Thursday, 14 February 2019

Antique Winsor & Newton paint box

Antique Winsor & Newton 'Japanned Tin Box' palette - closed

I recently had the opportunity to test out the paints in a paintbox that probably dates back to the from the 1890s. I don't know the exact date nor how recently the paints might have been updated, but it was rather fun to see that mostly they still rewet nicely.

The box is a great size - just under 7" wide (175mm) and a little under 4" deep (98mm). It's about an inch high with the thumb ring and the domes of the mixing wells.

Antique Winsor & Newton palette 

Antique Winsor & Newton palette - open.

The paints are in ceramic half pans, with W&N ENGLAND stamped on the bottom. How lovely! It would be great to be able to get those again...

Some had labels on them, which might help with dating them I suppose.

The colours painted out nicely once any crud was scrubbed off the top. I've used the names that were on the labels where there were labels and guessed otherwise. The information on the bottom of each swatch is from a Winsor & Newton catalogue from perhaps1894 that was with the watercolour box.

Here they are painted out..

The Gamboge was made from the gum resin from Cambodia, and is not lightfast. The second yellow was really lovely. I am guessing it is Cadmium Yellow. Both Rose Madder Alizarin and Alizarin Crimson were far more delicate than I suspect they would originally have been. Rose Madder Alizarin is not mentioned in the catalogue so may date from later years.

Antique Winsor & Newton Watercolours - Gamboge (genuine), Possibly Cadmium Yellow, Chrome Orange, Rose Madder Alizarin and Alizarin Crimson.

New Blue is a version of Ultramarine but I am just guessing that the third blue is Prussian Blue rather than cerulean. It paints out rather chalky but looks like Prussian Blue in the pan. It could be Antwerp Blue, which is described as 'a weak variety of Prussian Blue containing Alunina'.

Antique Winsor & Newton Watercolours - New Blue, Cobalt Blue, possibly Prussian Blue or Antwerp Blue?
Hooker's Green would fade, or rather turn blue, due to the fugitive gamboge in the mix. Emerald Green is an 'aceto-arsenite of copper' so not exactly healthy. Terre Verte is the natural earth - hard to find the genuine article these days. Sap green is made with natural sap green (a fugitive pigment) and a green lake. Green Lakes were made from combinations of Quecitron Lake and Prussian Blue.

Antique Winsor & Newton Watercolours - Hooker's Green No 2, Emerald Green, Terre Verte, Sap Green.

Yellow ochre is a bit of a surprise - not as yellow as I'd have expected as I wouldn't expect this colour to change over the years. Burnt sienna was lovely - I'm sure this is a natural PBr7 version. Light Red and Indian Red are also lovely.

Antique Winsor & Newton Watercolours - Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Indian Red.

There were two half pans of raw umber and they were slightly different. It is described as 'Native Umber of very fine quality, and possessing the greenish cast of colour which is much prized by Artists'. The warmer Burnt Umber was there and I am guessing the other is Vandyke Brown - made with 'native earth prepared for painting'

Antique Winsor & Newton Watercolours - Raw Umber, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown?

Payne's Grey had already changed rom the original yellow ochre, Prussian blue and crimson lake formula that I understand William Payne devised and was made with Indigo, Cochineal Lake and Carbon Black. The same mix was used for what I assume to be Neutral Tint.
Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint?, Lamp Black.

*Quotes are from the Catalogue - 'Winsor & Newton Limited. Manufacturing Artists' Colourmen by special appointment to Her Majesty and to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales'.

The catalogue is illustrated with wonderful engravings showing some fabulous watercolour boxes and palettes, sketcher's hold-alls, pencil sets, chalk boxes and views inside the factory. Just fascinating!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Jane's Grey

Quick sketch of Sydney Harbour Bridge in the rain

Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine 

As anyone who's been reading my blog would know, this is one of my favourite mixing pairs. This combination of two neutralising pigments make a wonderful range of beautiful hues, from warm navy blues to deep burnt umbers and a lovely range of greys.

Daniel Smith Watercolours - ultramarine and burnt sienna - make a huge range of gorgeous colours.
While many people mix their own variations of this common two-pigment mix, I decided many years ago to pre-mix it and have it available in my palette as a convenience grey rather than mix it on the fly every time I needed it. This allows darker and stronger greys to be used more quickly, which saives time when painting en plein air.

I posted the recipe and instructions to make my particular version - Jane's Grey. I'd been putting it in my students' palettes for years and had to name it something. I rather liked the pun on Payne's Grey :-)

But unlike almost all greys available commercially, Jane's Grey doesn't have black in it. It is made with two liftable (non-staining) pigments so it is itself liftable. This makes it easier to lift out clouds in a stormy sky or soften shadows or lift out highlights.

It is also granulating which is rather nice, and without the often deadening effect of a black pigment it stays lively on the paper.

Last year it was released in the Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set of 15 half pans, and I'm delighted that it is now available as a 15ml tube as part of the Daniel Smith Signature Series.

Needless to say, I use it all the time. Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine are such palette staples that it always works in any of my paintings or sketches.

In mixing it acts as a neutral tint, darkening other colours without changing them.

Mixing with Jane's Grey - Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrol Scarlet, Pyrrol Crimson, Quinacridone Rose and Ultramarine mixed with Jane's Grey

Mixing with Jane's Grey - Cerulean Chromium, Phthalo Blue (green shade), Phthalo Green (blue shade), Goethite and Burnt Sienna mixed with Jane's Grey.

In paintings and sketches I use it for skies and shadows, windows and concrete, for the shadows on trees or people or to deepen another colour.

The Old Police Station, The Rocks, Sydney.

Morton Bay fig, Sydney.
Pulteney Bridge, Bath.
Looking across at Hunter's Hill.

It's a great colour to have available and I'm delighted it's now in a tube for those who don't want to have to mix it all the time :-)

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Happy New Year for 2019

2019 started in Sydney with a bang as usual - the midnight fireworks off the Sydney Harbour Bridge are always wonderful.

Plans for this year are coming together. I'm delighted that I'll be teaching again at the Urban Sketching Symposium in Amsterdam in July. The information about that can be found here. I'll be teaching a workshops called 'Setting the Tone, Creating the Texture'. I plan to have a few extra days before and after the symposium to explore Amsterdam, and will also spend a few days in London.

I'll also be teaching a few week long workshops in Bathurst and in Cairns - information on those is on my website here.

And in October I'll be teaching a 20 day workshop in the Greek Islands as announced earlier.

I'm hoping to get to Melbourne - perhaps in April? and perhaps also to Singapore and/or Hong Kong.

On the technical side - I have been having problems with my comment section for some time - I've been unable to respond or to delete the few span comments that pop up. I've changed some settings so I can moderate the comments myself - I hope you can still manage to comment should you want to.

I have a new scanner and am gradually re-scanning all the swatches I've created and photographed so I can add them to my website. I've nearly finished documenting every available professional watercolour apart from a few brands...

The other big job I hope to complete is the transformation of my online lessons from their current PDF form to the full website with videos. It's been really delayed by the noisy construction that has been going on for over two years next door but the end of that is (I hope) in sight...making the videos can then properly begin. I'll also be able to get my YouTube Chanel underway with lots of quick beginner lessons and tips. I have a number of ideas but suggestions are very welcome.

Best wishes to you all for a creative, productive, joyful and fulfilling year ahead.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Renesans Watercolour Tubes - Complete Range

Renesans Watercolours come from Poland and are available in tubes and pans. The website is under construction but the samples I used I assume were created from the tube colours as the pans colours seem to have different names. I have not tried the pans or tubes themselves but just painted out each colour from the dots of paint. They are available in Europe, and in the US from Maine based Etsy store alittlecreativeme, and I thank April for the dot card.

I am always very grateful to the generous and thoughtful people who send me paint samples as it has enabled me to get closer to completing my (somewhat crazy) project to swatch out 'every professional watercolour available in the world'. I am also grateful to the companies who put the time and money into creating dot cards of their paints as it is such a perfect way to test out colours and only buy the ones you will actually use.
Renesans Watercolours - full range dot card page 1
Renesans Watercolours - full range dot card page 2

This dot card has all the information needed printed on it - pigment information, lightfast ratings and how staining each colour is. I've copied the information onto the individual swatches.

They are gentle, well behaved watercolours in a range of 70 colours. They appear not to have any ox gall added as they behave in a predictable manner, but I don't know whether that is true. I have read that they contain honey. The dots rewet with ease but the colours are quite gentle - they are not super powerful to paint with like some I've tried that are almost like painting with ink.

Renesans Watercolours - Titanium Opaque White, Permanent Chinese White, Naples Yellow Pale, Naples Yellow Deep, Naples Yellow Reddish.
I appreciate that the labels indicate where a hue is used rather than the genuine pigment.
Renesans Watercolours - Titanium Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Chromium Yellow (Hue), Cadmium Yellow Pale, Aureolin Hue
Transparent Gold Ochre is a mix that can also be used to create quinacridone gold hues. The cadmiums painted out very smoothly. this set is actually a little brighter than it appears on my screen.
Renesans Watercolours - Transparent Yellow, Transparent Gold Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Indian Yellow.

All the cadmiums seem very finely ground. 
Renesans Watercolours - Chromium Ornage (Hue), Cadmium Red Pale, Scarlet Red, Cadmium Red Medium,
Cadmium Red Deep.

I've not come across PR48:4 before. Looks very like Quinacridone Rose PV19. In this range that colour is called Quinacridone Red.
Renesans Watercolours - Permanent Carmine, Cadmium Bordeaux, Quinacridone Red, Purple Magenta, Manganese Violet.

Renesans Watercolours - Ultramarine Violet (Hue), Mineral Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Helio Blue.

Cobalt Blue Deep is the pigment also used in cerulean blues and some turquoises.
Renesans Watercolours - Phthalo Blue, Cobalt Blue Pale, Cobalt Blue Deep, Indanthrone blue, Indigo (Hue).

Renesans Watercolours - Cobalt Turquoise, Prussian Green, Helio Turquoise, Permanent Green, Sap Green.

Renesans Watercolours - Cobalt Green Pale, Phthalo Green, Cobalt Green Deep, Chromium Oxide Green, Olive Green.

Golden Green was a bit of a surprise - made with five pigments! I really loved the Gold and Yellow Ochres.
Renesans Watercolours - Green Earth, Hooker's Green, Golden Green, Gold Ochre, Yellow Ochre.
I also really loved the Orange and Red Ochres and Mars Bordeaux - a great earthy rainbow of warm colours!
Renesans Watercolours - Raw Sienna, Orange Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Red Ochre, Mars Bordeaux.

Polish Brown, is made with an unfamiliar version of PBr25. I wonder if it has been heated? Normally it looks like Brown Madder also seen below.
Renesans Watercolours - Mars Brown, Potter's Pink, Brown Madder, Burnt Umber, Polish Brown.
Most of the colours are really consistent but I found the raw umber and the raw sienna difficult to get any stronger. This may be quite different if working with the pan or tube version.
Renesans Watercolours - Raw Umber, Sepia, Vandyke Brown, Perylene Violet (Hue), Payne's Grey.
The Neutral Grey is the same mix as Schmincke uses and some of the other names are the same as Schmincke, such as helio blue and purple magenta. I do like to see mixed greys without black pigments.
Renesans Watercolours - Mineral Grey, Neutral Grey, Ivory Black, Mars Black, Lamp Black.

Here is the information about the pan colours. It's a smaller range of colours, numbered and named completely differently. Although some are the same colour name or pigment or both, I'd treat them as a different range. It's good to see Cerulean (Coeruleum) in this set as it is a wonderful pigment for painting the sky, and Geranium Lake might be a good strong crimson.
I have read that if using for plein air, the pans are easier to manage as the tube colours have a lot of honey and take a long time to dry.

Renesans Watercolour half pan range page 1

Renesans Watercolour half pan range page 2
Happy painting!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Sketching in the Greek Islands

In October 2019, I am really looking forward to leading a sketching and painting tour of 6 beautiful Greek Islands - Rhodes, Katellorizo, Symi,  Nissiros, Kos and Kalymnos. the tour begins in Rhodes on Sunday the 6th October and finishes in Kalymnos on the 24th October. See the full itinerary here

I was last in the Greek Islands in 2007 and went to 4 gorgeous islands, enjoying exploring each using a different form of transportation. Motorbike for one, bus for another, a fun buggy for another...such variety and beauty to enjoy. The photos are from that trip and I am looking forward to seeing so many new islands.

This trip will have morning sketching and painting classes but participants (and their partners) will be free to explore and enjoy each island in the afternoons.

Painting subjects include colourful fishing boats, dramatic mountains, domed monasteries, white-washed bougainvillea filled lanes, dense olive groves, medieval fortresses, turquoise coves, cafes, lively sketches of locals and so much more. all levels of ability are welcome including non-artist participants.

Come and join me! Fill a sketchbook with wonderful memories in the Greek Islands.

Contact to make a booking, and let me know you are coming - send an email to me at

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

De Atramentis Document Inks Revisited.

In late 2014, the De Atramentis Document Inks - a range of lightfast, pigmented, mixable fountain pen friendly inks - was released. It's been a revolution for many sketchers who previously really limited to a few black waterproof inks. I've worked with a number of my own custom mixes - a raw sienna, a burnt sienna and a mixed Jane's Grey in particular, but I use the Black and the Brown as they are all the time.

Now we have these - and other - wonderful pigmented inks to use. What I have always loved about the De Atramentis range though is that they are mixable so it is fun to create your own colours. I did a series of posts showing two colour mixes, three colour mixes, and more three colour mixesmixing greys and mixing with black.

Since that series, a few more colours have been added - Violet, White and Urban grey. This is the latest and was developed by for the urban sketcher. It is about the colour of a graphite pencil so gives lovely pencil-like lines with no smudging.

Here I thought I'd update and show the range of Document ink colours mixed with Document Black and with Document White. I don't have a scanner at present so please accept my apologies for the photos. You can still see the wonderful range of tints and shades you can create.

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Yellow and White
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes  - Red and White
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Magenta/Fuchsia and White
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Violet and White
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Blue and White
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Dark Blue and White

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Turquoise/Cyan and White

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Green and White

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Brown and White

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Urban Grey and White

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Urban Grey and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - White and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Brown and Black
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Green and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Cyan (Turquoise) and Black
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Dark Blue and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Blue and Black
De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Violet and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Magenta (Fuchsia) and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Red and Black

De Atramentis Document Ink mixes - Yellow and Black