Monday, 15 August 2016

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.

Friday, 12 August 2016

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.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

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. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

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 Hendriks

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.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Watercolour Painting on a Budget - 2016 Update

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.

Sunday, 17 July 2016


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. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

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.