Friday, 24 June 2022

My favourite all-round fountain pen

I've used fountain pens for writing and sketching since I was a teenager. I go into a lot of detail about them in my Travel Sketching course, where I devote a whole lesson to their use, and have written a number of blog posts about these gorgeous tools. What I most often get asked is 'what would my recommended pen for sketching if money were no object'. Now - pen prices can go sky high and my collection is more about utility than collectability so I haven't really explored the amazing decorative pens in lacquer, gold and other precious metals that are available. Compared to those, my pens are quite humble. However I do prefer a gold nib, which raises the price, but I love the smooth writing experience that a gold nib provides. 

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (photo from pilot
The other characteristics that I enjoy are large ink capacity and comfort in the hand. 

I prefer that the pen is not too thick and not too heavy so it can be comfortable to draw with for many hours. 

The Pilot Custom Heritage 92 is just such a pen. I use the F nib in this pen, which gives a fine line with a little flex, but no scratch. While lovely for drawing and sketching, it is also a pen I enjoy writing with. 

It is only available in the clear, the smoky black and the blue models as shown, and I have one of each that I ink up in different colours, usually Brown, Grey and a light grey. It has a piston feed rather than a converter, and a large 1.2ml ink capacity. The pen is comfortable to use with the cap posted or not.

Pilot also makes a custom Heritage 912 that looks similar, but it comes in solid black and has a converter. It is the Pilot CON-70 converter that has a plunger for easy filling, and holds up to 1.1ml of ink. If the Con-70 vac converter appeals, there is also the more rounded body of the Pilot Custom 743 and Pilot Custom 74 to consider. 

Right now, Larrypost in Australia is offering a range of fountain pens at fantastic prices as we approach the end of our financial year. Other great pen sites are and - which specialises in Japanese pens.

I really enjoy Pilot pens. I use the E95s in my diary for everyday writing, and love the Pilot Falcon pens that I wrote about in another post. 

While I almost always use pens in my sketches, I also often use fountain pens in my larger paintings. In this work, completed earlier this year, I drew using the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 pens inked in De Atramentis Document Ink in lighter and darker greys, and painted with watercolour in Jane's Grey and Jane's Black with a very little raw umber and burnt sienna for colour. This mixture of techniques combines my two great loves - drawing and painting.

'Grounded' - ink and watercolour on paper

Other wonderful Japanese pen brands include Sailor, Pelican and Platinum - which I think has the finest nibs available in an UXF (Ultra Extra Fine). While I haven't used Pelican or Platinum at all myself, I do love the super fine EF nibs of my Sailor pens for when I want to draw in really fine detail.

I've posted a number of articles about fountain pens, which I use for writing as well as drawing and sketching. I'll add the links here for convenience.

Favourite pens for sketching (originally 2015, updated 2019, soon to be updated again as some models have changed.) 

Lamy pens 2015 - great pens for writing and sketching 

TWSBI Diamond 580 2018 - huge ink capacity 

My Sketching Tools 2019 shows some other pens too, including the Pilot Heritage Custom 92 that I'd like to talk more about here.

For more on inks for sketching in fountain pens, check my other blog posts.

Packing inks and pens 2015

Fountain Pen and Drawing Inks 2014

Fountain pen inks 2018

Working in Ink 2014

De Atramentis Inks Revisited 2018 (with numerous links to posts about mixing coloured inks)

Happy drawing :-)

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Folio Palette by Art Toolkit

I've written about the Pocket Palette, a number of times before (you can search on my blog to find them all!) The first post was back in 2014 here, and I show a number of variation in my website. 

The idea of a compact sketching palette has always appealed to me, as has the idea of compact kits of all sorts. I love to have my watercolours or pens or tools organised for safe and portable use.

The newest addition to the palette family is the Folio. This palette is the same credit-card design, but this time 13.5 x 8.5cm closed - about the size of a mobile phone. 

It comes with a mix of the original rectangular pans, the tiny half pans, some larger square pans and two larger mixing pans so the number of possible configurations are huge. The mixing pans are really useful, and you'd probably keep those in it, but you might choose to set with up to 18 of the original pans, or 36 tiny pans, 9 large pans or your own combination based on the colours you use most. Part of the fun of a palette like this is deciding how to set it our for yourself!

The folio palette - open.

I've set up the Demi palette with a great 12-colour set, and the Pocket Palette with my 15 Ultimate Mixing Set colours. This credit-card size palette fits perfectly into a Galen leather EDC wallet if you want a compact carry case for it. I love the products and will write about more of them another time.

The Folio Palette, the Demi Palette and the original business-card sized Pocket Palette.

Happy painting.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Affordable Art Fair, Sydney

I have been a little quiet here lately as I am working solidly on a number of new paintings for the first ever Sydney Affordable Art Fair, where I am delighted to exhibiting with Gallery 11:11

We will be exhibiting at the Royal Randwick Racecourse from the 2-5th June, along with over 30 galleries from across Australia. Gallery 11:11 will also be showcasing two of my fellow Sydney artists Kristine Ballard and Rebecca Anne Brady

On behalf of Gallery 11:11, I would like to invite you to the Royal Randwick Racecourse from 2 - 5 June, including the Opening Night. Please click here to register. Each registration is for two people, but passes are limited.

To redeem your digital tickets, simply follow these step-by-step instructions:

  • Click the above link to 'Register'

  • The promo code will have been automatically applied

  • Select their preferred date

  • Select the number of tickets, including children under 16, and click on ‘Register’

  • Fill in their contact details and click on ‘Register’

  • You will then be taken to the confirmation page and the e-ticket will be emailed to you

Should you have any difficulties with this process, please contact our ticket provider ‘Eventbrite’ using this link:

Affordable Art Fair is a global family of fairs in ten cities around the world from Hamburg to Hong Kong, New York to London and now Sydney. The fair helps people discover the joy or collecting art and there will be thousands of original artworks priced between $100 and $10,000. 

If you would like more information about the programme please to check out their website 

My paintings for this exhibition are centred around a different palette from the bright florals I exhibited last December in my solo show Drawn to Nature. This body of work falls into the theme Grounded. My palette is far more earthy as I look at rocks, pebbles, tree roots, fallen leaves and dried plants. Here are some sections of a few paintings I've been working on.

This is part of a large painting inspired by rust. The title is Rust,Transposed. Largely watercolour on huge sheets of 640gsm watercolour paper, it also incorporates ink, watercolour pencils, gouache and pastel. The original image of rust on a pole becomes more like a volcanic landscape.

This detail from a full sheet watercolour painting River Stones, Daintree explores a favourite subject - stones and pebbles - that I've painted, drawn or etched since my teenage years. I love trying to capture the exact colours, cracks, crevices and textures of these many and varied stones. I sat on these river stones while sketching the rainforest then a visited the area a few years ago.

This detail is from the painting Grounded. It is a full sheet watercolour painting, and a largely tonal study of one of my favourite trees - a Morton Bay Fig in the Sydney Botanic Gardens. I've painted, etched and sketched this tree, and others like it, many times too. This shows the tree from a different direction. The full painting shows the embrace of the root system in the ground.

For those in Sydney - I hope to see you there. Now - back to my painting table :-)

For the full images of these and other work form this year, see my website here.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Mastering Watercolours online course

I've just begun a run-through of Mastering Watercolours, my 13-lesson online course (including the huge introductory lesson) that delves deeply into watercolour - how to mix it, how to control it and how to paint with it using a range of techniques. It's a huge course that can be completed entirely at your own pace at any time. 

However for those who like to have a sense of a community going through together, now is a great time to dive in and begin, or to do it all over again!

I'll be concentrating on each lesson for the one or two week period as scheduled here. That means I'll be checking each section of each lesson in detail - commenting, answering questions etc on a far more detailed and daily basis. I do a run-though of each of my courses once a year.

Introduction from 9th March

Lesson 1 from 16th March

Lesson 2 from 23rd March

Lesson 3 from 30th March

Lesson 4 from 6th April

Lesson 5 from 13th April

Lesson 6 from 20th April (two weeks)

Lesson 7 from 4th May (two weeks)

Lesson 8 from 18th May (two weeks)

Lesson 9 from 1st June (two weeks)

Lesson 10 from 15th June (two weeks)

Lesson 11 from 29th June (two weeks)

Lesson 12 from 13th July (two weeks)

See you there!

(Anyone already registered just needs to log into their Ruzuku account or click on the link of any of my course newsletters.)

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

ShinHan Designer Gouache

There are 72 colours in the new ShinHan Professional Designer Gouache range, available in single 15ml tubes or in 12 or 24-colour sets. I received the Set B of 24 Designers Gouache tubes from ShinHan to try. 

The colour chart and tube labels detail the pigments used, along with a lightfast rating where * is for low lightfastness,  and **** is the highest. There is also a letter indicating the price series with A being the lowest and E the highest price. The only ingredients mentioned are pigment and gum Arabic.

I have painted them out over a permanent black line to show the degree of opacity of this set. While all are labelled as opaque, some cover the line more completely than others when used in a creamy consistency. The top square of each swatch shows the more diluted wash of gouache.

The Quinacridone Red is made with the PR254 pigment, usually known as pyrrol red - probably the most true mid-red pigment. It looks slightly too crimson here on my screen. Cadmium Red is actually more of a scarlet or orange-red than it looks on my screen. The other colours in this row are close to true, though the Jaune Brilliant is slight more peachy in reality. Reds, oranges and yellows are always difficult to capture correctly.

ShinHan Designer Gouache: Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red, Permanent Yellow Deep, Naples Yellow,
Jaune Brilliant, Moss Green

The colours are fairly true in the next two rows.
ShinHan Designer Gouache: Terre Verte, Permanent Green Deep, Blue Green, 
Turquoise Green, Cobalt Green, Shadow Green

ShinHan Designer Gouache: Peacock Blue, Cobalt Blu, Ultramarine Deep, Indigo, Hydrangea Blue, Lilac

The Magenta is much brighter than it appears on my screen and the Pink actually looks more like the colour of a pink highlighter, but neither show up on my screen. I don't think any of these purple colours would be lightfast enough to use outside of a sketchbook, or for work created for reproduction.

ShinHan Designer Gouache: Cobalt Violet, Magenta, Pink, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Sepia

I was also sent tubes of the primary yellow, magenta and blue along with Primary White and Primary Black. This set of 5 would create a vast range of colours. Also here are the metallic and pearlescent colours and an additional black and white. The colours are fairly true though the sheen is less visible of course.

ShinHan Designer Gouache: Primary Yellow, Primary Magenta, Primary Cyan, Primary Black,
Primary White, Pearl White

ShinHan Designer Gouache: Peral Gold, Rich Gold, Silver, Peal Copper, Ivory Black, Permanent White

Like most designer gouache, these are largely quite flat and matte when painted out in a creamy strength. It would be possible to put together a workable warm and cool primary set with black, white and a few useful earth pigments to explore these paints further.

Note: For some reason I am currently unable to reply to comments and questions on my blog. Sorry to those who have asked questions and not had a response. Hopefully I'll solve the issue soon.

Friday, 31 December 2021

Aquarius Watercolours by Roman Szmal

Happy New Year for 2022.

For my first post of the year, I'm updating a previous post of the Aquarius range. I hope to add many more this year :-)

Roman Szmal launched Aquarius Watercolours, a honey-based range, in 2019 with 140 colours.

In 2020 this was extended to 165 full pan colours with an additional 25 colours. There was still a huge proportion of single pigment colours (all but 26) and some unique pigments for watercolours. 

In 2021, another 15 colours were added to the range. These are shown at the bottom of this post, along with suggestions for a 15-colour, 20-colour or my selected 24-colour palette.

The full range is stocked at Jacksons (affiliate link) in the UK and many other places around the world. In Australia they are available from Adamstown Art in sets or individual full pans.

For my previous post I photographed the swatches, this time they are scanned. Some colours are really difficult to show accurately using either method - the yellow oranges and orange yellows, along with oranges and reds generally! I'll try to explain the differences in my comments, and also please look at the previous blog for the yellows, oranges and reds.

Anyone familiar with my blog will know that I love Buff Titanium and use it a lot. This is less granulating than the Daniel Smith version I use, but still a lovely colour.

Aquarius Watercolour - Chinese White, Titanium White, Buff titanium, Nickel titanate Yellow,
Cadmium Yellow, Bismuth Yellow. 

These yellows are very similar. One could argue that the Cadmium Lemon, Bismuth Yellow, Hansa Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow are slightly more lemon, then Aquarius Yellow and Isoindolinone Yellow Light are a touch less greenish and both painted out very nicely.

Aquarius Watercolour - Hansa Yellow Light, Lemon Yellow, Isoindolinone Yellow, Aquarius Yellow,
Aureoline (Hue), Cadmium Yellow Pale.

Aureoline Hue, Cadmium Yellow Pale and Benzymidazole Yellow are mid primary yellows, with Hansa Yellow Medium being the brightest and sunniest. The warm yellows Cadmium Yellow Deep through to Permanent Orange are really similar. Hansa Yellow Deep is the easy option as it is very familiar.

Aquarius Watercolour - Benzymidazole Yellow, Hansa Yellow Medium, Nickel Azo Yellow,
Cadmium Yellow Deep, Hansa Yellow Deep.

Golden Yellow and Indindolone Yellow are lovely orange-yellows. None of these swatches shows the accurate colour :-(

There is a huge range of gorgeous oranges. Golden Orange is just a yellow-orange, but Aquarius Orange is stunning. A transparent mid orange.

Aquarius Watercolour - Golden Yellow, Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, Permanent Orange, Permanent Yellow, 
Golden Orange, Aquarius Orange. 

Transparent Pyrrol Orange is also very lovely but not perhaps quite as rich. Neither of these lovely oranges really shows up here. I'll add a photo below. The next four oranges are attractive, but are overshadowed by the new additions, though I still like the Benzimidazole Orange. Pyrrol Orange is just on the red side of orange, so could be used as a warm red.

Aquarius Watercolour - Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Deep Orange, Brilliant Orange, Cadmium Orange,
Benzimidazole Orange, Pyrrol Orange.

Here is a photo to compare the oranges a little better, but they are clearer in my previous blog.

Aquarius Watercolour - Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Deep Orange, Brilliant Orange, Cadmium Orange,
Benzimidazole Orange, Pyrrol Orange.

Scarlet Lake is almost identical to W&N Scarlet Lake - not that it looks like that here. Most of these are quite similar warm reds though my favourite is Pyrrol Scarlet - you can't beat PR255 for a warm red. Naphthol Red is a mid red. Two new reds were added in 2021 - shown below.

Aquarius Watercolour - Scarlet Lake, Anthraquinoid Scarlet, Pyrrole Scarlet, Cadmium Vermilion,
Scarlet Red, Naphthol Red.

These are all mid reds to slightly crimson reds. The colours are close to correct but not quite. Pyrrole Red is my favourite of the mid reds.

Aquarius Watercolour - Pyrrole Red, Azo Red, Permanent Red, Aquarius Red,
Cadmium Red, Cadmium Red Deep.

Pyrrole Rubine is my favourite of the crimson reds, though if you wanted a more primary crimson rose the PR176 is a good option. Cherry Quinacridone is a lovely coral that never looks correct on the screen. Quinacridone Red is my favourite rose and primary red colour. You can see these colours better in the photographs in my previous blog.

Aquarius Watercolour - Perylene Maroon, Anthraquinoid Red, Pyrrole Rubine, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, 
Cherry Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Red.

The colours are starting to be more accurate now for these purple reds. A PV55 Quinacridone Purple has been added - see below.

Aquarius Watercolour - Magenta, Quinacridone Pink, Quinacridone Fuchsia, Quinacridone Violet, Perylene Violet,
Cobalt Violet Light.

This range has so many of the gentle granulating violet pigments - PV 14, PV15, PV16, PV49 as well as the unusual PV37 instead of the more common PV23.

Aquarius Watercolour - Ultramarine Pink, Manganese Violet, Ultramarine Violet, Cobalt Violet Deep,
Dioxazine Violet, Mineral Violet.

There are a number of convenience and atmospheric violets and purples here. French Ultramarine, or the new Ultramarine Intense, is my pick for this pigment.

Aquarius Watercolour - Misty Morning, Shadow Violet Light, Shadow Violet, Lavenda,
Ultramarine Light, French Ultramarine.

There are also many cobalt colours in the range. These are granulating and liftable and quite beautiful. I use PB36 along with Ultramarine in skies, though many use cobalt blue PB28.

Aquarius Watercolour - Ultramarine (Green Shade), Cobalt Blue Deep, Aquarius cobalt blue,
Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Coelin Blue.

Lazurite and Vivianite are new to the range.

Aquarius Watercolour - Royal Blue, Phthalo Blue (Red Shade), Indanthrone blue,
Lazurite (Lapis Lazuli), Vivianite (Blue Ochre), Indigo (Hue)

Phthalo Blue GS is one of my key mixing colours.
Aquarius Watercolour - Prussian blue, Sky Blue, PHthalo Blue (Green Shade), Ocean Blue,
Phthalo Turquoise, Cobalt Sea Blue.

Phthalo Green blue shade is another key mixing colour. Cobalt Turquoise is a lovely pigment. So is the new PG26 Cobalt Green Deep added in 2021 (see below).

Aquarius Watercolour - Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Turquoise, Viridian, Transparent Turquoise, Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), 
Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade).

Perylene Green Deep made with PBk32 is a unique addition to the range. I use PBk31 all the time for shadows in foliage.
Aquarius Watercolour - Cobalt Green Light, Chromium Green Oxide, Green Earth, Perylene Green,
Perylene Green Deep, Malachite.

These mixed greens are mostly very useful. I particularly like the Aquarius Green and the Sap Green Light for convenient realistic landscape greens.

Aquarius Watercolour - Aquarius Green, Hooker's Green, Sap Green, Sap Green Light,
Permanent Green Light, Olive Green Light.

Glauconite is an historical colour. Deep Green Gold is lovely for the glow of sunlight through leaves or as an alternative to a cool or lemon yellow.

Aquarius Watercolour - Glauconite, Olive Green Deep, Deep Green Gold, Green Gold, Naples Yellow Light,
Naples Yellow Reddish.

There is a confusion of yellow earths made with PY43. Gold Ochre is the brightest of them and would be my choice, though Yellow Ochre is Transparent. These need a bit of exploring. The new Blue Ridge Raw Sienna may be even nicer and richer than these as a yellow earth colour (see below).

Aquarius Watercolours - Transparent Gold Ochre, Venetian Yellow Earth, Natural Sienna Light,
Yellow Ochre, Veronese Yellow Earth.

This is a lovely version of Quinacridone Gold, which I love for mixing. Natural Sienna Mont Amiata is probably the best raw sienna option here. I do like PBr24 though I've never painted with it!

Aquarius Watercolour - Quinacridone Gold, Natural Sienna Mont Amiata, Italian Raw Sienna,
Transparent Yellow Oxide, Naples Yellow Deep.

The new Goethite granulates nicely, though not as much as the Daniel Smith version I use. I rather like these earth colours, especially French Ochre and Mummy Transparent Red.

Aquarius Watercolour - Ochre Havana, Goethite, French Ochre, Mummy Transparent Red,
Mont Amiata Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Sienna.

These are all quite similar in hue, and any could be used as a burnt sienna colour. They differ in characteristics. Aquarius Brown is a super granulating pigment.

Aquarius Watercolours - Veronese Red Earth, Red Ochre, Transparent Oxide Red, Pompeii Red, 
Italian Burnt Sienna, Aquarius Brown.

The Red Earth colours are quite lovely.

Aquarius Watercolours - Flesh Tint, Terra Pozzuoli, English Red Light, Venetian Red, Quinacridone Maroon, 
English Red Deep.

 The new Indian Red has the pink undertone I look for in an earth red.

Aquarius Watercolour - Transparent Brown, Mars Red, Indian Red, Porter's Pink, Caput Mortuum,
Hematite (Violet Shade).

Brown Ochre or Cyprus Burnt Umber is my choice for a Burnt Umber colour. While it can be mixed as a hue using burnt sienna and ultramarine, having a warm dark brown is often useful.

Aquarius Watercolour - Hematite, Hematite Brown Shade,
Transparent Oxide Brown, Brown Ochre

There are many raw umber variations. German Raw Umber Greenish painted out the smoothest…

Aquarius Watercolour - Cyprus Burnt Umber, Cyprus Burnt Umber Light, Cyprus Raw Umber Brownish,
Cyprus Raw Umber, German Raw Umber Greenish, Cyprus burnt Umber Deep.

...however Cyprus Raw Umber Deep is my favourite of these cool dark browns. Aquarius Grey is a great addition - useful for concrete and urban sketching.

Aquarius Watercolour - Cyprus Raw Umber Deep, Sepia, Van Dyck Brown, Przybysz's Grey,
Payne's Grey, Aquarius Grey

I don't tend to use black pigments - with the exception of PBk31 (Perylene Green) and PBk11 - here seen in Aquarius Black - for its amazing granulation.

Aquarius Watercolour - Roman Black, Vine Black, Ivory Black, Neutral Tint, Mars Black, Aquarius Black.

New colours 2021

These scans are fairly accurate, though the Quinacridone Scarlet is actually more orange than it looks here. Ginger Red Rudy is quite an opaque and earthy orange. The new Quinacridone hue uses PR102 instead of PO48 as that pigment is no longer available.
Aquarius Watercolour - Quinophthalone Yellow, Quinacridone Gold Hue (new version), Chrome Orange (Hue),
Ginger Red Rudy, Quinacridone Scarlet.

I really like PG26 and want to explore it further - as an alternative to Phthalo Green in mixing where a granulating and non-staining green would be useful. It is more powerful than Viridian.
Aquarius Watercolour - Perylene Red, Quinacridone Purple, Ultramarine Intense, 
Cobalt Green Deep, Blue Ridge Raw Sienna

This version of Burnt Sienna is the best so far, and the one I've chosen for my selection below. 
Aquarius Watercolour - Dark Ochre, Blue Ridge Burnt Sienna, Manganese Brown,
Chrome Brown, Shadow Grey

It is daunting to come up with a set when faced with such a huge choice. Those closest to my Ultimate Mixing Set, used for my courses, would be Buff Titanium, Hansa Yellow Medium (made with PY74 rather than PY97 but a very similar hue), Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrole Scarlet, Pyrrole Rubine, Quinacridone Red, Ultramarine Intense, Cobalt Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Blue GS, Phthalo Green BS, Goethite, Blue Ridge Burnt Sienna, Indian Red, Cyprus Raw Umber Deep. These 14 would fit into a full pan metal palette. 

If you want to go from 14 to 20, consider adding Aquarius Orange if you want a convenience orange; either Mineral Violet (two pigment mix) or Dioxazine Violet (single pigment) if you want a convenience purple; Sap Green Light; Aquarius Green; Perylene Green; and either Gold Ochre, Yellow Ochre or the new Blue Ridge Raw Sienna as an additional mixing yellow earth.

New 2021

I was asked to put together a 24-colour set of Aquarius colours (affiliate link) in full pans in a metal palette. Here is that suggested set, now available from Jacksons Art in the UK and elsewhere. It contains full pans of 
      • Buff Titanium
      • Hansa Yellow Medium
      • Quinacridone Gold (PO48 + PY150 version)
      • Aquarius Orange
      • Pyrrol Scarlet
      • Pyrrol Rubine
      • Quinacridone Red
      • Mineral Violet
      • Ultramarine Intense
      • Cobalt Cerulean Blue
      • Phthelo Blue (Green Shade)
      • Cobalt Turquoise
      • Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
      • Perylene Green
      • Aquarius Green
      • Sap Green Light
      • Gold Ochre
      • Goethite
      • Mummy Transparent Red
      • Blue Ridge Burnt Sienna
      • Indian red
      • Cyprus Burnt Umber
      • Cyprus Raw Umber Deep
      • Shadow Grey. 
Here they are painted out. This is a really lovely balanced palette for any subject, with the convenience of an orange and a purple, along with a great range of realistic mixed greens.

Happy Painting.