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 http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/ 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 http://www.greatart.co.uk/ 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 http://www.dickblick.com/ . 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.