Previously I have posted three pieces on palettes, Pts.1 & 2 and `The Craig Young Experience'. This 3rd part was prompted by the enormous interest in the subject and a feeling clarification was desirable. Pt.3 covers empty metal palettes, the principle alternatives to the superb but expensive hand-made Craig Young offerings.
Palettes exist for watercolour by the dozen in plastic, ceramic, aluminium, and there are several types of metal ones, but here I am concerned with Fome, Holbein, the cheaper Scminke type, which appear either with other logos or unmarked. Whether these later come from one basic source or several isn't clear. Prices do vary so quality may also be variable. I've also included the Spanish V.Piera paintbox.
You will note on this last photo the smallest box. This takes 12 half pans or 6 Full Pans. With any of these you can mix and match full and half pans. You can either buy pan paints or empty pans and fill with your choice of tube paints. There are offerings slightly different to the above with a silver rather then black outer finish. Most mail order specialists, Jacksons, Bromley, Great Art sell one or other of the above types. Prices vary for example with Jacksons the smallest starts at £12.50 to £19 for the 48 pan. Great Art however are even cheaper at £8.60 to £15.65p. Bromley, again unmarked as are the others, go from £15.47 to £24.95p. Quality of these boxes appear similar. They are fine but with hard use after a year or two rust can appear. That's my experience as I have had several. I have a filled Scminke box which was given to me as a present and I can see little difference to the unmarked boxes.
We now come to Fome and Holbein and I will cover the former first. Up until quite recently I had never heard of Fome, `an Italian company with a good reputation for the quality of it's products'. They offer several different empty boxes but are not easy to find. I contacted Fome and asked them where I could obtain their products in the UK. I received a prompt reply and t was told I could buy their metal boxes from:
14A Orgreave Close, Dore House Ind.
S13 9NP SHEFFIELD. Tel: 0044 114 288 0777
COLART FINE ART & GRAPHICS LTD.
HA3 5RH HARROW, Middlesex. Tel: 0044 208427 4343
I suspect they may have thought I was making a trade enquiry because COLART are the company that owns Windsor & Newton. This more or less confirms that the heavy duty filled metal paint boxes (they also offer a lighter, cheaper sort) are made by Fome. The telephone numbers above appear to be those as if phoning from Italy with a country prefix.
This is the largest Fome box available from Great Art at
£133.40p. It has 48 wells, each with a capacity of 15ml! One for the big brush artists.
Three of the smaller Fome boxes
This completes the range. Some of the above may be duplicated but you can see all are individually numbered.
My pick would be the 12 full pan box 2096. There is adequate space in the centre for more empty pans which would need to be kept in place with a fixative of some sort. A palette of 20 to 30 colours, a mix of half and full pans is easily accommodated in this box. What do Fome boxes cost and where can you get them? Heaton Cooper www.heatoncooper.com/ sell Fome and they are very well illustrated on the website. Click on `Accessories' and then `empty metal palettes'. Artifolks http://www.artifolk.co.uk/ also appear to sell three Fome boxes. I say this because the website shows three illustrations but clicking on the link only brings up the smallest from £49.99p. Consideration should also be given to buying one of the Windsor & Newton heavy duty filled boxes. They are terrific value for money given the value of the paint alone and are perfect for plein air painting.
We now come to Holbein, long considered of superior quality and priced accordingly. I say this in the knowledge that it is perfectly possible to buy serviceable plastic palettes for 50p. They might stain over a period but at 50p does this matter. When this becomes a problem throw them away and buy another? I find Cif will keep them clean of most stains and also use this on my hand-made palettes.
Holbein 250 31/2" x 8"
Holbein 350 4" x 81/4"
Holbein 500 41/2" x 101/2"
These are three of the four Holbein offerings.The missing one is the 1000 model, the largest at 5 1/2" x 12". Prices vary but Jacksons are £31.60 for the 350 rising to £62.10p for the 1000. Holbein are good quality and used by many professionals. Charles Reid used a Holbein until the hand-made Craig Young boxes arrived . Availability has also improved recently. My main concern about the Holbein is the layout of the paint wells. When closed one lot are upside down. Several tube colours do not solidify fully and if the wrong way up will cause a huge mess. You need to be very careful about this.
The final metal palette I want to cover is the Spanish V.Piera paintbox. I first saw it at my 2008 Catalonia painting course with Charles Reid. Some of the Spanish participants were using them and we were given the chance to buy one at roughly £18. Several were ordered but failed to materialise prior to the course ending. Just as well considering how many palettes I already had.
The V.Piera Paintbox
The centre is removable.
I am indebted to my friend Robert Armas for providing details as follows. The box is marketed by Art Materials S.A, located in Barcelona and mainly sold in that city through the well known Vincent Piera store, known as V.Piera hence the name. There are three colour options, white grey and black with enamelled white inside. It is a heavyweight at 600 grams, open measurements 30.5cm x 19cm x 1cm. The 16 wells are very large , holding a considerable amount of paint, and are ideal for very large brushes, either rounds or flats.
Several Wetcanvas members have obtained them, some through Robert who has relatives over there. The main problem being carriage charges from Spain. This is also a problem for UK artists with carriage charges quoted almost as much as the cost of the box itself which is around £18.00 ($20 USA). As with so many things they are made in China.
Although initially enthusiastic Robert changed his mind, after finding problems, with the enamelled finish prone to chipping and scratching. Robert has since bought a Holbein because the finish is baked enamel rather than painted on as in the V.Piera. Nevertheless a great value box.
I'm not sure what availability is like in the USA, although both Holbein and some Fome boxes are available. I'll try and find out more and post the information in the final ` Palette Roundup'.