Monday, 26 September 2011

Paints - What I Couldn't Live Without

When deciding on what type of watercolour paints to use, there are a number of considerations I take into account:

  • Should I use pans or tubes?
  • Should I remain loyal to one brand, does it make a difference?
  • Will I be painting in a studio or outside?

My trusty old Cotman Field Box
filled with Winsor & Newton Half Pans
When I first started painting, I was painting the odd landscape sketch of the Scottish Highlands whilst on family holidays. A small field box filled with the basic range of colours in half pans was the easiest way to complete something that I was generally pleased with. But at 15 years old I was generally pleased with just finishing something that looked remotely like it was supposed to be.

My lovely oak box, hand crafted by my Dad

This oak box was made by my Dad many years ago and has taken years of punishement as it has escorted me in the back of the car on holidays ever since. Not exactly pocket sized, it is about the size of an A4 piece of paper and weighty, but inside is a treasure trove of pans, tubes, pencils, sketchbooks and brushes to keep me occupied.

Tubes v Pans
As I have now taken up Botanical painting and illustration, there is a very different focus for the paints I choose to use. Working mostly in a studio environment I tend to use tubes instead of pans, which although portable do not provide enough paint in one go to make a good quantity of mix. Often, pans mean using lots of water which dilutes mixes far too much. A tube provides a greater quantity of pure colour and the amount of water can be more easily controlled. 

A Question of Brand
I use a range of brands depending on the colour, size and, in these economically stretched times, price. Some mixes, such as Terre Vert can be very sticky according to which brand is chosen, so sometimes there is a degree of trial and error to find the right one. The core colours which always end up on my palette are shown below. The larger tubes are the colours I tend to use most frequently and are generally the primary colours of red, blue and yellow.

All my favourite colours
Unless otherwise stated, all colours are from Winsor & Newton

The Colours
The Ultramarine Light from Holbein has great coverage and creates the most luscious greens when mixed with a range of yellows. The lighter shade also lends itself well when used to mix a 'botanical grey' for shading. Cerulean and Cobalt are valuable blues for light shading on white flowers and also mix well with other colours. Cobalt can be very strong and opaque, so this I use sparingly.

Neutral Tint is a relatively new one for me but immediately takes a mix down to a darker tone and is therefore useful for shadows without losing the clarity of the mix. The yellows I most often use are the Sennelier Cadmium Yellow Light and Winsor Lemon. The lighter Cad Yellow has a lustrous finish and great coverage. Both yellows are brilliant in mixes and a range of pure, clean greens can be achieved.

Naples is an opaque yellow with a creamy consistency, I like to use this pure for stamens as it sits well on the paper. Naples also works well in mixes, but sparingly as it can make colours muddy. I tend to use it mostly with other yellows to provide the opacity I need. I do not tend to use white. The last yellow is Schmincke Translucent Yellow. This is a gorgeous product which looks very doubtful in the palette but is an absolute wonder on the page. If you need something to give your yellow flowers or green leaves a lift, this is it. Use it as a watery finish over dry washes. 

Dahlia 'Party'. A range of yellows and shadow mixes
were used to create the flowers

Reds are my favourites as they are so rich and full on. Quiancridone Red and Magenta, Permanent Rose, and Alizarin Crimson along with Cadmium Red are my most frequently used reds. Also, Perylene Maroon which is a strong, covering deep maroon is brilliant in mixes and used in it's pure form. I love it!

Ultramarine Violet is a special colour. This is great for all sorts of mixes. Mostly I use this one for a more colourful 'botanical grey' which is good for yellow and white flowers. I hate using anything too grey and bland but with 'U Violet' a touch of colour can be introduced, and of course using colour theory, violet is opposite to yellow and they go perfectly together. 

A few extras to consider, including that tricky Terre Vert (Sennelier), Oxide of Chromium; Indanthrene Blue; New Gamboge (Holbein); Aureolin (Sennelier); Indian Yellow; Opera (Holbein); Translucent Orange (Schmincke), and Carmine Genuine (Sennelier).    



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