Tuesday 20 December 2016

Happy Xmas and Prosperous New Year

The above headline is a difficult one with the disasters happening almost continuously in different parts of the World. Good news has become rarer and rarer. Ones heart goes out to the poor people -especially the children - in many of these countries torn by strife on an almost daily basis. Although there have been some isolated terrible things happening in some European countries by and large we can be thankful  for our relative stability. Still we must remain optimistic and hope beyond hope that things will improve in 2017. Although this blog does not normally get involved in politics with Brexit in the UK and President Trump in America it is difficult to remain optimistic.

On the painting front the death of Ron Ranson was reported last week in Portland, Oregon, where he moved with his American wife Darlis a few years ago. I was trying to discover how old Ron was  - certainly well into his eighties. Ron will be remembered for his significant impact on watercolour painting. Certainly his teachings and books - nearly thirty - have had a great affect and many are painting who would not be doing so without him. He was a great showman and I remember being on two short workshops at his lovely house and grounds in the Forest of Dean. This was at the later stages of his career and to some extent he was going through the motions by then, but many artists who later became well-known passed through his workshops.

As is well-known I am a follower and admirer of Charles Reid. I discovered last week that he is coming to England again in late 2017  on a Travelrite/ International Artist  painting holiday. Although  I had decided, whatever happened in the future, the workshop at Stow on the Wold would be my last I sent for details out of curiosity. It appears to be a ten day all in holiday with painting, starting in the Cotswolds and finishing in Cornwall. The price with single supplement is  over £3500! According to the company there are 20 places and 16 were already booked. See his website for details.

I have more or less decided that 2017, my eightieth year, will be the last year when I will be active on the blog. As regulars will have recognised I have been winding down this year and finding it difficult to come up with original and interesting posts. There is a lot of good stuff in the back catalogue, most of which is still relevant, so explore the Index in July 2014 if you are interested.

Finally may I once again wish all those who are followers or just interested visitors, the very best for Xmas and the New Year. Whatever you do keep painting!

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Blockx Watercolours

Blockx are a Belgian company originating in 1865.   Blockx was started  by Jacques Blocks, a wealthy chemist. It is today run by Jacques Blocks, presumably the great grandson of the founder.

The famous Salvador Dali writing about the founder said "50 secrets of craftsmanship...."This man who never painted, will contribute more to the painters of tomorrow that what we will have accomplished all the modern painters together". Some praise but remember this was in the 1860s.

The current watercolour range, they were updated in 2008 ..."vastly improved"according to Handprint comprise 72 colours 82% of which are single pigment paints. Naming is the usual mix  with a few anomalies like Blockx Yellow (PY3), Blockx Green (PG7). They do two versions of Burnt Sienna 'Light' and 'Deep', Pyrrolo Vermilion (PO73), Quinacridone Red/Rose  (PV19) is called Rose Lake Pale and Rose Lake, also Magenta. Blockx Blue is PB15:1 which is Phalo Blue and so on. Overall not too bad but you need to refer to the pigment information to be fully aware of what you are getting. The pigments used are all good and in line with other major manufacturers. Blockx use gum arabic and a small amount of honey in their formulation.

What does Handprint say about them - and here's the rub! The good bits are "a few gems....Viridian, Cobalt Violet."....."delightfully varied selection of 16 earth (iron oxide) colours" "All the above have assertive granulating Texture". Unfortunately things then go downhill. Bruce McEvoy of Handprint when in full flow (no longer unfortunately) though admitting  the new range was  ' vastly improved obviously considered that the need to do this didn't reflect well on the company, and wrote that they had been making 'false claims' about some of the paints.  He's said this about others like Lukas who did something similar. This led to an exchange of e-mails between him and Jacques Blocks who complained bitterly about his damning of the paints.  Read Handprint if you are interested. In addition or alternatively read what the artist Jane Blundell says on her blog. 


Jane has done a fabulous job of painting out swatches of over 750 paints including Blockx with observations about how they perform.  Fascinating

These are the giant 3 inch pans. You can see how big they are in the photos above and below.

The smaller tube is actually 15ml, The larger one is 36ml or even larger but I've never seen it advertised for sale over here and  was unaware they did such a size.

 Unfortunately the pigment information is unclear but you can download this chart from Blockx website.

I've never used Blockx although they are available from Jacksons and Great Art and appear so from the leading American mail order specialists. The only artist I know who used them was the late Zoltan Szabo but he also has a Maimeri palette and a Winsor and Newton one.  If you search on Youtube for 'Blockx' at least two videos come up including an interview with Jacques Blockx (in French!). Blockx website is; www.blockx.be/en/products/aquarelles.asp just google 'blockx .

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Recent Paintings

The following paintings were in response to the subject 'Winter Scene' at a recent AVA session. After the last lot I posted on here  - including quite a bit of dross - were greeted with a deafening silence I determined to only  post paintings in future that I consider acceptable. In this instance I actually did two in a roughly two hour session, but took the trouble to do both drawings the previous day in my'studio' so I could concentrate on the actual painting. I find when I do it this way I get a better result. It allows me to be rather more careful in my approach rather than slapdash. This includes studying the subject (and guide photograph) at leisure.

'Red Squirrel enjoying a winters meal' - 30 x 40 cm Cornwall 210lb (450gsm) matt surface

I enjoyed painting and drawing this one. One of the main colours was the Graham Quinacridone Rust (PO48), which is a gorgeous paint. Annoyingly Graham is only available in the UK from W E Lawrence of Hove, who offer a good price when you buy 6 tubes but have a fixed carriage charge of  £4.95p. This adds nearly 82p to each tube. They refuse to budge on this citing 'superior service' whatever that means. I find the companies that offer free carriage over a certain value - typically £40 - give a perfectly good service. The same pigment PO48 is offered by Daniel Smith - available from Jacksons and others  as Quinacridone Burnt Orange, very similar  perhaps slightly darker. Although Daniel Smith paints are  dearer than Graham I'll have to bite the bullet and order a tube when I next place an order for the AVA. As for the Cornwall paper it produced a good result and was easy to work on. Being heavier than my normal 140lb Waterford it resists buckling as the blocks are very well made. In any event  I don't find this a problem as I don't use heavy washes. The size is slightly smaller than the 16" x 12" Waterford so I'll probably stick to Waterford. Because it is a heavier weight  Cornwall doesn't work out much cheaper.

'Robin enjoying a meal' - Waterford 16"x 132" High White 140lb (300gsm) not

This was done in the remaining time at the AVA session after I'd painted the squirrel. Less than an hour and as you can see it is a minimalist painting. I'm quite happy with it. If Hercules Brabazon did some of his best paintings in 30 minutes...........!!! I'm not foolish enough to compare my work to his though! Colours are Cerulean, Raw Sienna with the reds Cadmium Red Light and some Quinacridone Rust for the breast with Quinacridone Rose and Perylene Maroon for the berries. I think  that's it

Thursday 1 December 2016

Watercolour Paintings (25)

This months batch of paintings follow and as usual I've tried to provide as varied a batch as possible. I hope you like them.

Slawa Prischedko

Charles Reid

Chien Chung Wei

Gilles Durand

Tony Xu Min

Bijay Biswaal

Huang Hsiao - Hui

Hercules Brabazon

Thomas Schaller

Faustina Martin Gonzalez

Barbara Nechis

Lin Shaoling

Shirley Trevena

Charles Reid

Amit Kapoor

Gilles Durand

I met Gilles Durand - one of the best French watercolour artists - on two Charles Reid workshops. Shirley Trevena is one of the most acclaimed British watercolour artists while Barbara Nechis is a highly acclaimed American artist. Most of the others I don't know much about but they are on Facebook so should be traceable if they interest you.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Latest Paintings

The Avon Valley Artists autumn/winter programme is in full swing and the following paintings have - mostly - been painted during these sessions. I was in two minds as to post several because they are not, on the whole, anything special. I'm beginning to think I'm regressing with increasing age and painting less than previously. I read somewhere that you needed to paint at least three times a week to stand still and recently I'm down to two. 

'World Wide Culture" 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb not

This was another painting from the Green man festival. An old Pagan ritual at Hastings.The first one I did is much better.

"Fruit and Fungi" 16" x 12" Waterford High White  140lb not

Here I combined fruit and fungi in a sort of collage. I quite like this for the colour,

"Indian Maiden" 16" x 12" Waterford High White 140 not

This was my own subject mainly painted at home. This one I rather like.

 " Movement" 18" x 12" Artistico Extra White 140lb

The guide photo used the photo  technique whose name eludes me at the movement. It is the same bird obviously.

'North West Coast Amerindian male' 16" x 12" Waterford High White not

The American North West Coast spreading - at the top end - into Canada, originally contained over 150 tribes, many less than 1000 people. The majority are on the Canadian side where they have survived rather better than the American tribes. Some have disappeared forever but the remainder  seem to be thriving and have adapted to 'the white mans ways' while still retaining their identity and culture. I saw two TV programmes about them recently and subsequently bought a book called 'A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest ' by Ruby and Brown.

'Perico' The last hostile Apache band. 30" x 40cm" Cornwall 210lb not

Perico was a relative of Geronimo and part of his band, the last hostile Apaches to surrender in 1881 thereby bringing an end to the Apache wars and indeed, apart from as few other incidents elsewhere, the Indian wars. There was trouble of sorts for some years, indeed decades afterwards, but on a smaller scale. 

Limited Palette (Two colours only) 16" x 12" Waterford High White 140lb not

We were only allowed two colours for this one and I chose Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Schmincke Translucent Brown (PBr41). For my inspiration I looked at  Agnes-Cecilles's work.

'Experimental' Black and White with one other colour painting on newsprint approx. 16" x 12"

The subject here was to cover the paper with newsprint, either pieces or larger bits. I did the latter and we were to use black, white and one other colour. I chose Cadmium Red Light and attempted a sort of 'pop art' result. It took 20 minutes.

' The Hat' 16" x 12" Arches Hot press

This was not a subject just me. The hat and eyes are not quite aligned, with the eyes too far apart. Careless!!!

'Sioux Brave' 30" x 40" cm Cornwall 210lb matt

Another Indian brave in my continuing attempts to portray them. A bit muddy and the cheek on the right hand side is not right.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Rembrant (Royal Talens) Watercolours

Rembrandt ( Royal Talens) the Dutch company, now owned by Sakura Color Products of Japan, was started in 1899 by Martin Talens as the 'Dutch Factory for Paints, Lacquers and inks', located in the  city of Apeldoon. In 1949 the 'Royal' designation was awarded, In 1963 Van Gogh (40 paints in pans and 10ml tubes) were introduced and Amsterdam in 1976.

 Just to explain Rembrandt are the artists quality range, Van Gogh a middle range and Amsterdam the student quality. Van Gogh is therefore in between and an excellent choice for those who don't want or cannot afford the dearest artist quality.   From amongst the 40 colours a very acceptable palette can be put together which would suit many people.

In 1963 the Sikkem Group NV took over and a further change occurred in 1991 when the Sakura Color Products Corporation became the new owners

The Rembrandt range comprises 80 paints of which 53% are single pigment.  All the colours are there and good pigments feature.   Apart from two fugitive paints using PR83, Madder Lake Deep and Alazarin Crimson, which are identified as fugitive, all others are said to be excellent in this respect. PY184 -Permanent  Lemon Yellow - however is rated by Handprint as fugitive, but then he has questioned the ratings of several paints in other leading makes. What does Handprint say about them?

"Rembrandt paints are relatively inexpensive and of very good consistent quality". His criticisms are.... 5 pigments are involved in 37 different colours... too many mixed hues... an economy brand`'.

Other reviews I've seen have been favourable giving them top marks and they are certainly superior overall to student quality ranges - so too is Van Gogh. I have said before however that there are many decent paints to be selected from amongst Cotman, Venezia as well as Van Gogh and the own brand makes are also worth investigation. The artist Trevor Chamberlain commented in his book, 'Trevor Chamberlain - A Personal View',  that he had found a really good Viridian, after trying many others, made by Talens. I actually bought some after reading this but wasn't especially enthused, but who am I to disagree with such an accomplished artist. 80 is a goodly number and nothing is really missing. See for yourself in the colour chart above.

Whatever Handprint says they are used by many artists in Europe and available from most USA online companies.  Gerard Hendriks, the Dutch master, uses them and look how colourful his paintings are. Indeed they are marketed as 'Professional Quality', which has to be taken with a grain of salt in regard to some makes, but I am sure is reasonable in this instance.

The Van Gogh range - 40 colours in half pans and 10ml tubes. 

Rembrandt are available in both pans and tubes plus box sets. Tubes are 5ml with 40 colours  in 20ml. Not everyone stocks the 20ml and indeed Jacksons are selling them off 'while stocks last'. The only one that seems to sell the full range of sizes is the SAA  (Society of All Artists ) and you have to be a member to get the best prices. Jacksons seem to be dropping the 20ml size which is a shame. In the 5ml size the Cadmiums, which Handprint praises, only cost around £3.20 so are excellent buys if you only use them sparingly.  In fact this applies to many colours apart from the staples. The 5ml prices are very good. I certainly regard them, in terms of quality and price - which are the criteria I use - in the larger 20ml size as a 'best buy'.

In conclusion I think Rembrandt are well worth consideration apart from the tube sizes which are out of line with most others. It would be better if they offered  either a 15ml tube size or a larger range of 20ml. Based on the current 20ml prices from the SAA, ranging from  £6.55 to £9.75, they are a top buy. My main gripe is the poor availability in the UK of the 20ml size. Even Great Art  only do the 5 ml size. This doesn't appear to be a problem in the USA.


Tuesday 1 November 2016

Watercolour Paintings (24)

Here is the latest batch of downloaded paintings for this month. Actually more than usual - a bumper lot! Naturally not all will appeal but there should be something for everybody. Many of the artists are unknown to me but if you wish enquiries via Google should bring more information on the majority. 

Slawa Prischedko - need I say more!

Alex Bertaina

Bev Jozwiak - as brilliant as ever!

Genevieve Buchanan -a fellow student on two Charles Reid workshops. Genevieve is incredibly loose these days Very brave stuff.

Chien Chung Wei  - this is a demo painting on his EPC workshop in Catalonia recently.

Josef Wisniewski

Dianne Benoit - my kind of Artist.

Gerard Hendriks - even more my kind of Artist and a marvellous man.

Edo Hannema - This may not be the final version but I like it as it is.

Milind Mulick - brilliant as ever.

Bijay Biswael - Stunning

A very recent Charles Reid demo at one of his American workshops.

Abe Toshijnks (spelling ?)

Another recent Charles Reid demo.

A closer look at the above.

Sergei Kurbatov

Jansen Chow

Galina Gomzina - not sure if I've got this right?

Angela Barbi - Angela a delightful lady who I had the pleasure of meeting when I attended her EPC workshop with Charles Reid a few years ago. A memorable experience which both I and my wife, as a non-painting partner, will treasure in our memories.

That's it folks. Once again I marvel at the wonderful artists out there who paint in watercolour.