A year or two ago Jacksons www.jacksonsart.com/ introduced Shin Han watercolour paints to the UK. Shin Han are a Korean company, who like Mijello, appear to sell a range of art materials. The range comprises 72 paints and the naming of them leads me to believe they are shadowing Holbein the well-known Japanese maker. The marketing policy is to price them well below the leading makes and to get some well-known artists to promote them.
One is always attracted by a possible alternative to the increasingly expensive leading makes. Shin Han looked attractive and I ordered a tube of Jaune Brilliant No.2 (PO20/PW6). Jan Weeks, one of the leading members of Avon Valley Artists, bought a tube of Mineral Violet (PV15). This is a very small sample I fully accept but I thought it horrible and Jan was not impressed with the Mineral Violet (PV15). PO20 is Cadmium Orange, PW4 white and PV15 Ultramarine Violet. There are opposing views which I will cover later.
When I was able to access pigment details I was even less impressed. Shinhans pigment choices vary. They do utilise a number of obsolete pigments, by which I mean those that have been dropped by the majors. There are also suspect pigments that are not considered fully lightfast. White is present in 12 colours and dyes in two others. PR83 (fugitive) is used in four paints and only 20 colours are single pigment out of 72, a much lower percentage than that of the majors. The single pigment argument is one that doesn't necessarily have universal agreement. There are good pigments used in many paints so you could selectively pick out some decent paints.
My overall conclusion is that Shinhans pigment choices and mixtures vary from the mainstream manufacturers, so is this an innovative company or are these examples of cutting corners on cost? Another question arises, especially when Mijello Mission Gold is included, are they produced under a different philosophy?
I referred to differing views. Arnold Lowrey, the well-known Welsh artist swears by them - or he did - and a very good artist at my local group also loves them, having previously used Winsor & Newton. Some other members have bought the 32 tube box offer that works out at just over £2 a 15ml tube - about a quarter of the equivalent Winsor & Newton, and much cheaper than any other leading make. They `claim', apart from four colours including two dyes (!) classed as `Moderately Permanent', that all the rest are either `Absolutely Permanent' or `Permanent'. Personally, as a follower of Handprint, I wouldn't accept these ratings without a deal of scepticism.
I suspect sales have been very good as the prices are so cheap and many artists don't bother about such things, accepting that they are `Artist Quality' as that's what it says on the tin, Jacksons give them a fulsome write up. By all means try them. They may suit you but you need to be very selective, not easy as the pigment details are difficult to find in chart form. I eventually did but it was so tortuous I can't remember how I finally succeeded. I can find no other UK source than Jacksons so why not ask them to provide pigment details?
This piece was prompted by the emergence in America of another Korean make called `Mission Gold', made apparently by Mijello who also do a range of plastic palettes. There has been a high profile campaign to promote them using a professional artists(s), and an extensive thread appeared on Wetcanvas which dissected them in quite a forensic way. They aren't in the UK yet, although the palettes are, but where America goes we are sure to follow. Mission Gold is also being promoted on Youtube. I might add a third Korean brand is called Alpha. When I accessed the latter website it left a banner across my opening screen that I struggled to remove.
This one has 34 colours
A thread was started on Wetcanvas asking if anybody had any experience with the new range. Immediately a lady called Mary Henderson popped up, claiming to be a professional artist with thirty years experience in teaching, making the most extravagant claims. She says `Mission Gold are as fade resistant as other brands...the normal is considered 100 years (!)'...I am now using Mission Gold watercolors for all my personal works and teaching. Very importantly, so are all the other professional artists that I personally know.....' and so on and so on. Somewhere else she claims they are `the best watercolors in the World'. It soon became obvious she was connected with the company, but some very strong and pointed comments did not bring any clarification. If you go on Wetcanvas go into `Watercolor' then either `Palette Talk' or `The Learning Zone' carries the thread. If you enter `Mission Gold' in the top right search window then `Forums' you'll get to it.
Dick Blick, the mail order art specialist, who have a superb site, list all the pigment information although you have to access individual paints to see it. Someone on WC went through the lot and came up with the following;
Total number of colours = 90.
11 colours were composed of fugitive pigments or dyes.
10 colours were `fair to good'
9 colours `may fade in tints, either whole or in part'.
5 colours had no pigment and/or lightfastness info.
The rest of the colours had ratings of either excellent or permanent, very good, or good but names are often misleading. Examples Cerulean is made from Phthalo Blue, and Viridian from Phalo Green. A majority are mixed pigments.
The conclusion from someone as particular and knowledgeable as Virgil Carter was `this doesn't look like a mature and truly artists-grade line of paints'.
There is some confusion over the number of paints on offer both 78 and 90 being mentioned but I found another chart with 34 so there may be a crossover somewhere.
Once again some artists who had tried Mission Gold disagreed to some extent and there are many paints in the range made from excellent pigments. Another artist www.chrisbeckstudio.blogspot.co.uk/ said she had conducted extensive lightfastness tests and recommended they be avoided. Added 12/07/13. If you look at this website you will see she has created quite a furore with her tests and the company/agents have been forced to respond.
It seems to me these paints are produced in a different manner to that of the European and American makers and it isn't easy to judge them accordingly. There is talk of mixing them in Geranium jars to music!!! Apart from pigments the additives are different and they seem to lean towards a more opaque result. Perhaps in this respect they are similar to Chinese watercolours like Marie's. According to the artist Lian Quan Zheng Marie's are `between watercolour and Gouache'.
What conclusion can be reached from all this? Mine would be to avoid them but each to his own. Try them by all means if you are interested, if and when they become available, but always remember caveat emptor!