Monday, 17 September 2018

Another Batch

Here are more of  my recent paintings - I usually average two per week - again I'm not suggesting they are good just my work. I tend to post initially on my Facebook page and also on the group Watercolour Addicts. I recommend Watercolour Addicts as a  source of generally  good paintings - many much better than mine. I tend to get fairly low marks regarding 'likes' with others in the dozens and even hundreds. Still I keep on trying!



Deadly Hunter 16" x 12"
I was quite pleased with this but it didn't receive many likes when I posted it.



Stone Chat 16" 12"
I liked the simplicity of this one.




Grey Wagtail 12" x 9" Fluid




Mother and son 16" x 12"



Yellow Iris 16" x 12'
Flowers for a change


Another Deadly Hunter 16" x 12"
The eyes are not quite right. I keep thinking I may try and alter them. It can be done if you are careful.




Crested Tit - 12" x 9" Fluid




Friday, 14 September 2018

Latest Paintings

Here are my latest efforts, mainly at AVA Thursday meetings, although I frequently do the drawing the previous day. I find this often works best rather than drawing and painting in one session.



Young Indian Woman 16" x 11" watercolour




Jenny Wren 16" x 11" watercolour




Molly Spotted Elk - Penobscot Tribe 1903 15" x 11"



Busy Bee (Wasp Actually) 15" x 11"


Satanta - Kiowa Chief. Stonehenge Aqua not. Likeness not good. 16" x 12"



Exotic Bird (species unknown to me) 12" x 9"


Scottish Crossbill 12" x 9" Fluid Paper


Red Cardinal. 12" 9" Fluid Paper



Wild Flower Medley - 16" 12" 



Another Flower Painting 16" x 12"

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Watercolour Painting on a Budget - Pt 2 Brushes and Paper

Having covered paints I now come to brushes and paper, brushes being the first topic. 



From left to right: Robert Wade Signature Neef, Rosemary 401, Luxartis Kolinsky, Escoda Kolinsky, Da Vinci Casaneo, Cosmotop 5530 Mix-B, SAA Kolinsky

Of the above brushes Nos 1,2, 5 and 6 are not pure sable being various mixtures of either synthetic or natural hairs and synthetic.  The others are Labelled Kolinsky sables but here - while I am not suggesting that these brushes are not - I would refer you to the article/post I did on this subject.  See the Index in June 2014. It should be said before I go on that many famous artists use all sorts of brushes, often cheaper ones or good quality synthetics. The hand that wields the brush....

Sable brushes labelled 'Kolinsky' or even 'Red Sable' are incredibly expensive once you get past size 4.  It used to be after size 8 but prices now reach the stratosphere from 8 onwards. Even size 6 is expensive. However my suggestion, and it is only that, if you must have sables for detail buy either a 4,6 (or smaller) or both.

There are some excellent synthetic hair brushes on the market and the latest ones claim to emulate sable. This has been going on for years and John Yardley wrote that he'd been supplied synthetic brushes claiming to be similar to sable on numerous occasions and he considered the claims - after trying them - unfounded. However things move on. The best artist in my AVA group has always used Pro Arte Prolene brushes - usually seconds - but has now switched to Rosemary Series 401, a red sable blend, and is delighted with them, They give her the stiffness she likes but also hold more water than pure synthetic. The big thing about these blends is they are cheap the Rosemary 401 Size 8 is only £7.30p. How long they retain there points I don't yet know but then many highly rated sables aren't perfect in this respect.

What is available? Quite a lot actually so it is a question of trying some and deciding if they suit your purposes. My first picks are the Rosemary 400 series, with a large range of sizes and types. For overseas readers she exports World Wide and has an excellent catalogue - see my recent feature . The 400 series are red sable and synthetic blended together. Next - equally so - is the well-regarded Da Vinci Cosmotop Mix B  which is a mixture of  red sable, Russian blue squirrel and Russian Fitch (black sable) with small amounts of synthetic. Artists like Viktoria Prischedko  and Piet Lap use these brushes, available in a range of types and sizes.  Sable/synthetic mixes are also offered by Pro Arte, Winsor & Newton, Daler Rowney, Jacksons, the SAA and others. There is plenty of choice.  Both Princeton and Escoda are promoting their latest  brushes as 'Kolinsky Synthetics', claiming they emulate sable. They may well do but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Da Vinci have introduced a new range called 'Casaneo' in a variety of types and sizes claiming - once again - they emulate sable. We are spoiled for choice bewildering isn't it? The thing is though that all the above come in at prices that are a fraction of  sable prices, although there are cheap sable brushes on the market, perhaps best avoided.

As well as the brushes in the above photograph I have several other Kolinsky sables from makers like Da Vinci, many bought a while back at less than the current eye watering figures. My current main brushes are Isabey Kolinskys 6228 so I don't need to buy any more as they should last unless I live to well over 100!  Perhaps a slight exaggeration! That assumes I'd still be painting then. If I were to buy more it would be Rosemary 401 or Cosmotop 5530 .

I have much less to say about papers. There are lots available ranging from hand made and machine made cotton mixes to the cheaper papers, usually of synthetic mixes or 'high grade' wood pulp (Bockingford).  Some mix the two half and half, There are a few other types but the above is the mainstream. 

Bockingford has long been the choice of many amateurs in the UK while both Hahnemuhle ( Britannia and Cornwall) and Fabriano do cheaper papers that are decent. Another possibility is the Indian Khadi range of cotton papers at very reasonable prices in a large range of sizes and weights. Worth a try. Not everyone likes them  as they could be described as 'slightly rough' , but I do. I'm sure there are others I don't know or have  experience with.

Personally my favourite paper is Saunders Waterford High White in 16" x 12" blocks. Current price is £32 which is stiffish. You can get this paper in sheets which works out cheaper but my problem is a full sheet cuts into four 15" x 11" and I prefer the 16" x 12". I'm trying the Stonehenge Aqua cold press paper at the moment and it seems to me similar to the Waterford but works out slightly more expensive as the block has only 15 sheets. Fabriano Artistico Extra White is good but here I have size problems as they do an 18" x 12" block. In respect of the blocks the Waterford is very well made and holds together right until the final sheet whereas both the Fabriano and Stonehenge soon start falling apart. As far as paper is concerned some famous artists say that the one thing you shouldn't economise on is paper. I leave you with that thought.

Added: Zvonimir has pointed out that Arches and Khadi are hard papers that wear out sable brushes. I'm sure he is right and further states that's it's more sensible to use synthetics on hard papers. sables are better on softer papers with not or smooth surfaces.  He also says that it is better to use quality papers at lower weights ie 90lb than heavier synthetic papers. I've done this and it works unless you use heavy washes in which case you get severe buckling. You can stretch of course although I've done it successfully and it is a bit of a chore. I stopped when Robert Wade said he couldn't be bothered to stretch as he hadn't time!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Watercolour Paintings 46

Here are the latest batch to start off September. As usual they are a mixture to show the variety and versatility of watercolour with a little personal bias towards artists I  particularly like.


The wonderful Shirley Trevena. I have her first book and video, but to try and emulate her is not for the faint hearted!



Edo Hannema - superb landscapes



Janet Rogers - The excellent American artist 



Sir William Russel Flint - a legendary artist from the earlier era



Virgil Akins

Virgil has succeeded in developing his own unique style.




John Singer Sarjeant - enough said!




Jonathan Kwegyir  Aggrey



Bev Jozwiak.

The ever creative Bev is doing some painting on Yupo paper



Trevor Lingard




Robert Ferguson



Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey - I should have known!!!




Gerard Hendriks - one of a series of boat paintings




Karl Martens.
I recently came across this interesting artists who specialises in birds. His paintings are actually quite large.




Yuko Nagayama.

Unusual subject of a portrait for Yuko but brilliant as usual. Eat your heart out Ward!




Another from Shirley Trevena



Janine Gallizia.

Her paintings have this amazing ethereal look. I believe she's one of the founders of "The Art of Watercolour' magazine.



Jean Haines

Very loose - maybe just a tad too loose - only my opinion.




Joseph Zbukvic  - the well-known Australian Artist.





That's it folks. Hope you like them.



Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Watercolour Painting on a Budget 2018 PT 1 PAINTS





I have written previously on the above subject of  painting on a budget and due to the escalation of prices propose to revisit . First a qualification. The above title suggests  this is about the 'Best'. It isn't but instead about what I consider  'best buys' , combining price and quality. This isn't the same thing. Watercolour artists get ripped off  (in my opinion), especially in paints but also to a lesser extent in brushes and paper.  Professional artists nearly all recommend you buy 'the best quality products'. Some, not all, promote various brands, some telling you they are the 'best in the World' either being paid by the respective companies or supplied with product free for doing so or very cheap prices. I'm not saying all artists take this line but some undoubtedly do. The only one I know of that was very cynical about this was the late Ron Ranson, who used the cheapest materials in all three categories. I know of one artist who promoted a particular brand of paint then switched to another when the deal was withdrawn. Each was 'the best'. Enough of that now to a summary. These are only my opinions so you can take what you want from them or ignore them. There are a huge range of brands available in all these products so there may well be others I've missed , especially in the USA and other countries but my perspective is primarily a UK one. Daler Rowney, until recently a 'best buy'; have increased prices to the extent I've dropped them.  I would stress I am very flexible in buying paints taking the view nearly all artists quality brands are acceptable subject to personal preference.
Here prices of artist quality paints are horrendous. At the top end we have Daniel Smith, QoR and one or two lesser known. For the purpose of this exercise I have also discounted brands like Winsor & Newton at current prices. However look out for special offers and you may find them cheaper at some other outlets. I am only talking about what is currently on offer from Jacksons - a good benchmark. There are certain colours in these top brands that are 'must have' to some artists' Fair enough. Another might be Permanent Rose from Winsor & Newton (PV19). There are lots of paints made with PV19 but the Winsor & Newton one is a favourite of many flower painters.
The following are my recommendations as things stand. I'm in a slight state of flux at the moment as what to buy so put these forward for consideration. Schmincke are a good buy IF you are comparing them with brands like Daniel Smith. The range is extensive with over 100 colours and prices are cheaper than Daniel Smith .You have to watch though in what price category each paint is listed as there is no industry standard. Schmincke don't have a lot in category one - the cheapest. They also do a 5ml in addition to the 15ml plus half and full pans.
Another to look at is Talens (Rembrandt). They mainly do a 5ml tube but also a few colours in 21ml. Prices are pretty keen and if you only use a small amount of a certain colour I recommend  the 5ml size.
For bulk users the best buy is Lukas with a range of 70 colours, a few outstanding. They don't match the range of the others but all the standard colours are there. The problem may be they offer a 24ml tube size plus pans. This may be too large unless you paint a lot. Keep in mind though paints should last ten years or so, according to the chief chemist at Daler Rowney. However I have found that quite a few colours (pigments) solidify in the tube after much shorter periods, and that includes some from Daniel Smith. I know we are told to cut open the tubes and they can be utilised like pans but to me that's a pain! Lukas prices are excellent.
Another brand well worth consideration is Sennelier. With nearly 100 colours they also do 21ml (the best buy), 10ml plus full and half pans. Prices are a little more than Lukas but still well short of Daniel Smith.
There  are two other groups of paints outside of the main European and American brands - I would include Holbein here also. They are the Korean brands, Mission Gold and Shin Han plus the Japanese Turner. Prices are really cheap compared to the others - almost too good to be true. I have written extensively about them in my back catalogue so read it and make your mind up. I am minded to try a few colours in some of these brands but be selective. I did try Shin Han a few years ago and was not impressed but the current range may be different.
We then have the house brands which are growing all the time. They tend to have fewer colours, often less than fifty but claim to be 'artists quality'.  Jacksons, which used to be made by Sennelier (they may still be); is one with 48 colours and new ones seem to pop up regularly. All the major companies now seem to have them both here and in America. Try a few colours by all means and you may be pleasantly surprised. The SAA have a growing range.
Finally as I said at the beginning it's possible deals may be available at local shops that are normally more expensive. For instance I called in at Cass Art in Bristol the other day  and two shops from them is an outfit called Stationery World or similar. That shop has been there many years and I spotted some art materials in the window. On going inside I was surprised to see a full range of Maimeri watercolours together with the budget Venezia range, Prices were better than current Jacksons on the Maimeri and  Maimeris  excellent budget brand is normally hard to find. There is also the Cotman brand from Winsor & Newton together with the excellent Talens budget brand  Van Gogh if you are really strapped for cash - and many amateurs are. Thats it folks take your choice. For overseas visitors outside the EU Jacksons prices are less 20% VAT so even with carriage at cost only you may be pleasantly surprised how competitive they are.



Monday, 13 August 2018

New Products

I have recently been on holiday at Sidmouth on the Devon coast.  Sidmouth is a mecca for artists  and group called East Devon Art Centre or similar have been running workshops this year, of varying lengths, including such fine artists as Stephie Butler AND the amazing Viktoria Prischedko. originally from Moldavia but now living I believe in Germany.  There is a nice art shop there called South West Art. As a serial impulse buyer I can't pass them by so went in (twice) for a peruse. I finished spending just over £17, not much considering what art products cost, especially for watercolour so here  we go.




The Maskaway, Twist Grip Large Fan and the Pebeo dtawing gum "High Precision Masking Marker". 

Actually I bought the Pebeo in Minerva in Bath but have included it here. The Maskaway from Frisk is a square piece of hardfoam-like material for removing masking fluid. I've tried it once and it works fine so far. The blurb says it is easily cleaned and can be cut to shape for more detailed erasing.  `it can also be used to remove a wide range of sticky marks including adhesive tape, and cleans dirty paper or after using Tracedown". This cost £5,25p.

The brush is called a 'Twist -Grip' and this one is a large fan. There was quite a large range mostly rounds, and prices were pretty cheap this being less than £5. I've used it a couple of times and quite like it. Well-made. 

The Pebeo marker is similar to the one recently introduced by Molotow. I bought both the Molotow markers and one is already unusable. When I saw the similar Pebeo one I decided to try it also. There are two sizes 04 and 07. Larger then the Molotow which is 02 and 04. It's early days but already I prefer the Pebeo. I believe you can buy new heads. They are of a soft/hard material and you press down on them to release the fluid.but eventually, as happened with the Molotow, clog up. Maybe my technique is faulty so if you use masking fluid give them a try.




Catalyst By Princeton.

Princeton are an American brush maker and these 'things' are made in China.

When I was in the shop I saw this collection of strange looking brush-like tools and was intrigued by them. That shown, 12 inches in length, was the smallest and cheapest, most were much bigger with heads up to two inches across.!  Exactly what you are supposed to do with them I'm not sure but they are obviously designed for special effects. Whether that included watercolour I'm unsure and foolishly I didn't ask the young lady in the shop about them. Special effects seem to be all the rage at the moment and all sorts of special brushes and other things are being promoted in this field. I've played around with it a little using thick paint and it may be useful - we shall see.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Watercolour Magazines

I currently subscribe to the Watercolour Artist magazine and recently bought the latest quarterly edition of The Art of Watercolour. I'll explain why later




I had a short spell subscribing to this monthly magazine in 2014.  and have recently renewed. My main gripe is we have to pay such a premium in the UK to get it.  I get it from an online company. However each issue usually has a pre-paid card  to subscribe direct. I won't go into details but it is much cheaper in the USA - I paid £4.25p plus postage - about half.  Compared to The Art of Watercolour it is a smaller magazine of 72 pages with usually 6 articles and a number of columns. Artists like Ted Nugent and Fealing Lin have been featured in the past. Worth buying yes apart from the UK premium.




This is a glossy high quality production of 98 pages and is larger than the one above. When it was originally introduced I wrote a less than complimentary review of it. This provoked an anonymous post from some brave person who called me a moron. I had my suspicions it was a fairly high profile artist with whom I'd had a run in when he said Charles Reid recommended Escoda brushes. I pointed out I'd done several courses with CR and he always recommended DaVinci brushes. This didn't go down very well. Enough of that the reason I bought this copy, the 31st issue, was that Genevieve Buchanan a lovely lady I met on at least two Charles Reid workshops was featured. Genevieve has done lots more CR workshops than my five and also many others with artists like Alvaro Castagnet and John Yardley. It's obviously paid off.

I saw an advert for this issue, which a local newsagent stocks,  they usually only have two or three at most. I think it cost me £6.25p which not much dearer than Watercolour Artist given there is no postage involved. To be honest it  is a cut above but I had one other reason for my previous criticism and that was the elitist bent of the magazine. It seems mainly aimed at the higher levels of watercolour artists and if anyone disputes this then why run articles, at least one, with the theme of 'how to join the inner circle of watercolour artists'.  As one might judge from that I'm very much against elitism.

Genevieve's piece is based on her flower painting, although she does other subjects. I cannot really recall how she painted when we did the CR workshops together. Her style now is exceedingly loose and I have mixed feelings. I try to follow Charles Reid's mantra, with mixed success, of 'small areas of detail , large areas of generality'. To my eyes what is missing here are the small areas of detail. However who  I am, a struggling hobbyist, to say when she gets in this elite magazine and I get ......... Just kidding I know my limitations!

When I first started painting I bought Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines. Leisure Painter is very good for beginners. I recently discontinued The Artist as it seems to me to be in a rut and has very little on watercolour, certainly next to nothing on the amazing artists out there from other countries and continents. Perhaps I've just become more cynical as I'm now well into old age and realise it's a case of not falling off the perch rather than improving much. I asked a painter friend of mine, sadly now deceased, at what stage one stopped  improving. His reply was it wasn't a case of improving but trying to stop the rot.