Sunday, 28 April 2013

Eurasian Nuthatch

The Eurasian Nuthatch, looking very similar to the European one, is the latest subject on the Facebook `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun'. I have had two shots at it for which see below.

Waterford 11" x 15" High White 140lb (300gsm) Not

111/2"x 16 L Amatruda Amalfi Hand-Made 90lb (?)

The first painting is based on the guide photograph on the `Colorful Birds' page. The second I downloaded from Google images. In the first one I had problems with the blue - Rowney Cerulean - which the paper didn't seem to take terribly well. When Waterford `High White' came out I purchased some from Bromley and tried it along with Yvonne and Jan from the AVA group. Yvonne didn't like it at all and neither did Jan. My own impression was far from enthusiastic as it didn't seem to take the paint as well as expected. Subsequently I used it on a couple of portraits seemingly without problems. This version of Waterford was eagerly expected because the original is rather off white - a yellowish shade - and has been described as creating a slightly `antique' look. Since then a number of professional artists like Ann Blockley have come out in praise of it. I've been using up odd bits of paper for the bird paintings and came across a remaining sheet of `High White'. The main colours in the first painting were Cerulean and Translucent Orange (Schminke PO71). It may be the Rowney Cerulean is at fault, although I'd no complaints when painting with it prior to this one. This is a paint/pigment ( PB35) that varies considerably amongst manufacturers. I'd previously used  the Winsor & Newton version.   

The second painting was produced because I wasn't happy with the first. Apart from the streaky Cerulean it seemed to me to be on the bland side. You have only to look at Gerard Hendriks exciting paintings to understand the meaning of this. The black is Ivory Black from Maimeri with some Turquoise (Lukas PB16) added. This colour and Cerulean feature on the head and back with Quinacridone Gold (PO49), Quinacridone Rust (PO48), Ultramarine Violet (PV15) and some Raw Sienna on the breast and feathers. The tree he is perched on includes darks made from Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber with some Ivory Black. There is some Raw Umber and Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine Violet and the pinkish red is Quinacridone Coral (DS PR209). I tried to give the impression that the bird and tree trunk were interconnected using the darks. My initial approach was to paint the eye, beak and black areas very carefully as they are the focal point of the whole thing. Before painting I used Pebeo drawing gum, applied with a ruling pen, to carefully mask the very thin lines around the eyes. 

In both instances I first made a careful but not over detailed pencil drawing using an 05 Pentel mechanical pencil with a 2B lead. The paper in the lower painting is some I bought from a small shop in Amalfi, Italy when on holiday a while ago. I discovered a small shop selling paper and these were the largest sheets. I asked the lady - who turned out to be the owner - where the paper was made and she waved her hand and said `at my factory over there'. I'd love to get some more as, although very light, it is a beautiful paper to work on. It wouldn't do for large washes. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Thinking out Loud.

View from our bedroom window at 8am today.

For those interested in the Cobalt Violet item I've now added John Softly's views based on his testing of several makes. Taken together with the balance of the piece this gives a pretty comprehensive introduction for anyone tempted to try this pigment (PV14). Remember select by pigment NOT colour. You can of course select by colour if you so wish and many do, and we know that paints from different manufacturers can vary considerably even though made with the same pigment, so this advice isn't driven by dogma as I tend to adopt a pragmatic view. In general I think the selection by pigment advice - stressed by Handprints Bruce McEvoy is valid. This doesn't stop you having a yen for mixed pigment paints like Daniel Smiths Moonglow though!  Why not? 


Judging by the number of e-mails arriving with `special offers' from the mail order art suppliers times are tough. Make sure you are on the list and buy what you need when the offers are too good to refuse. I imagine North American artists have a similar situation with lots of offers from Blick, Daniel Smith, Cheap Joes etc. I do make the qualification that you perhaps need to resist these siren voices especially if you are an impulse buyer like me. If the offers are of products you use a lot - paints and paper come to mind - then buy, buy, buy - unless you already have several years supply like me (!). The Great Art offer is free postage over £19.95p (normally £39.95p). until this Sunday the 28th. They do have some great offers and so do Jacksons. I've also just acquired the Lawrence catalogue, although it is dated 2012, which can be obtained free, either as a download or hard copy. This is just a guide to prices, the real action takes place on the website. I'm slightly ambivalent about Lawrence as they have a fixed carriage charge regardless. If you buy 6 tubes of paint  of  Da Vinci, Graham and Lukas you do get extra discount, making the prices pretty good, but then have to add on £4.99p which is over 82p per tube - not such a great deal after all. Lawrence defend this policy claiming they offer exceptional service. Service is good but a little over the top as you are bombarded with e-mails and I have no complaints of the service from either Great Art or Jacksons. Despite my lingering annoyance with Ken Bromley they also give excellent service and all give free postage over £39.95p.. Nevertheless Lawrence are the only UK source of Graham and Da Vinci watercolours and also have Art Spectrum - not easy to find - and Lukas, as well as several others.

 I have commented several times about the Facebook page started by Robin Berry and Gerard Hendriks, both superb professional artists with different styles. A particular colourful bird is selected - roughly weekly - and you are invited to submit your version. Not everyone is interested in bird paintings I know but it has the advantage of seeing how these artists - and other talented ones - approach the subject. When I am painting I often think `I wonder how so and so would approach this?'. With `Painting Colorful Birds for Fun' you can see exactly how. A great learning experience. I shall be posting my latest - I'm really pleased with one of them - in the next few days.


The monthly challenge between myself and Mick Carney of `The Painting Struggle' has been temporarily suspended. I shall be on the Charles Reid Stow-on-the-Wold workshop between 5-11 May and also am having problems with a projected house move, with nothing yet finalised. Mick has recently had a surgical operation and I am sure you all join with me in wishing him a successful outcome. The next subject - my choice - is a boat scene selected from a number supplied by John Softly.


Is anyone else extremely sceptical of professional artists pushing certain products?  The very modest (I'm joking) high profile artist Nicholas Simmons is promoting Escoda brushes saying they are the `best in the world ' and similar over the top statements. He is also quoted on the American Da Vinci website  as saying Da Vinci watercolours `are the best in the world' and that `colleagues and his students agree'. Really? Escoda brushes are excellent and I have some - mainly retractables. I have no experience of Da Vinci paints but don't doubt they are good. But to make such all embracing statements is very questionable because there are several other brush and paint manufacturers who could equally make such  a claim. Simmons also said that Charles Reid thought the same about Escoda and certainly he is now using some travel brushes, and has his own signature set, as has Simmons, made by Escoda. On every Charles Reid workshop I've attended he has recommended Da Vinci - the German brushmaker - and that hasn't changed with the forthcoming one, although Escoda are also now mentioned.

The whole thing has been highlighted by the ridiculous claims made by an American professional artist and teacher recommending the Mission Gold watercolours by Mijello. currently being heavily promoted in America. These claims include `best in the world' or the best `she has ever used', and despite a good number containing dyes and fugitive pigments claims they will last `100 years'. After picking myself off the floor I think that was the claim. She did get quite a strong negative response by Wetcanvas members when she foolishly posted on the Mission Gold  thread. Do they think all artists are stupid? I shall be doing a feature on Korean watercolours soon as I suspect Mission Gold will appear in the UK sometime soon with equally over the top publicity.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Cobalt Violet - Pigment Violet 14 (PV14)

This is another interesting pigment  labelled by Bruce McEvoy of Handprint as a `Top Forty' pigment. Not everyone agrees, Michael Wilcox calls it `gummy and weak'. I think I know what he means but it does have some attraction for the watercolour artist, although it is not offered by all the majors, nor any of the cheaper makes. On the downside as a Cobalt pigment it is both expensive and toxic, something that will put many off.

Top row from left to right.Graham, Lukas and Art Spectrum. Winsor & Newton is in the middle. The bottom two are different pigments for comparison purposes. In the bottom swatches Number 1 is Art Spectrum, 2 Graham, 3 W & N Potters PInk PR233, 4 W & N Permanent Mauve PV16. 

The above swatches have been supplied by John Softly who has tried several different Cobalt Violets. I myself have three, the Rowney Cobalt Magenta, Winsor & Newton Cobalt Violet and the Lukas version. The latter two, both in pan form, I have yet to use. The Rowney is a good colour but I have some reservations about it, which I have written about previously.

Bruce describes Cobalt Violet as follows:

 "...a very lightfast, semitransparent, nonstaining, moderately dark valued, moderately dull violet to red-violet pigment...."

You can see the variation in shades with some inclining to `bluish' and others `reddish'. It also granulates beautifully in most paints. You don't see this pigment featuring in many artists palettes, although John tells me it is a staple of David Curtis and also Robert Brindley. At my last two Charles Reid workshops I noticed it on his palette (for the first time), almost certainly the Winsor & Newton version. In his most recent  portrait DVD it features on the clothing of the figure painting of the man. You need to make a decision as to whether you prefer the more violet shades or those inclining to reddish.

In the Handprint listings, not 100% up to date, there are 9 manufacturers offering this paint who, apart from Rowney, call it either Cobalt Violet or Cobalt Violet Deep. Once again I stress go only by pigments numbers as there are some other paints calling themselves Cobalt Violet or Cobalt Violet Deep that aren't PV14 or have another pigment added.  

Finally I quote Bruce McvEcvoy again who concludes by saying:

" ...genuine, high quality Cobalt Violet is a spectacular paint in broad wash applications - morning skies and magnificent florals - and evocative in flesh tone shadows. The `red' shades offered by Rowney, Bloxx and Winsor & Newton are effective as the pink component in Caucasian flesh tones..." 

Added 26/04/13: from John Softly ( I asked John for his conclusions):

"After playing with PV14 for a couple of months  I can't say that I have found a clear winner. The two warms - Art Spectrum and W & N are very similar but I am inclined to go for the Art Spectrum as my local art shop periodically discounts the whole range of 10ml AS watercolours and retails them for £4.66 regardless of series.
 The two cools -Graham and Lukas - are, yet again, similar in hue but both have problems relating to consistency. The Graham I find far too liquid which is no problem in the studio but will run out of its well unless the palette is kept perfectly horizontal. It could be the result of the semi-tropical climate I live in but the paint in the palette is still too liquid after a month (as is the Cobalt Green and Cerulean Blue I purchased at the same time). Many people praise the Graham range and have no problem with the liquidity of the honey so I assume the climate is to blame. The relatively new Sennelier range also has honey as an integral part of the mix but it does solidify to a paste like consistency on the palette. On the other hand the Lukas has the opposite problem and the paint is too stiff and does not flow from the tube easily. The Winsor & Newton Permanent Mauve (PV16) suffers the same problem - so much so that, at one time, it was only available in cake form. Once in the palette and activated with water the Lukas PV14 does behave perfectly and my only concern is that the tube will dry out over time and become solid. I have both warm and cool versions of PV14 on my palette and, at times, use the the two PV14s and Raw Sienna as my triad. Mostly however my triad consist of the  warm version of Cobalt Violet, Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. Incidentally when mixing a grey with Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna (or similar) any green cast can be removed with the addition of warm PV14"

We now come to the question of price and in the UK there are considerable variations. Holbein at £18.80p for a 15 ml tube are the dearest, with Maimeri £14.60 (15ml) and Old Holland £16.35 for 18ml.. You can currently buy the Winsor & Newton 14 ml version, on promotion at both Great Art and Jacksons, for just over £10 - a great buy. Daler Rowney (Cobalt Magenta) is  just over £9 (15ml) and Lukas  (Great Art) £10.35p for 24ml .If you only use a colour occasionally then it might be wiser (and cheaper) to buy the 5ml size which most (not Lukas) offer.  The Rembrandt 5ml is only £3.00 from Jacksons - very cheap. A minefield of prices that you need to navigate carefully if you are not to end up paying more than necessary. Naturally if you must have a particular make then you pay the price.

 I shall try Cobalt Violet in the three makes I have and certainly give it a try in portraits - possibly skies and florals.. At some future date I'll report on the results.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sitting Bull

I have painted this famous Indian previously, at least twice, and this version in some respects is not quite such a good likeness but I feel better in other ways.

Sitting Bull . Waterford 16" x 12" 140lb Not

Sitting Bull  (1831 - 1890) was a leader and medicine man of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, a division of the most numerous and deadly of the plains Indians, although others like the Comanches, Kiowas and Cheyenne were almost equally feared. After the defeat of Custer in 1876 the Sioux could not compete with the huge numbers of troops deployed against them. In 1877 due to this enormous pressure Sitting Bull and his followers fled into Canada, where they were allowed to remain as long as they promised to be peaceful. Eventually in 1881 he and the bulk of his supporters feeling very homesick- although smaller numbers remained in Canada -  were persuaded to return across the border and live on a reservation. 

Sitting Bull never accepted reservation life in a land where the huge influx of white people was changing things forever. He took part in a touring Circus with Buffalo Bill Cody but remained recalcitrant,and when the  despair of the Indians resulted in the Ghost Dance religious movement was considered a dangerous influence. The decision was taken to arrest and imprison him. In December 1890 reservation Indian police were sent to arrest him but he and his followers resisted, resulting  in several  deaths, including Sitting Bull and some of the police. To this day some Sioux believe he was deliberately murdered. The best book I know on Sitting Bull is `The Lance and The Shield' subtitled `The Life and Times of Sitting Bull' by Robert M. Utley, Ballantine Books, New York 1994. 

My initial approach was to make a careful drawing using a Pentel 07 mechanical pencil with a 2B lead. I took careful measurements from the guide photograph  to get the proportions correct and everything, eyes, nose, mouth, in the right places. If the old masters could use all sorts of aids to ensure accuracy why not I? I don't see any reason to wear a hair shirt.

I then painted the face and features starting with the eyes, nose and mouth. I used a mix of Cadmium Red Light, a little Raw Sienna plus Cobalt Blue to darken and also Schminke Translucent Brown (PBr41) to try and get the right skin colour. I played around with these colours and mostly mixed on the paper. Prior to painting I put on small amounts of masking fluid for the highlights around the eyes. Make sure you allow the fluid to dry before attempting to paint. When painting the face I incorporated the underside of the hat brim with similar colours darkened, using various mixtures of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I then painted the hair using the same Ultramarine/Burnt Sienna mix and carried this down into the neck area and top of his clothing. I then painted the hat using diluted Raw Umber, Ultramarine Violet and possibly  some Raw Sienna.I can't remember exactly (!). I'm never able to complete things in the `first try for a finish' mode so did further work on the right facing side of the face and finished off the features. The background has heavily diluted Sap Green, Cerulean and Ultramarine Violet. I think that's it. My usual brushes, all Isabey except the Da Vinci Artissimo 44.

Friday, 12 April 2013

This and That

Just received the latest e-mail from Ken Bromley. Bromley have taken on Maimeri watercolours and also have Daniel Smith, as well as the long-standing Winsor & Newton and Daler Rowney artist watercolours. They also sell St Petersburg which they describe as `artist quality', as do the other mail order specialists. Maimeri are excellent paints with one or two reservations.  A very good French professional artist who I met on a Charles Reid course said, when I mentioned them, that they were `too bright'. I think I know what he meant but others may like that. I've used them for some years and they are mostly pretty good, but avoid `Quinacridone Gold' (called Golden Lake) which isn't. They are well priced but watch out for the more expensive series. Maimeri Cerulean is more expensive than the excellent Winsor & Newton paint. Series 1 & 2 are reasonably priced but 3 and 4 are expensive and you might prefer Daler Rowney or Lukas. Interestingly Bromley stocked Schminke a year or more ago and soon decided to drop them. Richard Bromley said this was due to `lack of demand'  but it seemed a very hasty decision to me. They are selling off what they have left. Bromley continue to prosper and each edition of the twice yearly catalogue contains a photograph of the staff, who seem to increase each time. I had an issue with  them a while ago when the wrong surface paper was supplied. They offered to replace it but required me to send it back at my own expense. I still have it and contrast this with Jacksons, who if they make an error, send a freepost label for  returning the incorrect items. Bromley have an excellent well-designed website and many loyal customers.


Great Art have    just redesigned their website and I placed my first order on the new one last week. I didn't like it at all and found it much less user friendly than previous. When I placed an order by post recently I complained but have had no response except an e-mail has now arrived with `your step by step guide' to the new website. I don't imagine this has just gone out solely to me but perhaps they have had other complaints. A lot of the problems with these things are they are designed by computer `geeks' who seem to assume everyone has their level of expertise. When I bought my first PC - a long time ago - the lady who owned the shop in Bath told me  a popular seller was a series of simple `how to' computer books, actually designed for children. In this respect the series of `Dummy' books are pretty good.

I've found Great Art very efficient, although they won't keep out of stock items on backorder and are a little inflexible. They don't accept the order.  However they stock Lukas at excellent prices as well as many other makes, a large range of different papers and brushes. Currently Winsor & Newton watercolours are on offer at excellent prices and the first order on the new website qualifies for an extra 10%. Saunders Waterford blocks are also very well priced but only the original as they don't appear to stock the newish `High White' version.

Great Art have a very large range of products including many not stocked elsewhere, even by Jacksons.

I am also awaiting another order from Jacksons ordered late yesterday. An e-mail has just informed me it has been despatched today. I find their service excellent and mistakes (infrequent) are rectified with a freepost label supplied for returned items. I noted that Winsor & Newton watercolours are being offered at well below the current catalogue prices.  This may be in response to the Great Art offer or Bromley. The same thing seems to be happening as occurred last year. We had quite a hike in W & N prices in January but they were soon being discounted. I thought at the time that this was due to the threat from Daniel Smith, not because they were cheaper but due to the vast range and many unusual and unique colours. The reason for so many orders is I order for Avon Valley Artists so we can avoid carriage charges. With the price of paints, paper and much else so high it is very easy to exceed the amount needed for free carriage. This also applies to Bromley and Great Art. I've ordered a Mijello palette for myself with 24 paint wells.

 Added 13/04/2013. Jacksons have just announced they have the exclusive UK rights for the well-regarded American Strathmore range of art papers.

Added 18/04/2013 Jacksons have also announced they are now selling the Frank Herring designed palettes comprising five units. Two are half and full pan plastic versions of the Roberson, two versions of the Liz Deacon and the Dorchester. All sturdy palettes made from hard plastic.


Another pigment bites the dust! Apparently PY153 Nickel Dioxide Yellow has been discontinued so the hunt is on for existing supplies or a suitable replacement. There are many yellows so this isn't a major problem BUT this was the pigment used in the very popular Winsor & Newton New Gamboge.  Daniel Smith also call it the same name but others usually list it as `Indian Yellow' including Rowney one of my staples. Well okay I have too many staples but this is an excellent paint praised by Bruce McEvoy, even if  less than enthusiastic about Rowney generally. Winsor & Newton have been quick to replace it with a two pigment mix of PY150 and PR209, another yellow and a red. When asked why they seem to do this quicker than everyone else - Daniel Smith still list the genuine Quinacridone Gold PO49 - the reply was their usage is so large that stocks are exhausted very soon! I may return to this pigment in a separate piece including suggested replacements.

Finally yet another Craig Young `lookalike' has emerged in a new website calling itself  `The Watercolor Paintbox Prototipes Company'. I assume they mean `prototypes' . Is this Chinese (?) as no indication is given and the English used contains several basic mistakes. They also have some Holbein palettes, the Spanish Pierra  as well as the Craig Young `lookalikes', claiming to having been making them for some years. Hmmmm! If you are interested the website is but I suggest proceed with caution before ordering anything. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Latest `Colorful Bird'.

This weeks subject on the Facebook page `Paint Colorful Birds for  Fun' is the Lapuli Bunting, an exotic bird, obviously from tropical climes, I'd not previously heard of. Anyone is welcome to join in and post.
Lapuli Bunting. 12" x 9" Fontenay 140lb (300gsm) Not

This is a simple painting that was completed in about 40 minutes. after first making a basic drawing using a No.7 mechanical pencil with 2B lead. It allowed me to major on two of my (current) favourite colours, Translucent Orange from Schminke (PO71) and Turquoise from Lukas (PB16). I also used Ivory Black (Maimeri), Cerulean for the shadow areas on the breast, and very diluted Raw Sienna. The background and branches have some Raw Umber and very diluted Hookers Green with a touch of Quinacridone Coral (Daniel Smith). There are also touches of white acrylic.
I'm quite pleased with the result.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Watercolour Painting on a Budget 2013 Pt.1 Paints

The last time I wrote on this subject was in June 2011 and I suggest - if interested - that you refer to that post as much is still relevant and I don't want to repeat myself. Since writing prices have increased  quite dramatically on the major purchases of the watercolour artist, paints, brushes and paper. What was already an expensive hobby or profession is even more so.

There are lots of other items one can buy but those above are the absolute essentials. Some of the accessories can be expensive, easels, palettes for example, but they are one-off buys whereas paints and papers are ongoing. It is true that brushes will last a considerable time if looked after but if you venture into the sable market, especially those of the Kolinsky variety, then prices soar into the stratosphere once you get beyond Size 8.

From left to right - Graham, Rowney, Winsor & Newton, Maimeri, Schminke, Rembrandt, Lukas and Daniel Smith

I decided to split this subject into three sections with paints the first. As synthetic brushes have already been covered I may only cover sables. I have been planning to do them for a while, have been gathering information, but it is a considerable undertaking and is very time consuming.

 The initial decision with paints  is student or artist quality. We hear many arguments, for or mainly against, with one  being that buying student quality is a false economy, due to the reduced pigment load, so you use much more. This is incorrect and it is well covered in the original post. Obviously manufacturers make economies in the cheaper ranges but this is partly done by keeping the number to around 40, although Winsor & Newton Cotman offer 50 -10 more - in North America including genuine Cadmiums and Cobalts. Here  in Europe we are short changed and when I asked W & N about this I was told it was for `historical reasons', whatever that is supposed to mean.  In my opinion Cotman, Van Gogh from Talens and Venezia from Maimeri are excellent alternatives if you need to economize or are just an occasional painter. All the paints they offer are reliable. I wouldn't necessarily buy all paints from one or the other but would be selective. Despite what is sometimes said you can mix paints from different manufacturers  The key thing is the colour and temperature balance of the palette, not that they should all be the same make. There are others like Akademie from Schminke but I have not tried them so cannot comment. The main difference is that the more expensive pigments, mainly the Cadmiums, Cerulean, Viridian and Cobalts, are replaced by cheaper ones. The blue `hue' equivalents are mostly based on Phalo blue (PB15) combined with white. Phalo Green (PG7 or PG36) usually replaces Viridian. While cheaper these are excellent pigments. I would suggest it is perfectly possible to put together 16 - 20 paints from these ranges that would provide an excellent palette for most purposes. Check the pigment numbers and buy those where they are the same as the artist quality. Many are and don't fall for the `false economy' nonsense.  There are some other differences and you must try a particular range before going overboard as it may not suit. You can also if you wish mix student grade with artist quality and some do. Different strokes for different folks.

Another possible budget make, although promoted by most art suppliers as `artist quality' is the Russian St Petersburg range of around 50 paints. In my opinion they are not artist quality as a careful examination of the pigments show. A lot of amateurs, and some professionals, use them nevertheless. The paints are bright and colourful but fugitive and obsolete pigments abound. Fugitive is self explanatory but when I say obsolete I mean pigments dropped by the majors. Another cheaper alternative is the Korean Shin Han range. Shin Han appear to shadow Holbein and offer 72 paints.They do have a lower proportion of single pigment paints and add white in a good number of others. I wasn't impressed when I analysed them.  One of the best and most original artists in my AVA group, previously a W & N fan, uses Shin Han and loves them. Just a personal view but I'd be very wary of some of these makes, usually described by art suppliers as `artist quality'. Other Korean makes include Mission Gold from Mijello and Alpha.  I don't think either is yet available in the UK but that may change as Mijello is being heavily promoted in the USA and we are sure to follow. I looked at a couple of the Mijello paints on the Dick Blick USA site and the pigments appeared good quality but a thorough analysis on Wetcanvas came up with an altogether different picture. We also have an increasing number of own label makes with large art suppliers introducing their own ranges. This applies to many of the USA retailers and in the UK Jacksons. If you are a member of the SAA (Society of All Artists) they have their own range of watercolours. Almost without exception they claim  paints are  top quality and equal to the leading makes. I wouldn't suggest for one moment that these paints are poor quality but would take the claims for them with a pinch of salt. Try them by all means but first of all check that they are using quality pigments and if not avoid.

If the decision is to use artist quality, which I do, then the question arises which do you prefer and what price are you prepared to pay. All the top makes are good so it is a question of personal preference allied to price. The largest ranges are Daniel Smith with 200 plus followed by Old Holland, Schminke, Holbein, Sennelier. Winsor & Newton & DaVinci. We then have another group that offer fewer but still substantial at around 70- 80, Bloxx, Rembrandt, Maimeri, Daler Rowney, Graham,  Art Spectrum and Lukas. If I lived in North America I'd probably go for Daniel Smith (with qualifications), Graham and possibly Da Vinci. Pricing is different to Europe and Daniel Smith paints, which  are very expensive over here, are cheaper and seem to have regular offers. In the UK Graham and Da Vinci can only be obtained from W.E.Lawrence of Hove As pricing varies country by country one cannot be specific. My suggestions are based on the European situation but might be useful as a guide.

Another factor which affects value for money are the sizes offered. Winsor & Newton and Da Vinci have a 37ml which is much more economical than the smaller sizes. This is a  large tube and possibly only for the professional, who paints almost daily. Rembrandt and Sennelier do a  21ml  which is more practical perhaps for the amateur. Note these larger sizes are only available in a limited range, but see exceptions, usually the most popular colours and not all art suppliers stock them. In the main only the mail order specialists and again only some of them. In the case of Lukas the whole range is offered in 24ml. The final point is the way the makers group their paints, some have up to 6 different series priced accordingly with 1 the cheapest and 6 the most expensive.. While the earth colours tend to be in the cheapest Series 1 this doesn't apply logically. Take Maimeri. Permanent Magenta, the rose form of PV19 is in series 1 (Jacksons £6.50) BUT Rose Lake the red form of PV19 is Series 3 (Jacksons £10.20!). The bit about the rose and red forms I learned from Handprint as the tubes and literature just says `PV19'. You won't find much difference in these colours in practical terms. I haven't tried Jacksons own brand, made I am told by Sennelier,which, as well as pans, has a 21ml tube. Are you confused? There is no consistency across manufacturers and while they may be cheaper in some colours (pigments) they may be more expensive in others.

Taking a combination of quality and price I suggest that Daler Rowney and Lukas (see January 2013 ) are hard to beat. Both have only two series, use quality pigments, and with 70 colours  (DR 79) enough choice for most artists. The new Sennelier range looks interesting in the 21ml size - they also have the usual 10ml - covering the complete range. Do you really want to pay over £20 for the dearest Daniel Smith in a 15ml tube, £29.10p for the  most expensive 18ml Old Holland , £18.80p the dearest Holbein in a 15ml size? I certainly won't. These prices are eye watering. There may well be colours in certain ranges you must have. The Schminke Translucent Orange is one such for me but Lukas also offer the same pigment (PO71) as Permanent Orange at a lower ml for ml price. Daniel Smith have some special colours but a lot of the basic ones can be bought at better prices elsewhere.

My suggestions are, quoting Bruce McEvoy of Handprint  buy by pigment not colour. Bruce is no longer automatically updating this information but much remains relevant.  Cross check pigments across manufacturers, for example the Winsor & Newton Cerulean Blue is cheaper than many others and  is good. Take advantage of special offers as they arise. Do this by getting on the e-mail listing of the mail order specialists. If you belong to an art club group together to buy saving carriage charges.  

This  may seem very complicated and not something many might wish to delve into. If you have a deep pocket fair enough but just one final statistic. If you are starting off and purchased 16 paints it will cost, buying artist quality in 15ml tubes, anywhere between £130 to £200! The rough equivalent in student quality of  recommended makes would be no more than £40 - £50.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Bullfinch and the Bee-eaters

I finally finished the Bullfinch painting so here it is.

Male Bullfinch. 16" x 12 Waterford 140lb (300gsm) Not

The black is Ivory Black from Maimeri. Blue is Cerulean and the orange-red is mainly Translucent Orange (Schminke (PO71) with some Qinacridone Rose (Graham PV19) in various dilutions. The berries are Quinacridone Rose in different strengths,. There is some Quinacriodone Gold (DS PO49) in the background. This was a more careful painting than the one that follows. 

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters. Approx 13" x 12" Paper Unknown - just an odd piece I happened to have.

This is this weeks subject at `Paint Colorful Birds for Fun', set up on Facebook by the artist Robin Berry in association with Gerard Hendriks. Fascinating to see the various approaches by different artists particularly  Gerards and Robins contributions. Anyone can join in. On the birds I used Turquoise (Lukas PB16) and Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith PG50), Quinacridone Coral (DS), Translucent Orange (Schminke PO71), Burnt Umber to darken, some Ivory Black (Maimeri), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49), Raw Umber and some Cerulean. I think that's it! Isabey brushes up to size 8. Gerard paints his versions as small sketches. I tried not to be over fussy and quite quick at 40 - 50 mins. I used two different photographs which is why the birds colouring varies although I did try to `link' them together - if that is the right word. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013


This was the subject at today's Avon Valley Artists session. Attendance was only ten, one of whom was a new member. This is due to half-term week with several either on holiday or looking after grandchildren! The subject was `shadows', which made for a a fairly broad interpretation. In my case I decided to do a portrait using one of my black and white Indian photographs. 

As you may be able to see the reference photograph showed  considerable contrast with the left facing side of the face virtually disappearing. I concentrated on the shadow side and did not attempt to fill in the `blank' area of the face.

16" x 12" Fabriano Hot Press 140lb (300gsm)

You may note `Hot Press' paper. I've never used this before but have noticed some good watercolour artists paint portraits on this surface. After I arrived home I studied the painting again and decided it was too pale in the shadow areas. I wet the paper then added a wash of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. My approach is to try and follow Charles Reid's advice to be slightly `crude'. I'm not entirely happy with the result - when am I ever - but will certainly give hot press another try. I used Schminke Translucent Brown, Cerulean, Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Red Light in various mixes, mostly mixed on the paper. Raw Sienna was introduced for the sash.  Brushes were the Isabey retractable size 6 and the Escoda retractables 8 and 10.

Jan Weeks 16 " x 12"

Yvonne Harry 

Pat Walker

Another enjoyable session and next week the subject is `Chimneys and Roof Tops'.