Tuesday 9 November 2010

Charles Reid's 10-Lesson Course

When I reviewed Charles Reid's Watercolour Landscape Masterclass DVD I said I would shortly post a review of his `10-Lesson Course'. This has taken rather more time than anticipated as this is a three DVD set totalling four hours. Rather a lot to digest. I also had mixed views about it at first - not negative by any means - but I wanted to think about how to present a reasoned view and this involved several viewings and some thought. The reason I was in a slight quandary was how to interpret the value to those who are at different stages of the Charles Reid experience. Charles has many followers, of which I am one, but these vary from newly interested artists to those who have been following him for years.

I already have 11 books and the same number of DVDs, all of which are either well-thumbed or well-viewed. As a result much of what appears has been well covered previously although not all at the same time. I especially value his book and accompanying DVDs `Painting Flowers in  Watercolour', North Light Books/David & Charles 2001 and his most recent  `Watercolour Solutions'. What happens here is that  information on Charles basic approach and all his tecniques are fully explored and then some. All of it is valuable but to someone like me the best sections are 9 and 10. This involves one of Charles magnificent flower paintings and he finishes with some interesting observations such as a discussion and explanation of triads. A disappointment is that portrait and figure painting don't feature at all but obviously to include everything would involve a four or even five video set which is impractical. Come on Charles lets have an up to date Portrait video! Figure painting has been covered in at least two other video releases, one some time ago, one more recent although both are still obtainable.

What do the video's cover? Disc 1  lessons 1 to 5 which involve setting up, brushwork & water to paint ratio, using local colour, mixing colours, tying in cast shadows and finally mixing greens. Disc 2 lessons 6 to 8 contour drawing and green still life, edges and emphasis and finally composition and contour drawing. The third part covers lessons 9 and 10 when Charles paints a large still floral life and then discusses mixing triads with a final review of the painting. As you can see everything is there and to those embarking on the Charles Reid experience this set is a must. As for fans like me I'm glad I have it and I think it is something to study now and then to avoid regressing, which I find is a problem. Of course I don't claim to be able to paint like Charles, much as I'd like to, but I keep trying and live in hope.

I was motivated to complete this review because the latest issue of The Artist magazine, December 2010, has an advert from http://www.paintfix.com/, who produced and sell the DVDs. They are offering free EU shipping until December 31st. Cost of the full 3 video course is $99.95 with individual videos $39.95. A good Xmas present!

Friday 29 October 2010

More on Daniel Smith Watercolours

I have now received two Daniel Smith paints, Quinacridone Gold (PO49) and Quinacridone Fuschia (PR202). Five others have just been ordered Cobalt Teal Blue (PG50), Quinacridone Coral (PR209), Quinacridone Pink (PV42), Burnt Tigers Eye (Primatek) and Indigo (PB60,PBk6). Due to the price being so high compared to other leading makes, including Windsor & Newton, I am being selective. Indigo may not seem so but I am intrigued that the DS version is based on PB60, the darkest blue of all, Certainly paints made with PR209, PG50 are available in other ranges but come highly recommended.

Interestingly Daniel Smith offer a `66 Try-it Color Sheet', available from Jacksons at £3.99p  http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/   . This comprises four rows of Primatek colours at the top, four `Quinacridone, Cadmium & More' ' in the middle and three Luminescent colours at the bottom.

Daniel Smith 66 Try-it Color Sheet

A closer look.

In addition a small three colour sheet is free. This comprises Indigo, Hansa Yellow and Quinacridone Burnt Orange (`One of our most popular colors').
Three Colour Trial Sheet.

On the trial sheet the most interesting one is `Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48). This is a fairy new pigment only offered I believe by Smith, Graham and DaVinci at the moment. I would describe it as a `glowing' Burnt Sienna - bright red-orange is Smith's description - , Hansa Yellow is PY97 and Indigo is PB60/PBk6.

I am intrigued by the Primatek range but they are expensive and before buying  I suggest you read what Bruce McEvoy has to say in his very extensive analysis of this range.  www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/primatek.html . Many of the American artists who post on the Wetcanvas forum love Daniel Smith watercolours. The unique paints like the Primateks also have many fans.

Jacksons have already been out of stock of some sizes, including Q Gold and currently Q Rose so I suspect these paints are already moving. For amateurs though price is a big problem, probably also for some professionals. Currently the Daniel Smith paints are more expensive than W & N, Daler Rowney, Maimeri and Scminke to name just four leading makes. Are they worth it?  A full list of the Daniel Smith range is available on the website with full pigment details www.danielsmith.com/item--i-G-284-600Q

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Luxartis and Brush Sizes

I recently purchased a Luxartis Size 10 Kolinsky sable. Luxartis brushes are used by the artist Jake Winkle www.jakewinkle.co.uk/ and it appears his wife runs the brush business www.luxartis.biz/ . Jake Winkle is an up and coming British artist of the younger generation and appears to be strongly influenced by John Yardley. His website is well worth a look.

The Luxartis site is an excellent one, well put together and very informative. It claims to use the highest quality Kolinsky sable which I don't dispute - I just don't know. As well as pointing out that there is no standard for brush sizes amongst manufacturers it also claims that the Luxartis brush heads are in general - but not always - longer and slimmer than many other makes.

From the top: SAA Kolinsky size 10, DaVinci Maestro 10 size 10, SAA size 8, Escoda 1212 size 10,
 DaVinci size 8, Luxartis size 10.
The first thing to notice is the difference in the size of the brush heads. The SAA (reputedly made by Raphael) and the Maestro are much larger. The SAA size 8 is marginally larger than the Escoda 10 with the Maestro size 8 a similar size. The smallest is the Luxartis size 10.  Price for the SAA 10, only available to members,  is £32.00p but they also do an excellent set of five which includes both the 8 (separately £20.00p) and the 10 for £47.99p. This is only available to members or affiliated art clubs or perhaps you know someone who is a member. The Maestro size 10 costs £41.25p and size 8 £22.70p. The Escoda 1212 size 10 is £19.30p. Jacksons http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/  sell  these and also an own brand `Tajmir Kolinsky' at £17.35p which is obviously made by Escoda. The Luxartis size 10 costs £10.95p. This, despite the smaller brush head stills looks a very good buy. I have yet to try mine out but will report in due course. The rough equivalent in actual size to the SAA and DaVinci 10's would be the Luxartis size 14 or even perhaps the 16 at £19.95p and £24.95p respectively.

 To sum up prices of Kolinsky sable brushes are relatively affordable up to size 8.  After that prices can rocket due to the larger amounts of hair in the brush. Not  all brands though with the W & N Series 7 size 8 costing £86.80p! Can it possibly be worth it?  Raphael series 8404 10 £55.30p and 8 £31.90p. Isabey are close to Raphael in price. It appears there is much more tail hair in both the SAA and DaVinci brushes which size for size are generally much larger. Escoda sizes are smaller but well priced and of high quality. Luxartis are even smaller and if the 10 is typical don't seem longer as they claim, but are very well priced even so. Is the quality up to that of the others? I would also suggest Rosemary and Co http://www.rosemaryandco.com/ are also well worth considering. The series 33 Kolinsky are good and the cream of the lot is series 22, which is more expensive at £25.15p for size 8 and £44.45p for size 10. Brush head sizes stand up well when compared to the others. There are also several other prominent makes like Stratford and York, Pro Arte and Daler Rowney. We also have Rekab, the well regarded and priced Israeli brand, which is becoming easier to obtain in the UK. These manufacturers all list Kolinsky sable ranges. Prices shown are from current catalogues in my possesion, or in the case of Luxartis on the website and may change soon with the planned VAT increase.

Monday 11 October 2010

Daniel Smith Watercolours (or is it watercolors!)

At long last the good news is that the acclaimed Daniel Smith range of watercolour paints, 247 colours and rising, is now available in the UK via Jacksons http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/  or e-mail sales@jacksonsart.co.uk.
The bad news is that price is a problem, not so much for the professional artist perhaps but  certainly  for the amateur. While this range has a whole raft of unique colours and is widely praised by American artists as ` the best'  UK prices are higher than those in the USA and dearer than Windsor & Newton, as well as ALL  other leading makes. Are they worth it? Time will tell. The other benefits of the DS range, apart from the huge choice  http://www.danielsmith.com/ are a very high number of single pigment paints, high pigment content and a formulation that means the paints can be easily re-wetted.

With Graham http://www.mgraham.com/  now being stocked by Lawrence of Hove http://www.lawrence.co.uk/ and also the new Da Vinci range http://www.davincipaints.com/ we have the three leading American brands. Without doubt they are a serious combined threat to the long standing supremacy of Windsor & Newton. I have already ordered two colours to try, a small sample true but I am very well stocked with paints at the moment! I shall certainly buy more over time but I already have a good number of Grahams.

The ones ordered are Quinacridone Gold (PO49) and Quinacridone Fuschia (PR202). I am told by American friends on the Wetcanvas forums that the Quinacridones are particularly lustrous, but they have many other favourites. DS have apparently  bought  the remaining stocks of PO49 and are probably the sole source of this unique pigment, which has been discontinued by the usual producers. Many of these pigments are developed for the automotive industry and if they drop the colour then demand from the art world is insufficient to keep production going. Maimeri supposedly still offer Golden Lake which proclaims `quinacridone' on the tube but also details the pigment as `PV49'. A question to Maimeri about this went unanswered!  PV49? A  mistake it seems because this is an uncommon violet pigment (DS may offer it|) but what actually is in this paint?The Maimeri version is gritty and slightly greasy not at all like the original W & N version which unfortunately is now a three pigment mix. I still just happen to have two full pans of the original W & N version.

Friday 1 October 2010

A Change of Mood

White Ladies 12" x 12" Waterford Not

Recently I have been agonising, possibly too strong a word, about what to paint. Certainly portraits in the general style of Charles Reid are high on the list but what other subjects? Like many would-be artists I began with landscapes but the attraction of these has dimmed, although not entirely. I do like painting out of doors because there is nothing quite like it and old buildings, particularly those with thatched roofs, hold a strong appeal. 

Still lifes also interest me, again in the manner of Charles Reid, incorporating flowers, fruit, cups, and other objects, sometimes in association with a  portrait. The other day I decided to suspend the portraits, at least for a day or two, and have a shot at flowers with associated fruit. Gathering what flowers remained in the garden I set up a still life and off I went.  The result was so so but my wife didn't care for it and, after reflection, neither did I.  Feeling somewhat depressed I decided to have another try with a different approach. A company called  `Whistlefish'  have opened a gallery in Bath, adding to the already large number. How they will fare remains to be seen but they are an interesting company originating in Cornwall with several newly opened outlets. http://www.whistlefish.com/ . What is the connection? On browsing the Bath shop, and also the one at Looe in Cornwall, I noticed they were selling very attractive self-assembly frames complete with everything including mounts. These come in three frame sizes, small, medium and large, with white my preferred choice. I rather liked the medium size, cost £20, the large, interior 51cm x 34cm, being £25. The interior of the medium is 12" x 12" and it struck me as a good size for flower painting, concentrating on the flowers and omitting the rest. Above is the result. I used pan colours and mine are a mixture of W & N, Schminke, Maimeri and Rembrandt with W & N predominating. I also, almost a first for me, made the drawing and painting standing up at my `Alvaro', as opposed to the  table easel. Brushes were Sizes 9  and 6 Rosemary series 33 Kolinsky, plus a size 4 long handled W & N Cirrus and a small rigger. I rather like the result. What do you think? I invite comments as I do on all my posts.

Monday 20 September 2010

More Amerindians

Geronimo. Chiricahua Apache 1898 http://www.firstpeople.us/

Geronimo is one of the most famous indian leaders. He is famous, infamous at the time, as his band of 36, including 20 women and children were the last hostile indians to surrender on September 4th 1886. This in effect brought an end to the Indian wars, although the Ghost Dance problems  with the Crows in 1887 and the Sioux in 1890 post dated his surrender. Geronimo, who led the band with Naiche Cochise's son,  was hunted by 5000 soldiers and Apache scouts under General Miles. Without the assistance of fellow Apaches  hostile to Geronimo they would probably still be free. As it is very small numbers of Apaches remained thereafter in the wild mountains of Northern Mexico and reports of them raiding continued into the 1920's. Their descendants  may still be there. The above photograph was taken at the Trans Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, 1898 when Geronimo would be nearly 70.

This is Geronimo, on the right, at around the time of his final surrender. He would be about 57. Contrast this with his later more civilized appearance when he appeared in circuses and generally capitalized on his fame, including selling pictures of himself..

Geronimo. Waterford 16" x 12" Not  Second Version

Geronimo. Fabriano Artistico 15" x 11" Not First Version

The reason for two versions is that I first did the version above in a sort of rosy sepia colour. There is a story why I did  but I won't bore you with it. Initially I was pleased  but gradually realised the colour did not reflect the dark side of Geronimo, the hard eyes and slash of a mouth. I then did the second version with slightly different dimensions. Comparing the two I thought I might be able to improve the intial painting and put some additional washes on it to darken both the face and the hat, with slight touches on the clothing. Colours used were Cadmium Red Pale, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue. Touches of Hookers Green around the eyes with Viridian and Permanent Carmine for the tie. Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Quinacridone Gold also featured in the clothing with Ultramarine and either Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna for the darks. I an fairly pleased with both these portraits.  

Sunday 19 September 2010

Charles Reid's Checklist

Having attended three CR courses, own most of his books and videos, I have compiled a list of bullet points that Charles constantly emphasizes. Here they are in no particular order.

1. First Squint - less is more -is image dark against light - light against dark?

2. Vary finish. Adjust value and colour intensity throughout painting.

3. When short of time begin with darks.

4. Shadow and cast shadow shapes are painting foundation, close in tonal value, but colours varied and mixed on paper.

5. Accurate shapes.

6. Patience and timing! Don't hurry!

7. Basics. Shapes, good tonal value, first try and lose boundaries when two similar tonal values meet.

8. Magic Triangle (1). Three dominant colours or local value shapes form a triangle within painting, two near two of the boundaries and third nearer third boundary or closer to edge.

9. Mix on paper. Less mixing cleaner and clearer colours.

10. Magic Triangle (2). Find two or three elements that you really want to paint. Paint as carefully as possible then omit or simplify rest.

11. Design your page. using areas of explicit detail.

12. Place People first.

13. Edge Control. Soften edges when painting. Squint if easy to see make it hard, if difficult  soften.

14. Paint what's offbeat.

15. Background should support subject but not dominate! Is something in background essential or potentially dangerous? If so leave out!

16. Buildings. Darker tones and detailed towards top. Simplify and lighten middle section, darker tones and more detail at base.

17. Creating success. A. Shapes, local value and edges. B. Colour.

18. When outdoors always paint from dark to light.

19. Buildings. NEVER paint your minds conception of a building. Paint a collection of beautiful colour and shapes, that suggest a building.

20. Loosening up is a state of the mind!

21. Clean palette regularly when painting.

I've just added  points 20 and 21 (20 -09 -10). I should have said earlier that while I would like to say I follow all the above religiously that isn't always the case. One gets carried away - at least I do - and sometimes (often?) plunge in where others fear to tread. There is a dilemma with watercolour that centres around the spontaneous nature of it. Charles and others talk about `happy' accidents (and unhappy ones) and to adopt an over deliberate approach can mitigate against the wonderful possibilities of this medium. Many will disagree, especially those who go in for super realism. Each to his own I say. One of the points above says don't hurry but take your time. In the two artists I mostly lean to, Charles Reid and Judi Whitton, they both take regular breaks when painting.   

I should emphasize that the above is the Charles Reid way. Other artists may well differ and offer completely opposite `rules'. When I read my first CR book, the 2001 flower painting one, I found it difficult to assimilate the quite different approach he advocated. I put it to one side but found myself returning  and gradually becoming interested and then a convert. I should say I am not a sycophantic follower, some of whom you meet on his courses. I don't  rave about everything Charles does, being especially interested in his portrait, figure, and still life work, the latter combining flowers and other objects. There is good stuff in the other subjects he paints but those are my priorities.

I mentioned different approaches. This is something the would-be artist should beware. Different artists say different things and some of it is very contradictory. It is easy to become confused and this - to me - is the problem. Don't take what anyone says as gospel - they aren't always right. This is particularly so regarding things like paint choices. I may post something more on these lines at a future date with examples to prove my point. Regarding the above though I feel much of what Charles says can be usefully applied, regardless of whatever style you choose.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Latest Amerindian

Bull Tongue - Absaroke or Crow Indian Chief 

I have no other details about this individual or the date at which the photograph was taken. The Crow were a numerous tribe of horse indians who traversed large areas of what is now the United States. www.firstpeople.us/

Moldau A3 Not 280gsm
I finally received the consignment of Moldau watercolour paper from the Czech Republic that I have been seeking since late last year. The paper has one surface which is Not like and the weight is 280gsm (130lb) rather than the normal 300gsm. There is also a 200gsm weight (90lb) and a much heavier one. The paper is composed of 60% cotton 40% linen and  hand made.

 The Velke Losiny Mill http://handmadepaper.tripod.com/13en.htm that produce it has been in business since 1492! It is expensive finally costing over £2 a sheet. I say finally because it was difficult to find out exactly what it was going to cost based on an initial price list from the mill giving prices in euros with no carriage charges, which were guessed at. This all resulted in my having to pay a supplement as there was also 20% Czech Vat to be added. They initially sent the wrong weight (200gsm) and quantity so be aware. Why did I go through this tortuous process and was it worth it?  At my last Charles Reid course in 2009 he was using this paper and spoke highly of it, although he said it was not quite as soft as Fabriano. A little later Bruce McEvoy of the Handprint site http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/paper2k.html gave it a very enthusiastic review.

As a result of my initial enquiries to the mill, which I posted about way back - e.mails replied to in Czech etc etc I virtually gave up when a little later received a communication from John Vydra, who said he had been appointed UK agent for the mill. His address is : Bohemia Company, Mr.John Vydra, 3 Medesenge Way, London, N13 6DZ e.mail Kvydra@aol.com.
I don't blame John for the sloppy way the Mill does business as he did his best so if you want some of this high grade paper then don't expect it to be as easy or clear as if ordering from Jacksons! In the USA
 it is much better as you can order the full range from Italian Art http://italianartstore.com/store/VelkeLosinyMoldau.html . A 25 pack of 280gsm A3 is $89.95 presumably plus carriage. This works out at over £2 a sheet given current exchange rates. Italian Art say it is "their best selling hand made paper"

I have only used one sheet so far so will defer judgement. It will have to be good to pay roughly twice as much as Fabriano Artistico.

Sunday 22 August 2010


Shot-in-the-Eye Oglala Sioux 1898 courtesy  www.firstpeople.us/

Shot-in-the-Eye was an Oglala Sioux who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, where he was wounded and lost an eye. What he was called prior to this battle is unknown. This was the famous battle in which General George Armstrong Custer, a very controversial figure in American history, was killed together with nearly 300 troopers of the 7th Cavalry. The Sioux, with some Cheyennes and possibly Arapahoes,, amassed a huge force of several thousand warriors and overwhelmed the numerically inferior cavalry. Custer had earlier split his force for which he has been heavily criticized. This was the last desperate attempt by the plains indians to maintain their traditional ways and within less than two years they were confined for ever more to reservation life. The above photograph, which has been edited, was taken at the US Indian Congress Trans-Missisipi and International Exposition in 1898. He died about 1910.

My initial drawing together with  work on the features and skin tones.

Shot-in-the Eye. Waterford Not 16" x 11"

I used Cadmium Red Light and Yellow Light together with Ultramarine Blue plus Cerulean for the features and skin tones. The red colour is Windsor and Newton Permanent Carmine, otherwise, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold (Maimeri), Raw Umber and touches of Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna plus some Viridian (Rowney), Brushes used were nos 2, 4, 6 Kolinsky sable plus my Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Kolinsky mop.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Palettes Pt 2

Part one discussed the many plastic palettes on offer, indeed many were omitted, but suffice to say a huge range costs from as little as 50p upwards to near £30 ($42), the majority under £20 ($28). They are freely available from art shops and the large mail order specialists. I also covered the cheaper empty metal palettes, again freely available via mail order, with the largest and dearest upwards of £30 ($42). What you pick is a matter of personal choice depending upon cost and how you paint. Obviously large flat or round brushes and large washes call for a large pallette, or deep enamel pans of various sorts.Plein air painting needs a smaller  more convenient palette, although Mel Stabin uses his John Pike palette for all his painting, including plein air. See his setup in his Watson Guptill book `Watercolor, Simple, Fast and Focussed'.  

Of these sorts my preference is the John Pike for studio work, although I use my Craig Young Paintbox and even the Sketcher's box, for virtually all my paintings, studio or plein air. I also like the Zoltan Szabo palette, albeit it is flimsy being vacuum formed. Other than that I would opt for a large empty metal box and fill it with half and full pans.

My Craig Young Palettes. Two in British Racing Green the other brass.

The same palettes open. The Palette Box is yet to be christened.

Craig Young palettes are very expensive. That is a given so either many artists cannot afford to pay so much or prefer to have a cheaper option. I don't disagree with that as buying them is something of an indulgence, although many top professional artists have one or other and many serious amateurs. Charles Reid, who previously used a Holbein now has at least four from Craig Young and personally requested he make the Sketcher's box. Judi Whitton has a Sketcher's Box with 20 wells instead of sixteen and I have a small four well extension to clip onto mine. Craig is open to special requests.

The discussion about Craig's boxes on Wetcanvas tilted towards buying one or other of the better quality `heavy duty' boxes, used by Winsor and Newton, complete with either half or full pans of paint.  These  boxes come at a high price, especially if you already have most of the colours. They are a great Xmas or birthday present! The question was asked were they available empty and soon information was flowing from posters giving the options. Some `professional' boxes are listed by the suppliers highlighted in Part one but tend to be isolated examples. What are the alternatives? There are two main ones, either from Holbein or made by the Italian metal working specialists  Fome www.fome.it/.

In the UK Heaton Cooper  http://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/ list 12 empty metal palettes, four from Holbein (250/350/500/1000) and four from an unidentified manufacturer (possibly Fome) that are `hand enamelled'. The remaining four are logo'd Scminke and are the lightweight sort. They are all very well illustrated on the website with plenty of information. Prices of the hand-enamelled models range from £18.45  (approx. $26) to £54.95 (approx.$75)  with three having 12 half pan wells and one full pans. Heaton Cooper tend to be expensive and charge carriage extra. The other source is Jacksons http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/  who have just added Holbein to their range, so new that they are not in the most recent catalogue. Search the website for `holbein palettes'. Prices are cheaper than Heaton Cooper and no carriage charges are applied if your total order exceeds £39 UK or £100 Europe. Other destinations ring for a quote. There may well be other sources but these are the only ones I know about as things stand. If further information comes to hand I'll post it.

In the USA one source of a heavy duty palette has been identified as Natural Pigments www.naturalpigments.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_id=624-2096. This is a heavy duty box with 12 wells that sells at $57. According to Robert Armas, who has ordered one and is waiting delivery (delayed), the name Rublev, which appears on many of the products on the site, is involved and he suspects it could be Russian in origin rather then the Italian Fome. Actually it is listed as a Fome. I have not looked at any of the other major USA mail order specialists yet but I'd be surprised if names like Dick Blick, Jerry's, Cheap Joe's and Art Express had nothing similar to offer.

A final word. Look at this website http://www.greenandstone.com/. This old company are in Chelsea, London and sell, amongst other things, antique palettes. I'm not suggesting you buy one but have a look if you are interested . Not a Binning Munro nor a Roberson in sight however!  

Monday 9 August 2010

More Plein Air Paintings & Our Latest Project

A week last Thursday I painted at Newton St Loe. It should have been at Victoria Park in Bath but that is another story. Here is the result.

The Church at Newton St Loe.18" x 14" 152lb Veneto Not

I wasn't going to post this one but after looking at it a few times decided to take the plunge. Drawing wise everything is pretty much in the right place  and I simplified the scene. I was positioned just in front of the monument on the left and started the drawing at the front of the entrance in the centre. As usual I attempted to do this by modified contour drawing, drawing then stopping, leaving the pencil on the paper while comparing each section to get the proportions right. This doesn't always work for me - I'm not Charles Reid - but is not bad in this instance. Newton St Loe is a delightful village on the western outskirts of Bath. Apart from one residence all the others belong to the Duchy of Cornwall - in other words Prince Charles - and there is a waiting list to rent the various cottages, including some lovely thatched buildings. It isn't tiny and has a village shop with an annual fete on May day. My AVAS group usually put on an exhibition in the church during the fete. Prince Charles occasionally flies in by helicopter as the Duchy have a regional office.

Regarding the painting I used Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Gold Ochre, Ultramarine Violet, some blues and other yellows plus Burnt Sienna. I am almost out of the true Quinacridone Gold and am trying Gold Ochre instead. Ah yes some Permanent Carmine in the roofs.

Thomas a Becket Church Pensford 18" x 14" 152lb Veneto Not

Last Thursday my Avon Valley Artists Group, seven of us, painted at a small village called Pensford several miles south of Bristol. All those present decided to paint this ancient building formerly a church but now, would you believe, being converted into a private residence. The church dates back to the 14th century but was badly damaged in the 1968 floods when the River Chew burst its banks and reached unheard of levels. It was then abandoned and has been rotting ever since but in 2008 was bought for repair (it is a listed building) to be turned into a home. Apparently the couple who bought it have four children.  When we were painting a lady invited us to look inside and see how the conversion was going and several did but I continued painting. I'm just amazed that anyone would want to live in it. The church itself is not enormous and is surrounded by a modest amount of ground but, as you will see from the painting, filled with gravestones, some of which appeared recently tended!  According to the lady it is to be the subject of a television programme. I cannot imagine how much all this will cost. The owner must be a banker or financier.

I'm not really into painting churches but decided to have a try and took the porch in the centre rear as the focal point. That porch is in need of repair looking at the state of the roof and the background was a sea of green from the surrounding trees. Other than that there were gravestones everywhere. Perhaps I should have left them out, or at least most of them. I painted almost exclusively with a number 14 round Escoda Kolinsky-Tajmyr Series 1214 retractable (Jacksons) to try and avoid being too tight. Colours used, lots of blues and yellows to get varied greens, Ultramarine and Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna for the darks, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Gold Ochre (Windsor & Newton) for the buildings and I used Cyan Blue (Maimeri) mixed with Cadmium Orange (Maimeri) for various shades of grey. Possibly a few other touches such as Green-Gold (PY129) Rowney.

Our next project

This is me working on our next project. The subject and photos were supplied by Mick. This is my `studio' a converted bedroom. My wife keeps wanting to sort it out as I have stuff everywhere. You can see why I wear a cap most of the time when outside.

This is where I draw and paint when not outdoors. The drawing is partially completed.


Sunday 8 August 2010

Palettes Part One

I joined the wetcanvas forum a few weeks ago www.wetcanvas.co./forums/  and an interesting discussion has taken place about palettes, driven by some of the posters discovering the Craig Young hand-made versions. Several appear to have ordered them and according to one poster the waiting time is now a year and the prices he quoted (in dollars) indicated they had risen steeply compared to when I purchased mine.  Some of the contributors appeared a little confused with what to buy when balancing cost against functionality. As a result, and due partly to new information about what is available and where I decided to do this piece.

First of all watercolour palettes come in various shapes and sizes from small to (very) large. If you are painting on say half sheets or larger and use big brushes size 16 and above and large flats, 1" or more, then it is obvious you need a big palette. Not everyone uses conventional palettes and various sorts of flat trays are used by artists, including some top professionals. Butcher's metal trays of different sizes and/or the flat plastic ones sold in some kitchen shops can be perfectly adequate. With such trays you squeeze out paint from tubes. This method is normally associated with limited palettes of 6 to 9 colours.  You can mix large quantities of paint but it can be wasteful with what remains and is then washed off.

The above selection of palettes includes two of the largest, the John Pike (A) which is on the left hand side complete with lid, which can also be used as another mixing area. The Robert Wade Palette (B) is at middle bottom with the lid, also used for mixing, touching to the left. Top centre is a muffin tray (E) (as used by the artist Trevor Waugh) and to the left (D) is a plastic palette of a type commonly available. Centre is the Zoltan Szabo palette (C). The three remaining palettes in the top left hand position are top a cheap aluminium version (F) commonly available and underneath the smallest palette, a Windsor and Newton plastic one (G) with an empty metal palette (H) of the sort commonly available but in this instance filled with empty full pans. I have labelled each palette with a letter A to H, but you may need to click on the photo and enlarge it to see the letters clearly.

What you need and what you should obtain depends on how you paint and whether you use tubes or half/full pans. The other criteria is how large you paint because in my experience most amateurs paint fairly small. These are only a selection of palettes that come in four basic materials, plastic, metal, ceramic and porcelain. There are other sorts but not usually used for watercolours. The John Pike palette is American  and all the information you need is here http://www.johnpikeartproducts.com/. The Robert Wade palette is obtainable in the UK from www.apvfilms.com/ . The JP palette is very popular with professionals like Mel Stabin www.melstabin.com/ and in his book `Watercolor, Simple, Fast and Focussed'  is illustrated more than once as he uses it for everything including his plein air painting! I'm not sure about the Zoltan Szabo palette as he is deceased (as is John Pike) but it is probably still available if you Google it. Added Note: Yes it is. Try www.ZoltanSzabo.com/ Wade and Szabo palettes are vacuum formed whereas the Pike palette, those from Herrings and several others are made from much stronger materials.

What is readily available? In the UK we have Ken Bromley, Jacksons, Lawrence, Herrings and several others possible suppliers. Great Art are German but have a UK telephone ordering number. Great Art have palettes from 85p up to a `professional' box with 48 large wells (!) costing £133.40p. Try Great Art http://www.greatart.co.uk/ . The enormous catalogue stretches to nearly 400 pages. Jacksons, who tend to be the most popular supplier amongst my artists group http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/  list a large number and have recently added the superior and more expensive Holbein metal palettes. They are not yet in the catalogue but are on the website. Bromley http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/ also list a good number including the plastic Maxwell palette `designed by artists'. Herrings are interesting because the Herring brothers (and family) are enthusiastic artists and have introduced a range of artists products `designed by artists for artists'. These include several palettes plus other items like easels. Herrings also sell two `professional' metal empty boxes. Herrings have a website http://www.frankherringandsons.com/ but it is still under construction and art materials are not yet on it. Most of the above also sell various empty, lightweight, metal boxes, cheaper and not to be compared with the more expensive heavy duty `professional' sorts.   

Here are three typical metal boxes, purchased empty and filled with a mixture of half and full pans. I suggest half pans for the least popular colours and full pans for the colours you use most often. You can purchase empty full and half pans at both Jacksons and Bromley and some of the others and fill them from tubes or  half and full pans from manufacturers like Windsor and Newton. Not every paint manufacturer offers both half and full pans.  One of my local art shops in Bath (Minerva) also sells them in packets of ten. You may note two of the boxes above have the Scminke Logo. Some of these boxes, very similar whatever the source, have logos like Scminke, Rembrandt and Lukas. others nothing. They are basically cheap enamelled metal so don't compare them with the more expensive heavy duty palettes I shall cover in Part Two. They do the job if price is an issue but won't last more than two or three years with heavy usage.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Latest Plein Air

Actually it isn't but the one I did today is far too light, the Church at Newton St Loe,  and I've already put it on the ever growing reject pile. I would probably have been pleased with it a year or three ago but no longer.

Pat's back garden 16" x 12" waterford Not

This was painted last Saturday on our second 2010 visit to Pat's house at a village on the outskirts of Bristol.  Weather was fine, a little cloudy but warm and I painted a scene looking through a gap between bushes. The main feature is the urn but following Charles Reid's dictum of not having a particular centre of interest decided to modify it and added several flowers. Actually they were  growing in a border behind and to the side of where I sat so it's my own composition. I think it works quite well. Colours used included , Permanent Rose (W & N),Carmine (W & N), Quinacridone Gold (Maimeri), Ultramarine Violet (Rowney), Hookers Green (Maimeri), combinations of various blues and yellows, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber. Oh yes and Raw Umber.

Latest Indian Portraits

I'm still beavering away and here are the latest:

Big Bear Cree Chief 1895
Waterford 16" x 12" Rough

Big Bear was involved in the Riel rebellion of 1895 in Canada. He actually tried to prevent his followers from taking part but to no avail. He was captured and imprisoned for two years, dying one year after release. The painting depicts him after capture, actually in chains in the original full length photograph.

Wanduta Lakota Sioux. Waterford 16" x 12" Rough

This was my second attempt at Wanduta and I think it much better than the previous one on the blog.

Apache Warrior 1880's 16" x 12" Waterford Rough

This is better than  the previous one shown on the blog but I am still not entirely satisfied - not that I ever reach 100% satisfaction far from it - and may try again.

I painted the features with my usual mix of Cadmium Red  Light and Cadmium Yellow Light but actually used a colour new to me, Windsor and Newton's Gold Ochre (PY42). This was used quite a lot instead of Cad Yellow and Raw Sienna. I rather like it. It is a rich golden yellow and was introduced in W and N's most recent changes to their colour range. Blues used were Cobalt, quite a lot of Ultramarine and a little Cerulean. I used the Ultramarine to get a darker face mix. Notice `Waterford Rough'. I normally use NOT papers but these Indian portraits do seem to suit it. On the Apache portrait I introduced Quinacridone Rust from Graham (PO48) in the clothing on the right hand side. It is rather brighter than Burnt Sienna - a lovely colour. Other colours used, other than in the features, include Ultramarine Violet (PV15 Rowney), Burnt Umber (Maimeri), Quinacridone Gold (PO49 Maimeri) and Permanent Alazarin (W and N). I forget to mention a touch of Hookers Green in the eye sockets and Black for the pupils.

As for brushes for the features I used two long handled Windsor and Newton Cirrus, Nos 2 and 4, Either Da Vinci or Rosemary Kolinsky No.6, and for the rest my Da Vinci Artissimo 44 No 2 Kolinsky Mop. This latter is a lovely brush roughly equivalent in size to a normal number 14. I also paint fairly upright.

Friday 23 July 2010

Latest Indian Portrait

L Amatruda Amalfi Hand Made Paper 15" x 11"
Wanduta Lakota Sioux c. 1880's

This is the latest, done on Wednesday. I'm moderately pleased with it considering that the photograph was  very, very dark in large areas, virtually blanked out. Usual Cadmium Red LIght and Yellow Light for the flesh colour darkened with either Cerulean, Cobalt or Ultramarine Blue. Touch of Hookers Green round the eye sockets. Other colors Ultramarine and Burnt Umber together with Viridian plus Quinacridone Gold for the hair plus Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Violet and Viridian for the clothes with a little Permanent Carmine. It could be better but then that's par for the course. I'm still at an early stage in doing these subjects and portraits in general. I realise I still have a way to go.

The paper you will note is unusual. I mentioned it on an earlier post when I acquired several sheets at a shop in Amalfi, Italy. The paper is handmade and quite light, about 90 lbs I think but has a beautiful surface and is very nice to work with. As It's doubtful I'll go again I'll have to husband these sheets, although I do have an e-mail address so it's possible more could be obtained - at a price! Co-incidentally there should be 40 sheets of Moldau paper somewhere in transit from the Czech republic., A3 size 280gsm. I should have received them by now but the initial shipment sent to the UK agent was incorrect, 30 sheets of 200 gsm. However providing the correct lot arrive safely I may end up with those as well since 200gsm (90lbs) is perfectly okay with my (attempted) style of ` try first time for a finish'.  

NB: Several days later on reflection I have gone off this painting and label it a failure. It looks a little better in reality than the photo on here but is still not good enough. I am thinking of another try with a slightly different approach

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Painting at Beer

Beer is a beautiful small unspoilt fishing village situated on the South Devon Coast between Lyme Regis and Sidmouth. This last weekend we  booked a B and B right in the centre. I had never been  before, nor knew anything about the place, but one of my painting friends has had a permanent caravan  there for years and another recently visited for a short break. Listening to them talk enthusiastically about the area decided us to go at fairly short notice.

Beer is situated on the cliffs above a lovely cove and the beach, although of pebbles rather than sand, makes for a delightful view.  I noticed the place we stayed in had a number of framed prints from a local artist called Ben Bradshaw, rather too chocolate box for my taste,  but obviously popular and very prolific  judging by the amount of his work, in various forms, around the village. His originals sell for £300 - £500 apparently.

There are two good gallerys in the main Fore street,  one called Steamers and the other the Marine Gallery. They appear to be owned by the same person or persons and I was particularly taken by some of the paintings in the Steamer Gallery. Some very good artists featured here.

On to painting. I took all my outdoor gear with me and, although conditions were slightly windy, decided to attempt a painting. My wife hired a deckchair and got on with her latest book from her reading group.

DAY 1.

The beach has numerous attractive boats and other miscellaneous gear lying about so there are plenty of possible subjects. The main problem was the wind and also the pebbly beach which is loose underfoot, so it brings problems in setting up to paint. I chose a spot in a corner just off the beach with a cement base and settled on a particular large boat, surrounded by numerous others of varying sizes. After drawing the main boat, which was interconnected with numerous others, I kept drawing adding more and more until I had a really busy drawing. This was a major mistake. Not long after I began to paint I realised I had a probable disaster on my hands, notwithstanding the various onlookers who made approving noises. There are a few who say nothing so make of that what you will. One thing I have learned is not to pursue failure so I soon gave up and the partially completed painting finished up in the nearest rubbish bin. Lesson from this. Take more care and simplify. Also take a little more time about deciding what to paint. I do that more and more these days but still suffer relapses, as on this occasion.


The unsatisfactory end of my painting session made me determined to have another go the following day, helped by a slight moderation of the wind factor. Otherwise the weather was excellent. The previous day I had taken lots of photos so had a clearer idea of what to concentrate on. On this occasion I braved the pebbly beach and parked myself well forward as you will see from the painting. Down went the groundsheet and this helped but easel, chair and  me were still slightly rocky. The wind remained a factor although not a major one, despite this the whole lot went flying on one occasion, water pot and all but fortunately no real damage.

This is the result completed in about 2 hours. This time I followed Charles Reid's advice when painting outdoors in that, rather than completing the drawing in one session, I drew some then painted and repeated this two or three times. This is to combat the way light changes over the course of a painting session.

Boats on the beach at Beer Waterford 16" x 12" Not 

I'm not delighted with the above. I feel I can do much better and have some excellent photographs to work with. Hopefully a much better painting will emerge which I can display on here. What else about Beer? We shall definately return. Excellent fish and chips from the Beer Fish and Chip shop/restaurant and another very good meal in a quality restaurant called Steamers. We also indulged in clotted cream teas (twice!). 

Thursday 15 July 2010

Latest Amerindian

This is my latest effort.

Apache Warrior Circa 1800s Waterford 16" x 12" Not

I continue to struggle to produce a photograph fully representative of the painting, despite trying several settings. The original has slightly more contrast than the photo and the colours are darker.

Compared to the photo the likeness is only fair and I haven't quite been able to get the hostile expression of the original. I painted the face and features, using pan colours, with mixes of Cad Red, Cad Yellow Light, and various blues, Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine. I also used a touch of Ultramarine Violet and Hookers Green around the eye sockets. Other colours (mainly tubes) used in the remainder include Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Viridian, Quinacridone Gold (PO49 - the orignal W and N formulation not the current three pigment mix) and Raw Sienna. Also touches of Avignon Orange (Maimeri). 

I am reasonably pleased with the above painting. It could be better, as can all my paintings, but I feel I am progressing and I have kept a number of my failures to prove it! It is tough producing paintings from these old black and white/sepia photographs.

Monday 12 July 2010

Latest Plein Air

This is my latest effort, painted last thursday at Dundas Acqueduct, a few miles outside Bath on the A36 Warminster road.

Saunders Waterford 16" x 12" Not - Dundas Boats and Barges

Dundas acqueduct is a popular location, part of the Kennet and Avon Canal, a favourite of barge owners and canal holidays. The area where we paint is a spur of the canal which runs to a basin close to the main road. It has a shop where you can hire boats and bicycles, an excellent cafe/restaurant, and is usually quite busy or indeed very busy.

On this particular day the waterway  was packed with end to end barges plus a few other types,  used either as houseboats or parked up. On certain weekends you can take canal trips and some are also available for wedding parties and celebrations of all sorts. A very lively place although it was quiet when I started and only the odd person stopped and tried to engage me in conversation, something that Judi Whitton (and others) say you have to `nip in the bud'. It is difficult as one doesn't want to seem rude, but concentration can be affected if onlookers are too persistent.

I started painting at around 10am and finished at noon. This was my usual attempt at painting with a first time finish, using paint straight from the paintbox (a mix of full and half pans) without overmuch mixing or messing about. Obviously some overpainting takes place but I try to keep it to a minimum. My (attempted) methods are based on those used by Charles Reid and Judi Whitton. I used several different blues and yellows for the greens. The large tree in the background had leaves that are very grey/green and I used Primary Blue - Cyan (PB15-3 green shade- Maimeri) mixed with Cadmium Orange (PO20 Maimeri) to create this greyish effect. If you play around with these two colours you can create some wonderful greys but take care which Cad Orange you use. The Windsor and Newton version is a mixture of Cadmium red and yellow, while Rowney do use PO20, the correct pigment, but add a yellow to it. Unless you use pure Cadmium Orange you will get a different colour.

I looked at the painting the following day in my `studio' and made some small colour additions. Otherwise I am quite pleased with it. I have done several others at this location, not all from the same viewpoint.  

Monday 28 June 2010

Second Attempt

This is the second attempt at the Acoma Indian Woman. This is the initial loose drawing

This is stage one initially painting the face.

Acoma Indian Woman 18" x 14" Waterford Not

Photographed 29/06 using My Nikon DSLR with 55mm lens. This is more accurate.

The more I looked at the first painting  the more I realised how poor it was. This is my second attempt and while not perfect feel it is better. Colours used for the face were Cad Red Light (PR108) and Cad Yellow Light (PY35) together with Cerulean (PB35-W and N), Ultramarine (PB29) and Cobalt Blue (PB72) both Rowney. For the headdress I utilized Cerulean, Ultramarine Blue and  Ultramarine Violet (PB15-Rowney)  with some Viridian (PG18),. The hair was Quinacridone Gold (PO48)  and Raw Sienna (Pbr7) both Maimeri. Also touches of Burnt Umber here and there with some Cadmium Orange (Maimeri PO20) to warm it up. I think the painting is actually better than the representation in the photograph. I once again add the disclaimer that I am not claiming this a great watercolour, just my watercolour. I studied several of Charles Reid's paintings before deciding how to tackle it. Looking at it I decided not to overdo the darks and only used the original photo as a guide..

Footnote Added 29/06: Looking at this photograph and then the original painting it seems it looks somewhat lighter and possibly `washed out' compared to the actual painting. My ad hoc photography is probably responsible. I have now made another attempt to photograph the painting and the result is above.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Latest Indian Paintings

Acoma Woman 1900 16" x 12" Not

American Horse Oglala Sioux 1880
18" x 14" Waterford Not

Sitting Bull Huncpapa Sioux Holy Man
15" x 11" Fabriano Artistico Not.

I've done several of Sitting Bull because he has such a strong face. Some of the others aren't bad, one posted previously,  but I think this better. I recently found a new photograph on www.firstpeople.us/ . American Horse was also a famous warrior and I wanted to try a portrait with a different angle. This is the second try with a different indian subject.

As for the Acoma woman I know little about her, again culled from first people, but I was intrigued by the sense of mystery in the photograph. I have changed things quite a bit because on the photo she was surrounded by very dark shadows. I tried a main colour scheme of Maimeri Avignon Orange (PR206) and
complementary colours Rowney's Viridian (PG18) and Hookers Green (PG7/PO48) Maimeri version. There is some doubt about the inclusion of PO48 as it is now supposedly unavailable. The Windsor and Newton and Rowney equivalents to Avignon Orange are Brown Madder and  Transparent Red Brown respectively. Even though the pigment is the same the colours may vary slightly with different manufacturing processes. In all three cases the faces were painted using a mixture of Cadmium Red Light (PR108), Cadmium Yellow Light (PY35) darkened where appropriate with either Cerulean (PB35), Cobalt Blue Deep (PB72) or Ultramarine Blue (PB29). I emphasize pigments rather than `colours' as suggested by Bruce McEvoy of Handprint.

I'm fairly happy with the paintings of Sitting Bull and American Horse but concerned about the Acoma woman. I experimented with the Shirley Trevena method of creating texture by using some emery paper on the coloured core of watercolour pencils and getting flecks of colour but I think it either didn't work well or I need to improve my method of doing it. It has tended to dirty the colour. Paint in haste repent at leisure! I shall another try at this one. Footnote added later: This portrait didn't work unfortunately and it just wasn't the attempt to add texture. I shall try again.

One change I have made is that, following Charles Reid suggesting in one of his books that pan colours might be better with which to paint the face, I did so then switched to tube colours.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

On watercolour paper

My friend Mick asked recently how I was getting on with the new Waterford `High White' paper. So far not very well. Ken Bromley http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/  writes, in the most recent catalogue, that St Cuthberts Mill made the new paper after requests from professional artists who were searching for a whiter shade of watercolour paper, but without compromising on quality. It also goes on to say `With the new `High White' shade the paint pigments will appear more vivid, and with more sparkle, giving the whole a fresher look....a whiter shade will make finished paintings more contemporary looking, as artists have commented that they felt the original white colour created a more antique look to their finished compositions'.   Incidentally Bromley are also advertising another new watercolour paper called `Millford' This is a replacement for Whatman, which has been discontinued, and is 100% cotton rag, mould made and trimmed four edges. Discounted price is £17.95p per pack of five 30" x 22" sheets.  Slightly cheaper than Arches.

This is news to me and I wonder who these professional artists are? In any event a very good  `Extra White' shade of Artistico has been available from Fabriano for some time  http://www.jacksonsart.co.uk/  but Bromley don't sell it.

Myself and two other artists from my Avon Valley Art Group tried this new paper, in all three versions, HP, Not and Rough. The others, both very good painters tried, respectively, the HP and Not. neither liked the new paper and Yvonne, who is an excellent flower painter, said she would stick to Artistico `Extra White' which she considered much superior.  I have so far attempted  three paintings with it and none have been satisfactory. Of course I'm only a poor old amateur so take my experience how you will. Possibly it takes some getting used to but I have done many paintings on Fabriano `Extra White' and found the paper generally excellent. I won't give up on it yet and will report further in the near future.

Recently another new paper has been introduced by the German company Great Art http://www.greatart.co.uk/. They are making quite large claims for it `prices never seen before for such a high quality range'. `the very finest watercolour paper' etc etc. It is made from 100% cotton but so are many other good papers including Waterford, Artistico, Lana and others. This paper is called `CENTENAIRE' and you can order  a sample which I did. Unfortunately this is only about six inches square. I ordered the Not version, also available in Rough, which  has quite a smooth surface and duly tried a few swatches of several colours. On this very small sample I can't see what the fuss is about especially as the prices quoted are not particularly keen. It is available in blocks of 20 sheets, six sizes from 18x26cm to 46x5lcm and also sheets 56x76cm. The block prices are reasonably comparable, being dearer than Waterford but cheaper than Fabriano, although Fabriano sizes are slightly larger, 18" x 12" for example as opposed to 16" X 12". In the case of sheets they are not competitive except with the dearest available which is Arches. Five sheets, the only option, are £13.75p. I recently completed a survey for Great Art in which I pointed out their paper prices were not as good as Bromley and Jackson's where they sold the comparable makes. Great Art do have a much larger range of watercolour paper overall. Incidentally if you buy as an art group, Great Art offer 15% off catalogue prices when the annual edition is launched and subsequent orders 10% so this is a factor but not for the individual artist. I paid £3 for the first catalogue to get this deal then another three arrived (separately) unsolicited!

It will be interesting to see what the artist's magazines have to say about these papers if and when they review them. I take such reviews with a big pinch of salt because invariably they are more concerned, so it seems to me, about their advertising revenue and appear to pull their punches and then some. I've never seen a bad review yet. I recently was in communication with The Artists editor about Windsor and Newton's Cotman policy, sending her copies of my e-mail correspondence with the company.  I was fobbed off with `very interesting I'll take it up with W and N when I meet them in March' or something similar. Needless to say nothing has appeared in the magazine so take what magazines recommend, and some professional artists, with a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of scepticism. Incidentally I don't have a grudge against `The Artist', subscribe to it and think it  excellent on most counts.