Monday 24 February 2014

Pocket palette

This is a really clever idea from Maria Coryell-Martin. It is a pocket travel palette the size of a business card holder. It holds 14 colours in small, shallow metal pans that are held in by a magnet. Such a good idea! You can read about how it was developed on her website.
Pocket Palette from

The palette open as it arrives.
There is no doubt it is small with a very flat mixing area, but if you are working with a water-brush on a small sketchbook, which was the intention for this palette, then it is amazing how little paint you actually need. I've just filled mine with my ultimate mixing palette that you can see here. I'll try it out and will be curious to see how long the paint will last.
Mine filled with my perfect beginner palette selections.

She sells extra pans and also larger square pans (that hold as much paint as a half pan) if you want to work with less colours. Her sample colours are lovely, and coming from Seattle it's not surprising that they are Daniel Smith. Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Pyrrol Red, Quinacridone Rose, Indanthrone Blue, Phthalo Blue RS and Phthalo Green BS.
Here is my new Pocket Palette all filled up, along with the optional larger pans, it's protective bag,
and the sample colours Maria recommends.
So if ever you are looking for a super-slim travel palette, this could be for you! I just think it is a lovely idea and worthy of sharing.

2018 update - the palette has been slightly re-designed with an edge to the mixing area and the extra tabs on the lower lip removed. It is also now in aluminium so is even lighter.

The little pans are now coated to resist rust and come in half sizes. I have shown one here made up with my Ultimate Mixing Set. The phthalo blue and phthalo green are in the new tiny pans. I think for urban sketching pyrrol scarlet and pyrrol crimson are better as tiny pans.

There are also super larger pans - the size of 4 normal ones - that some use as an extra mixing space.

If you want one in Australia let me know as I have them filled (AU$90) or empty (AU$40) plus shipping.

Friday 21 February 2014

Books - to publish? to self publish? iBooks?

I have written a couple of posts about my black book collection, which is largely a private thing. I am working on another book for publication, so thought I'd write about that process.

I have a published children's book, 'Kayla & the Magical Tree', which I created with the author Steve Stine in 2003. Lots of fun. It was a small print run but they can still be found on Amazon in the new and used section. You can see it here. It was unusual in that we worked on it together and then took it to a publisher - a wonderful way to work but rare I understand.

I have another book that I self-published on on colour mixing. It is 100 pages of watercolour mixes, visual images only. The preview is here. I like the fact that I can up-date it if I do another chart so the print-to-order is not a a bad idea on this one. I also like the space for notes to be added by the buyer to make it their own.

I also have a gorgeous book of my artwork covering over 30 years of drawing, painting, etching, calligraphy and so on that my husband made on Apple  - a lovely coffee table book that many of my students, friends and family have bought, though it is not publicly available. It would be nice to publish it...

My published and self-published books.
Now I am working on another book which will be on watercolour. A mixture of colour mixing, painting exercises, examples, tips and tricks set out as a series of lessons to take a beginner from setting up a palette to planning and painting their own work. 

But how to publish this one? It would be fun to make it an iBook with links to videos of techniques. It would be useful for my students and on-line tutoring. But there are so many books out there!

The other book in the wings is on sketching and sketchbooks. I have had all my plein air paintings and drawings professionally photographed but that also needs some thinking......More on this soon...

Friday 14 February 2014

Custom made watercolour mixes - 'Jane's Grey'.

If you have a favourite mix that you use a lot, it's very easy to premix it from tubes so it is available in your palette whenever you need it. You may want to do this with a favourite green mix or a purple. It certainly cuts down on the number of tubes of paint you need to manage and the time spent mixing colours on the run. It's especially useful if it is a dark colour.

Recipe for Jane's Grey

For a small amount, just squeeze your favourite mix of colours directly in your palette, or into a half or whole pan, in the proportions of tube paint you need, and mix them thoroughly. Test the mix on paper, making a strong and a weak wash to make sure it is what you like and allow to dry naturally. Make sure you label it. :-) Also make sure you don't put too much paint in initially, as you may need space to add more of one colour or the other.

For larger quantities I make up a tube of colour. I do this all the time with my 'Jane's Grey' mix. I squeeze out the required proportions of my two paint colours using a tube wringer to get out all the paint. It takes 4x15ml tubes! I squeeze it into an egg cup and then stir it very thoroughly. It is important to make it consistent all the way to the bottom. I then test the colour full strength and in a wash and adjust and remix if necessary. Then I pour it into the empty tube.

'Jane's Grey' all mixed up to a just cool grey.

Paint poured into the tube.
I use the wringer to seal the bottom of the tube, squeezing carefully to try to remove any air but not cause the paint to squeeze out the bottom. I crimp the tube and fold the bottom up and it's nice and safely sealed.

If there is paint left over in the egg cup, which there is likely to be, I add a few drops of distilled water, mix again and pour the more liquid version into my palettes to top up my colours, and make a few half or full pans ready for use. There is basically nothing wasted, and I save a lot of time while painting having my colour available as a nice rich slightly cool dark, without the black you get with many commercial greys.

I don't use any other additives with the Daniel Smith paints, but if you find your tube colours dry out too much you can add a drop or two of Glycerine or pure honey to keep the paint from cracking. M.Graham paints are famous for staying soft due to the honey added. Their range includes Neutral Tint which is made with Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Violet, so it doesn't contain black, but that is the only commercial version that I am aware of. 2014 update - QoR watercolours by Golden also have a Neutral Tint without black. It is made from the almost CYM colours Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Magenta and Transparent Yellow Oxide.

You can mix a beautiful rich deep black with Phthalo Green (BS) and a deep crimson such as Pyrrol Crimson, Anthraquinoid Red or Permanent Alizarin too. That's another of my favourite darks to premix myself (Jane's Black 2!) Have a look at this mix towards the top here, labelled Phthalo Green and Anthraquinoid Red. Jane's Black 1 is also in one of the charts - Phthalo Blue RS + Transparent Pyrrol Orange.

I find that Neutral Tint and Payne's Grey commercial mixes containing black tend to dull the painting so I don't choose to use them, though many do and love the way they can be used to deepen other colours. Here is the Daniel Smith version of Neutral Tint. It's a lovely hue. Very like mine :-) but mine is made without black.

Maybe one day Daniel Smith will make my Jane's grey and save me the trouble!

Paint tube crimped shut with as little air in it as possible.
My labelled 60ml tube of Jane's Grey. It's a wonderful mix
that my students and I use all the time.

Update February 2019

Well I got my wish! Delighted to see this really useful colour now readily available :-)