Saturday, 27 May 2017

Watercolour Painting on a Budget - Paints Update

Up until recently my recommendation for Artists Quality paints has been Daler Rowney and Lukas. This is based on a combination of quality allied to price. I have been buying Daler Rowney from an art shop in Bath at better than mail order prices, which even so were very competitive. I realise personal preference plays a part in choosing and others may have different ideas. In addition prices vary country to country so this recommendation only applies to Europe.

Last week I went into the Bath shop and to my horror saw the prices were now £12.75p for series 1 and 2 and over £17 for Series 3 all 15ml. There was a notice saying 'would you buy at these new prices'? I politely told the lady in the shop that I wouldn't. She was obviously concerned and said there had been a price increase and presumably - although she didn't say so - the extra discounts that enabled them to sell so competitively had been withdrawn. I then checked Jacksons prices and found they had increased to just over £10 Series 1/2 and £14 for series 3. As a result I did a round robin of the various makes to see how they stacked up.

My new recommendations are 1st choice Lukas (24ml) closely followed by Sennelier (21ml) Maimeri  (15ml) is also in the mix. I believe Lukas are now owned by the Daler Rowney group so this may not last we shall have to see. Sennelier, with the largest range, has to be a serious contender.  Scmincke, although more expensive with the new improved and enlarged range are also on my radar and I've just ordered Perylene Violet and Perylene Green (both £9 for 15ml) to try out. The cheapest Daniel Smith is now in excess of £10 and Graham and Da Vinci are not considered because they are only available via Lawrence of Hove who have a fixed carriage charge. Although I've gone off Graham due to various problems with the paints I am intrigued by Da Vinci and if I was close enough to visit the shop would probably buy some. In the USA I know prices on Daniel Smith, Da Vinci and Graham are much more competitive but as usual in the UK we get ripped off. I haven't mentioned Winsor and Newton who are (or used to be!) regularly offered at extra discounts. You can mix makes don't let that old chimera that you shouldn't put you off doing so.

My comments only refer to Artists Quality. There are alternatives. The Korean Shin Han and Mijello are very competitively priced but I have reservations about them.  Many other artists seem to find them satisfactory but be selective in which ones you buy with a preference for single pigment paints. There is  also  the Japanese Turner from Jacksons at very keen prices. Lots use St Petersburg quite happily. We now have some house brands which are worth a try. There are also Cotman, Venezia and Van Gogh in the budget makes. Take your pick.

Before closing I note papers have also increased in price. Prices are now £32.60 for Waterford and £35 for Fabriano - blocks I should add. My favourite block size is "16 x 12"  Fabriano Artistico and Saunders - although Fabriano have this strange size of "12 x 18". We watercolourists are being taken to the cleaners!


Zvonimir said...

I read you report, thank you. I think the manufacturers can manipulate the prices because both the artists and the hobbyists, for strange reasons, choose paints in tubes. Watercolour emulsion in tubes is unstable; paints must be used relatively quickly after the purchase to avoid disappointment. That opens up an opportunity for the manufacturer to manipulate the prices because people must buy more, and more often. One would think that should lower the prices? That is not the case, because the production must be continuous, at increasing prices.

Now back to paints in tubes; many are buying them because hundreds of thousands of amateurs and hobbyists follow religiously what popular artists in the medium suggest. However, they should rather use common sense, but their inexperience costs them a fortune. Watercolour pans or cakes last longer, can not separate because they are not liquid but solid, and can be stored for many years. Pans are used more economically, in layers, the brush cannot pick up too much pigment at once, and the pigment is therefore less wasted.

There is one 'drawback', to this approach though; pans are not ideal when a watercolour star artist, sponsored by a manufacturer, comes to demonstrate, and, of course, chooses a full imperial sheet, then splashes luscious, colourful washes all over it. And we think, then fully mesmerised, we must do same, buy all those tubes, same paper, or at least, use half an imperial sheet size "to practice". In truth, everyone would be much better off if the sizes we 'choose' under such pressure are halved again to a quarter sheet size, and sizes of the brushes we choose are reduced too, red sable no 8 being the most expensive and largest round brush we would ever need, and paints we choose are solid pans that feed the brush moderately.

And instead of wet in wet, which requires large sheets, we choose wet against wet, and instead of painting weak compositions across large sheets we paint more controlled and thought out work at smaller sizes. We use less pigment too, smaller paper sizes, and yet vastly improve on understanding of composition and design, brush control too, which are primary elements and ingredients of good paintings, but so widely forgotten.

Floral said...

Have you looked at Cass art. They often have sales and offers. And free shipping.

Their series one schminke is selling for £7.90 and there's an offer for 6 for the price of 5.

I often order from them whenever there's someone to carry them all the way from the uk to me in Malaysia.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Floral. I'm aware of Cass Art. They opened a shop in Bristol not long ago. My view is Jacksons are the best combining excellent service with a wide range of products and keen pricing. of

daie said...
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abdulMuiz Chulan said...

I always wonder how the price of same pigment can differ from one manufacturer to another. I use rowney's cobalt magenta, venetian red and perylene maroon...they are all nice. Somehow, people often regard them as inferior to other brands just because they are cheaper.....

Polly said...

Hi Peter,

Your posts on paints are always interesting and this one is no exception.

You mention trouble with Quinacridone Violet paint solidifying in the tube and that it's wasted. I've had this happen occasionally with a tube of watercolour, usually the tiny 5ml ones. However I've never considered them wasted. A pair of snips will open the tube which can then be peeled off. The paint can be put in an empty pan and used as a pan paint. I haven't had this fail yet. A little water underneath the paint will usually be enough to secure it in the pan and if the vehicle has separated, the addition of a tiny drop of glycerine or honey and as much water as will cover the paint will soon have it in a mixable state. A cocktail stick or unbent paper clip is useful for this. It can then be allowed to dry out and used as a pan.

Regarding the Turner Watercolours, I have a few that I bought to try, single pigments and lightfast of course, and they have been excellent. Their Ultramarine Violet is particularly lovely. The usual advice applies, check out the pigments on eg. Colour of Art Database and Handprint etc and be aware of which multi pigment colours will work and which won't.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Polly. Actually it was Mineral Violet I was commenting on. Not only did the paint solidify it also turned a horrible sludgy brown colour. I know you can use solidified paint - providing it doesn't turn like the Mineral Violet did.
Interesting comments about Turner. They are so cheap compared to other makes. I\m still dubious though and you certainly need to be very selective but some good pigments are used and the single pigment paints could be value for money. Certainly the prices of the leading makes are reaching ridiculous levels.

Jeanne said...

I live in California, USA. Jerry’s has a great deal on Lucas Water Color paints but I am hesitant to buy them in case they are a waste of money. All of my paints are currently Winsor Newton and Senellier. Do you recommend them? How will they hold up when used in combination with my normal brands?

I am currently trying to find metallic watercolor paints. Do you have any that you recommend?