Thursday, 9 April 2020

Jacksons Watercolours

As well as budget makes from the majors, Cotman from Winsor & Newton is one well-known example plus Van Gogh from Talens (Rembrandt),we also have house brands that have increased a lot over the last few years. One such is Jacksons. As part of my look at cheaper brands with my ongoing  campaign, and I have no great expectations of success,  against the eye watering prices of the majors I purchased three tubes.  I know this is a small sample but see later.


Jacksons started off with 40 colours but according to the website there are now 48. However the colour chart shows 43! I also wonder if the pigment information is correct. For example they are still showing PY153 for Jacksons Yellow Light, whereas PY 153 was discontinued some time ago. On the Youtube piece mentioned there is a suggestion in the comments that some changes have been made and the labels have yet to catch up. I count 27 single pigments out of 43 which is about 60%. I have e mailed them querying the discrepancy in the number of paints and have yet to receive a reply. In the past I've always found them very good at answering queries but I think they are suffering staff shortages due to the virus and are are also very busy. It seems us artists are finding ways to occupy our time! I expect to get a reply in due course and will print it when received.

The tubes are not very attractive but its whats inside that really matters. This is the largest size 21ml. There are also 10ml tubes and half and full pans. 




From left to right the three swatches are Cerulean Blue, Raw Umber and Burnt Umber. When I opened the Cerulean tube I was disturbed to see a lot of liquid came out and Teoh had the same problem with certain colours.  He puts it down to an excess of gum arabic. This is separation and often happens if tubes have been hanging on racks for a long time. One of the replies to Teoh  said "shake the tubes well before use" and this indeed seems to work. I would have thought though that this range from Jacksons sells quite well and the tubes are not that old..

Once I got to the pigment the colour seems okay and I'm reasonably happy with it. The Raw Umber is a different matter. This is very dark and I think I'll have to find a better lighter one. The Burnt Umber is slightly redder than the Raw Umber and may be satisfactory. These  latter colours are not that popular with many artists, and the Australian maestro Robert Wade condemned Burnt Umber in one of his books. But then he also condemned Paynes Grey and Yellow Ochre.

I now come to a splendid piece on YouTube  from the artist Teoh Chie where he covers Jacksons watercolours in some detail and paints out swatches of fourteen. This elicited several interesting responses from some who had tried and indeed used them. It is well worth looking at this video which (I think) gives a balanced and realistic view of these paints. They are made by Sennelier but are not exactly the same. Teoh looked at the equivalent Sennelier colours and points out differences, in some instances,  in the pigments.

Looking at prices the  Cerulean at £9.50, is very reasonable for 21ml. Current Cerulean prices from Jacksons - all 15ml unless otherwise stated -  : Daniel Smith £15.30, Winsor & Newton (14ml) £13.50, Lukas (24ml) £10.00, Sennelier (21ml) £13.70p,  Shin Han £13.00, Turner £6.10 and Mission Gold £6.80.  Makes you think doesn't it? I was surprised how expensive Shin Han has become and how cheap  Turner and Mission Gold are.  On my blog  I have had  comments on all these cheaper makes and, while there are a few reservations, there has also been positives. From this though Lukas has to be the star buy. I like Lukas, apart from some of the multi pigment mixes. The paint comes from the tube like toothpaste but dissolves easily once water is added. Lukas are now part of the Daler Rowney group. My best buys not so long ago included Daler Rowney then we had a substantial price hike. I've been wondering if and when Lukas will follow.

Despite these high prices Jacksons still say Daniel Smith is a "Best Seller". I'm not disputing they are very good paints overall. There are indeed some unique colours and I might still buy odd ones but certainly not the standard colours. If I won the lottery it might be different but then everything would be different.  For amateurs like myself to spend these high prices in my opinion makes no sense. I very much doubt it makes most better painters despite comments I get, mainly from  professional artists, that the difference in their paintings is noticeable. This might apply comparing them to the budget makes but what about Lukas, Sennelier and  some of the Asian makes? There are colours in these ranges that compare very well if you are selective.







Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Watercolour Paintings 65

And still they keep coming! I've said it many times before but its worth repeating. The wealth of talent across the World in watercolour never ceases to amaze me. Wonderful artists proliferate. Long may it be so. 


Jung Hun-sung
 I don't know this artist. There are so many wonderful Asian artists.


Lars eje Larsson

One of my favourite artists. A unique style.


Eugene Chisnicean


Mary Whyte

One of the doyens of American artists.


Natalie Graham

A newish one to me . I like her minimalist , loose approach


John Blockley

One of the greats of British watercolour painting


John Yardley

Another British great, fortunately still with us in his mid-eighties



Tony Couch

A prominent American who was formerly an airline pilot.

Jen Buckley

I like this very much, again a small area of detail and the rest generalities. very much the Charles Reid approach although the style is different.


Catherine Rey

The superb French artist





Jane Davies

This is very like my granddaughters new dog, Herbert which came from a dog rescue sanctuary



Emma Fitzpatrick

A new one to me. An interesting style.



Tomaz Mikutel

I like this. Hares seem a very popular subject at the moment, figurines as well as paintings.


Brian Tai


Natalie Graham

Another imaginative painting of the popular Hare from Natalie.




Joseph Zbukvic

The Master Australian



Blanca Alvarez

A new one to me



The much missed Charles Reid



Kees van Aalst

Author of 'Realistic Abstracts" which caused quite a stir when published.

That's it folks hope you find things to interest and admire. A lot can be learned by studying other fine artists.


Friday, 13 March 2020

Stages of a Work in Progress

I generally do my portraits of Amerindians from old black and white photographs, many originally taken by the famous photographer Edward Curtis. This is not easy as most have large shadow areas with all detail lost, and very large contrasts between black and white. On the plus side this is something which prevents you being too realistic, providing you follow  Charles Reids teaching of only painting what you can actually see.


Stage 2

I say Stage Two as I always draw the image first as Stage One, using a size 7 2B propelling pencil, although I sometimes use 'proper ' pencils, again 2B well sharpened. In this case I have already started painting the face. The eyes come first followed by the nose and then the mouth. This is the basic approach I follow which is the one Charles Reid taught. Colours are Cadmium Red Light  (PR108), Cerulean Blue (PB36). RawSienna or Yellow Ochre also featured in Charles skin tones but here there is no RawSienna.




Stage Three

Here the face has progressed further and I have started on his headdress. This is the most difficult part and I am pondering how to proceed further. I have a tendency normally to rush things and while this sometimes comes off often it doesn't. I prefer a minimalistic approach as I think overworking it one of the most common mistakes in watercolour. There are artists who do the most super realistic paintings in watercolour and I marvel at their skill but wonder if acrylics are better with this sort of approach.


Amerindian Chief 16" x 12"

This is the finished painting (unfinished as I want to avoid 'over-finishing") This approach doesn't appeal to everyone as I well know. I actually scrapped the one above and re did it from scratch, still keeping to the same approach. The reason I scrapped the previous effort is that I was following the photograph - which was very complicated - rather than just using it as a guide. It simply wasn't working out. I like parts of this painting but I can see faults, the mouth, right cheek, and the nose could be better. In some respects it is getting closer  but nowhere near perfect - if such a thing is achievable. The struggles of a would be watercolour artist! And this after 20 years.

Friday, 6 March 2020

My Favourite Watercolour Papers

What is the most important item in watercolours? Is it the paints, paper or brushes? Personally I agree with the artist and teacher Charles Webster Hawthorne in his small book 'Hawthorn on Painting" ` in fact a collected edition of his students notes, published after  his death in 1930. He said "buy good paper- fifty percent of and more of your watercolors depends on the paper you use". Actually it's the hand that guides the brush but good paper makes it easier.

Most starting off in watercolour use a cheaper paper with the British Bockingford being the most popular, at least in the UK. You also have a number of cheaper papers in the German Hannemuhle range, while in the USA Strathmore have cheaper papers. And there are others. The thing about these budget papers is that they are not made of cotton, but high quality wood pulp in the case of Bockingford and I think cellulose or alternatives are used in others. I have tried some that Great Art sell but wasn't impressed although the 100% cotton Centenaire  is a good paper.

I stress the following is just my opinion and others may well differ. Also I haven't tried every available paper although I have sampled a good number.



This is my current favourite paper in the 'High White" version, also in a block although blocks are more expensive than sheets.




Fabriano Artistico "Extra White' was one of Charles Reids favourites and also mine. He said it suited his style of painting, and didn't like Arches as he said it was too 'hard -sized"

 I've gone off it for three reasons. Firstly the price has escalated, something that has affected all papers in line with the increasing overall costs for watercolour artists. The others are the block size "18 x 12", my preference being "16" x 12", and the way the blocks fall apart when you get down towards the last few sheets. Waterford hold together very well.





This paper was introduced to me by Judi Whitton and Charles, who knew Judi who attended at least two of his workshops, one of which I was on, probably heard of it from her. He considered it equal to Fabriano but particularly liked the block size - 40 x 50cm. Unfortunately getting hold of Schut papers, including the favoured Noblesse, was difficult. I first read about it in a book by the late Zoltan Szabo. I actually obtained some from an art shop in Stow, then from a small wholesaler, actually a private house with a small warehouse, in Banbury. This then dried up.




I recently decided to see, with rising prices in papers, if Schut was still available and at what sort of price. Enquiries discovered the Schut paper mill had changed hands and was now part of the Fontaine group. Further enquiries finally brought the information that ALL 100% cotton papers under the Fontaine label were actually the paper previously marketed as Schut Noblesse. There are four surfaces and a good range of blocks and sheets. A new surface called 'Cloud Effect' is also available. 

Both Great Art and the SAA are selling them, not yet Jacksons though. There is some slight confusion in that there is conflicting information regarding the number of sheets in a block, some saying 15 and others 25. This has an effect on the price per sheet, which seems to be approximately the same as Waterford or slightly higher. I haven't bought any as I have a large supply of paper, possibly enough to last except if I reach 100. Actually I'm exaggerating here slightly. I'm currently painting on the reverse side of failed paintings. Ron Ransom told me he did this and it is perfectly possible on decent papers like Fabriano and Waterford. I have many!

What other papers have I tried.? Quite a few actually. I have a small stock of Moldau, the Czech hand-made paper, obtained with great difficulty, the saga of which is related somewhere on this blog. A lovely paper but getting hold of it oh dear! I also found, quite by chance a small shop selling quite small sheets of loose watercolour paper in Amalfi on the Sorrento coast of Italy. The largest was 11" x 15", quite light at about 90lbs. A lovely paper I have to say but I I've not been back since that second visit. The lady owner, when asked where she got it, waved her arm saying 'at my factory over there'. I doubt I'll go to Sorrento again but would certainly buy more if she was still there. 

Another paper creating waves, especially in the USA from where it emanates. is Stonehenge Aqua. Rave reviews have appeared  from American artists. Jacksons sell it and I've purchased and painted on a block of the 16" x 12" size with a not surface and rate it equal to the Waterford. Certainly not superior (in my opinion). The American Strathmore group have a good name but I have no experience with any of their papers. 

Other than that what can I say? There are lots of other papers including some very expensive hand-made ones. The ones I've listed are mainly 100% cotton, which to me is a benchmark.  Cotton and linen is mentioned in some of the high end papers.

If price is a factor, and when isn't it these days, for us struggling amateurs, Great Art do an own brand called Centenaire which is 100% cotton and cheaper than the above. The Hannemuhle group have several cheaper papers and there are a few others.  Frankly the long established Bockingford, made from high grade wood pulp (they say) is as good as anything if you want an inexpensive, decent paper. Some will say cotton papers are better, and they probably are, but  do many  amateurs need to spend big bucks?  Based on my experience with several local art groups I suggest no is the answer.

Added 10.15pm. I omitted to mention Khadi, a Nepalese hand-made paper, available in a wide range of sizes and weights. Some of my fellow artists have tried it with mixed responses but it is 100% cotton and  very reasonably priced. It isn't a favourite but I do have some and occasionally use it. The surface is on the rough side whereas my choice of surface is not.







Monday, 2 March 2020

Watercolour Paintings 64

This month I am posting watercolour portraits, although many are partial figures.It is possible some may not be watercolour so any corrections are welcome. This also applies to the artists names. I make no apologies in leaning towards an impressionistic approach, although there are examples of more detailed works here. Some I like a lot more than others but as usual I'm trying to show the wide range that is possible with watercolour. This is just a sample of what is out there.


Liu Yi

Another of these amazing Chinese artists


Jack London (?)

Not sure if this is correct. Maybe the subject is JL Apparently this is Robert Wade . That surprises me as it isn't typical RW. Thanks to Greg.


Annette Smith 


Another from Annette Smith

I can see Charles Reid in this and the one above.


Lars eje Larsson

This is very abstract . which seems to be the case with his figure and portrait work. His other stuff is very different with bold colours. I love his work but the above may not appeal to many.




This is lovely but I cannot find the artists name Might be Atsushi Matsubayashi



Slawa Prischedko. One half of the Prischedkos. A wonderful artist. They have been doing workshops at East Devon Arts at Sidmouth on the South Coast of England for the last two years.


The superb Stephie Butler. This is another example of her use of the new liquid charcoal allied with one or two watercolours. I've now bought a tube but haven't yet tried it. This is very different to her normal style (which is excellent) and I like both very much.




Ted Nuttall

One of the premier USA artists in watercolour portraits 



Aine Devine

This Scottish lady is a wonderful artist



Chien Chung-Wei

"Robert Wade' by Chien Chung -Wei

This is a great painting by the fabulous CCW



David Lobenberg

A very bold and colourful work typical of this artist



The late Charles Reid A typical demo of which I saw about thirty in my several workshops with him although this wasn't one.


Fealing Lin

Another marvellous American/Asian artist



Gerard Hendriks

I have been friends with Gerard for a few years now. His work has expanded greatly and here (I think) he was having  fun




Marcos Beccari


Chien Chung -Wei

I love this for its minimalist approach



Atanur Dogan

Not familiar with the artist.



Vijay Achrekar

This Bangalore artist is brilliant



Rick Huang-Huang hua Zhao


Another from Slawa Prischedko

Janet Rogers

The fine American artist



Stan Miller

Stan produces fabulous work including a lot of portraits



kubra Turkegul

A new artist to me