Wednesday 25 July 2012


This is my latest Indian portrait. It is of an old Indian photographed by Edward Curtis around 1900 (?).

Bull_Goes_Hunting Apsaroke Indian 

What a face! Obviously old (ancient?) with greying hair. The Apsaroke, better known as the Crows, a name given them rather contemptuously by the whites, were a warlike tribe although not especially numerous, who inhabited the Rocky Mountains. In the Indian wars of the mid to late 1800s they frequently served as scouts for the cavalry against their deadly enemies the Sioux and Cheyenne.

Bull_Goes_Hunting 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb (300gm) Not 

I initially made a careful drawing, not over detailed, and used a limited palette with Cadmium Red, Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) , Raw Sienna and Cobalt Blue (Rowney PB72) plus some Cerulean for the skin tones. The hair was varied dilutions of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. After the initial washes I let it become fully dry and then added the furrows and fissues in the face.  Finally, the following day I applied some white goache quite thickly in places shown as white in the photograph. 

Brushes were the Isabey Kolinsky sables Series 6228 sizes 4, 6 and 8.

Monday 23 July 2012

Two books on watercolour techniques

Recently I saw something about two new books on watercolour techniques, or rather one an updated edition, by Hazel Harrison (with Diana Craig). One of the very first books I purchased was `Watercolour- step-by-step' written by Hazel, first published in 1993 and reprinted several times and she is the author of several other books with a similar theme.  

Search Press 2011 143 pages Approx. 81/2" by 83/4" rpp £12.99p

This is an updated version of `The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Techniques', published in 2004. As readers of the post on my recent trip to Devon will know I already have it, bought at £5.99 from Trago Mills. At that price it is a steal but you will generally have to pay around £9.49, which was the price of all other copies at Trago. Actually the current Amazon price for both books is £9.09p and used copies are listed at £6.21p, again for both, but the used copies are no doubt from Amazon partners who add a carriage (hefty?) charge. I still have another copy on loan from the library and was in process of reviewing it when the chance to buy a cheap one arose. 

The book is broken up into three main chapters, (1) Tools and Materials, (2) Techniques and finally (3) Picture Making. As usual with Hazel  many of the illustrations are of paintings by a variety of different artists. Chapter one covering tools and materials is something which is partially covered in many other books  but here is comprehensive and all options are clearly outlined. To my mind the most useful is that on techniques which details everything in a way that even the newest beginner can understand. It is a very useful primer and even the more experienced could usefully dip into it from time to time. I certainly shall. The final chapter, picture making, is also good starting with palettes then tone, light and shadow, perspective, spatial depth(!) and more. Everything is there. All in all a very good book, especially for beginners and intermediate painters in watercolour.

Search Press 2011 176 pages approx. 71/2" x 91/2" rpp £12.99p

The second book, also borrowed from the library, is another from Search Press called `The Compedium of Watercolour Techniques', by Robin Berry, also published in 2011. Two similar books on watercolour techniques by the same publisher in the same year? This is what intrigued me in the first place, and after discovering a while ago that it is possible to borrow a surprisingly wide variety of art books from the local library consortium, I ordered both titles thinking I would review them, satisfying my curiosity at the same time. Robin Berry is a new name to me and although we are friends on Facebook I know no more about her than she about me. Some details are on the back cover, in such faint small print that it is very difficult to read but I did gather she is a recognized artist with over 35 years experience. This book is slightly larger and with more pages than the Harrison book although carrying the same retail price. It has four chapters (1) Getting Started, (2) Painting (3) Choosing a Subject and (4) Techniques. Including Robin Berry the extensive number of artists featured include Gerard Hendriks and Stephie Butler, both of whom I like very much. I have a feeling it is slightly less well-organized than the other book and goes into greater detail. There is a very good section on selecting pigments and palettes and there is much else of interest. One part that made me smile is the one on `Arranging your equipment'. I presume the book is mainly aimed at amateur artists and I doubt many have such a setup as that depicted. Professionals maybe but most amateurs? To be fair she does say you can paint with minimum equipment in the kitchen, as many do.  Robin Berry has written other books including one with  a similar theme to this published almost at the same time by Readers Digest. The sub title is identical so are they one and the same in a slightly different guise?

Let me be clear though. This is an excellent book, especially at the price. I think it  better suited to the intermediate or more advanced amateur rather than the beginner. For the absolute beginner the Harrison book is the better buy. As said earlier I have this book and shall probably buy the Berry one. It is different in many ways and contains a great deal of interesting and informative material.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Back to Painting

Having had a barren last week as far as painting is concerned I needed to get the paint brushes flowing again, so after some little thought decided to attempt a flower painting. This was prompted by two nice plants of Phlox Maculata in the garden that had come into full bloom just as we returned from Devon. I cut two stems, stuck them in a jam jar and off I went.

For the initial drawing I had to restrain myself from making it too detailed as the flower heads are a mass of small blooms. I think I did slightly. I used a mechanical  07 Pentel 120 A3 DX with a 2B lead. I have a mass of drawing instruments but use this one quite frequently. Pentel do a very good range including the 120 series and the Sharplet.

Phlox Maculata - Centenaire 16" x 12" 140lb (300 gm) not

As far as colour was concerned this was fairly restricted, although I admit the shade in the painting is not quite right compared to the actual plant which is more of a lavender pink colour. Colours used were mainly Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19), Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15) plus a little Cobalt Magenta (Rowney PV14) and Certulean Blue. The Greens were various dilutions of Hookers Green (Graham).

Brushes used were the Isabey 6228 Kolinsky Sizes 8 and 6. The whole painting took about 1 1/2 hours with breaks.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Plein air, Watercolour books and other bargains

Last week we were on holiday in Devon, which is in the South West of England. We already live in an area that is classified as the South West but Devon is further south, only Cornwall further away. I took a full painting kit even though the weather forecast was poor (or very poor). In fact the general area we were staying in near Newton Abbot had several red warnings from the Met office and some places quite close suffered devastating floods. Where is this heading? Essentially in a roundabout way I am saying that conditions, rain most days, although mostly intermittent,  precluded any substantial plein air activity, but I did get one short session in at Kingsbridge, which is further down near the coast.

This is the scene I was facing. I have more photographs.

 Unfinished sketch 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb not

The previous day we had been to Trago Mills, a very well known major discount operation and something of an institution - they sell everything - close by. They have three such, the other two in Cornwall where the original one is on the site of what had been a large mill. Trago has an art section where a limited range of products are on offer including Daler Rowney Artists watercolours. The full range (79 colours) was for sale and I purchased two tubes of Cobalt Blue Deep for only £5.59p each! The RPP is £15,25p and even Jacksons are £8.80p, while most other artist quality Cobalt Blues are around £12.00p. Series A were £3.99p while B/C are £5.59p. See what Handprint say about Rowney Cobalt Blue Deep. Except for the fact I'm overloaded with paint at present I would have bought more.

And that isn't all! Trago sell books (what don't they sell) and amongst some art books I found a copy of  the  `The New Encyclopedia of Watercolour Tecniques' by Diana Craig and Hazel Harrison (Search Press 2011), originally published as `The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Tecniques' in 2004. I have recently been evaluating this book (both from the library) together with `The Compedium of Watercolour Techniques' by Robin Berry, again Search Press, for a feature on the blog and it struck me these are useful books and not just for beginners. I won't go into detail because I'll be covering, and comparing them, in more detail in the next two weeks. Trago had several copies most of which were £9.49p (RPP £12.99p). However quite by chance I picked up a brand new copy that was priced at  £5.99p and that was what I paid! I've left the best until last.

Paperback 128 pages AC Black , London 1985 (reprinted 1987) Size 81/4 x 103/4

These days it is very difficult to find a real book bargain. You do get some fair prices on Abebooks  but in general used booksellers have the market tied up and  finding a bargain is rare. In fact the reverse is true. Quality books tend to rocket in price once out of print and those by many well-known artists may be priced at several times the original cover price. UK sellers can be expensive and when on holiday to the USA and Canada I have found that used books are generally far more reasonable and availability very good..

With the mushrooming of charity shops in the UK in recent years many sell some used books. Stocks vary  but there is always a chance you might find something good. A couple of years ago in Keynsham two miles from my home, I found several which obviously had come from the same person, including a copy of `Watercolor' by John Pike. The late John Pike, he of the JP palette, is  famous in the USA and his books much sought after. I didn't buy it at less than £10 and have regretted this ever since, though as a matter of principle I don't tie myself in knots over what might have been. When I was in Kingsbridge a wander up the high street spied a charity shop with some books. The book above was the result. I have two John Blockley books, an A5 paperback published in association with Daler Rowney and the hardback `Country Landscapes in Watercolour' (1982). At this moment I also have `The Challenge of Watercolour' (1979), another hardback, on loan from the library. These latter two seem to be his best known and I confess I didn't know the book above which was published in 1985 so in many respects it supercedes the others. It has the advantage of being in colour whereas the earlier books are mainly monochrome. Just out of curiosity when  home I looked it up on Abebooks and found several copies for sale from different booksellers. The cheapest was £22.98p including carriage, and the others ranged from £31.35p to £51.35p!!! I paid £2.99p for a mint copy with just a pencil inscription on the inside cover.

The weather might not have been great last week and the plein air painting plans a washout but there were other compensations!

Saturday 7 July 2012

Jean Haines `Atmospheric Watercolours'

If ever there was an artist who can be said to be flavour of the year, last year as well as this one, it is Jean Haines. In the 1990s she studied Chinese brushwork in Hong Kong and has travelled extensively, with spells in Dubai, France and Belgium. According to the introduction in her first book `How to Paint Colour & Light in Watercolour' (Search Press 2010 softback 64 pages £8.99 US $17.95)  her work was already in collections all over the World and she has particpated in many prestigious events at major galleries. I had not heard of her until the first book came out, which I bought, but this has provided a launching pad to propel her to dizzy heights and she appears exhilarated by it as one might be. At the recent Patchings Art Festival her demos were booked solid with a large crowd unable to get in. She has a huge and growing following on Facebook and the new hardback is selling very well, according to her latest remarks.

Hardback Search Press 2012 174 pages £19.99p US $35

I purchased this book pre-publication from Amazon, £12.99 including carriage! It is profusely illustrated and  much more substantial than the previous softback. In the preface she talks about  quote`the many new tecniques and exciting colour combinations found on these pages' end of quote. Perhaps I am misinterpreting some of her comments as implying many of these tecniques are somehow original. Clingfilm and salt tecniques have been used by some artists, particularly in America, for years and one book I have `Watercolor Tricks & Tecniques by Cathy Johnson North Light Books 1987 covers all sorts of things. It isn't the only one by any means. Possibly, as she calls the clingfilm/salt combination her `Venetian Tecnique, she means the way in which she gets them to interact. She says in one place you should not use black and brown, some would agree but other good artists might disagree.

Since the first book - only two years ago - Jean has moved on in some ways and this applies to her palette. She has discovered - as have many of us - the delights of Daniel Smith watercolours and also mentions  a Schminke colour Transparent Orange which she enthuses about in her expressive way. This is an interesting colour which I have just received from Jacksons on her recommendation. Until recently it was the only colour to use PO71 Pyrrole Orange, although Lukas have now introduced it as `Permanent Orange'. Basically this, together with one or two other Pyrrole Orange pigments, is a transparent and non-toxic alternative to the opaque Cadmium Orange. 

Where do we go from here?  In my humble opinion, although she might not agree, Jean could be described as an English proponent of the realistic abstract way of painting brought to prominence in the original Dutch  book by Keest Van Aalst  ( English Edition - Realistic Abstracts - Search Press 2010  £12.99 US $25.95) and in this respect all her tecniques are not so new. She certainly uses the wet into wet tecnique quite dramatically, but this again isn't new, as many other artists do something similar. Her brush work is heavily influenced by her Chinese teachings and she clearly explains and illustrates her methods. It's very rare however that someone invents something utterly unique. She certainly uses brilliant colour but so does Viktoria Prischedko, one of the artists featured in the Van Aalst book. I also have the impression she is becoming ever more abstract and some of her latest work doesn't appeal to me in quite the same way. I suggest you look at her current exhibition at the Wey Gallery where you can download a pdf file of the paintings or view online, which are selling so well that additional ones have had to be brought in. She is also commanding quite high prices, although as you can see below some of her works are much larger than the average watercolour. The well-heeled art buyer seems to have bought into the Jean Haines experience. Her website is:

Jean Haines at the Wey Gallery. Large paintings indeed.

How do I sum things up? This is an interesting and individual book from a talented lady who has a large and growing following. The way she paints is a bit of a minefield for any but the more experienced because her methods need considerable skill and ability. It just doesn't happen by chance.  Beginners should be very wary of plunging into the water without careful thought, and in order to benefit from her teachings you do need some experience. Is she pioneering new ways of painting in watercolour?  I'm a lover of loose and impressionistic paintings, but there are also many other artists who are producing exciting and dynamic work. I shall feature some more in future posts.

I shall be on holiday for the next week so there will be no more postngs until I return. 

Thursday 5 July 2012


I am  intrigued by the owl paintings of Jean Haines and have done several studies trying to utilize some of her tecniques. Unfortunately they haven't worked that well so I reverted to a rather more othodox method, although keeping her approach in mind. I'm not satisfied with the result and am still mulling over how to handle such a subject. There are several artists whose approach to birds and animals I like - Gerard Hendriks, Bev Jozwiak and Liam Quan Zhen for example and there are others....!

What a Quartet!

 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb Not.

I don't put this forward as a good painting just the latest - could be the fifth - attempt at making something of this difficult (to me) subject. In the painting I've deliberately toned down the three  owls  at the rear and made the slightly larger one at the front prominent using colour to do so. First I made a not too detailed drawing using a mechanical pencil with an 07 2B lead. I like the Pentel 205 series. Colours were Cerulean, Raw Umber, Quinacridone Gold (DS PO49), Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Indigo (DSPB60/PBk11) (mainly for the eyes), some Cyan Blue (Maimeri PB15:3), Cobalt Teal Blue (Graham PG50), and Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19). I think that's it.

 Brushes used were the Rosemary Series 33 Size 12 plus a smaller size 6. Following this I tried another.

16" x 12" Centenaire 300gm (140lb) not.

Actually, although I don't consider this anything special, it is in fact an example of a failed painting at least partially recovered. I was about to tear up the first one in a fit of pique when I had the thought  what if I washed most of the colour off, because there was nothing wrong with the  underlying drawing. I duly did this with plenty of water using a sponge and then let it dry. What remained was a faint impression of the original with the colours in very pale tints.

Next day I had another try and this is the result. The other thing is that the paper used was the reverse side as the front or `good' side already had a (discarded) painting. For those still reading colours used were mainly yellow/browns and blues, Quinacridone Gold (DS PO49), Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber with some Hansa Yellow Medium (DS PY97) and Indian Yellow (Rowney PY53) for the eyes. Blues were Indigo (Daniel Smith PB60/PBk11), Cerulean and Cyan Blue (Maimeri PB15:3). When all was dry I dry brushed some white gouache on to various places. I  think that's it. I only used one brush the Isabey Series 5228 Size 8 Kolinsky, except for the gouache, a small bristle brush.

The lesson from this if there is one is that watercolours can be corrected and, to some extent rescued. It isn't ideal and some will say just junk the failures. Still good paper is very expensive so why not try.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Mat Stams

Mat Stams was a Maricopa Indian. This photograph was taken in 1907 by Edward Curtis. I have painted him previously and wanted to take a slightly different approach.

The Maricopa live in Southwestern Arizona, where they have been for hundreds of years. For more information on the tribe see  

 Mat Stams 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White Not

This was painted on a Fabriano block of 18" x 12" size. As my prerred sizes are either 16" x 12" or 20 " x 14" I have reduced the size by marking off an inch  on the long  18"side of the block.
I  first made a preliminary drawing attempting to get accurate proportions. As usual I started painting the eyes, nose, mouth, then the rest. After the preliminary washes I added darker colour - more blue - where appropriate. I've a tendency to start into areas before they are fully dry, something I must resist. The features and skin colours were mixtures of Cadmium Red Light, Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72), Raw Sienna and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48). The hair is a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. There is some green (Hookers - Graham) and yellow (DS Hansa Yellow Medium PY97) in the background. I mostly mix on the paper. I added the yellow in the background to brighten and warm up the otherwise coolness. Brushes used were the Rosemary Series 33 size 12 plus some Isabey smaller sizes.

For those who are interested I've just started a `Figurative Watercolours' group on Facebook.

Monday 2 July 2012

More on the Prischedkos

The amount of interest in the two pieces I did on Viktoria and Slawa Prischedko has been considerable and they are amongst the top posts in terms of page reads. The Moulin de Perrot Academy of Fine Arts  is once again hosting both Viktoria and Slawa for a workshop entitled `Watercolor: shadows and light in watercolor' between July 29 and August 3rd. They are previouly teaching at Atelier-artimage, Dustal, France between July 15 - 21 with the same workshop title. On the Atelier site are two splendid galleries of their paintings  Unfortunately, like their website, you cannot download the paintings as some sort of block is in place.  The Prischedkos gallery is ADDED 11/11/2019: For the last two years the Prischedkos have been at East Devon Arts at Sidmouth, Devon. England conducting workshops.

 Slawa in centre with Viktoria next to him.

Viktoria will teach landscapes outside and in the studio and Slawa portraiture in the studio. Interestingly Viktorias class is in French with simultaneous translation into English. Slawas is in German with translation into French and English. Viktoria was born in Moravia and Slawa the Ukraine. Both are graduates of the Art Academy of Kiev. Slawa has his own teaching academy and both have featured in many exhibitions and belong to several art organisations. They are considered two of the leading watercolour artists, although previously little known outside Europe.

Moulin de Perrot list the materials Viktoria uses which I will detail again. For paper she uses Hahnemuhle 600g ("Moulin du Coq")  50 x 60cm. It says `this is not a regular product'(?)  Brushes are Da Vinci Nos 12, 14, 20 and 30. I presume these are the Cosmotop series and could be either the Spin round series 5580 or the Mix B round series 5530. The 5580 is a synthetic brush while the 5530 is a mixture of sable, squirrel and fitch combined with synthetic. Ken Bromley sells a heavy Hahnemuhle paper that could well be the one Viktoria uses, and Jacksons sell the Cosmotop series. Also listed are Schlepper No 6 or 8. These latter are what we know as riggers.

Despite the amazing colour effects she gets in her paintings her palette is listed as (only!) lemon yellow, green yellow, transparent orange, perylene violet, french ultramarine and indigo blue. It has previously been said that these are a mix of Schminke and `Russian', presumably St. Petersburg/White Nights. Looking at her paintings I imagine the transparent orange is the Schminke colour that Jean Haines is ecstatic about in her latest book. The pigment (PO71 pyrrole orange) was until recently unique to Schminke, but Lukas are now offering a Permanent Orange which is the same pigment. Schminke is available from Jacksons and Lukas Great Art  and Lawrence

 The portraits are all by Slawa although I wonder if this one might be by Viktoria? It looks like her signature.

Slawas tecnique is different to Viktorias. Apparently he doesn't do any preliminary drawing for his portraits and, unlike Viktoria, paints in layers. I cannot find any information about his materials. I assume they may be different but who knows? They are both fabulous artists and it is a pity neither appear to have written any books nor made videos. can we live in hope?