Sunday, 15 January 2017

MAC palette as watercolour palette - all my favourites - can you guess what they all are?

There are many hundreds of different watercolours available, made with hundreds of different pigments and pigment mixtures. Over many years, I've been exploring the various pigments and colours available to find the ones I think are the most interesting and/or generally useful. 

I have a rather large collection of tubes and many are squeezed into more portable storage palettes, and of course I have my painting palettes. Here I thought I'd go through my favourite watercolours, and explain why I like them. I don't necessarily paint with them all and of course never in one painting!

I was looking for a large palette that would hold many different pigments. I didn't need a mixing area in this one, as it was not for painting, but for demonstrating and explaining the differences between various colours and pigments. So I didn't look in traditional watercolour supply stores, but makeup stores. MAC makes empty pro palettes for makeup artists to fill with lipsticks. They are rather flat wells, so don't hold a lot of paint, but they don't need to. They are inexpensive, another bonus.

I bought a 24-colour lipstick palette. You could, of course, spray the lid section white and use this as a painting palette of 24, but I bought an extra 24-colour insert, creating a 48-colour storage palette.

Here it is filled with my favourites. Some of you would be able to make a pretty good guess at what colours are here. 

But I won't leave you totally in the dark about what they are - here's a paint-out of the top section. I've now updated this post with the full palette names but just cover the caption to test yourself :-)

Top row: buff titanium, hansa yellow light, hansa yellow medium, new gamboge PY153 (very like hansa yellow deep), quinacridone gold, Da Vinci benzimida orange deep, transparent pyrrol orange, pyrrol scarlet.
Middle Row: Pyrrol crimson, carmine, quinacridone rose, Schmincke purple magenta PR122, imperial purple, moonglow, sodalite genuine, indanthrone blue.
Bottom row: ultramarine, cobalt blue, phthalo blue red shade, cerulean chromium, phthalo blue green shade, blue apatite genuine, Old Holland manganese blue genuine, cobalt teal blue

And here is the bottom section. There is one spot empty. It's probably the spot for Potter's Pink. Not a colour I use a lot, but a rather beautiful pigment. I'd have to rearrange the colours to put it in though...

Top row: cobalt turquoise, viridian, phthalo green BS, jadeite genuine, Jane's black (pyrrol crimson + phthalo green BS), perylene green, undersea green, green apatite genuine.
Middle row: blank, sap green, serpentine genuine, rich green gold, yellow ochre, goethite, raw sienna, quinacridone burnt orange
Bottom row: transparent red oxide, burnt sienna, Indian red, piemontite genuine, burnt umber, raw umber, Jane's grey (ultramarine + burnt sienna), lunar black.

Of the 47 colours, 42 are Daniel Smith, 2 are my own custom mixes using DS paints and 3 are other brands - a Da Vinci, and Old Holland and a Schmincke.

I haven't included any cadmiums, even though they are excellent pigments with specific uses. I have them in my other storage sets!

Well done to Bob who pretty much nailed the guessing below :-)

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Watercolour Sticks from Daniel Smith

I wrote about making palettes using Daniel Smith watercolour sticks here.

I thought I'd add some more information, with photos, since I have noticed that watercolour sticks are now more readily available, including in Australia :-)

Here is my collection of watercolour sticks after my trip to the US last year. Some I have cut down to add colours to my students' palettes, some to add to my own palettes. I guess you could use them straight from the stick and not put them in a palette at all but that certainly isn't my suggestion. Once there is only 1/5 left of a stick I press it into a half pan, and, of course, write on the side what colour it is in a permanent pen.

20 colours - buff titanium, hansa yellow light, hansa yellow medium, quinacridone gold and hansa yellow deep - not that you need all four; organic vermilion, quinacridone red and permanent alizarin crimson; ultramarine, cerulean chromium and phthalo blue GS; phthalo green BS, undersea green, sap green and serpentine genuine; yellow ochre, burnt sienna, piemontite genuine, burnt umber and sodalite genuine.

My 'travel sticks' ready to go again.
Three half pans made up with 1/5 of
a watercolour tube squished in.
With watercolour sticks, unlike tube colours, there are no lids to screw on, no tubes to worry about leaking and no need to declare as liquids as part of your on-board luggage - they are very travel friendly. Though they do need to be stored in a dry container and can, of course, dirty each other if allowed to rattle around loose in a pencil case. They are formulated with the same ingredients as the tube colours, though with more pigment and less water so the drying has already been done. Even if you are not travelling with them, the ease of making up palettes is apparent. You simply cut off 1/5 of a stick and press in into the palette or pan. Done.

The only disadvantage is that you can't make up custom colours with them.

Note, though they were designed to draw with, I don't choose to use them for drawing. This is in part because I prefer to work with pencils and pens, but it is also because I live in a humid climate and I find they go soft so are not suitable for drawing where I live.

You don't need all of those yellows - I'd suggest hansa yellow light and hansa yellow deep (or you might prefer hansa yellow medium and quinacridone gold.)

Here's the set of 14 painted out, including three of the yellows, three reds, three blues and some lovely earth colours. Sodalite genuine is a dark blue pigment that is very similar to my Jane's Grey. I scribbled on the paler with the sticks and brushed water over them, though in the palette you would just touch a wet brush to them as with other watercolour pans.

A basic palette of 14 colours using watercolour sticks. Or switch out one of the yellows and add Piemontite as an earth red.

And here are some of the gorgeous extras.
Serpentine genuine is normally an expensive colour in a tube but all the sticks are priced the same. I love it for grassy meadows.
Undersea green is a wonderful olive green that works beautifully in Australia as it perfectly captures our dull gum leaves. It can be a distant green too, watered down for atmospheric effects.
Sap green works the world over as a convenient realistic foliage green - add more light yellow to brighten it up further.
Piemontite genuine is an earthy red. Really lovely with yellow ochre and cerulean chromium as an earth triad. Indian red has more colour but isn't available as a stick.
Burnt umber is a colour that I like to have as a pair with raw umber (also not available as a stick). It isn't an essential colour since you can create this hue by mixing a little ultramarine with the burnt sienna, but it can be useful to have convenient darks.

Lovely extras.
The 12 colours that are asterisked are a suggested 12-colour sketching palette if just using watercolour sticks.

An finally an 18-colour palette option.

Happy travels :-)

10 years x 10 classes Urban Sketching world wide workshops

For the first time, the Urban Sketchers organisation is offering long term workshops, all over the world. We'll have a series of 10 workshop classes created in a range of cities to celebrate 10 years of the Urban Sketchers organisation. While each series of classes is different and will be taught by different people, they all follow the same idea of little stories, medium stories and great stories and are each designed around the city in which they will be held.

Some will be taught by a number of instructors, some by just one.

Here's the detail - check them out and get them booked into your diary :-)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

All that Grey...

Happy New Year. It's been a busy time getting our new house sorted and I still haven't unpacked everything I need in my art room - including my scanner - so please excuse the less than ideal photos. I wanted to share some ideas with you...

Back in 1999, when we lived in New Jersey, USA, my then very young son looked out the window one very grey February day and said plaintively "I wish that the world was all the colours of the rainbow."

While those of us in the Southern Hemisphere are getting our massive dose of vitamin D and watching out for the extreme UV over the Summer, for many of you this time of the year is all about grey - grey skies, grey roads, grey trees, grey buildings. There are many ways to mix greys and I thought I'd share a few.

Jane's Grey mixture

I am sure you will be familiar with my favourite grey mix - Jane's Grey. I generally prefer to create two-pigment greys since they are simple and can easily be moved between the two colours without any loss of colour harmony.

A cool dusty grey

Burnt Sienna and Cerulean Chromium is another lovely grey - I use this for dusty greys especially in the sky in the northern hemisphere if the grey is rather cool. It is granulating and liftable so, like Jane's Grey, you can splash it around and lift out the clouds.

A cool staining grey

Pyrrol Scarlet and Phthalo blue GS will also make an interesting range of greys and near-blacks, but these will be non-granulating and staining. Where the above mixes can move between blues and browns, this will move between deep indigos and indian red hues. It will also mix darker greys than the above.

A neutral staining grey

Another favourite two-colour mix is phthalo green BS and Pyrrol Crimson - at full strength this makes Jane's Black - a wonderful deep staining black. But it can be watered down to a very soft range of greys. It can lean towards the deep maroons or deep greens so can be useful for foliage and landscape greys and blacks.

For a greater range of greys, try mixing three primaries together.

Granulating greys.

A lovely general purpose primary triad consists of ultramarine, Quinacridone Gold or another warm yellow (New Gamboge/Hansa Yellow Deep etc) and Pyrrol Crimson. This is a very useful triad in Australia as it mixes slightly dull greens, oranges and purples that suit our landscape. This triad will also mix a rich black that can be watered down to a lovely granulating grey. As there are three pigments in the grey, it can also be moved to a more purplish grey, a more green-grey, a more brown-grey or of course more blue, more yellow or more red. That adds complexity in mixing but is fun to explore.

A versatile range of greys.

If you start with a cool triad - phthalo blue GS, Hansa yellow light (or medium as a pirmary yellow) and Quinacridone Rose - you can also mix a gorgeous rich and staining black. Watered dow, this will make a range of soft greys that can be adjusted warmer or cooler as you prefer.

Warm greys

A rather classical triad of a warm red, a yellow and ultramarine will also make a rich black, and watered down the greys will be granulating. They will tend to be warmer greys too.


Phthalo blue, Quinacridone gold and pyrrol scarlet make another deep black but the greys tend to be difficult to neutralise if you add the yellow - alone the scarlet and blue make a rich neutral black as seen above.

My favourite granulating earth greys

One of my favourites is the grey made with Cerulean Chromium, an earth yellow such as Yellow Ochre and Indian Red. This will be a granulating grey and rather lovely to explore for snow.

Versatile granulating greys

Ultramarine,  Hansa Yellow medium and Quinacridone Rose is one of the most versatile primary triads - you can make pretty much any colour with this set. Mixed together they make a lovely rich black and a range of beautiful greys.

To make blacks and greys with any primary triad, I suggest making a mid orange first, then gradually add the blue. You could equally make a green and add the red or make a purple and add the yellow, but making the orange and adding the blue seems to be the most reliable method. And of course use very strong pigments with very little water to get a rich black.

You can read more about three-pigment greys on Liz Steel's blog - she uses three colours to make her premixed greys, including her new soft grey, which is a little like the earth grey above.

Enjoy your greys :-)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

November update

I have been a little quiet here lately. I had a fabulous trip to the UK in July, which I started to write about, including teaching a 5-day workshop in Bath and teaching at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester. I had another really enjoyable and varied trip to New York and Montreal in September/October. I'll add more on them later.

I have done a couple of interviews. Part of one has been published here:

I have also done some sketches of course, some of which I have added to my Facebook Page Jane Blundell Artist, or to Instagram janeblundellart.

In between, we have bought a new house and sold the house we've been in for 12 years - the longest I have ever lived in one place. We are now in the process of repainting the new house, then moving. We are going little more that 3km away, still in Sydney, but it requires packing up our lives...again. In the process, we are trying to reduce the amount we own...

Once we move, my goal for 2017 is so get my online lessons onto a more accessible platform, add videos to my own YouTube channel and get my next book completed. Its working title is 'Working With Triads' and it will be a great companion book to The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colour.

I'll be enjoying the sunsets we'll see from the new house, which may well inspire some paintings :-)

Monday, 12 September 2016


I missed out on a week of turquoise, which would have been the next logical colour, but added it in later. There's a fine line between a greenish-blue and a blueish green - when do they become turquoise/aqua/teal? And it's the same with the opposite of turquoise - a red-orange vs an orange-red, though there is no name for the in between colour.

There are many mixed greens available but I focussed here on more of the single pigment greens. I love the granulation of the Daniel Smith Primatek colours Green Apatite Genuine, Jadeite and Serpentine Genuine. I included DS Undersea green, even though it is a two-pigment mix, since it is one of my favourite convenience greens. I also included the DS Sap green - and other lovely useful hue.  Chrome green is an interesting more opaque green - not one I've used very often though I like it. Rare Green Earth is only just a green shade of grey - a gentle landscape green, that could be used in distant mountains in a landscape.
Greens can be neutralised by adding a red, though whether a warm or a cool red depends on how yellow or how blue the green happens to be.

For more greens, see my website here.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A 14-colour Granulating Earth pocket palette

Following on from the previous post about a 7-colour earth palette, I looked at the 'extras' I carry in my little Pocket Palette. (Note all watercolours are Daniel Smith)

I normally set it up with 14 of my Ultimate Mixing Colours as picture left (more information here and here), but my 'extras' version had hansa yellow light, phthalo blue RS and pyrrol scarlet (since they are not in my regular palettes and I sometimes need to demonstrate them) and a whole pile of earthy colours - almost a perfect earth palette in fact.

It had a number of pigments that I love for different reasons, and may want to paint with along with my regular palette - the basic 20 colours that I generally use. The yellows in my regular palette are Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Goethite and raw umber.

The extras were -
yellow ochre - which I like to use for landscapes or portraits
raw sienna - which mixes into a grey rather than a green with blues - good for skies, though also for skin-tones
transparent red oxide - which I love for its gorgeous burnt orange colour and crazy granulation
piemontite genuine - which is fabulous for rusty effects with transparent red oxide
cobalt blue - which is a beautiful colour that I don't use much (outside Santorini!) and want to get to know better
cobalt turquoise - which is lovely for copper effects and the sea
green apatite genuine - which is gorgeous for foliage, and is a multiplicity of greens in one pigment
serpentine genuine - which is perfect for grassy meadows
graphite - which intrigues me, though I don't often use it...
sodalite genuine - which has a little deep blue colour but lots of granulation
lunar black - which is the only black watercolour I use - fantastic granulation and texture

I wanted of keep most of these colours in their natural form, so they are still available when I need them, but turn the palette into a full stand-alone granulating earthy palette to paint with rather than just an extras palette.

So I added buff titanium, Indian red and cerulean chromium from my regular palette, instead of the hansa yellow, pyrrol red and graphite grey. I have also added the gentle potter's pink that is a long time favourite of Liz Steel that I have rarely used, as a granulating dusty rose (instead of the powerful phthalo blue RS that would overpower this new earth palette). It will mix gentle purples with cobalt blue. Purpurite genuine was another possibility here.

Cobalt blue is arguably too bright for this palette, and Blue apatite genuine would be a very fitting alternative, but I do want to get to know cobalt blue better so it is staying :-)

Outside the 14-colour palette paint-out, you can see that up the top I have also painted the lovely earthy mix of Quin Gold and Goethite, (I guess that would be Jane's Granulating gold :-) and the mix of Transparent Red Oxide and Burnt Sienna (Jane's Sienna) that are both in the 7-colour palette I posted about here.

Below are Graphite Grey, Hematite Genuine and Jane's Grey, which are alternatives for the dark colours, with VanDyck brown over on the right.

If I were suggesting a 12-colour granulating earth palette, it would have my Granulating Gold mix instead of Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna, my burnt sienna mix, Indian Red alone (without Piemontite or Potter's Pink) and a deep granulating brown such as Van Dyck Brown instead of Lunar Black. Though of course Blue apatite genuine and Jadeite genuine are also gorgeous :-) The basic triad of a yellow earth, Indian red and cerulean are the starting point. How many you add to it is all about personal taste and what other pigments you happen to have or to like.

Now it's time to go out and paint with my new granulating earth pocket palette...

I went to a park in Rozelle and chose to paint the rocks on the shore. Not a challenging subject with an earthy palette I'll admit! It worked fine, but don't like to be missing Jane's Grey from my palette. Sodalite is interesting but not actually as versatile as my grey mix. Nor do I like missing ultramarine to be honest, even though cobalt blue works in a similar though gentler way. Nor quinacridone gold or goethite. So what have I learnt? That I am very stubborn! I have favourites because I love working with them. Why change? It's important to experiment and test things out, even if one returns to the status quo.

I'll keep my earthy 14 colour palette made up of course, but will continue to use them as extras to my usual set.