Thursday 9 April 2020

Jacksons Watercolours

As well as budget makes from the majors, Cotman from Winsor & Newton is one well-known example plus Van Gogh from Talens (Rembrandt),we also have house brands that have increased a lot over the last few years. One such is Jacksons. As part of my look at cheaper brands with my ongoing  campaign, and I have no great expectations of success,  against the eye watering prices of the majors I purchased three tubes.  I know this is a small sample but see later.

Jacksons started off with 40 colours but according to the website there are now 48. However the colour chart shows 43! I also wonder if the pigment information is correct. For example they are still showing PY153 for Jacksons Yellow Light, whereas PY 153 was discontinued some time ago. On the Youtube piece mentioned there is a suggestion in the comments that some changes have been made and the labels have yet to catch up. I count 27 single pigments out of 43 which is about 60%. I have e mailed them querying the discrepancy in the number of paints and have yet to receive a reply. In the past I've always found them very good at answering queries but I think they are suffering staff shortages due to the virus and are also very busy. It seems us artists are finding ways to occupy our time! I expect to get a reply in due course and will print it when received.

The tubes are not very attractive but its whats inside that really matters. This is the largest size 21ml. There are also 10ml tubes and half and full pans. 

From left to right the three swatches are Cerulean Blue, Raw Umber and Burnt Umber. When I opened the Cerulean tube I was disturbed to see a lot of liquid came out and Teoh had the same problem with certain colours.  He puts it down to an excess of gum arabic. This is separation and often happens if tubes have been hanging on racks for a long time. One of the replies to Teoh  said "shake the tubes well before use" and this indeed seems to work. I would have thought though that this range from Jacksons sells quite well and the tubes are not that old..

Once I got to the pigment the colour seems okay and I'm reasonably happy with it. The Raw Umber is a different matter. This is very dark and I think I'll have to find a better lighter one. The Burnt Umber is slightly redder than the Raw Umber and may be satisfactory. These  latter colours are not that popular with many artists, and the Australian maestro Robert Wade condemned Burnt Umber in one of his books. But then he also condemned Paynes Grey and Yellow Ochre.

I now come to a splendid piece on YouTube  from the artist Teoh Chie where he covers Jacksons watercolours in some detail and paints out swatches of fourteen. This elicited several interesting responses from some who had tried and indeed used them. It is well worth looking at this video which (I think) gives a balanced and realistic view of these paints. They are made by Sennelier but are not exactly the same. Teoh looked at the equivalent Sennelier colours and points out differences, in some instances,  in the pigments.

Looking at prices the  Cerulean at £9.50, is very reasonable for 21ml. Current Cerulean prices from Jacksons - all 15ml unless otherwise stated -  : Daniel Smith £15.30, Winsor & Newton (14ml) £13.50, Lukas (24ml) £10.00, Sennelier (21ml) £13.70p,  Shin Han £13.00, Turner £6.10 and Mission Gold £6.80.  Makes you think doesn't it? I was surprised how expensive Shin Han has become and how cheap  Turner and Mission Gold are.  On my blog  I have had  comments on all these cheaper makes and, while there are a few reservations, there has also been positives. From this though Lukas has to be the star buy. I like Lukas, apart from some of the multi pigment mixes. The paint comes from the tube like toothpaste but dissolves easily once water is added. Lukas are now part of the Daler Rowney group. My best buys not so long ago included Daler Rowney then we had a substantial price hike. I've been wondering if and when Lukas will follow.

Despite these high prices Jacksons still say Daniel Smith is a "Best Seller". I'm not disputing they are very good paints overall. There are indeed some unique colours and I might still buy odd ones but certainly not the standard colours. If I won the lottery it might be different but then everything would be different.  For amateurs like myself to spend these high prices in my opinion makes no sense. I very much doubt it makes most better painters despite comments I get, mainly from  professional artists, that the difference in their paintings is noticeable. This might apply comparing them to the budget makes but what about Lukas, Sennelier and  some of the Asian makes? There are colours in these ranges that compare very well if you are selective.

I've just had a response from Jacksons. They apologised for the delay and confirmed the range is 43 colours not 48. They will immediately amend the website.


Oscar Solis said...

With what's going on now, I wonder if people are seriously beginning to evaluate the whole Artist vs Student brand argument and if it's worth the hit to the wallet to spend the kind of money that the more expensive brands cost when many are facing a financial crunch or will those who have swallowed the Artists quality bit stop painting if they can't afford them?

Peter Ward said...

It's a difficult one Oscar. I think many amateurs are wasting a lot of money having been told they 'must' buy paints like Daniel Smith. Yes they are great but it's like cars. You can get equally well from A to Z in a cheap car than a Rolls Royce. Interestingly while Jacksons say Daniel Smith is a 'best seller' they also say the same about their own label brand.

Unknown said...

The artists grade is stays moist in the palette for years...but the student ones if one buys a student ones they should use it straight from the tube...