The final section is a gallery of his paintings.

    I'm an admirer of Gerard both as an artist and a person. Although we haven't actually met, communicating through e mails and via Facebook, he comes across as such a nice man. His work has similarities to my American guru Charles Reid, but in other ways his working methods are very different.

    Gerard starts with a pencil drawing, not over detailed and using a form of contour drawing. Gerard describes his preferences in paper, brushes and paints - much of this is also detailed on the inside front cover of the DVD. He paints in three or four phases, using a hair dryer after each phase, so the paint is thoroughly dry before commencing the second phase. This he says is essential. I'd wondered how he got some of the effects I see in his paintings and now I know. I intend to try and incorporate some of his techniques in my own paintings. As far as I can see Gerard holds nothing back. He is not at all dogmatic and uses tissues, fingers, the end of the brush and anything else  he feels  necessary to produce a good painting. What you see is what you get. 

    In my opinion if you like his style of painting, and he has become extremely popular, this DVD is a must.

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  • 06/12/16--07:59: Two More Chiefs
  • The following are the latest portraits I've attempted. They are again of Amerindians, in both cases very-well known ones. The guide photos were both black and white

    Sitting Bull - 16" x 12" Waterford High White. 300gsm (140lb) not

    The guide photograph was almost certainly taken during Sitting Bulls reservation period a few years after the defeat of Custer in 1876. He remained.a very influential figure - although with enemies amongst his own tribesmen - and was killed, some say murdered, when reservation indian police attempted to arrest him for fomenting trouble. He never accepted  subjugation to the white man and was a renowned `white hater'.

    The colours are mostly a mixture of Cadmium Red Light and a little Raw Sienna, with copious amounts of Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine, Raw Umber and possibly Burnt Umber added for the dark areas. I mulled it over a few days after initial completion and deciding it was too dull, added diluted amounts of Translucent Brown (Schminke Pbr 41) to warm up the face.This is a great colour and Yvonne Harry of my painting group asked if she could try it and seemed suitably impressed. 

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

    Quanah Parker was the last war chief of the elusive Qwahadi Comanches. The interesting thing is his father was the war chief Peta Nocona and mother the captured white girl Cynthia Ann Parker. Cynthia was captured at between the ages of 8 and 11 - no one is sure exactly when she was born -and her capture became a cause celebre on the Texas frontier, indeed nationally. Recaptured by Texas Rangers at the age of 34 she never adjusted to white society and died of influenza in 1871. Her young daughter Prairie Flower preceded her. Quanah eventually became the leader of the Quahadis and was the last to surrender in 1874. He subsequently adapted to reservation life becoming quite wealthy. He dressed like a white man and adopted many white men ways, but not all. At one time he had 8 wives. Quanah visited his relatives amongst the Parker family and  became a well respected member of the community. Quanah kept a large framed photograph of his mother and sister in his house.  .. 

    I wanted to paint him because of his history and also strong features. Prior to painting I reviewed some of Charles Reid's Indian portraits and also Gerd Hendriks DVD..The reasons are obvious in Charles case but in Gerards were to see whether I might incorporate some of his techniques - at least in a modest way initially. The resemblance to Quanah is quite good although not as good in Sitting Bulls case.

    Using my normal portrait colours of Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna and Cerulean or Ultramarine I also heavily invested in Translucent Brown..I wanted to avoid the dullness of the first painting stages of Sitting Bull and be bolder. . Brushes used were my normal Isabey in sizes from 4 to 8. I'm pleased with the results, especially Quanah.

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  • 06/22/16--04:32: Two More
  • These are my latest efforts mostly done at AVA sessions but also partly at home. I make the usual proviso that these are just my paintings and I don't hold them up as particularly good.- just mine. I have started to do more work in my `studio' after reducing my activities in other areas. I'm always looking to improve even at this late stage of my life.

    Wisham Woman from as Edward Curtis photograph c1900
     16" x 12" Waterford High White 140lb (300gsm) not

    This portrait did involve a slight change of technique in that I dried the painting using a hair dryer, between each phase - a la Gerard Hendriks. My fellow painters said they liked it better than some of my looser and more contrasty efforts but I'm not sure I want to take that route. Actually I don't but I continue to experiment..

    Colours used were various combinations of  Cadmium Red Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cerulean, Ultramarine blue and Transparent Orange. Usual brushes.  

    Back to animals! "An Otter" 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb (300gsm) not

    My main interests are portraits, animals, birds and the occasional still life. I've gone right off landscapes and buildings. I do other subjects when they are in the programme of my AVA group. I aim for a Colourful result using arbitrary colours - those that aren't actually there - as do Charles Reid and Gerard Hendriks.

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  • 06/24/16--07:54: Another Two
  • Here are another two portraits, drawn at home and painted at my AVA session on Thursday.

    16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb (300gsm) not "Queen of the Desert"

    Blog followers will know I am an  admirer of the photographer Edward Curtis who is famous for his portrayals of American indians, mostly taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In this instance I came across a photo entitled `Queen of the Desert'. Rather different to his other work, further searching produced the information it was taken in 1898 and was a posed photo of an African American model - no name attached. No indian maiden would have posed like this, although in some tribes partial nudity was not uncommon.

    I found it hard to tackle and did it in two or three stages, with a few days between the first and second. Although stated to be an `African - American' her skin tones looked pretty light apart from the areas of deep shade on the left hand side (facing) of her face. Unfortunately these black and white photos tend to have very harsh dividing lines between tones and it is probably better not to follow them too closely. Colours were Gold Ochre plus a lighter yellow, Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna, Cerulean, Ultramarine and Translucent Brown in various combinations. I used three brushes, all Isabey nos 4 to 8

    Buffalo Bill Cody Western Legend, 16" x12" not sure what the paper is other than it is  140lb not .

    Exactly same brushes and colours mainly Cadmium Red with a little Raw Sienna for the skin areas. Ultramarine Blue with Transparent Brown plus Raw Umber, in various combinations for the rest. Possibly slight touches of one or two other colours. 

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  • 07/03/16--06:26: Watercolour Paintings (20)
  • Herewith the latest batch of watercolour paintings I have collected. There are several new artists so something hopefully for everyone with some of my favourites that I make no apology for featuring, but this is perhaps more of a mixture than has gone before, with several I haven't previously come across. Certainly food for thought. I hope you like them

    Janet Rogers

    Akvareller (?)

    Nirupam K Onwar

    Charles Reid

    Edo Hannema

    Galina Shkoda

    Jonathan Kwegvir Aggrey

    Muga Popa Artwork

    Gerda Mertens

    Jonas Nilsson

    N B Gurung

    Another from N B Gurung

    Orhan Gurel

    Rachel Toll

    Tony Belobrajdic

    Virgil Carter

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  • 07/11/16--02:29: Three More
  • My latest efforts mostly drawn at home and painted at AVA sessions on Thursdays. 

    'My he looks fierce' 16 x 12
    I wasn't happy with my first attempt and tried a 'rescue'. It's partially worked but not 100% You can rescue watercolour failures but it's best to avoid having to do so!

    'Manuelito' Principal Chief of the Navahos late 1800s 16 x 12

    Manuelito was chief for quite a long period both during hostilities with the whites and well into the reservation phase. There are many photographs of him taken when a relatively young man and into later life.

    'Makah Maiden' 1915 16 x 12 

    The original photograph - another by Edward Curtis - is rather an overall dull grey and the resultant painting was similarly dull. As a rescue attempt I decided to introduce arbitrary colours. I had no idea what the original colours were. It's over the top as far as colour is concerned.

    I have just switched from a windows type computer [after 20+ years] to an iMac. Fabulous machine but a steep learning curve that threatens the continuance of this blog. In particular I don't as yet know how to incorporate photos into posts using Picassa 3. If I cannot solve this...........

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  • 07/12/16--06:39: Lutea Watercolours

  • Yet another brand of watercolour paint arrives and in some ways an astonishing one. What do I mean? To start with the paints are plant-based giving a result - "that cannot be created with synthetic colours"..... " with good to very good lightfastness".

    The most astonishing thing are the prices. Lutea comes in 9ml tubes and the twelve -  "unique colours" - range in price from £13.50p to £18.00 and these are discounted prices! Even more expensive then QoR.

    Jacksons give a full description and there are two PDF's that can be downloaded that give a full list of plants used  as well as one on the making of them.

    Lutea are a Belgian company and say the paints must be kept at room temperature.

    Frankly I wouldn't pay such prices however good they are claimed to be. Who will buy them? If you are interested go to Jacksonsart website, put Lutea watercolours in the search box and read the full story.

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  • 07/17/16--07:26: Eskiminzin
  • Eskiminzin was the chief of the Aravaipa band of the Western Apache. The painting is from a photograph taken when, in his later peaceful period,  he had become a prosperous farmer with a ranch, ranch-type house, cattle and cultivated land. He was so succesfull that avaricious white settlers soon found a way to return him and his family to the reservation and steal his property and possessions.

    Eskiminzin 16" x 12" watercolour paper 140lb not but not sure what make

    I commenced with a pencil drawing the day prior to my Thursday AVA session as I find this is the best way. I can then concentrate straight away on painting and take more time. 

    As usual I start with the eyes then the nose followed by the mouth. I use my Isabey travel brush size 6 together with the other Isabey size 4 and 6 Kolinsky sables. If you think this odd the reason is that the travel brush is nothing like a normal size 6, being much smaller in body but quite long and slim. Why  it is called a 6 I can't imagine, I don't strictly adhere to the above straying into adjacent areas when painting these features but in general this is the procedure. As I've said many times before this is based on what Charles Reid teaches. Since viewing Gerard Hendriks DVD I have been trying a slightly different approach in that I, rather than rushing straight through, have been using a hair dryer to thoroughly dry the paint before proceeding to the 2nd stage. Gerard paints in three or even four stages thoroughly drying the painting in between. This he says is one of the ways that ensures transparency when overpainting.

    Colours used were mainly Translucent Brown (Schminke Pbr41) with Ultramarine Blue and a touch of Permanent Rose. I also introduced Lukas Cobalt Violet (PV14) as a trial. This particular brand of Cobalt Violet is quite  weak, as Cobalt Violet is generally and the shade a pale violet grey. See the piece about Cobalt Violet with comments from John Softly (INDEX JUNE 2014). They do vary with some much pinker. The hair was Ultramarine mixed with Translucent Brown and so was the shading on the hat in weaker mixtures. The clothing is basically Raw Umber and Raw Sienna with some shading with the above colours. I still haven't really cracked this with the original photograph a sort of black and white / Sepia colour.  I put some green and pink in the background but am not entirely happy with that aspect. I did overpaint with the same colours in the face once fully dry to get the shading right. As far as accuracy is concerned it is a reasonable likeness. 

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    I've just purchased some art materials, mostly paints and paper, for my Avon Valley Art group.  Two relatively small parcels cost just under £300 and brought home again how expensive watercolour painting can be.

    My previous posts on this subject have been very popular and the 2011 one still is to some extent. Not a lot has changed except everything has got more expensive. The main change has been the introduction of a number of cheaper paints as the artist quality prices have continued to climb with the introduction of QoR and Lutea raising them to ridiculous levels.

    The principal items are paints, paper and brushes. These are the main ones. I know you can spend a lot more when you get into easels and other accessories like palettes, but in this latter case there are many cheap options which are perfectly adequate. I propose therefore to cover paints, paper and brushes only.

    There has actually been more movement on paints than either paper or brushes.  This has taken three forms. The introduction of Korean paints plus Turner from Japan, more house brands plus QoR and very recently Lutea. Both these latter are excruciatingly expensive.

    Shin Han, Mijello and Turner have upwards of 70 paints, compared to the more normal 40 of budget makes like Venezia from Maimeri, Van Gogh from Talens, and Cotman from Winsor and Newton. I have covered all three makes in separate posts so I suggest you read those if you are interested. I have analysed the ranges and concluded they are not equivalent to the top makes. However it is perfectly possible to find 20/30 paints in each group that have decent pigments. They are being promoted as artist quality and I would say they are somewhere between student quality and artists quality. Some of my artists friends use Shin Han and are very happy with them. They seem to me to be on the opaque side, rather like Chinese makes like Maries, described by a well-known Chinese artist as 'somewhere between watercolour and gouache'. Make no mistake though Cotman, Van Gogh and Venezia contain some excellent paints. Prices are much cheaper than the top makes and the recently introduced Turner the cheapest. The Winsor & Newton Cotman range in the USA comprises 50 paints, including genuine Cobalts and Cadmiums but they refuse to make them available in the UK. The St Petersburg range remain very popular and have recently added tubes as well as the normal pans.

    The other change has been the introduction of more house brands both in the UK and USA. We have recently caught up in the UK with Ken Bromley, Jacksons and Great Art all having house brands. Initially Jacksons was made by Sennelier and still may be. I haven't tried any of them but they are well priced and have had good reviews - have you ever seen a bad one in a trade magazine? - but the only worthwhile one is to try a small sample - say three paints - yourself.

    I mentioned  QoR and Lutea. My only comment is to say I won't even consider them because of the ridiculous prices when there are many excellent makes available at far better value. In the UK the much lauded Daniel Smith has made an impact with a huge range - far too many - including some lovely colours but prices are high and I suggest equivalents to many of the colours are available in cheaper makes like Lukas and Daler Rowney, while Winsor & Newton are frequently on offer. Don't rule out Maimeri, Sennelier  or Rembrandt. You don't  have to buy only one make. Others may tell you different so this is my opinion based on my own experience.

    No real change here. Without a doubt Bockingford remains the best budget option and I have  just purchased a pack of 50 sheets(11" x 15") for a member of my group at £21,50p. This from Jacksons. Other options include several papers in the Hahnemuhle range like Brittania. Great Art do several budget papers under the Gerstaecker name. I tried a couple but was not impressed. They do offer a good 100% cotton paper called Centenaire, in both sheets and blocks, which is good value for a cotton paper. Sheets work out much cheaper than blocks.

    Again no real change here although prices have risen steadily. With Kolinsky sables prices jump into the stratosphere beyond size 8 but Rosemary & Co are well priced compared to some the others. Escoda are also competitive although size by size they are usually smaller. They do however offer an increasing range of synthetic fibre brushes that are used and promoted by some well-known workshop artists. In the UK Pro Arte have a virtual monopoly in art shops and are good, but also have a look at what Rosemary offers.  A very good alternative are the mixed sable/synthetic brushes most list and the Da Vinci Cosmotop range of mixed hair/synthetic , used by some top artists, are worth considering. See the article on synthetic brushes by John Softly.

    That's basically it. The index for the blog is July 2014 and will tell you where to find the articles mentioned in the text.

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  • 07/31/16--07:08: Watercolour Paintings (21)
  • Here  are the latest watercolour paintings I've downloaded. Once again a varied collection  with something I would hope for everyone.

     N.B Gurung

    Gerard Hebdriks

    Charles Reid

    Catherine Rey

    David Taylor

    Jan Velhuis

    Josef Zbukvic

    Yoko Nagayama

    Catherine Rey

    Charles Reid

    Trevor Lingard

    Bhira Painting

    Robert Wade

    Ewa Ludwiczak

    Christian Couteau

    That's it then folks.

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  • 08/04/16--08:23: Watercolour Papers
  • The paper used in watercolours is considered by many artists to be the most important item. The celebrated American artist and renowned teacher Charles Hawthorne (1872 - 1930) had this to say:
    "Buy cheap colours if you will,  but buy good quality paper - fifty per cent and more of your watercolours depends on the paper you use".

    There are not many books exclusively on paper although most books on painting will have something. Two books that do deal with paper are the "The Watercolourist's Guide to Art Papers" by Ian Sidaway(2002)  and "The Book of Fine Paper" by Sylvie Turner (1998). I have the Sidaway book but not that by Turner. The Sidaway book is available on Amazon from its partners at around £9 including postage. The Turner one at a variety of prices starting at £26 for used up to a whopping £233.96 (!) for a new copy. It has 240 pages, as opposed to 95 and seems to be on a different level. Bruce McEvoy speaks highly of it while giving a mixed review to Sidaway. Handprint has an extensive section on watercolour papers and covers the subject in detail plus reviews of individual papers.

    This book is profusely illustrated in colour and is useful covering the best known, as well as some lesser known makes. It is split into sections based on the type of surface, rough and  not but assigns the hot pressed surface into a third group with 'more unusual  papers'. At the price it is worth buying if you want to dig deeper into paper. It is perhaps a little dated.

    Essentially the choice for the artist is either machine made or handmade. Machine-made papers are much cheaper but within them prices vary, with those made from cotton fibre the most expensive. The most popular budget make is Bockingford from Waterford made from high quality wood pulp. According to Sidaway the Daler Rowney Langton is Bockingford. Hahnemuhle do a wide range worth exploring including some good quality cheaper papers like Brittania.  Top artists like Gerard Hendriks and Viktoria Prischedko use Hahnemuhle in the heavier weights.

    Weight is another issue, the most popular being 140lb (300gsm) but you will find papers in various makes starting from 72lb and rising to 400lb. The heavier the paper the more expensive.  In the lighter weights, up to at least 140lb, you will need to stretch if you want to avoid 'buckling', especially if you use heavy washes. I have stretched in the past but don't any longer and use mainly 140lb in blocks.

    Next is surface, There are three standard ones, rough, not - which means cold pressed - and hot- pressed. Rough varies from make to make. Some makers rough surface is similar to others not. Not is somewhere between rough and cold pressed with moderate tooth, although this varies between makes. Hot - pressed is smooth with no tooth. Some offer an 'extra rough' and there are other odd papers made from different materials. The most popular surface is not and is a good compromise. The hot press is used by botanical artists but  can be used for other subjects and can give interesting results.

    The above illustrates Schut Noblesse which comes from a Dutch papermill. Schut do a variety of papers but have never been easy to get in the UK. I don't know what the situation is elsewhere. I first heard of Noblesse - the top of the range paper - in a book by the late Zoltan Szabo. Later both Charles Reid and Judy Whitton  used it as a single large block was available - but no longer - from a small art shop in Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds. Judy lives not far away and until recently Charles held annual workshops in the area. I believe Judy has also used Vivace, as I have and it is a nice paper cheaper due to the lower cotton content of 50%.

    A while back I tracked Schut down by obtaining a phone number for a mysterious company or agent trading as 'Hookers Green' at Banbury in Oxfordshire. This appeared to be a private house who confirmed they sold Schut papers and apparently had a small warehouse. They sent me a plain A4 list.  Schut do other papers like Vivace, and I ordered both Vivace, a cheaper 50-50 cotton mixture as well as Noblesse.  Later still I phoned them and asked for an up to date list which was promised but never came. I can find no trace of them currently so I contacted Schut who have a website, and despite it being  in Dutch was able to send an e mail asking where I could buy the paper in the UK. I received an automated reply almost immediately saying they would contact me as asap. This was a few days ago and I'm still waiting for a reply. This saga is second only to that concerning the centuries old Czech Republic company Velke Losiney who make Moldau watercolour paper. 

    Fabriano, the well-known Italian company make a variety of papers with Artistico being the top of the range. It has been one of my favourite papers in recent years but price has escalated  and special offers infrequent. It is 100% cotton, a lovely paper but I don't like the block size of 18" x 12". My preferred size is 16" x 12", as it is for many of my fellow artists at my Avon Valley group. The 'extra white' is the preferred version. Yvonne Harry is a big fan of this brand. Blocks unfortunately, while convenient as they do resist buckling, although they don't eliminate it, are more expensive than sheets the cheapest way to buy paper.

    The premier English paper company are Saunders Waterford who make the popular Bockingford, sold under a variety of names including Langford. Waterford also sell their premium paper Saunders Waterford, a favourite for many years with top artists like the Australian Robert Wade who describes it on his DVD's as "a lovely paper'. Handprint gives it a good overall rating as a good allrounder. Not that long ago a 'High White" version was introduced after demand for a whiter surface was apparent. This is in addition to the normal off white. Several of my friends tried it and initially it wasn't  well received as somehow it was different. However that seems to be overcome and it has been taken up by several of the best artists in my Avon Valley Group, some changing from Arches, which has become very expensive. I think the overall view is that it's equal to Arches. Although I've tried many different papers over the last 17 years I have mainly painted in the last years with either Fabriano Artistico or Waterford and have now decided to use mainly Waterford. Another point is that the Waterford blocks are very well put together, certainly superior to Fabriano.

    I have tried many other papers. One I liked very much was Fontenay but something peculiar happened. I was buying blocks and some sheets at competitive prices when Great Art, who sold it, suddenly doubled the price and said it was now 'hand made', That was that as far as I was concerned. Other papers tried included the Canson range and the cheaper papers sold by Great Art. None of them impressed me. Incidentally Great Art have a very large range of papers, more so than Jacksons and Ken Bromley.  I did approach them to see if they would stock Moldau, and while the Managing Director knew about Velke Losiny the response was pretty negative. Although Great Art are German they have a UK website and have recently opened a shop in London, They don't export outside the UK though whereas Jacksons, Bromley and others like Rosemary Brushes do. These orders are not subject to the 20% VAT rate we pay and they charge carriage at cost.

    Added 06/08/2016. I should have included as a cheaper option an excellent 100% cotton paper from Great Art at a lower price called Centenaire. This is available in both rough and not surfaces in blocks and also sheets.  It is around 15% cheaper than Waterford at normal prices but they do occasionally offer them at even better prices. I prefer Waterford but Centenaire is acceptable.

    Others papers I have are Khadi, the Nepalese hand-made paper  bought in an A3 pack from a London bookseller who have a shop in Bristol, and Jacksons Eco paper - the latter like blotting paper! If you are wondering I'm an impulse buyer though more restrained these days.

    Apart from Moldau, the saga of which has been related in previous posts - see the Index July 2014 if you are curious - I also bought some paper from a small shop in Amalfi near Sorrento. I've described this elsewhere also. The shop sold paper in mainly small sizes and amongst them was this watercolour paper in "11 x 15" sheets, packets of ten. Only lightweight, around 90lb, it is nevertheless a beautiful paper which paint seems to love. I enquired from the lady owner where it came from and she waved her arm pointing in a direction saying 'from my factory over there'. I haven't been back but would seek it out if I did go to the Amalfi coast again. As for Moldau although it was available in the USA from a company called Italian Art the only way to get it here would be to go to the Czech Republic on holiday and visit the mill which has a retail shop. That's a little extreme even for me  though Moldau is a beautiful paper to paint on.

    Finally there are other hand-made papers, some made in the UK. One is called Milford (although considered a special paper apparently mould- made) and is a replacement for the famous Whatman. It is expensive and with many wonderful artists quite happy with Fabriano, Waterford and even Bockingford why spend more?  Sidaway lists 60 different papers but many are difficult  to find and many are not available in the UK. I haven't included American brands like Kilimanjaro and Strathmore. This is because I've no experience with them. Strathmore has recently been added by Jacksons. The top of the range paper is the 500 series but series 400 is also available and is cheaper. 

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  • 08/12/16--01:44: Article 1

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  • 08/12/16--01:44: Three More
  • These are my latest efforts, two painted at my AVA Thursday session last week the third at home.

    ''At Rest' 16 " x 12"

    I must get back to painting birds and animals. This is the first for a while.

    Unfinished Self Portrait. 16" x 12"

    I finished the deer  painting and had twenty minutes spare. I had already drawn the face so decided to start painting. This was as far as I got and I intended to take it  home and do more work,  although the  thought of having to paint my bald pate didn't thrill me. However Jo, one of my painting friends saw it and asked if she could have  it. "Don't do anything else!'. What was I to do. I signed it and gave it to her. She even offered to pay me for it!

    ,The Hair has it!' 16" x 12" Waterford High White

    This was based on a photograph that Pauline found on Google when she put in 'Big Hair'.After she had completed her painting she gave me the photo.

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  • 08/15/16--02:30: Another Two
  • Painted at this weeks AVA session, after drawing the subjects the previous day.

    A Nubian Lady 16" x 12" Waterford High White 140lb (300gsm) not

    I didn't think this too bad but it has gone down like a lead balloon on my Facebook 'Portraits ' group. Not one like! I don't get many likes for my portraits on there, the one exception being the 'Green Man'. I never expect to be overwhelmed with praise but it seems the mainly Asian membership prefer different styles.  Actually when I painted it at my AVA group they also seemed distinctly underwhelmed.

    Running Antelope 16" x 12" Waterford High White 140lb (300gsm) not

    Another indian portrait. Possibly on the dull side but so was the guide photograph. Enough said.

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  • 08/26/16--07:41: Holbein Watercolours
  • Holbein are a Japanese company with a good reputation for their watercolours although not widely used in the UK. They are easily obtainable through  mail order via Jacksons. A retail shop (now also selling online) Herrings of Dorchester sell Holbien which is where I first came across them. Holbein are however a favourite of Charles Reid, who despite dalliances with other makes, seems to come back to them every time. He particularly likes the way they remoisten when dry with just a light spray of water.

    Highly saturated colours 

    Whenever I review paints I always consult Handprint which, although increasingly out of date, is still a treasure trove of information hard to obtain elsewhere. He last reviewed them in 1999 but most of what he said is probably still relevant. There are two ranges but we are only concerned here with the main artists range. The second range is a slightly odd one called 'irodori' with 48 colours all prefaced by the word 'antique'.  I don't know what the purpose is of this second range.

    Of the 108 colours - 2 of which are metallic - 55 are single pigment paints, 20 are 3 or 4 pigment mixes and 20 contain white as one of the ingredients. I was surprised at this as in general I prefer single pigment paints and this proportion is low compared to most other leading makes. I do make exceptions though like 'Moonglow' from Daniel Smith. I'm not keen on white being added as in my experience it can make the paint cloudy, especially when diluted, and in Naples Yellow, the  paints have solidified after a while and can't be squeezed out of the tube. This certainly applies to Maimeri. Most Naples Yellows contain white which is why I prefer the Winsor & Newton single pigment Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24), Oddly enough the W & N Naples Yellow adds white to this pigment. The naming of Holbein paints is all over the place - very confusing - and you really need to look at pigments rather than the often misleading names.

     Holbein offer both 5ml and 15ml tube sizes and you can buy pan sets although they don't sell pans separately. I presume they intend you to fill the pan, when empty, with tube paint. 

    Reading the Handprint review again I would say he was lukewarm about them. This isn't unusual amongst non-American makers, although I would quality this by saying he is or was too professional to allow bias to be a major issue. While he praises them for some 'superb single pigment colours' he also criticises them for including 'several fugitive pigments not clearly identified as such'. Take for example Carmine - a favourite of Charles Reid - and Rose Madder are both PR83, which is Alazarin Crimson, a known fugitive pigment, yet given 'excellent' lightfastness ratings. I have been present when Charles Reid was asked about his use of Holbeins Carmine (PR83) and his slightly puzzled reaction was that he had never had any complaints about fading.  Holbeins Permanent Alazarin Crimson is composed of PV19 - Quinacridone Rose - and PBr25 a brown, quite different to other makes. If this seems overcritical to Holbein users then I again quote Handprint who writes ' Holbein paints overall are amongst the most saturated, most transparent and least staining of the brands listed here' - qualities that will appeal to many. Just Google Handprint and see what he says in totality. Overall his view is that you need to be selective. This is something which applies to some other makes.

    The Holbein website does not include pigment details on it's colour charts. Jacksons in the most recent catalogues still do but I sense that since Handprint gave up and others like Michael Wilcox and Hilary Page are no longer scrutinising what the makers are up to backsliding is going on.There have been instances of makers changing pigments yet the tubes still show out of date pigment information, if you can read it that is! It must be difficult if you still have thousands of the old labels but I notice Winsor and Newton are now printing  details - once again very small - on the new bare metal tubes which will presumably allow them to change pigment details quickly. When I have queried some of these things with makers the result has been a stony silence. When Handprint did this they had to reply such was his influence with a million hits a day on the site. In my case I'm insignificant so can be ignored.  Surely if what is in the tin is not what it says on the label this is a breach of trading standards?

    My experience is limited. I have tried Jaune Brilliant No1 and 2 - 'the secret vices of many (American ) artists' according to Handprint, the earth colours (good) and currently have a tube of Ultramarine Blue. They have 6 price categories ranging from (current Jacksons) £7.70 for Series 1 to a whopping £19.40 for Series 6.  I thought them fine but wouldn't rush to buy them unless they came in with a good price offer and then I'd be selective in what I bought. This whole question of pricing is something I've written up before because it is complicated and there is no common policy. If not careful you can pay more than is necessary for one make when you can get a better alternative cheaper. One such example is Winsor & Newton Cerulean which is very competitive and a better buy than several others. I take the view most or indeed all of the leading brands are perfectly acceptable subject to personal preference. My take is to combine acceptable quality with price. I also buy different brands as you don't have to stick to one whatever some may say. At present you have a marketing drive for the recently introduced very expensive QoR with several well-known artists promoting them. Take all this stuff with a pinch of salt. I'm sure most artists offer a genuine view but do they pay for the paints or are they gratis? I know this happens.

    If you wish to pursue interest in Holbein - a perfectly acceptable make overall - then have a look at  This guy is enthusiastic about Holbein and there are lots of comments . In addition the artist Tom Lynch promotes them on Youtube so look at that also. In the years since Handprint gave up many new pigments have been introduced. The best source of information  on pigments - perhaps too technical for most tastes but a phenomenal source of pigment information and usually smack up to date, is the site. In the USA Dick Blicks website has full information but you have to look up each colour separately. 

    BLOG INDEX - JULY 2014

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  • 09/02/16--08:45: Watercolour Paintings (22)
  • Here are this months batch of watercolour paintings to interest and (hopefully) inspire. Of course as far as styles are concerned 'different strokes for different folks'. This certainly applies in my case and I prefer in general 'loose' paintings however that may be defined. I do admire many others even though I don't aspire to paint like them. Perhaps it is a case of painting within my limitations, although anyone who thinks painting 'loose' is easy is mistaken because there is a very small margin between loose paintings and a mess. One of the secrets I've defined is that  the very best  artists who paint like this are actually really  good at detail and know how to put just enough in, which sets off the rest. Oh I wish!

    Bev Jozwiak

    I like this ladies paintings very much. She alternates between acrylics and watercolour and I think the above is watercolour (?), although the actual results of the two mediums don't appear that different.   

    Artist? Not sure who this is - it could be Bev again -  but decided to leave it in. If I find out who the artist is  I'll put details in later.

    Milind Mulick. A very fine prolific artist whose use of colour deserves serious study. 

    Jean Haines

    I'm not a fan of this lady although she has a large group of enthusiastic followers.

    Virgil Carter - I first encountered Virgil - a charming and knowledgeable artist - on Wetcanvas. He has a very distinctive style using very bold colour.

    Catherine Rey

    I love the work of this French artist.

    Charles Reid

    I am a follower of Charles Reid, who everyone reading this blog will know. Especially His portrait and figure work.

    Trevor Lingard - a fine British artist, always interesting and varied.

    Morten E Solberg Snr

    Super American artist who combines animals and the landscape in a way no other does.

    Another from Bev Joswiak

    Milind Mulick again - amazing

    Sun Yu - unknown to me but quite superb.

    Another from Milind just to show his versatility

    Who else but Viktoria Prischedko!

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    Having recently posted on Holbein it struck me I'd never covered Winsor and Newton in detail. By this I don't mean an analysis of all the individual paints but an overview of the paint range, in this case the artists water colours. In addition to the artists range W & N have the well-regarded second line Cotman but that is outside the scope of the present post. 

     This and the following illustration show the new metal tubes introduced quite recently.

    The tube sizes, left to right are 37ml (limited range), 14 ml, and 5 ml. Also available are half, full size pans and a limited range in giant pans.

    One of the limited edition sets of 5 ml tubes of which there are two. Expensive.

    Winsor & Newton were started in 1832 by a scientist, William Winsor and an artist Henry Newton at 38 Rathbone Place, London. In 1837 they introduced the first glycerine based moist watercolours and patented the screw cap tube in 1844.  For many years they have been the standard at which others are judged and this is still partly the case although they are under attack by, especially, the American company Daniel Smith. Handprint while in general claiming the American makes, all much more recent,  are better than the long-established, mainly European makes, did not claim this with respect to W & N, although saying they were 'under competitive attack' by some other makes  of equal quality in many colours at lower prices. This mainly referred to the American market.

    Unfortunately W & N are no longer British, having been sold to a Swedish company in 1990. Since then I believe ownership has changed again to a German corporation or multinational. Production of the artists watercolours has also been transferred to France. If we were able to untangle this web it might well lead to the Russian or Chinese governments. Only joking but who knows who owns what these days? Members of the Newton family were still involved into the 1970s but no longer.

    The Range? 96 colours all but three of which are given excellent lightfastness ratings. Handprint always suggested you take manufacturers ratings with a pinch of salt and disputed quite a number. Here the three culprits are Rose Madder Genuine (NR9), Opera Rose (PR122 + a dye) and Alazarin Crimson (PR83). The original Opera is by Holbein and it acquired quite a following by mainly American artists despite it being known to be fugitive. W & N say Opera Rose is `significantly more lightfast than older pigments of its type'.  The W & N formulation seems identical to that from Holbein although they don't specify what the dye is (Holbein - BV10). W & N have an excellent leaflet that folds out into a large double-sided sheet containing much useful information. In terms of the information provided is goes beyond  Schminke. Transparency, opacity, warm and cool colours, everything is there with much else besides. Virtually every art shop I've ever visited who sell the brand has this leaflet.

    There are some quirks in the range. Cadmium Orange for example is a mixture of Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow not the true PO20. They have the habit of giving certain colours the prefix of `Winsor', for example Winsor Blue (PB15), Winsor Green (PG36)  , two versions of each. Qinacridone Gold is now a three pigment mix that correctly should be labelled a `hue'. However everything is there and most paints are labelled reasonably correctly not the flights of fancy some indulge in. One of the standout colours is Permanent Rose (PV19) a favourite of many flower painters. I keep reading they are the most expensive paints in America apart from Bloxx but this isn't the case in the UK where,  although in the top tier of prices, they are competitive and cheaper than Daniel Smith. You need to allow for the fact though that the 14ml tube size is unique to them, although the web art supplier Ken Bromley has it's own brand in this size compared to others of mostly standard 15ml. It does make a difference. As for sizes I wish they would offer either a 21ml or 24ml rather than the huge 37ml. Even though the price per ml is lower it is still too rich for most amateurs.

    I've used and still do W & N paints. I don't major on them because of my price philosophy but they are good quality and have a long pedigree. They are regularly on special offer in the UK and that's when I buy some. I'm sure Daniel Smith has given them a shock and the lights burn long in the marketing dept to counter this. At least when I queried them over the Cotman policy I had a long e-mail correspondence, rather than  no reply from either Daniel Smith or Maimeri. I got nowhere in the end but that's beside the point at least they replied. One result has been the introduction of 'special edition' sets, two so far, and it may be other initiatives will follow.  I've given my view on the special sets and will say no more on the subject.   Worth buying? Absolutely.

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