Monday 22 July 2013

Northern Cardinal

This is the completed painting of the drawing shown at the end of the previous post. On studying the drawing I realised the tail was not quite right so changed the contours and erased the old line.

Northern Cardinal 15" x 11" Gerstaeker No.3 200gsm not

This was another in the `Paint Colorful Birds For Fun" Facebook page. It was done quite quickly and with a limited number of colours. The bird is mainly Cadmium Red Pale (Rowney PR108) and the surrounding green Hookers Green, which I splashed on. before painting.  I drew on a number of very fine lines of Pebeo Drawing Gum applied with a ruling pen. The eyes and chin are Ivory Black (Maimeri) and the beak mainly Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153). Pigment PY153 is becoming unavailable so I'll have to find an equivalent.  The tree trunk he is perched on is a mixture of Raw and Burnt Umber, some Cerulean and Quinacridone Burnt Orange. Also some darks from Ultramarine and Burnt Umber.

Gerstaeker No.3 is a cheap cellulose paper, exclusively from Great Art, which comes in a pad of 65 sheets, and the only brushes used were the Isabey 6 retractable and the Escoda 1214 No.8.

Don't think I'm only concentrating on birds from now on. This is just to get me into the painting groove again. I think I shall attempt a portrait or two very soon and then other subjects. My pending house move will interrupt things when it finally happens, possibly in around a months time.

Friday 19 July 2013

Back to Painting

After my recent blank period I finally got back to painting. The relatively minor health problems I have suffered are more or less over, although the house move is still not finalized. Nevertheless the other day I managed a drawing in my `studio'. As I am sorting my art stuff ready for moving it is somewhat disorganized but nevertheless I managed.

Drawing of Eurasian Magpie. A `Colorful Birds' Subject.

Today was the `unofficial'  weekly Thursday Summer session of  Avon Valley Artists. What is meant by this is that members still meet at St Mary's Church Hall, but there is no programme and everyone does their own thing. The number varies but is lower than during the official Autumn and Winter programmes. I decided to take part and so did five other members - a little below normal.

Eurasian Magpie 15" x 11" Gerstaeker No.3 200gsm not.

When I made the drawing I aimed for an accurate but not over detailed result. The bird is essentially black and white, like most Magpie species, but includes some nice turquoise  areas, which I exaggerated slightly. I used two brushes, mostly the Escoda 1214 Retractable size 8, less so a Rosemary retractable rigger. The bird is Ivory Black (Maimeri) and Turquoise (Lukas PB16) with some Prussian Blue (PB27). There are small touches of Raw Umber and diluted Cerulean, the latter for shadows in the white areas. The branches are alternate warm and cool, with Cerulean for the cool and Raw Umber, Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna for the warm. A little Ivory black was added for the darker shadowed areas. I splashed Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre  (W & N PY43) and Quinacridone Burnt Orange (Daniel Smith PO48) onto the background, brushing out some of the splashes. Some over painting but kept to a minimum. I think that's it. I was quite pleased with the result. Painting is like many other interests in that a period of inactivity leads to rustiness. I should add the painting was done for the Facebook page `Paint Colorful Birds for Fun', which has proved very popular.  As I finished early (I always do) I commenced the next Colorful subject by completing the initial drawing. 

Northern Cardinal (North America).

I aim for a loose drawing and compare this with the guide photo as I go along. I do have to erase and redraw parts although I try and avoid too much erasing. This looks reasonably okay but I often make changes after further study.  

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Schmincke Watercolour Paints

Schmincke are the leading German manufacturer of watercolour paints, which they have been making since 1881. Their motto is "I strive for the  best" and they are still owned by the Schmincke and Horadam families, now into the fourth generation. Contrast that with Winsor & Newton, sold to a Swedish company, who have now sold them to a German company and recently moved manufacture of the paints to France!

Added 14/04/2017: The new enlarged range makes some of the following obsolete so read this in conjunction with the recent posts on the additional colours (35). A few of the existing range have been reformulated and some names altered. The updated brochure is on the Schmincke site (   in the same format. It does not say if this will be available in printed form. 

The above brochure I obtained some years ago, just after the range had been reformulated. It now comprises 110 colours and is available in both tubes, 15ml and 5ml, and full and half pans. It may no longer be available but have no fear it can be downloaded from the website as a PDF and studied at leisure. Details later.

The information presented for each colour is comprehensive and very useful. Information on transparency, and lightfastness is clearly stated and looking at the Schmincke ratings they seem to me to be pretty realistic and they also add that ...` no watercolour should be exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged time due to the usually fine and thin and thereby light sensitive colour application'.... Pigment information is also most useful. 

Schmincke use Kordofan Gum Arabic from the Southern Sahara region as the binding medium which they say differs from year to year, depending on the crop - like good wine! They are therefore very selective in only purchasing the best available crop. They also state Oxgall is useful but only if carefully integrated. Schminke however are dead against the use of honey.due to it's propensity to attract flies.

What of the range? Of the 110 colours 70 are single pigment paints and the use of good reliable pigments is prevalent. Only three colours are given no ratings, Brilliant purple, Brilliant red violet and Brilliant blue violet. The latter two are dyes. The controversial Alazarin Crimson  (and Rose Madder) are given two star ratings - limited lightfastness. 

I don't have a great deal of experience with Schmincke, currently  using only Translucent Orange (PO71) and Translucent Brown (PBr41), both excellent paints. The orange is a favourite. Like most manufacturers they do have their quirks. For example `Ultramarine Blue' is a mixture of PB15:1 Phalo Blue and PB29 Ultramarine Blue. `Pure' Ultramarine Blue is called Ultramarine Finest. Cobalt Blue tone is a mixture of PB29 and PW4 (white). Cobalt Blue Deep (PB74) and Cobalt Blue light (PB28) are the correct pigments. This illustrates once again that you should buy paints by pigments not colours.  They also have a few four pigment mixes, mainly in the brown shades and  a number of three pigment mixes. If you lean towards single pigment paints there is still plenty of choice.

Current prices from Jacksons  range from  £6.50 (15ml) Series 1 to £12,00 Series 4.  Once again you have to be careful as there are not that many in series 1 and manufacturers differ in the way they rate paints (pigments). See `Watercolour Painting on a Budget Pt.2' April 2013  for an explanation. I tried to find them on the Great Art site but the recent revised one is far less user friendly and although they do sell Schmincke could I find the 15 ml tubes? No, nor the 5ml and pans. Ken Bromley introduced Schmincke watercolours a year or so ago but discontinued them almost immediately claiming there was `no demand'.   A few other suppliers sell them like Pullingers and I found them in a large art shop in Truro, Cornwall. They are freely available in the USA from some of the leading mail order suppliers.

What does Handprint say about Schmincke? Overall not a particularly flattering review although he raves about the `marvellous colour brochure' and picks out Translucent Orange as `unique'.  Following this review a number of artists took issue with him, primarily photo-realistic and botanical painters, who preferred the `consistent texture and less emphatic chroma'.  

As Schmincke have been selling watercolours for well over 100 years they must be doing something right and I suggest one keeps an open mind. The literature is certainly second to none. The details of the full range could hardly be bettered and include notes on each colour which go beyond the simple statistics. To get this information go to the Schmincke website and look up watercolours. As mentioned the full colour/pigment information and much else can be downloaded as a PDF. It is identical to the brochure. I should mention that a budget range called Akademie is also offered in a limited range of half pans, mostly in sets..

Sunday 7 July 2013

Paintings I Like (Amongst Others)

In my travels across the net, particularly on Facebook, I have accumulated a vast number of paintings, all watercolour I believe. Many are absolutely stunning although I realise this is down to individual preference.They cover a range of styles leaning towards the impressionistic and colourful. I have deliberately excluded portraits, of which I have a vast number. In most cases I know little about the artists. there are so many, of whom a lot are relatively unknown in the West. My own painting has lapsed in the last month for reasons I have indicated elsewhere, but looking at many of these  is sure to increase the desire to get out the paint brushes and just paint! 

Christian Couteau

Viktoria Prischedko

Gerard Hendriks

Burhan Ozer

Millind Mullick

Yuko Nagayama

Zhao Zhigiang

Direk (or Derek) Kingnok

Geoffrey Johnson

Z L Feng

I think that will do for now. I have many, many more and if this creates enough interest I will repeat the process with more stunning paintings. I think I have most of the artists names  but welcome corrections.

Wednesday 3 July 2013


It is often said that sound drawing is the basis of all good painting. I don't think many will dispute this and certainly my advice to anyone starting young would be to spend the first two years just learning to draw properly. Workshop teachers will tell you that one of the problems they have is that students - particularly those who have taken up painting late in life - want to start  painting immediately without getting too involved in the basics. I have made sporadic attempts to improve my drawing and it is certainly better. One of my problems is that I don't have the steadiest of hands, a reason why I was attracted to the Charles Reid method of modified contour drawing. I don't pretend I can do it as well as him, but even Charles has been heard to say some people think he can't draw a straight line. During my association with various local art groups, and on some workshops, one comes across quite a few people who have had occupations that involved precise drawing. Many want to `loosen up' but find it very difficult to use this kind of drawing skill to produce good paintings. This is a general comment  and there are always exceptions to the rule. 

There are hundreds of books on drawing, all claiming to be the best in various ways, and it is difficult to choose from such a variety. Some cover drawing from the basics to the pinnacle, while others cover specific subjects. I have accumulated quite a number but don't pretend I have studied them cover to cover.

This is the classic work by John Ruskin, first published in 1857 and remains: "one of the most sensible and useful, both for the amateur and the professional artist.

Originally published a century or more ago this is another classic full of sound advice. It isn't just a how to book but covers every angle ..."brings to the beginner a clear statement of the principles that he will have to develop and their importance in creating a work of art"...

If you wish to go the Atelier route then this book by Juliette Aristides is a good starting point together with her previous works `Classical Drawing Atelier' and `Classical Painting Atelier'. This type of drawing is enjoying a revival with a number of `Atelier' schools having been set up fairly recently. Probably best for the young, dedicated art student just starting up. It comes with a DVD and I shamefully confess I haven't viewed it - yet.

I'm not going to mention all the books I have just a few I particularly like.

This is my favourite recommended by Charles Reid, who considers it the best book on drawing. I like it a lot and  believe it would help most of us who wish to improve our drawing skills. Dodson wrote a second book but I didn't like it nearly so much.

This is written by the Bristol artist John Palmer in the Ron Ranson `Painting School' series. John has an idiosyncratic style that might put off many but is highly individualistic and exciting. Not for everyone. His pencil work is astonishing.

This is just one in a whole series written by Barrington Barber, a British artist and teacher. They are basic, inexpensive primers full of sound advice.

I have several others including the Betty Edwards `Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain', a seminal book which has sold in huge quantities and several editions. I've never really got into this one I have to confess. As an amateur `dabbler' I don't pretend to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of  drawing books and no doubt there are many other choices of equally valuable books. I once started a thread on Wetcanvas, actually as research for this post, asking for members views on the very best books but all I got  was the usual litany of advice about which or what one I ought to get, most missing the point completely. 

All the above were obtained from either Amazon or Abebooks. The only one that proved difficult to obtain, eventually from Abebooks, was John Palmer, which was also the most expensive. Prices on all the others were very reasonable.

Monday 1 July 2013

Pebeo Drawing Gum

The use of making fluid isn't universal, with some artists for and many against. I don't have any hangups and am prepared to use anything if I feel it beneficial. Don't overdo it though. I have used it sporadically from time to time and a few months ago attended a Bathampton demo where the head of the Bath University Art Department gave a portrait demonstration. During it he mentioned Pebeo Drawing Gum, which he said was hard to find but was the best he had ever used. I'd never heard of it but soon realised he was talking about  masking fluid. Subsequently, although he said one of the Bath art shops stocked it, I found it in Jacksons catalogue. It is listed on page 54 of the latest catalogue under Watercolour Mediums.  The small container contains 45 ml and I found it best applied with a ruling pen. It costs £3.95p. 

Pebeo Drawing Gum and ruling pen. The pen is four inches long and the bottle less than 3 inches from top to bottom. Note the huge relative size of the top.

I am still not expert in it's use but am getting better and the application of masking fluid is one where practice makes perfect or at least acceptable! With the ruling pen you can get very thin lines and the control is excellent - becoming better as I become used to it.

We now come to the negative bit. If you spill any liquid either on clothing, carpets or anything else lookout! This stuff is lethal and I haven't found a satisfactory way of removing it. Other masking fluids may be similar but I think the problem is compounded here by the cap design. For some reason - probably cost - makers are changing many of their bottled products from the old - easy to remove - smallish metal screw tops to these plastic ones, which are much larger and have a lot of threads. This coincides with the change from glass to plastic. Winsor & Newton have done the same and my latest bottle of ox gall has a top that is almost impossible to remove. You can get it partially off which then causes it to leak. With the Pebeo I returned from a Bathampton session to find most had leaked in my carry bag, went through it and onto the carpet. The cap was on but had not fully clicked into place and the liquid went everywhere. At another session drips from the cap went onto my trousers and can't be removed. Also make sure it is absolutely dry before painting because otherwise it will ruin your brushes.

Is it worth buying? If you use masking fluid in small amounts then absolutely providing you are extremely careful when unscrewing the top and even applying it. Liquid also collects inside the rings of the top and can drip out when you take it off. Be very, very careful.

I have not been terribly active on the blog recently due to a combination of circumstances, illness (nothing really serious), holidays, and complications with our projected house move which has affected my focus. The holiday is over and the illness improving but the latter remains a problem, hopefully for not much longer.