So having promised over a year ago to write more blog posts, I seem to have written very little! I promise to rectify that now, and produce more posts both on our work and some of the things behind it. I've been asked a few times to show some of the equipment that I use to paint - so for an opening blog, here goes! The stuff in the picture below is almost everything I use to produce my paintings; there are a couple more brushes and lots more paint colours in my collection, but these are a good sample. Today I'll start with the paints and come back to the brushes in another post.
As you might imagine, my paints are pretty important to me. After the paper, I think they're the second most important element of equipment a watercolourist needs, so let's have a quick look through my paint drawers! They're all artist's (professional) quality pigments, which means that they're very finely ground minerals which produce a consistent wash and they're made from high quality ingredients. All the pigments are classified either lightfast or very lightfast, as this is important to me: I sell my work and the customer deserves the best and lasting quality.
As you can tell, I don't have any loyalty to any particular manufacturer and there are a reasonable selection here. If I had to choose a particular favourite range of paints it would probably be MaimeriBlu, a range made in Italy and not as common as some in the UK. These colours are very pure, quite strong and very beautifully ground. They include my favourite-ever pigment which is light ultramarine - shown at centre on the bottom row. I love that azure blue which has not a hint of grey. To see it properly you'd need to own one of my originals and, chances are, if it's a blue sky then that's it - I use it whenever I can! As you'll see, MaimeriBlu makes up quite a lot of my range. Now, I'm a great believer in the fact that a big name doesn't guarantee good quality; all my paints have passed my own tests for quality and usability and you might notice from the photo that some of them come from the Ken Bromley range. These are of surprisingly good quality, considering that they're an 'own-make' from a big UK online art shop. I find that they are very good for many of my colour palette; where I buy more expensive paints it's because they have a special quality that I value. As you'll see here, three of my staples (raw sienna (a lovely warm yellow), rose madder (a gentle pink) and sap green (an unnaturally vivid green) come from the Ken Bromley range. Where you see purples in my skies they will usually be a mixture of light ultramarine and rose madder.
Rose madder is an old-fashioned colour which has more subtlety than strength. It makes a lovely pink on its own and gorgeous purples when mixed; the old formulation was fugitive (ie not lightfast) but the modern formulation means that this lovely colour is a responsible choice for those that sell their work. I mentioned that sap green was an unnatural colour, so why do I use it? The answer lies in the fact that it can be mixed with a variety of other colours to mix a wide variety of greens. The same applies to my other two greens: Hooker's Green and viridian.
Also shown in the pic (fourth from left, bottom row) is Payne's grey - this time from the Windsor and Newton range. This is a dark grey with a blueish tinge and is there because, in paintings with lots of greens, it's another good way of mixing warm but different greens. I find it goes extremely well with transparent yellow to produce a range of greens that run from a yellow sickly-green to a rich dark green. Again, this basic mix can be changed by the addition of a third colour, such as a red to produce a warm and luxuriant green or burnt sienna to produce a rich dark. There are lots of ways to make greens, but sap green-based, viridian-based and Payne's Grey-based are my favourites. The variety helps to keep interest in a large are of greens such as were included in my recent painting 'Craigmin Bridge'.
The two colours I use most for greys and blacks are burnt sienna and burnt umber which, when mixed with blues give a flat grey. An artist's definition of a grey is something along the lines of a mix of opposite colours on the colour wheel, which means there are many greys which can be used, depending on their setting in the painting. Whichever you use, the addition of this flat grey will make it darker, and I find it convenient to use that method often within a painting. A dense black can also be made by mixing Indian Red (at bottom right from the Daler Rowney range) with a dark blue such as Indigo.
The last ones of the colours above are those I use for highlight colours - often the brightly-dressed people in my paintings! There's Pyrrol Red from the Daniel Smith range (I have quite a few more reds from various manufacturers in the range) and the incredibly versatile lemon yellow (here by Ken Bromley but also by MaimeriBlu). Lemon Yellow is perfect for suggesting sunlight by intensifying greens and for underpainting areas of ground that will be sunlit when overpainted.
So there you have a quick canter through my pigments and a little bit about how I use them. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful! I have a lot more colours than the ones mentioned here (I mentioned earlier that I have 2 drawers-full, totalling about 60 different colours) but the ones I've discussed here form a backbone of my palette. Indeed, it's often best for colour harmony to restrict the number of colours in a painting to just a few - so I usually end up using just a few at a time. One of the most important things about watercolour is to understand how your colours mix with each other and using a limited palette is a good way to learn!
OK, in a future post I'll come back to brushes, paper and other bits and pieces. Before that, though, I hope to get together a walk-through of how I produce a painting from beginning to end over a few blog posts. The painting is almost complete on my board, and for once I've remembered to take photos at every stage! I hope you'll see the painting very soon and the blog not long after! All the best, for now, Rob.
A professional artist living and working in the beautiful north of Scotland. My work is realistic and quite traditional, though strongly interpretational in nature. My inspiration is the beauty of Nature, and the wonderful colours and moods she shows everywhere.