Category Archives: watercolours

Paints and stuff

It’s a reflection of how the last few months have been that today, I finally got around to swatching out a paintbox which I bought in London on 8 September. The paintbox is an 18 pan quarterpan box from CassArt. They don’t say what paint is in there which is a pity; it would be nice to know whose paint they do use. I’d guess Daler Rowney though as their set looks almost identical.

Anyway, I don’t know why I wanted it only Shiny, I guess. I like the idea of the little quarterpan box; it’s an enamel box and I have carefully been avoiding buying it. I also own a lot of other paint boxes and mostly use my 12 pain (with three extra added) Sennelier box lately. The fact that it was there, and was instant gratification, was probably a factor.

I haven’t done any sketches with the little Cassart box though. I did manage to make a mess of it, ironically, while cleaning it after doing the swatching but past experience has taught me that’s no big deal.

Quarter pan set

You an see the swatch that comes with the box, plus the little swatch I did as well. There are a bunch of the colours which look a little different for me – the permanent rose and the viridian green for example – but I can see use I would get out fhtme. The Prussian blue is a bit deeper than I am used to with my Senneliers. The selection of colours is not bad at all.

The palette comes in a little case (to the left of the picture above) and a small sable brush which is a bit bigger than the travel brushes which Winsor & Newton include with the sketchbox.

I’m not totally sure what I am going to do with these though. It’s only ever going to be used for small stuff because the pans are so small; so more likely than not, things into the A6 sketchbooks, or postcards, or even the artist trading cards. But it’s probably too small for most of my brushes – I already struggle with the half pans in some cases.

For comparison, here are my three main commercially available small watercolour palettes:

Small watercolour boxes.

Clockwise from Left:

  1. Sennelier 12 half pan set with added quin gold, quin red and light yellow ochre.
  2. CassArt 18 quarter pan set, as delivered.
  3. Schmincke 8 half pan set – in fact I own this and the waterbottle version of this – colours as delivered.

The Sennelier is in my toolbox but my toolbox is causing me trouble as it has missed the original plan for being a toolbox – ie, being portable. The Schmincke is in a small travel kit with a couple of liners and pencils.

Quarter pans are not available so the question will be what I do with the 18 pan set if and when I get to use it – and the speed with which I am going through pans in the 12 pan set suggests this will not be long – the obvious answer is tubes. I own the Schmincke granulating tube set and I use tubes when I am painting with gouache. But I cannot see myself making a wholesale switch to tubes – I simply have too many paints in half pan format that I want, for environmental reasons, to start using.

Painting Paris

I went painting today. I need to get hold of the idea of putting these things up on flickr rather than instagram but I will get there. I pay for Flickr, after all.

Dream Paris

This was from today. It was inspired by a bunch of things in different colours which I saw on pinterest and so I decided to have a go, and there we are. I like it. This was in an A6 sketchbook which I use on and off as a sort of art journal but which has been neglected lately. But I like the idea and the result is, I will probably try and find time (difficult lately) to scale it up and do it in a wall framable size

There seems to be something about Sunday that causes some randomer on FaceBook to decide that today is the day they will troll a watercolour group on FaceBook. Today, we got lectures on how if you used masking fluid, you weren’t a master (well…) and it was cheating (well…) and it wasn’t really art (well…). It caused a lot of discussion, which could be summed up as “You’re a troll” and “You are so wrong, you are wronger than a wrong thing”.

People get irate quite easily on FaceBook. But I cannot blame them when someone wanders in, to put it mildly, to cause trouble in a special interest community. No one really cares for the most part whether you use masking fluid or not (well no one sensible anyway), and yet one person going on about how it isn’t art, and how you haven’t mastered watercolour (while not showing their work) can cause major hassle. I wonder how communities can guard against this, and whether it is really desirable. The question of masking fluid in watercolour is fairly meh, but really, a group of people who think that women should, for example, not be allowed have jobs, might benefit from being challenged a bit.

But that causes ructions too.

Anyway. to the above, the under drawing was down with a PIlot 0.3mm mechanical pencil, the line work was done using a unipin 0.03mm fineliner and the paint was mostly Quinacradone gold from my 12 pan (allegedly – it had twelve when I bought it but I think it now has 15 pans squashed in) Sennelier kit. The exceptions were a little quin red, French Ultramarine Deep for the windows, Paynes Grey and sepia or neutral for the rooves and probably alizeron crimison for the blinds. I used Molotow masking fluid to cover the windows while I painted the buildings. I like their pens and I don’t think I have enough spare so I’ll probably bulk buy them the next time I am in an art supplies shop that sells them.

The 0.03mm fineliner is new. Up until very recently, Unipin’s finest fineliner was 0.05. Copic had 0.03 which were finer, and I liked them for fur but my god they were fragile. You can buy replacement tips. which is handy enough.

The Unipins feel a bit more robust and today’s one at least was really well behaved for the paint. The colour feels a bit darker as well. I haven’t really had time to do a side by side test – I have very little free time and have not had much time to paint at all; the daily kraftbook diary sketch has had to go into catch up mode a lot lately (and I’m about to start a new one there again. I have two months’ supply or so). But at some point I will sit down and do a comparison of the 0.03s –

  • Unipin 0.03
  • Copic 0.03 (I think I have one)
  • Copic 0.03 SP (expensive Copic of which I have half a dozen)

and I might do a side by side comparison of those with whatever 0.05s which I have (definitely Unipin and Molotow) and the XS Faber Castell

Je t’aime

I’m a fan of the artwork of Pascal Campion on instagram, not necessarily because I like the basic techniques he uses, but because every single one of his pictures tells a story, and you can get a very strong feel for the story. I love it and while I haven’t done anything about it, I would, at some point, look at acquiring a print or two. I say the same about Iraville too. I will get this one when her shop is open again and if she makes it available.

Both are very different to the stuff I tend to do.

Anyway.

Today’s piece of work was a watercolour. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. In a way, I struggle with painting lately because I seem to need work space and I don’t always have it.

When I started painting I used to do it anywhere. Including bed. Watercolours in bed. Madness. I don’t do it any more, although that’s mostly because I don’t keep the art stuff by my bed any more. And I don’t use waterpens as often any more which means it’s a far riskier activity.

Anyway, here is today’s piece.

Watercolours

First the technical stuff – because I look for it so I assume other people probably will – I used Saunders Waterford rough white paper because it was the top of the pile of watercolour paper – and then for this version of it, I used Winsor & Newton Artists colours. The brushes are mainly an Escoda Number 8 and a Raphael Number 4. Not sure where I picked that up actually but it’s a nice size.

I did two versions of this and while it’s not so obvious in this version, I had a lot of trouble with the blue of the sea I used French Ultramarine which is a granulating colour and I struggle to control it. The first version, I used my beloved Sennelier paints. Second round I decided to have a go with the WNs. Neither was easier or so than the other and I seriously screwed up the sand above. So this painting will be redone at some point.

But it caused me to think about paints. I have a lot of watercolour media – the standard European paints, Japanese gouache, watercolour pencils, watercolour pastels. I will also buy an Inktense travel set whenever Derwent eventually start to sell them because their pencils are quite intense and travelsets tend to be easy to lug around.

When I started painting, I started with the Cotman sketch set. It’s a small set that has 12 Cotman pans in it. If you read any of the online watercolour forums, like wetcanvas, you’ll probably come across conversations about buying the best you can possibly buy. I’d temper that by saying buy either the Cotman sketchset or the Sennelier 8 pan travel kit. The Sketchbox in itself is incredibly usefully sized which is why I own two of them although the second one mainly has WN artist pans in it because you could not get the Cotman pans individually in Ireland when I started. I don’t know if you can yet. They were small and handy. They explained why I could paint at lunch hour (Sennelier) or in bed (Cotman box). After falling in love with the Sennelier set, I had to make a decision about a bigger paint box and it was down to WN, Sennelier or Schmincke. In all cases, I was going to buy a 48 pan set and I chose Sennelier. It’s a great box but it’s not conducive to painting in bed. Painting has become a bigger production than it used to be. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I bought a WN 24 pan Artists kit in London about 2 years ago in a sale – we are talking a serious chop in price at a reputable art shop – and have occasionally considered passing it on to my niece who was using mainly Cotman paints at the time I’m sort of glad now I didn’t The kit is smaller, takes up less space than the Sennelier, and means decisions about colours are quicker. I think it’s part of growing as a painter that initially you want ALL TEH COLOURS and then you start thinking meh. So I am considering buying a Sennelier 24 pan set. I don’t live in Sennelier country but Schmincke country so yeah, that’s going to be an online thing again. There is also really the problem that I don’t necessarily want Sennelier to decide what colours I get, but for me to get an empty tin and a list of the colours I want. You could argue that really do I need a 24 pan set when I have a 48 pan set and why don’t I just get the empty box and blah blah blah. I don’t know yet. I mean, yes, there is the 24 WN set but I also have a 24 pan set of Schmincke Akademie watercolours – that’s their student range but I bought it because frankly, the tin was gorgeous. Rather superficial but there you have it.

So, basically, not sure yet. I’m still not ready to move over to the whole tube thing mostly because pans are easy to organise and tubes interfere with my need for order.

I’ve realised I sort of hoard stuff and this is obvious in that, you know, some people they spend their art life doing everything with a 2B pencil and an eraser. I have ooh, with me here in Luxembourg ca 7 paintboxes plus watercolour pencils plus watercolour crayons, I have several million different pencils, I have both uni Posca and Faber Castell markers I have pastel pencils. I have art tools. Arguably, you could say I wouldn’t notice another paintbox or more to the point, mainly I don’t need another one. I will go to the art store on the quays in Paris the next time and think deeply about it.

The second piece I did this weekend was a marker piece, or more mixed media. I used dry coloured pencils as well

IMG_20180317_152502

I wanted, at some stage, and still do sort of, to do the occasional comic. I already, somewhere, have a piece involving sheep acting as ramp agents in Galway Airport but I think it needs to be redone and lined properly. I also suspect they should probably done using the uni Poscas rather than the Faber Castells. But anyway, these are two sheep in the market for a country pad. It grew out of a conversation I had with some friends and the main reason I don’t develop them as characters is that there are some wellknown sheep characters around. Shaun the Sheep for example, and there’s a whole gamut of Irish tourism merchandise that is sheep focused. So if I were to do anything with it, I’d need to be thinking very carefully about it. I’ve looked at building a Surfing Annie character but the big issue with that is lacking the drawing skills.

When I was a photographer, I came to the conclusion that effectively, a massive change in the photography world coincided with my getting interested in it. Maybe it caused the interest, maybe not. I’ve never worked out. But just at the point where I wanted to do certain things, digital SLRs made it possible for me to do it without bankrupting myself.

I sometimes thing that there is an element of that with the drawing stuff. I struggled big time in the early days discovering I wanted stuff that I could not easily get. There are still things I find it difficult to get – I own 3 0.03mm Copic fineliners and blood will spill if anyone other than me touches them. Such fine tips are extremely difficult to find here. I used either Faber Castell or Uni Pin fineliners otherwise. I have bulk bought Uni Signo white gel pens in bulk because they could not be got in Ireland. One of the most useful pens in the world – a white gel pen – could not be bought at all. But over the time from where I started to when I left Ireland, I noticed it getting easier to get stuff. Some of the other stuff I only need to buy once – but the consumables, choice of paper. It could be very painful. But I love the Faber Castell Pitt pens now. It took me a while to get used to their brush tips and now they have softbrush tips in the greys and black range and I love them (and want them in the rest of the range. But the stuff I do, I probably couldn’t really do without them and 10 years ago, they weren’t really there and markers weren’t something that people lauded per se.

 

November Urban Sketching

November 5 was a cold, cold day in Luxembourg. This I know because I went urban sketching. ONe of the key contributors to “why did you go out drawing” question was we were around Limpertsberg, about 200m from chez Treasa to be honest. So I couldn’t “not” go. It’s not like I had any excuses.

We spent 90 minutes in the graveyard which as befits a graveyard with the graves of some fairly wealthy people, has some very attractive grave sculptures. I’ve seen a fair few of them. I was drawn to something different though because I knew there was some kind of a monument at the far end of the graveyard that I hadn’t been able to find out what it was. So I walked to it.

It’s one of two major monuments (that I found) in the graveyard. It is a memorial to members of the Resistance in Luxembourg during the second world war. There are two primary features; a plain cross with no adornment. Before you reach the cross, to your right there is a sculpture. I didn’t see a name for it but as I was describing it to someone later, it’s like a supplicant with their hands bound behind their back. It is a very modern piece of sculpture, totally at odds with the ornamental angels and virgins which litter some of the other graves. At its base someone had placed a white rose.

I didn’t have a particularly successful day drawing and painting. For one thing, it was so freezing cold and damp, I just couldn’t get paint to dry and wrecked the ink drawing of the cross with undried paint from the entirely separate piece I did of the statue. I drew a section of a wall which I assume is set aside for ashes.

And then I went for a walk and found the second monument, which I hadn’t known existed. It is where the tomb of the unknown Luxembourg Legionary lies, and it is more specifically, a monument in memory of the men of France who died on Luxembourg soil during the period 1915-1918. All of the named soldiers on it had died in the last quarter of 1914, One of them had come from Ajaccio in Corsica and one of them from Douarnenez in the west of Brittany. It seemed an awful long way to come to die for the folly of greater men.

Drawing, maths and languages

Yesterday, when I was talking to one of my friends, she told me that you could see, across the various Facebook posts (my instagram pictures are usually sent across to my Facebook account), how I was getting better at the drawing all the time.

This made me happy for the obvious reasons of you’d like to think that as you do more of a thing, you get better. But this was also the friend with whom I had the original conversation of “I was never very good at drawing” where I realised that I got irate with people who said that about maths or languages and pointed out to myself, about art at least, that for most things, few people started out very good at anything, it was very much a learning by doing thing that got them better. And that I’d never given much time to art because “I was never very good at it”.

So the above is some approximation of Mount Fuji, done on a train last week or the week before. Let me tell you, drawing on trains in Ireland is not easy. The trains bounce quite a bit. You need to get the drawing bit done in Heuston before the train sets off. The painting bit, requiring a lot less precision, is okay.

I’ve found myself in conversations about learning Irish during the week and the message I have taken away from it is that many people, in Ireland at least, are unable to draw advantages from things they have to do, even when they don’t want to do it. When you point out those advantages, you get yelled at.

It is fair to say that usage of Irish is not particularly broad, but that’s not why anyone really learns it, and even if you never see yourself speaking Irish, there are tangible benefits to learning it as it has a lot of sounds that are just not in English which may be useful should you want to learn another language later.

What that language might be is also something you cannot dictate at the age of 4 or 5.

I don’t speak Irish on a day to day basis, mostly because an chaighdeĆ”n and I speak slightly different varieties and I just don’t understand the radio a lot. But I do speak French and German significantly more regularly and I am learning Finnish. Having learned Irish has fed into all three of those, especially the Finnish (as it happens). Knowledge is only wasted if you are the wasting type.

What saddens me most is the argument that education should be dictated purely by what most people are likely to need to earn money. Education should be directed towards equipping people to learn on an ongoing basis, and towards teaching them to think.

When I see a lot of arguments online in Ireland, I feel that in those two objectives at least, education has failed. Much of the argument also centres on how education has failed to provide adequate vocational training. If we focused on education like this, then arguably, 80 years ago, it was fair enough to get people out of school when they were 12, not worry too much if they could read or write, because sure, they weren’t ever really going to need it, were they?

We got to a space in our country where we provided an adequate basis for people to develop their own views on their lives and then move on. I sometimes feel that with a focus on what “industry needs” and “what people need for their careers” that we will lose that view of education, that it is a tool for living, and not just a tool for an employer.

Which brings me back to art.

It’s hard to make a living from art. Most people can’t. An awful lot (embittered photographer comment coming up) of people expect to be able to get art for free or “a credit, which will be good for you”.

Most of the people I know in the tech sector, so people who do the currently fashionable professions of tech related programming, network management or software design, system administration or whatever you’re having yourself, have developed hobbies which are fundamentally not tech focused. Anecdotally, for the women, it tends towards craft work, knitting, crochet, sewing, and for the men, it tends towards craft beer, and, wood turning.

This leads me to think that despite arguments that the tech sector can be very creative, in terms of designing solutions to problems, that creative side of things is not really tangible enough.

I regret massively that I did not take up drawing and painting at a much earlier stage in my life (and I’m going to write a couple of excuses in a moment).

Part of that is because there is, I think, a truth missing from our lives. It really doesn’t matter how good you are at something provided you are enjoying doing it. And if you focus on enjoying it, you may wind up getting good at it.

We are not all born to be Olympic champions but that’s not why people go running every day.

School is where we should be getting the fundamentals of these skills, the building blocks on which we can build stuff later. Anyone who knows anything at all about languages knows that you never stop learning. No one who is 40 years old today has a static command of their native language. Anyone who works in technology has an ever increasing set of use cases for various words whose meaning was actually reasonably set down prior to tech, eg, analyst, architect, and, let’s face it, computer. Yet, I suspect if someone popped up and suggested that the ability to draw might be a skill which should be part of a rounded education, the same arguments coming from the cohort who see no value in Irish for the simple reason that they were never very good at it (and didn’t bother trying) would be advanced in terms of art. This is a pity because it is predicated on the idea that people are born good artists. But drawing is a skill which can be acquired to some reasonable level.

When I went to school, there was a tendency of seeing some people as good at art, and some as less talent. In many respects, art was seen as a talent and less as a skill. People in my class were seen as good at drawing and the others…well. I was, for the most part, one of the others, bar on one occasion, when I drew a holiday scene, actually won a prize for it, and still had a teacher demanding to know why I didn’t colour in something which, in real life, was white.

In an act of rebellion, I coloured it in pink, when, age the age of 8, I lost that argument. Pink was about the one colour this thing was never going to be. Looking back now, I don’t much remember the praise.

I remember the surprise, the astonishment, that someone from the “Not good at drawing group” (but terribly good at maths and English) had produced something that didn’t look like a spider had been at a paint box. I retreated back to the maths and the English. It seemed somehow safer.

No doubt, there were others who retreated