Thursday, 25 February 2010

Saunders Waterford `High White'

According to Ken Bromley Art Supplies `High White', not `Extra White' is the name for the new version of Waterford which is `whiter' than the normal off-white version. I have bought a pack of NOT and so have two other members of my Avon Valley Artists group, ROUGH and HP.  When we have tried it out I will report further.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Easels & Stools

Returning to a previous topic(s) here are photographs of the Swedish walkstool and carry bag. This is the smallest Swedish-made version of which there are three, and two budget versions made in China.

The Swedish Walkstool 18" version

This is the carry bag - 14" long

The Walkstool weighs 18 ounces and will take a person weighing up to 300lbs! Mine is the smallest version, see my previous post for details of the range. I think it's fabulous if on the expensive side. Just the job for the plein air painter.
We now move on to easels. I bought several (!) before arriving at my present position. At the moment my choice is split  between  the Don Glynn easel and either the Ken Bromley or Charles Reid version, whichever it should be designated. Should you want a studio easel then a larger stronger one probably fits the bill.

 Don Glynn easel broken down

Assembled - 1 minute! Lift with one finger!

Charles Reid's System

MDF 6mm Board with attached Ken Bromley Camera Tripod Bracket

I have described the `Don Glynn' previously so refer to that post. If you go to EPC Art courses in Catalonia, run  by a charming lady called Angela Barbi - Don Glynn is non-executive manager - you can reserve one of these easels plus a chair prior to going. I strongly recommend this. I did not and subsequently regretted not doing so, especially as I was obliged to travel by Ryanair. The easel is basic and on the expensive side but  is ideal for outside painting and travel and there is nothing available commercially to compete with it. It takes either a board, up to half sheet size, with taped paper or a block,  held between the two movable brackets.

The other easel is an interesting one. It is Charles Reid's preferred travelling choice and in  `The Natural Way to Paint'  1994, incidentally one of my favourite books, he attributes it as being devised by his friend Young Wo. I didn't examine Charles easel in detail when on his courses but the principal is identical to Ken Bromley's, using a similar type of bracket on the back of a board. Being curious as to where the idea originated I contacted Richard Bromley, son of the late Ken Bromley, who now runs Ken Bromley Art Supplies, and asked him if he could tell me the origin of the camera tripod bracket. This is the reply:

" Dear Peter

Thanks for the e-mail.

Ken Bromley, my father, invented the Perfect Paper stretcher board in the 1940's. He made and sold the stretcher boards since the 80's. He always used stretcher boards when he painted but did not like the portable wooden easels. I think it was in the late 1980's he got an engineering company to make the tripod bracket. Ken was a keen photographer and wanted to utilise the lightweight tripod to support the stretcher board.
The tripod bracket worked very well indeed and he then started to sell the bracket as an additional add-on to the paper stretcher. The scews fixing the tripod to the paper stretcher were designed to work  with the stretcher board. It can also be used with drawing boards.
Later in the 90's he found Arches blocks worked well with the camera tripod bracket. he used a bostic adhesive to stick the bracket to the centre of the block without using the screws. This works very well and when the block was used up he would knock the bracket off with a screwdriver and hammer and re-use the bracklet. is a link to the stretcher board video which shows the bracket in a couple of shots.

Hope this information is of use.

Best wishes

Richard Bromley"

There you have it, possibly a case of parallel development which happens with so many good ideas.To describe how I handled mine I carefully marked out the position for the bracket on the back of the board and initially taped it. This didn't work well although it might if I had used a strong adhesive. When attempting to screw it to the board, using 6mm MDF, I found the screws protruded slightly at the front. I then got a thin piece of backing card, the sort that is used in photo frames, and cut a piece exactly to the size of the bracket then stuck it to the board. I screwed the bracket through this and into the board. It seems very firm. I initially bought two brackets and have two boards made up, the larger being 20" x 16" and the smaller "17 x 13". My normal routine is to tape paper to the board with masking tape. I don't stretch paper although I have done in the past. You can if you wish put a shelf of sorts on one edge to support a block or use clips for sheets of paper. My camera tripod is a Jessops TP220, not expensive, which I bought on special offer at the Bath shop. You can use many camera tripods as there is a huge choice but it needs to be a screw top, although I think you can get accessories to convert other sorts into screw tops. I did read that screw sizes can vary on cameras but I've had no problem with that. Check with the camera shop and take the bracket with you is my advice to avoid any hiccups. I did buy a small stretcher board some years ago but didn't get on with it  and don't use it. Obviously many people do. Just to finish off you will note that two flat black brackets are attached to the board, one at each end, with large `S' clips to which your water container and brush/pencil container hang from. This is what Charles Reid does. The one downside is that there is no shelf for palettes, pens etc. Is this a major problem? I don't think so, and it is a very flexible system because the angle of the board is so easy to vary. The bracket, very well engineered, is available from Ken Bromley and costs £10.49 plus postage.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

More Paintings

First of all a disclaimer! I don't put these forward as excellent examples of watercolours - just my watercolours.

15" x 11" Waterford Rough 140lb    

This is a painting done from an old black and white photograph of the 1800's. It is an  Apache called `Chato'. I am very interested in this period and have many books on it as well as a large number of old images of Indians.


15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb NOT

This painting was done in my thursday class and the subject was a winter scene. More about the horses I think!

18" x 12" Fabriano Artistico 140lb NOT

This was painted onsite in the Summer at an amazing garden centre - if you can call it that - called Trading Places, on the outskirts of Bristol.. They have all these artifacts from the far east and also  much other bric-a- brac, including a lot of what people might consider  junk. The place is just so different. An excellent coffee house too! The statue painted is big, see the bench in front of it. 

 15" x 11" Schut Vivace 115lb  NOT

This was a project at my thursday session for a self-portrait. I painted this afterwards, one of several attempts. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Back to Painting!

18" x 14" Waterford 140lb NOT 

This was painted last week at my thursday Avon Valley Artists session. The subject was old buildings or barns. This particular subject is a beautiful complex of converted barns at the village of Ducklington in Oxfordshire where my sister lives. It would be almost impossible to paint on site as the road curves around in an s bend and there is literally nowhere to park yourself. Therefore I took a whole series of photographs and have painted the subject several times (one I sold). This is the latest effort. I am quite happy with it apart from the tree which is overworked a little - some may think a lot!

19" x 14" Fabriano Artistico 140lb NOT 

Another thursday session painting, the subject being Autumn foliage and berries. I did my `Charles Reid' bit by adding a tomato and some peppers. It was described as `flamboyant' at the comment session we have afterwards. I'm not sure how to take that!

15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico 90lb NOT 

I've become very interested in the way Charles Reid does portraits. In fact I asked him at Urchfont if he would write a new `Portraits in Watercolour' book as his previous one is long out of print ( I have it) and needs updating. This is one I attempted for my Bathampton Art Group Xmas subject which was a celebrity portrait. It is supposed to be Judi Dench painted from a photograph that didn't really flatter her - I attempted to take away some of the harshness and this was the result. Some of my fellow painters recognized her some did not. I quite like it although the eyes are overemphasized.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Cotman - the latest from Windsor & Newton.

I have received a reply from a lady called Sarah Williams at Colart UK giving an explanation for the queries I raised about Cotman policy in the UK, Europe and the USA. This is what she said:

Dear Mr Ward,

Thank you for your enquiry.

The decision not to sell true cadmiums in the Cotman range in the UK was definitely not made to short  change artists but instead can be explained by a historical decision. This was based on the fact that in the UK Cotman is positioned as a `student range', in which we do not want to introduce a second pricing series, and complicate the range. The cadmiums would need to be in a separate pricing series as the cadmium pigments are significantly more expensive. We also have only 1 pricing series on our student grade oil, Winton oil colour, for example. However Cotman has a slightly different positioning in the USA, where Cadmiums are required.

Great Art is supplied by Colart Germany, hence we cannot control what is available to UK artists via this website or what price they set.

The Cotman Studio set does indeed contain a selection of true cadmiums and cobalt blue - this is the only Cotman set that contains these colours, in any market.

I hope this answers your query.

Kind regards

The highlights are mine. May I respectfully say Sarah I find your various explanations unconvincing and some defy logic. Briefly `historical' decision? What does that mean exactly. Cotman position `slightly' different in the USA? Not true. Major American art suppliers like Dick Blick and Cheap Joe's clearly state Cotman is  `student' quality and position it with other student makes. Cadmiums (and the rest) required in the USA? If so why not in the UK? Why can't there be more than one series? Artists quality have four. Then we have the mystery of the full pan `studio' set. Cotman do not supply full pans in the UK only 8ml, 21ml tubes and half pans. In other words you can't get replacements for them when the paint runs out. You can, if you wish, refill from tubes but only from the existing 40 colour range containing `hue' equivalents but not true cadmiums etc. What marketing (or political) decision caused this anomaly to be introduced? It's interesting that the only UK source I know is Ken Bromley, a major customer of W & N, possibly one of the largest if not the largest in the UK. None of the above need be set in stone. They are purely down to marketing decisions, which can be altered. The current situation discriminates against UK artists, principally those who cannot afford the very expensive artists quality. There are many amateur or hobby artists in this category.

I have sent a reply to Sarah questioning the above points together with copies of the e-mails to the editor of  The Artist magazine. Whether any of this will bring about changes is debatable because I am profoundly cynical and anticipate another brush off - if I get a reply at all. As for The Artist magazine Sally Bulgin says she will raise these matters when she meets W & N in March. Will anything happen? I expect a very long wait.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

What are Windsor & Newton up to?

Visit any art shop and the Cotman range of  `budget or student' watercolours is likely to be prominently displayed. They are also sold by many mail order outlets. While professional artists, Ron Ranson excepted, almost all proclaim that we should use  `artists' quality a large number of amateur artists, either through cost or inclination, make do with the much cheaper range. Several Professional Artists use Cotman when demonstrating. Actually a number of amateur artists of my acquaintance use the Russian `White Knights', formerly St Petersburg, that claim to be artist quality, although Bruce McEvoy of Handprint emphatically pronounces they are not.

In the UK Cotman currently offer 40 colours, with the Cobalts, Cadmiums, Cerulean and Viridian colours offered as `hue' equivalents. This is presumably to reduce production costs using cheaper pigments. BUT hang on a moment what have we here! In the Ken Bromley catalogue and on the website  amongst the various Cotman watercolour sets on offer is the `Cotman Studio 24 Whole Pan Set' which includes 5 genuine Cadmiums. The only other source I have located so far is Great Art who offer this box and - surprisingly - include Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cobalt Blue, Coeruleum Blue and Viridian, without the `hue' label, amongst the 40 Cotman colours. I assume these are the genuine pigments although I have not bought any so can't confirm if this is so. Great Art are  German  and although they have a UK website and telephone contact number actually supply from Germany.  They did open a UK warehouse at Alton but closed it a while ago. We now come to the USA. Amongst several prominent mail order suppliers is Dick Blick . This firm offers a fantastic range of products not least watercolour paints including several makes, either not available or difficult to find in the UK. When I checked Cotman I discovered 50 - yes 50 - different shades including ten Cadmiums, Cobalts, Cerulean and Viridian genuine pigments - not hues. Prices are slightly higher for these compared to the rest of the range but only moderately so $2.67 compared to $2.05, equivalent to approximately £1.80 and £1.40 for the 21ml tubes. In the UK 21ml Cotman are currently around £3.00 mail order. Should you wish to order from the USA, and I know some professional artists do from companies like Blick and Cheap Joe's, you will have to pay carriage  and probably unspecified (VAT?) Custom charges on top so need to clarify these things before proceeding.

Having mulled this over I contacted Windsor and Newton by e-mail a few days ago to ask why UK artists appeared to be being short changed. Initially I received an electronic reply saying the query would be passed to the appropriate person who would then contact me. Subsequently last Monday I received another electronically raised e-mail which said my message had been read at 3.41pm, presumably by the `appropriate' person. Since then silence. I am writing this two days later and nothing has materialized. Early days it is true but will I receive a reply?

I belong to two local art groups and many of those attending are pensioners with limited incomes. On the surface, without a suitable explanation, it seems UK consumers are being short changed. Mr Windsor and Mr Newton have long departed and W&N is now owned by a company or corporation called ColArt. Who they are I have no idea. IF we were offered the same deal as American consumers then I'm sure many more might consider using Cotman, which has a decent reputation, even moving down from the increasingly expensive artists quality. I sent a copy of my original e-mail to Sally Bulgin, editor of `The Artist' magazine. I'll return to this later.