Tuesday, 16 June 2015



I love exploring different types of brushes and exploring what they can do. There are some great shapes and sizes and brushes can be used to create a range of effects. The problem is which to choose? What type of hair? What size? What shape?

Princeton Neptune range of faux squirrel brushes.
For watercolour I have always loved natural hair brushes, especially sable and squirrel. My favourites are round brushes, and I've used Raphael sables and squirrel quills for many years. I also enjoy some flat, dagger and sword brushes, liners and other special effect brushes.

As natural hair has been harder to get in the US, due to changes in customs regulations, more companies are creating better synthetic versions of sable and squirrel brushes. I hope to try more over time. I am quite impressed with the Neptune brushes by Princeton, seen left. I particularly like the very cute 1" 'Mottler' brush - its short handle makes it very convenient for travel and plein air sketching. These are definitely soft brushes, with good water-holding capacity.

Roymac have been creating some good synthetic brushes for a while. Escoda has launched a range of synthetic sables that have reviewed well too.  See Parka's review of the Versatil range here. Da Vinci brushes are excellent and come in a huge range of shapes, sizes and hair types. Their maestro sable and travel brushes are gorgeous - I love the size 8. You might also consider Isabey brushes.

For acrylics I prefer synthetic brushes, though I sometimes use some synthetic brushes to remove watercolour paint. And for oils I like hog bristle brushes with long handled sables for fine detail. I clean these carefully with vegetable oil and soap rather than turps.

I thought I'd share some great resources on brushes here. I plan to add to it over time. This first chart is from Dick Blick. It shows some of the many shapes available and what they might be used for.
Chart from Dick Blick - click here for the link on dickblick.com

As well as those shown above, there are the interesting sword, dagger and pyramid brushes. Here are a few varieties, though they come in many shapes and sizes.

These are, from left, Roymac 0 squirrel - I love this one though Art Basics also make a very similar one for less $; Rosemary & Co 1/4" sable blend; Rosemary & Co 1/4" Kolinsky sable; Michael Wilcox Large sword liner (synthetic) and small sword liner (synthetic); a Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin size 14 and the Neptune Dagger 1/4". Liz Steel shows more in her excellent post here.

Generally, synthetics are more 'flippy' and harder to control. The longer the hair the harder they are to control - great for random marks and vegetation. Squirrels are softer and hold a lot of water, sables are firmer though this long sable one (third from left) has a mind of its own!

This chart, also from Dickblick.com, shows how to measure a brush but also has information about different hair types.
How to measure a brush and information on the hair types. Click here to link to the chart on the website
Brush sizes are difficult to compare between brands as there is no one universal sizing system. This is the Blick sizing chart but a Blick size 4 and a size 4 in another brand may not be the same size at all.
Brush sizing from Dick Blick. click here for the link to chart on the Dick Blick website

For more on dagger and sword liners, see Liz Steel's post here.

For suggestions on a few brushes to use to get started in watercolour, see here.

For suggestions about travel brushes, see here and my website for more updated information at the bottom the page here.

More to come....

Monday, 15 June 2015

M.Graham Gouache

I like to have a palette of gouache available for my own use or my students so I don't have to carry the tubes around.

I have a palette of Schmincke gouache that also rewet quite well. I have just 12 colours, including black and white, so quite different to my watercolour choices. You can see some of them here.

I have just ordered some M.Graham gouache tubes to try. I have heard that they also rewet well. Most brands need to be used straight from the tube and any leftover is discarded as it dries out and won't re-constitute.

I ordered Titanium White, Azo Yellow, Gamboge, Naphthol Red, Quinacridone Rose, Ultramarine, Cerulean, Phthylocynanine Green, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Lamp Black.

The small amounts I squeezed out and allowed to dry rewet nicely later. Next I'll try a larger pan of paint and see if it cracks up in a palette. I'll also paint out some swatches to check the opacity of each colour.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


I am planning to write a book on sketching. It will be illustrated with my sketches from all over the world, in a number of styles and different media. I'll be heading off for four weeks this Friday and exploring Hong Kong, Paris, London, Cambridge and some of the north of England. I'll add some of my sketches along the way here and on my Facebook page Jane Blundell Artist.

In July I am looking forward to attending and presenting at the 6th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore. I'll be there for nine days and am planning to run some workshops prior, and some demonstrations during the Symposium. Here is the link to the site. Register early if you want to get involved.

If you are not familiar with the Urban Sketchers, it is a world-wide organisation with chapters in many countries and many cities. The motto is 'see the world one drawing at a time'. Drawings are done on location in urban settings and shared on various Facebook pages and blog sites. Getting involved is a great way to meet fellow sketchers while travelling :-)

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colours - updated

My next book, 'The Ultimate Mixing Palette: as World of colours', is now available on Blurb.com

This is a very different book to my first one 'Watercolour Mixing Charts'. That contains 98 charts and shows a vast range of colours but also uses a huge number of different paints. It's a fascinating study of colour mixing!

This book uses a more limited palette so it is possible to purchase the same colours and re-create the mixes. I really think it will be a most valuable reference for anyone working with watercolour. It has taken almost a year to create and is based on almost 35 years of watercolour exploration. It has over 7500 individual colour swatches - that's a lot of hues with just these fourteen pigments :-). The charts were carefully painted, then professionally photographed with a large format camera and carefully colour-matched. They look fabulous on a computer screen and the printed physical book is also very true-to-life.

You can see my previous book, Watercolour Mixing Charts, as well as the various versions of the Ultimate Palette book here. Click on any to see a preview.

It is available as an eBook or as a physical book in hardback or softcover formats in Premium Lustre paper, which is slightly thicker so my recommended paper. The softcover version is also available in standard paper.

The link to the eBook is here. This shows the first 30 pages. The eBook will work in iBooks on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.

The Ultimate Mixing Set.

My website has more information and a tab with a list of alternate paints to the Daniel Smith ones I have used.

Monday, 9 March 2015

30 years of Trees

Morton Bay Fig, pen sketch 1984
I love drawing trees. I have used the original sketches drawn on location for etchings, large paintings and book illustrations. A few weeks ago I went to the Blue Mountains and chose to sketch trees. Here are some from over the years.

Morton Bay Fig etching 1984.

Above is one of my first tree studies, drawn on location on a cold day about 30 years ago. I used a sketch nib in a fountain pen. The tree is still in the Botanical gardens but does not look as healthy these days.

I used the tree sketch to create a series of etchings. This is one of them. I also printed them in a sepia ink which looked great :-)

(Later, in about 1990,  I did a large painting in bright coloured inks drawn with a dip pen. It sold when first exhibited and I don't even have a photo of it but I'd be interested in doing something similar again with the Da Atramantis inks I have been enjoying so much.)

One of the etchings was on display in our home in Singapore and our friend Steve Stine asked if I'd like to illustrate a book - about a tree.

An imaginary forest - illustration from Kayla & the Magical Tree.

That was in May 2003 and in December 'Kayla & the Magical Tree' was published by Times editions, Singapore. There were a lot of tree-inspired images in it!

I did a series of imaginary landscapes in the early 2000s based on a painting from years earlier. These combined the idea of gum trees with the leaves the I loved to walk through in the Fall when we lived in the US and were created using a mixture of Indian Ink, watercolour and Chinese pigments. Sadly, the yellow, which was pure gamboge, has faded. It's one of the reasons I am so determined to only use light-fast pigments. 

I spent many hours sitting on an old stone wall at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia in 2003, sketching this wonderful tree. It is difficult to tell whether the tree is pulling the building apart or holding it together after so many hundreds of years. 
I did a full-sheet painting of the temple, for my brother, later that year, though in many ways I prefer the sketch. It has more memories attached of conversations with the locals in the temple, and the heat and the atmosphere. Nothing beats sketching from life.

I spent a day in July sitting by this tree between Thredbo and Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains a few years ago. It's such a lovely shaped snow gum. The sketch is in an A4 Moleskine sketchbook. 

Later I repainted it on a much larger watercolour paper. This is the finished painting, and also a limited edition print.

During the same ski holiday I sketched this tree in Thredbo
village. It's remarkable that even in winter, with snow on the ground, we can sketch en plein air in Australia.

I really enjoyed this Morton Bay Fig. Sketched in Hyde Park, Sydney, in an A5 Moleskine on a lovely day out with the Urban Sketchers in 2013.
These studies were painted on National Tree Day. Both A5 Moleskine sketchbook studies.

I went away for the weekend in the Blue Mountains in February this year and painted these trees. The first is an ink and watercolour A4 sketch in a lovely mossy spot called Mermaid's Cave. This gnarled tree was perfect for some ink line-work.

Then we sat in a cafe and painted the trees we could see from the Magalong Valley Tea Rooms.

Trees in ink. I don't think I'll ever tire of them :-)


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

New website page - updated

'The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colours'.

My new book is almost completed  - charts cleaned up further, cross-references added, notes all done. Now it's the minuscule details in the layout and proof-reading that will take for ever it seems.

I have added a page to my website with additional information on the colours used in my ultimate mixing palette - alternate brands and so on. I may also add some 'recipes' on this page showing how to create hues of other colours using this palette.


There's a sneak peak at one of the 49 charts here, though they have all been labelled now.

March 2015 update
The book is now published and available through the Blurb website in premium lustre paper hardcover or softcover versions, eBook version and standard paper softcover version.
Here is a link to all of my books.

Friday, 23 January 2015

De Atramentis Document Ink Colours

I have posted a lot about mixing these inks, but thought it might be helpful to show the basic colours all together too. Here they are - the scan has made the Magenta (also called Fuchsia) look more pink than it is and they are all 'backlit'. Note the Cyan is also called Turquoise. The black is actually Black not dark brown...but you get an idea :-). You can see the bottles on Liz' Steel's colourful post here. We've both been very excited about these inks and are enjoying drawing with them.

You'll notice a new one - Document Fog Grey, though to my mind this is not a grey at all, but a navy blue. Liz has done some sketching with it - have a look at her Blog here.
Above I painted out the regular Fog Grey - this is in the normal non-document range of De Atramentis inks, of which there are over 100, and is a lovely colour but it is not waterproof.  Only the Document inks are waterproof, which is why they are so important to watercolour artists. Next to the Fog Grey I have painted 'Jane's Grey' - a custom mix of mostly Document Blue and Document Brown but with a little Document Red and Document Magenta. I usually just use the Blue and Brown mixed but wasn't being very careful and overdid the Blue - so I had to add the reds :-). This is the joy of these inks - you can make the colour you want! I use this colour in one of my Pilot Falcon pens for sketching and I love it. The third grey is taking the Document Fog Grey and adding and equal amount of Brown and then a little Magenta to warm it up a little. It's also a nice dark grey. All good fun to explore :-)