Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Travel Sketching Online Course


I hope you are well, and staying safe during this most unusual time.

I have been a little quiet on my blog as I have been working on the Mastering Watercolours online course I launched in April, and the Travel Sketching course I launched in August.

Both are now up and running and it is wonderful to be working with a responsive and enthusiastic international community.

These courses are based on the PDF courses I have been teaching for many years. I have expanded the original courses, added videos and many more challenges and loaded them onto the very user-friendly Ruzuku platform.

Travel Sketching is a course designed to take participants through a huge range of sketching tools and techniques to get them comfortable sketching from life in a sketchbook, using a portable kit that suits their needs. Each lesson has a mix of videos, step-by-step photos and written explanations, with a question section at the end. There are plenty of opportunities to share ideas, artworks and suggestions throughout the course.

The final lesson will be released on the 21st October so I am offering a discounted price up until that date. Jump in and join up! Just click on the link here for more information.

Happy sketching :-)

Monday, 13 April 2020

Mastering Watercolours online course

I've been teaching a 12 lesson online course via email, using PDF files with step by step instructions, for many years. I've seen fabulous results from many students. However, I have always intended to create videos to make it so much clearer.

It's taken a long time, but I launched the course in April, starting with an introductory lesson, with each Lesson popping into mailboxes every week for 12 weeks. 13 lessons in all.

I've sent out invitations to join to those who have been on the waiting list, or for those who have done my PDF course, but also wanted to share it here.

I've used the Ruzuku platform, as I think it has a great interface for students to clearly see where they are in the course and what they have completed. It also has lots of options to enable students to post their work into galleries or participate in chats.

Here is a page of information and FAQs.

July update:

Here is the information link to the new Open Access version of the course. 

You can join any time, and take your time to work through the lessons.

I am now working on getting my Travel Sketching course on the platform :-)

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Where will you put your hopes and dollars?

I wish everyone well in this difficult time of Covid-19 and isolation at home. I hope you and your loved ones are able to stay home and stay safe.

For many of us, such as myself, working from home is not a new phenomena. I've been doing it for 27 years. For those getting used to being at home full time, I hope you are staying calm, enjoying a gentler pace to your days, a shorter commute (!) and perhaps getting a chance to try some great cook-at-home recipes?

One of the issues we are all facing, with limited businesses open and having to depend more and more on the internet to get hold of supplies, is who do we want to support?

I would like to see some positives come out of this very difficult situation. I'd like to see companies with morals thrive. I'd like to see the more environmentally friendly products become mainstream. So I thought I'd add a link to some I've found in Australia or who ship to Australia, and I'd invite you to add your own favourites in the comments, with the country you are from. I can update this post with information from all over the world if that would be helpful.

I haven't necessarily bought from all of these companies, but have noticed them and would like to see them thrive.

Seed & Sprout is a totally women owned Australian company, producing plastic free products that are built to last. I've ordered their solid shampoo and some kitchen food wraps so far, with more on the way. I really like the ethos of this company.

Who Gives a Crap sources sustainable bamboo paper towels and toilet rolls, and donates some of the proceeds to build toilets for people in need. They are currently completely sold out, but worth keeping in mind. Great sense of humour and humanity. and in the US

No Issues is another company using sustainable bamboo for tissues, toilet rolls and paper towels. Wrapped in biodegradable plastic, they are new on the market.

Subpod is a company based in Byron Bay, Australia, who have produced an impressive composting system to save vegetable waste from going into landfill.

Ethique has been running for some years in New Zealand and shops internationally. They have prevented over 6 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of through the sale of solid shampoos, conditioners, and other personal care products.

There are many companies delivering fresh fruit, vegetables or meat to your door. These may be too local to list, but they can use our support so the $ don't all go to the huge supermarket chains.

The Bread and Butter Project provides 100% of profits to help shape the lives of those seeking refuge and asylum with training and work. The bread is wonderful.

Citizen Wolf is a Sydney-based clothing store making made-to-measure clothing with zero waste.

Manrags takes all your old or unnecessary clothing and either re-homes or recycles it, diverting some of the annual 501,000t of textiles from landfill. You can donate unwanted clothes and shoes. Credits can be used to buy clothing from the store, made from the recycled fibres.

Eco and Basics stocks a range of eco-friendly products for food storage, personal care.

Activated Eco sells stainless steel clothes pegs (I love these) to reduce the need to replace plastic pegs over and over.

Another company trying to eliminate plastic is In our Hands with a range of kitchenware, reusable bags, metal pegs and so on. is very similar.

Dirt. Buy an environmentally friendly laundry liquid and get refills for your empty laundry bottles in reusable refill bags, reducing the use of plastic. 50% of profits go towards cleaning the oceans through The Oceans Cleanup. (I've ordered but haven't yet tried this product).

Another Australian company, ZeroCo, is attempting to stop single use plastics with a range of personal and cleaning products, in refillable recycled plastic bottles. It is currently a Kickstarter prelaunch.
If enough Aussies use this system, we'll make a huge difference to the amount of plastic that goes into landfill.

Onya make a great range of re-usable shopping bags I've been using the large shopping bags and the produce bags for a couple of years. They pack down into a very small attached bag but hold a huge amount.

Consider also worm farms, bee hives, vegetable gardens and solar panels. There are many other companies doing this job and they need our support.

There are also companies like 4Oceans cleaning up the mess of plastic and rubbish in the oceans all over the world. The sale of bracelets helps provide the funds to clean the oceans.

Now is a great time to support your local brick and mortar store, if they have made online ordering an option. Australian stores such as Art Scene in Sydney, Pigment Lab in Sydney, Larrypost for all things sketchbook related; the Sydney Art Store; Parkers in the Rocks and Seniors in Melbourne.

If we put our thoughts, energy and money into the things we want to see rather than complain about what we do see, we may create a better world.

Please add your favourites in the comments below. Let's please really look for positives at this time.

Stay safe. Stay home.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

I created a blog post about a few of the Daler Rowney colours here in 2018, but now have swatches of most of the colours due to the generosity of another of my readers, Kamal. Just a few more to complete...

The English company Daler Rowney is not as well known as Winsor & Newton, but it is another high quality watercolour brand. The dried watercolour dots rewet with ease and most colours painted out beautifully. Once again, I've added a couple of photos (rather than scans) of the oranges and reds to better show the colours. Scans of the rest of the colours are fairly accurate.

Some pigments have changed so I'll note that in the comments and captions below.

Nickel Titanate Yellow is never a strong colour - it's a very weak pigment - but it is a granulating yellow. Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow and Bismuth Yellow are all lovely cool yellows, with PY3 being the most transparent option.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Titanium White, Chinese White (now called Zinc White and made with PW4 and PW6), Nickel Titanate Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale.

Permanent Yellow is a lovely bright mid yellow option.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Bismuth Yellow, Permanent Yellow, Aureolin (not shown), Cadmium Yellow,
Cadmium Yellow (Hue) (not shown).

These scans look a little brighter in real life. I just love the PY153 pigment found in Gamboge Hue and Indian Yellow, however the new stock of Indian Yellow is now made with PY83.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue, Gamboge Hue,
Indian Yellow (now made with PY83), Naples Yellow.

The photo of these swatches is better than the scan but they still look a little dull compared with the originals. Warm Orange looks more red on my screen than in reality. though it certainly leans towards red.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Orange Hue, Warm Orange, Permanent Red,
Cadmium Red Pale (not shown)

These swatches all look more red in my screen. They are all quite similar, with the Vermilion (Hue) being my favourite pigment for a warm red option. Cadmium Red (Hue) is now made with PR254 and PY74, as is Cadmium Red (Hue). Quinacridone Red is the classic coral colour of this pigment.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Cadmium Red Pale (Hue) (now made with PR254 and PY74), Vermilion (Hue),
Cadmium Red, Cadmium Red (Hue) (now made with PR254 and PY74), Quinacridone Red.

 Perylene Red is a really rich and less 'dull' version of this pigment than most.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Cadmium Red Deep (not shown), Cadmium Red Deep (Hue) (not shown)
(now made with PR264 and Pr255), Carmine, Alizarin Crimson, Perylene Red.

Permanent Rose looks a bit more magenta on my screen - it is the classic rose colour.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Alizarin Crimson (Hue), Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Magenta,
Cobalt Magenta.

This is a really nice version of Ultramarine Violet, which can be quite weak. I am not a fan of Prussian Blue. This one wouldn't brush out nicely.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Ultramarine Violet, Permanent Mauve, Indanthrene Blue (not shown),
Prussian Blue, Indigo.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Phthlao blue (Red Shade), Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Cobalt Blue,
Cobalt Turquoise (Green Shade), Manganese Blue Hue.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Cobalt Blue Deep, Ceoruleum, French Ultramarine, Permanent Blue,
Cobalt Turquoise (Red Shade).

Viridian is now viridian Hue and is made from PB36 and PG7, which means it will have different characteristics. PG18 is granulating and very liftable.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Transparent Turquoise, Cobalt Green Deep,  Phthalo Turquoise (not shown),
Viridian (now Viridian Hue made with PB36 and PG7), Phthalo Green.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Hooker's Green Dark, Terre Verte Hue, Sap Green, Oxide of Chromium Green,
Hooker's Green Light.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Vivid Green (not shown), Olive Green (not shown), Green Gold, Yellow Ochre,
Raw Sienna.

I like the various PR101 red-browns, but not the Burnt Sienna so much.
Daler Rowney Watercolour - Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Venetian Red, Indian Red, Transparent Red Brown.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Perylene Maroon (not shown), Mars Violet, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown (Hue),
Raw Umber.

Daler Rowney Watercolour - Warm Sepia, Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint, Ivory Black (not shown), Lamp Black.

 Happy painting!

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Marie's Masters Watercolours

While I have known about Marie's Chinese Watercolours for many years (they have a hundred year history) I wasn't aware until recently that there was also a Masters range. Thanks to one of my kind readers and workshop students Garnet, here they are.

They are made in Shanghai, China.

The naming is not completely consistent. The Cadmium hues are labelled as such but the Cobalt, Vermilion, Viridian and many of the earth hues are not.

I painted these from dried dot samples from tube colours. Apparently they shrink quite a bit as they dry. Mostly they re-wet well though some were a little more difficult to get a strong wash. There are some excellent pigments and some great colours in the set, but also some less interesting mixes. There are 43 colours, excluding iridescent and interference colours.

The stars represent lightfast ratings where I am guessing 4 is the best. The letters A, B or C refer to the series where I am assumed A is the most expensive. I did not find a website to check. Tubes are 9ml and are very affordable - find them in Australia here for only AU$4.35 per tube regardless of series.

As usual, the oranges and crimsons are hard to scan accurately so I've taken photos of some swatches and will note colour differences below.

These yellows look fairly close to the originals. The Cadmium Orange (Hue) is actually just a little more yellow than it looks on my screen.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light (Hue), Cadmium Yellow (Hue), Gamboge (Hue), Cadmium Orange (Hue)

I had to take a photograph to try to replicate these colours. Most are pretty close but the Crimson is just a bit more 'crimson-looking' than it appears here.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Transparent Red, Crimson, Prose Permanent Crimson, Permanent Rose.

This is another photograph and is also better than the scan but the colours are a little brighter than they look here. The pigment used in Cadmium Red (Hue) is my favourite for a lovely warm red.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Vermilion Red, Cadmium Red Pale (Hue), Cadmium Red Hue), Cadmium Red Deep (Hue).

The colours in this scan are fairly close - only the Alizarin Crimson (should be called a hue, as it is not made with PR83) looks a little less crimson in this image.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Alizarin Crimson, Purple Lake, Purple Red, Brilliant Purple, Ultramarine.

Cobalt blue should be called a hue since it doesn't contain PB28. Prussian Blue was difficult to activate.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Cobalt Blue, Sky Blue, Phthalo Blue Green Shade, Prussian Blue.

Viridian should also be called a hue, or be called Phthalo Green Blue Shade, which is what it is.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Peacock Blue, Viridian, Phthalo Green, Emerald Green.

Yellow Ochre was quite lovely to paint out.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Sap Green, Hooker's Green Light, Hooker's Green Dark, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna.

Burnt Sienna, like many of the earth colours, should be called a hue - it doesn't contain PBr7 at all. Deep Umber and Light red were very nice to paint out.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Deep Umber, Light Red.

I love Indian Red, though it can be overpowering. This version was nice and rich, but easily controlled. While I am not a big pan of greys made with black pigments, the Payne's Grey was a nice version as it uses ultramarine rather than phthalo blue so is not as cold as Payne's Grey often can be.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Indian Red, Vandyke Brown, Payne's Gray, Indigo.

I couldn't get the Lamp Black any darker than this but perhaps it is stronger from the tube.
Marie's Masters Watercolours - Ivory Black, Lamp Black, White.

I wish everyone all the best of health in these challenging and difficult times. Like so many, I have cancelled my trips, classes and workshops for the foreseeable future and will be working from home. I plan to get a lot done on my online classes and set up video classes for my regular students. I am also thinking of setting up a Q&A sessions once a week via Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or other - suggestions welcome.

kind regards.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Watercolour sketchbooks

I've used and travelled with many sketchbooks since I first sat outside trying to sketch a duck pond when I was 11. In recent years, I've really concentrated on working in sketchbooks that will take watercolour washes. I'll include a number of them here. 

I created a template so I could easily draw the same arrangement of squares in each book, then painted the boxes in the same colours to give a comparison of the papers. I've then scanned them all on the same scanner. Most colours look pretty accurate but Cerulean Chromium looks more turquoise in all of the samples. I'll add my notes about now I felt painting them. Some papers required a faster touch than others.

While I have more information on these on my website here, I thought this may be the best way to allow easy comparison of the paper types. I have loaded them in no particular order. I haven't shown the liftability of each paper. (That's not a word, but I think it's useful ;-) so will do that another time.

The colours I've used are my suggested 12-colour urban sketching palette and are all Daniel Smith - buff titanium, hansa yellow medium, quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose, ultramarine, cerulean chromium, perylene green, goethite, burnt sienna, Indian red, raw umber and Jane's grey. You can read more about that on my website here or on my blog, set up in a palette, here.

The sketchbooks that I like best may not suit everyone best. It depends how quickly you work, how detailed, how much water you use and whether you paint on both sides. I work relatively slowly, with a lot of detail and accurate colour. I love watercolour granulation. The paper that works best for me generally has a high cotton content and I really like 200gsm for sketchbooks so you get a lot of pages in the book. For my framed works outside of a sketchbook, though, I prefer 300gsm paper. I personally always prefer a medium or cold pressed paper to rough or really smooth, as I like to use fountain pens with fine or even extra fine nibs along with the watercolour. And yet I have enjoyed using a lot of 150gsm Alpha books! So I use one type for quick work and another for more detailed watercolour painted sketches.

Stillman & Birn - Alpha. 
This comes in a range of sizes and in spiral, hardcover or soft cover. It is 150gsm paper designed to take light washes. The paper is a bright white, takes fountain pen and pencil really well and has a very slight texture, described as a vellum surface. 

I enjoy this as a paper to use for notes and sketches, where I'll be doing more writing than sketching, or for quick sketches, demonstrations or colour studies. I've used many of them in many sizes, especially the landscape format hard-bound 9x6" hardbound books. There is some show-through, but remarkably little. There is also a little buckling but it has never worried me. The soft-bound are lighter for travel but I personally prefer the hard covers. 

This is the lightest weight paper I've used with watercolour and I think I've used more Alpha books than any other!

Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook sample page

Global Handbook Watercolour sketchbook. 
This paper comes in a range of sizes and interesting shapes and is fairly strongly textured paper. The cover is a light grey fabric hard-cover. It is 200gsm, which I think is a good thickness for a sketchbook. The paper is natural white and the texture is similar, though not identical, on both sides. I feel that is has slightly too much of a right and wrong side for best results but it's a nice book. 

Global Handbook Watercolour Sketchbook sample page

Hahnemühle Watercolour Book
This paper is a natural white, acid free and has a fine grained texture on both sides. I think it is excellent. It comes in a range of shapes and sizes including new zig-zag formats.

Hahnemühle Watercolour Book sample page

Moleskine Watercolour notebook (original)
The original Moleskine watercolour notebook had wonderful 200gsm natural white paper, with the same cold pressed texture on both sides. I loved this paper when I first started using it in 2009. It took pen and pencil well and watercolour behaved very predictably on it.

Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook (original) sample page

Moleskine Watercolour Notebook (2nd Generation)
This is 200gsm paper in the same natural white colour as the Hahnemühle and Global. It is 25% cotton, acid free. But is has quite a different texture on each side of the paper. I understand it has improved but I haven't tried the latest version. This sample is painted on the 'right' side.

Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook (2nd generation) sample page

Stillman & Birn - Zeta
This is a smooth surfaced 270 gsm paper in a bright white. It is gorgeous for pen and pencil but you need to use watercolour very quickly to keep in under control. Personally I always prefer to use watercolour on cold pressed rather than smooth or hot-pressed papers, but many like the smooth surface. Excellent for pen or pencil work.

Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook sample page

Stillman & Birn - Beta
This is a brighter white paper like the Alpha, but in a heavier 270gsm weight. While it is cold pressed with a surface that takes pen or pencil beautifully, you have to work quickly with watercolours so it is more difficult to control. It is best for single pass watercolour techniques and no fiddling.

Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook sample page

Koval Sketch Book - Pro
This is 300gsm cold pressed, acid free, 100% cotton extra white Fabriano Artistico paper. Just lovely. It is very easy to control the watercolour washes and it shows the granulation of the pigments beautifully.

Hand made and really well put together, this is available in a range of sizes and shapes. They also make 50% cotton and 200gsm weight and include rough and smooth surfaces in the range.

This is a company well worth checking out. It was started by an artist looking for his own perfect sketchbook and ending up making them.

Koval sketch Book Pro sample page

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Book
This is another 100% cotton, cold pressed 300gsm acid free sketchbook. It comes in a range of sizes and in hard or soft cover. Very easy to control, with a gentle grained texture so it takes pencil and pen well.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Book sample page

Etchr Lab - The Etchr Sketchbook
Made from 230gsm cold pressed paper, this is the most textured of the papers included in this list. 100% cotton, natural white, with a heavy fabric cover. It is available in A5 and A4 but also in a hot pressed (smooth) 220gsm version. Hardcover with a cream fabric cover. The paper would skip more than some others with pencil or pen but watercolour behaved nicely in it.

Etchr sketchbook sample page

Etchr Lab - The Perfect sketchbook 
Artist grade, 100% cotton, 300gsm Cold Pressed paper. This is a joy to use. The watercolour behaves with a high degree of predictability and control. The paper has a soft texture on both sides. It is a creamy white. Available in A5 or A4 landscape only. Hardcover, with a grey cover.

Etchr Lab The Perfect sketchbook sample page

The Perfect Sketchbook B5 (Indiegogo 200gsm version)
This is the sketchbook I have been using since I received them in April 2016. It is Fabriano Artistico cold pressed 200gsm 100% cotton paper. It is a slightly cream white, which is my only criticism. I really enjoy using this sketchbook. It works beautifully for pencil or ink and gives tremendous control with traditional watercolour techniques. Lovely.
It is available in 300gsm from Etchr Lab as their Signature sketchbook.

The Perfect Sketchbook B5 sample page

Canson All Media 

I've used a 9x12" spiral bound format with this paper. It is 185gsm, acid free paper with a pledge to low emissions for water and air. The surface is slightly more textured on one side than the other but both sides take watercolour or pen well. I used the spiral format so I could easily stick in photos, samples of papers and other items as I've used this as my visual arts process diary - a visual record of my larger artworks.

Canson All Media sample page

Laloran Sketchbook 
I bought the Extra Large square Laloran sketchbook at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam in July as I wanted to test out the lovely 21cm square format. It is made in Portugal from 180gsm Clairefontaine Dessin à Grain paper. These are hand made books with 96 pages (48 sheets). They have a fabric spine, which can be plain or a lovely hand made fabric from East Timor. Available in range of colours.

The grain is very similar to the Stillman & Birn, but heavier at 180gsm rather than 150gsm. The prices are excellent. See the range here.
Laloran Square sketchbook sample page
The Perfect Sketchbook A6 (Indiegogo crowd funded project)
This was the first collaboration between Erwin Lian and Bynd Artisan book binders. The paper is a cold pressed 190gsm 100% cotton watercolour paper. The book is beautifully made with a back pocket, bookmark and elastic closure. Though similar, there is a slightly more textured surface on one side of the paper than the other. This sample is the more textured side.
The Perfect Sketchbook A6 sample page.
SM.LT Art Watercolour #authenticbook
This is a 280gsm stitched sketchbook with a simple cardboard cover. The paper is 280gsm acid free, with an almost smooth surface though it is described as rough. I found I had to paint quickly to get an even wash, but the granulation shows up nicely. This is an interesting company - you can read more about them here. Made 'by caring hands in the centre of Europe' they were a sponsor of the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Amsterdam.
SM.LT sketchbook sample page

Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media.
This is 190gsm paper, acid free and 100% cotton with a slight tooth that shows up the watercolour granulation nicely. It is a lovely surface for pen and pencil. I have a soft-cover 7.75x9.75 portrait format sketchbook, which is a useful size. I think I'd prefer a hard cover though - soft cover books always feel more casual.
Strathmore 500 series sample page