Monday 30 April 2012

Another Portrait

This attempted portrait was originally done as a possible entry in the Bathampton `end of term' Spring project. In the event I missed the final meeting last week.

Judi Dench - 15" x 11" Schut Vivace 115lb Not.

The likeness is about 80% correct and I used my normal `Charles Reid' mixes of Cadmium Red  Light/Cadmium Yellow Light/Raw Sienna combinations with Cerulean Blue added to darken in places. I've been looking at Charles new video `Figurative Watercolours' and realised I'm not quite doing things correctly so some reappraisal is in order.

My brushes tend to be much the same in recent paintings, the two Isabey retractables for fine detail, with the Isabey No 8 6228 Kolinsky for most of the other work. I also use the DaVinci 44 Size 2 Artissimo Kolinsky mop, roughly equivalent to a size 12/14 round, and either the DaVinci or Rosemary Size 6 Kolinsky. I like the Schut Vivace paper used above but it doesn't seem to be available any longer and in any event obtaining Schut paper is difficult and expensive.

This is my last post this month. I shall be starting May with the `April Challenge' painting . This was a really tough one, two prominent white chairs in a garden. It's my turn to pick the May challenge so I'll get my revenge, only joking Mick.

The subject at this Thursdays AVA session is `animals or birds'. This is pretty broad and having done three moderately successful paintings of moorhens and a snow leopard. I'm planning to try some larger animals. I have been looking at the animal paintings of several artists and in particular the Chinese artist Liam Quan Zhen. I urge you to look at them at  He isn't specifically an animal or bird painter, they are just one of his range of subjects, but his paintings are amazing. If you go onto YouTube and type his name under `videos' ,there are two short films. one of him painting elephants and the other grapes. They are an absolute eye opener because  the way he does it goes against all the conventional painting methods yet  fabulous results ensure. 

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Latest Painting

This is a study of Moorhens, one of my favourite birds or should I say wildfowl. The little chicks are far more savy than Mallard ducklings and more seem to survive, although Moorhens don't have such large clutches, six or seven eggs being average. In addition, although the chicks can mainly feed themselves, any older siblings from earlier  nests will assist in looking after them. I have been very impressed with the way several artists, noted in earlier posts, handle animals and birds. I intend to spread my wings and try some more.

"Moorhens" 15" x 11" Not 140lb.

For the birds I used Daniel Smith Indigo (PB60/Pbk6) and Graham Prussian Blue (PB27). On the adult bird in addition Cobalt Teal Blue (DS PG50), Cobalt Magenta (Rowney PV14) plus Mineral Violet (Graham PV16). Various greens for the lily pads Graham Hookers Green (PG7/PY110), Sap Green (DS PO49/PG7), Hansa Yellow Medium (DS PY97). There are touches of other colours including Cerulean, Gold Ochre (W & N PY43) and  Green Gold (Rowney PY129). The reds are a mixture of Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19), Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209) and ???. Oh yes some Raw Umber for the edges of the lily pads.

My usual brushes with the Isabey 6201 retractables sizes 6 & 4 for the small detail, Rosemary Series 33 Kolinsky Size 6 plus the Isabey Kolinsky 6228 Size 8. As this was done on the reverse side of a discarded painting, I have lots of those, I'm not certain what make the paper is. I quite like the result and have another Moorhen study in prospect. 

Sunday 22 April 2012

Daniel Smith Pt.3

Following up the previous posts on Daniel Smith the question arises are they worth the extra premium UK  and European buyers have to pay? I say this because prices in the USA are lower and in addition DS, through their retail shops and internet site, have regular special offers - lots of them in fact. If we had  similar offers then I'd not hesitate to say yes, although I like Graham and have not tried DaVinci, both highly rated by American artists. What we shouldn't lose sight of is that we have several very good manufacturers in Europe who have been making watercolour paints for a very long time, much longer in fact, and comparing quality and price there is a very good case for sticking to them, certainly on many of the standard colours.  Winsor & Newton, still and for  many years the top rated watercolours by many professional artists, are much more competitive in price here than in North America, where I sense they are losing out to the American makes. At the beginning of this year the new much higher prices for W & N made Daniel Smith  more competitive but almost immediately discounted offers appeared. Perhaps W & N realised the threat these new paints posed which they certainly do.

Previously I have noted that the DS range is split into three or four groups. The standard colours, those that follow most other makes, comprise the biggest number - 100 plus. Standard but still including some unique colours not duplicated elsewhere. The remainder include the Primateks, Duochrome and Iridescent paints. These two latter are for specialist purposes and most watercolourists would stick to the standard colours. What about the Primateks? Here I urge you to carefully  read what Bruce McEvoy of Handprint writes in a very comprehensive review  Essentially Daniel Smith has been gathering mineral pigments from mines all over the World. They don't have pigment numbers and are expensive. 

Here is a further selection of colour swatches. I have added pigment details and will add them to the previous posts. You will note that in many instances the pigments are those in common use by the other makers.

Cobalt Blue Violet  (PV19/PB28)

Duochrome Autumn Mystery

Cobalt Teal Blue (PG50)

Garnet Genuine 

German Greenish Raw Umber (Pbr7)

Green Apatite Genuine

Lunar Blue (PBk11/PB15)

Serpentine Genuine

Undersea Green (PB29/PO49)

Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97)

Quinacridone Sienna (PO49/PR209)

Quinacridone Rose (PV19)

I could go on forever - well almost - but with the other illustrations in Pt. 1 & 2 you should have a good idea of what is available. I am personally intrigued by the number of granulating paints offered. Rui who comments on here is fulsome in his praise of the Lunar colours for their granulation properties and I intend to try some other than black which I already have.  Jan Weeks love Serpentine Green, Moonglow and Cascade Green. Rui likes them  but says you need to be careful what you mix Cascade Green with.  German Greenish Raw Umber is another favourite.

A good source of individual pigment details is;  For the complete range try If you print this off it runs to 19 pages! The Daniel Smith website, which is a selling site with various other brands and products is: There is a mass of information including `peeks' at some DVD instructional videos they sell. In addition if you go onto Youtube `videos',and type in `Daniel Smith Watercolors' you'll get a mass of promotional videos with lots of information. In the USA the wonderful Dick Blick site has very good pigment details, although each colour has to be looked at individually.

Finally quality versus price? Are Daniel Smith watercolours worth the extra premium we are charged in the UK and Europe? As things stand Daniel Smith are the most expensive watercolours in the UK. Winsor & Newton are cheaper, certainly while the special offers continue. It isn't straightforward to compare them as the number of price categories vary manufacturer by manufacturer. Daniel Smith, Holbein and Old Holland have six, Sennelier five, Maimeri, Winsor & Newton, Bloxx, Schminke four while Daler Rowney and Rembrandt only three, although in reality Daler Rowney have only two prices as has Lukas.  Graham and DaVinci are only available from one source, Lawrence of Hove who have a fixed carriage charge on top of the prices but they do offer 20% off for 6 or more tubes. This is further complicated in that manufacturers don't all sing from the same song sheet. Apart from basic colours like the earths, usually in the cheapest category, other colour ratings vary from one make to another. In order to get an accurate picture you must compare them not just by colour, which can confuse, but more accurately by pigment numbers. Some manufacturers Winsor & Newton, Lukas, Sennelier, DaVinci and Rembrandt offer larger tube sizes that are cheaper per ml. This is another factor although personally I think W & N would have been far better with a 21ml or 24ml large size rather than 37ml. The further I get into this the more complicated it becomes so I'll leave it at that and may return to the subject at a later date. 

So are Daniel Smith paints worth the cost? Are they better than the paints from say Winsor & Newton or some of the others listed? They are good but so are most of the other artists quality makes and in the end it comes down to the depth of your pocket and personal preferences. For the average watercolour painter probably not, but they do have a whole range of wonderful, often unique, colours  so I shall continue to buy them, although selectively. For impulse buyers like me they are very seductive. As for the other makes Daler Rowney, Lukas, Rembrandt and Maimeri are very well priced and offer good quality with a choice of around 70 colours. 

Friday 13 April 2012

Daniel Smith Pt.2

Following on from Pt.1 here are the pages from the 238 Dot Try-iT sheets. To summarize they are dots of paint on watercolour paper covering the entire range of Daniel Smith watercolours, although new ones are added quite frequently and may not be on here, Quinacridone Purple being one example. The idea is that you pick up colour with a wet brush and make swatches. It may just be me but I found that it was difficult to get really strong colours and they tended to lean towards tints. The dots also vary in size, some being a lot more generous than others. This is why I've handled them like this as the swatches I made were too pale. One slight deficiency is that pigment details are missing so you have to get them separately. They are easily available so it isn't a problem. Click on the sheets to enlarge. So many wonderful colours where do you start?

Here we have yellows, through reds to purples.

Basically  earth colours.

Blues and Greens

Only Blacks washed out

This then is the range and a comprehensive one without doubt. A bewildering selection with many options in most colours. Here are a few more swatches of particularly interesting paints.

Sleeping Beauty Turquoise

Lunar Blue (Pbk11/PB15)

Lunar Earth (PBr11)

Lunar Violet (PV15/PBk11)

Daniel Smith are a very innovative company. Perhaps they stray too far in that direction at times such as `scented' watercolours, which was a special limited edition they did a few months ago. A matter of opinion I suppose. 

One intriguing area is the Cadmium hues. There are four colours that come into this classification Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Scarlet and Cadmium Red Medium.  What's so special? DS claim to have used a process called co-precipitation which makes them behave like a single pigment paint, even though they are composed of more than one. This they claim makes the `hues' even more opaque and with brighter chroma than the normal Cadmiums. As a result they have discontinued some - not all - of the equivalent Cadmium paints. I e-mailed them to ask if they applied this process to other multiple pigment paints and if not why so, but received no reply. A second e-mail was also unanswered.  Perhaps they thought I was being provocative but it seemed to me a reasonable question. So much for their vaunted PR. They aren't the only ones who react in this way when making enquiries that ask pointed questions. I was intending to complete this epistle on Daniel Smith  with Pt 2 but have many more paint swatches so will complete the coverage in Pt 3 when I will attempt to tackle the tricky question of price and whether they are in fact worth buying by comparing competitor makes, both in ranges and price. We seem to be paying a significant price premium in the UK compared to the pricing in the USA with regular special offers.

 Additional topics. Why buy the Primateks? See what Bruce McEvoy of Handprint has to say about them. Rui, who  comments on here, has given his views about several DS colours, including the Lunar ones so I will include them. I would love to be a fly on the wall when Winsor & Newton and other competitors are discussing Daniel Smith. This third part will be posted within the next week or so.  

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Something Different

Recently I have become very interested, and impressed, with the animal and bird drawings of a a number of artists who paint their subjects in a loose and colourful manner. Some seem to me to fall into the concept of realistic abstracts, while others are more realistic but use colour in a very imaginative way. Jean Haines  , Gerard Hendriks , Esther Hefferman, Bev Jozwiak  and  Lian Quan Zhen  are among those that have made an impression on me. Terrific artists one and all, although different from each other in various ways and they paint a variety of subjects not just wildlife.

 Snow Leopard

It may be that this photograph is subject to copyright and if I am so informed I'll delete it, but hopefully since this blog has no commercial aspirations this won't happen. This is the photograph I based the painting on.

Snow Leopard- Fontenay 16" x 12" 140lb (300gm) Not

I concentrated on the features and blurred the outer parts to partly blend with the background. Colours used were diluted Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue and very diluted Quinacridone Rose (Graham) mixed with Raw Umber or Raw Sienna. Indigo also featured quite a lot in various dilutions with some Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber. The background is mainly Cerulean Blue, possibly a little Cobalt Blue in places. For the black marks on the face and just above I used Daler Rowney FW Black acrylic ink. The red of the mouth is a mixture of Cadmium Red and Quinadicrone Rose with some added Burnt Umber. I used masking fluid put on with a ruling pen for the whiskers, and added white for the teeth.

The only brushes used were the two Isabey 6201 retractables, the 4 and the 6. I recently added the 4 to my armoury. Both brushes are very small compared to normal 4's and 6's but are very slim and have excellent points. For the larger areas the Isabey 6228 Kolinsky Size 8. All were purchased from Jacksons Am I pleased with this one? Yes.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Daniel Smith Watercolours Pt.1

 In 2011, this watercolour range, highly regarded by North American artists, was introduced into the UK by the mail order specialist Jacksons . Previously, we could only speculate about them, unless brave enough to try and purchase direct from the USA.

 The 66 Dot Try-it Card

This is the largest range of watercolours with a number, currently at 238, which continues to grow. The complete range is not necessarily available from UK stockists with some variation in the number each stocks. This is because the UK distributor, Premium Art Brands, offers a number of different options. Jacksons and the SAA appear to offer the most. This list just grows and grows and a recent addition is Quinacridone Purple, a new pigment of very recent introduction which isn't yet available  in the UK. 238 colours is enough to make one gasp but the  huge number needs an explanation. There are basically three or four groups. The first and largest group might be described as the `standard' watercolours, mirroring those available from Winsor & Newton, Schminke and several others. Even so  it is still a substantial number with many exclusive to Daniel Smith. They cover the whole spectrum with plenty of variation and alternatives in the popular colours. The other groups are the Interference, Duochrome and  Primateks. In order to make sense of this Daniel Smith offer a limited number of Try-it' cards, on watercolour paper, which have three blobs of colour literally to try out. They are free but also on offer are the 66 Dot card and one for the whole range a 238 Dot card, both also on watercolour paper. The latter two you have to buy, the largest being around £15.00. I have all three and while very useful they do have drawbacks. The dots are small, some smaller than others and I found it was difficult in many cases to produce swatches of sufficient intensity, which is why I washed them out as in the 66 Dot card above. 

Moonglow (PG18/PB29/PR177)
Cascade Green (PBr7/PB15)

Amazonite Genuine

Opera Pink (PR122)

Rose of Ultramarine (PB29/PV19)

Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48)

Quinacridone Fuschia (PR202)

Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71)

These are examples of what is available, some mirroring what is on offer from other leading makes like Winsor & Newton, some exclusive to Daniel Smith. The paints are offered in 15ml tubes, W & N 14ml, plus 37ml in a limited number of sizes, in six series, although there is only one paint in series 6 Rose Madder Genuine at a stunning £20.70p!

In those offered by Ken Bromley there are 68 standard colours in series 1  plus  another 48 Duochrome, Interference, Pearlescent and Iridescent, all priced at £8.30p. Series 2  59 colours at £9.90p, while Series 3, mainly Cadmiums and Cobalts, has 15 priced at £11.69p. Series 4 has only 8, all Primateks at £13.48p. Last but one Series 5 has 3, Lapis Lazuli Genuine, Smalt Genuine and SB Turquoise Genuine all £18.02p - I make this 202. Prices are higher than most other makes.

Two or three of the members of my Avon Valley Art Group have bought some of these paints and I asked Yvonne and Jan for an opinion. Jan has yet to reply fully but I know is very impressed with the colours she has. 

 Yvonne said: "I like the fact they remain beautifully moist and flow really easily across the paper. The colours are stunning and there are a fantastic variety. I like the test Try-it cards, essential when spending so much money. They are expensive but not compared to the advantages. I have Hookers Green, Apatite Green, Moonglow, Pyrrol Red, Quinacridone Magenta, Opera Pink, Paynes Grey, Alazarin Crimson and Rose of Ultramarine. The only one not much used at present is Hookers Green where I don't see much difference from the one already in my box. I do find the wealth of colours a bit overwhelming and, as they are so expensive, am afraid of making a mistake when buying. I also wish they used the old original names for some of the pigments as I get confused with what to buy to replace the tried and tested standard colours. Maybe I didn't look carefully enough and they do use these names." (Check pigment numbers! PW)

In the UK Daniel Smith are distributed by ,where you will find a list of UK suppliers. At the moment they are few with Jacksons, Bromley, the SAA plus a small number of mainly retailers. In Europe only one supplier is shown.

I have more to say about Daniel Smith and will post  Pt 2 shortly. This will contain more swatches including the 238 Dot card which comprises four sheets.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Sennelier l'Aquarelle Pt 2

As a follow up to my recent post on the revamping by Sennelier of its watercolour range, The Artist magazine May 2012 came with a  four page brochure of the new range. This is obviously the official Sennelier brochure with printed colours, which should be available from all who stock the brand. In this instance it was also promoting Jacksons who were one of the first to list the new range.

Colours are printed so are only a guide

The main facts are that the new range has 98 colours increased from 80, 55 of which are single pigment paints. In the main the pigment choices mirror those of the other manufacturers who offer around this number of colours. 19 paints are mixed from three pigments with a solitary one four (Warm Grey),  the rest are two pigment mixtures. The percentage of single pigment paints, as in the old range, is lower than most of the others. Note `Quinacridone Gold' is now a three pigment mix, PR101, PY150 and PR206. I believe the only source of true PO49 Quinacridone Gold is now Daniel Smith.

95 colours are given the highest 3* star rating. One, Alazarin Crimson Lake  2*(PR83)  which they claim is `Good'. The only 1* is Opera Rose `Average'. You might like to refer to the pigment details on the Handprint site as a comparison. There is still some controversy over lightfastness claims by manufacturers.

The usual confusion exists with some of the names, so checking the pigment details is necessary if you wish to compare them with whatever the equivalents are you currently use. Examples, Chinese Orange, Sennelier Orange, Helios Purple, Blue Sennelier and so on.

Sennelier offer half and full pans plus 10ml and 21ml tubes. The most economical are the 21ml tubes, especially for the colours you use most.  10ml is probably better for colours used less often. Introductory prices are very good at both Jacksons  and also the SAA, although they are slightly higher than Jacksons. For some reason Great Art are quoting prices that, according to Jacksons in the brochure, are higher than the recommended retail, so consequently are not competitive at present. The only concern is that the leaflet calls the discounted prices `introductory' so we have no idea what the cost will be when the dust settles.

How good are Sennelier? I've never used them so don't have a view. I do believe they are perfectly acceptable, as are all the leading artist quality paints but people do have individual preferences. Sennelier are mounting quite an aggressive marketing campaign and four well known  British professionals, Tim Fisher, Trevor Waugh, Billy Showell and Margaret Evans give them their stamp of approval in the brochure. You won't find Sennelier in many art shops in Great Britain who stock mainly Winsor & Newton and sometimes Daler Rowney. I found Sennelier in Truro Art in Truro, Cornwall, a large art shop who have  recently also taken on Daniel Smith. There may be others in the larger cities but I'm unaware of them.