Tuesday 27 March 2018

Isaro Watercolours

Isaro Watercolour 7ml tubes
Isaro Watercolours come from Belgium. I was familar with Blockx, also from Belgium, but hadn't heard about them until one of my blog readers told me so I am grateful for that information. I am also grateful to their creator, Isabelle Rowlofs, for the samples. They are available in shops in Belgium and France, and there are some videos in French on the website showing the manufacturing processes.

July 2020: They are now also available in Australia here.

The website states that "The entire range of Isaro water colours has been developed to give maximum transparency to the colours. In addition, the ingredients that enter the composition of the binder are all carefully selected. Only top quality gum Arabic is used in the manufacture of Isaro water colours. Gum arabic varies in colour from very pale yellow to dark brown. The gum, in fact, darkens on contact with the tennis in the acacia bark. Consequently, it is essential for Isaro to select an acacia gum which, when dissolved in water, gives a clear solution to that the luminosity of the pigments is protected. Glycerine and honey are added in very precise proportions to ensure the paste remains supple. A single-flower honey was chosen, the honey of the acacia, since good quality honey of this type is very clear."

I received samples of nearly all the colours and really enjoyed painting them out. The cadmiums seem very finely ground and not as opaque or heavy as they can be. Some names were different on the colour chart and the website so I will note both in the captions. The dried dots of colour mostly rewet with ease. They are available in 7ml and some in 20ml tubes. The 7ml tubes feel robust with a solid lid.

It is a really nicely balanced range of just over 50 colours, plus some metallic colours, with a good mix of traditional and modern pigments. I didn't notice any pigments that are not lightfast. The tubes are well labelled with series number, lightfast stars, opacity guide and pigment information. The majority are single pigment colours but there are some useful mixes.

I like PY154 for the mid or primary yellow, with Indian yellow as the warm option, though it's a shame it isn't a single pigment colour.
Isaro Watercolours - Titanium White (not shown), Cadmium Yellow Lemon,
Isaro Yellow Light (also called Isaro Yellow), Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep.

Isaro Watercolours - Indian Yellow, Isaro Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Pyrrol Orange, Cadmium Red Light.

I love PR255 Scarlet Red (also called Pyrrole Red on the website - Pyrrole Scarlet would be a great name for this colour) as a warm red in a transparent split primary palette. The cool would be Magenta in this range, with Pyrrole Red Deep as the optional third Crimson red - so useful for mixing.
Isaro Watercolours - Scarlet Red (also called Pyrrol Red. Pyrrol Scarlet would be a great name for this one),
Isaro Pyrrole Red, Pyrrole Red Deep, Cadmium Red Deep, Perylene Red.

Magenta is the usual Quinqacridone Rose/Permanent Rose colour, while Isaro Pink is the normal Quiacridone Magenta colour. Isaro Mauve is Quinacridone Violet in most ranges. Isaro Purple Deep is Dioxozine Violet.
Isaro Watercolours - Magenta, Isaro Pink (Also called Isaro Rose), Ultramarine Pink (also called Ultramarine Rose),
Isaro Mauve, Isaro Purple Deep (also called Isaro Mauve Deep).

The Ultramarine Violet is a particularly nice version of this often weak pigment. I like this version of a PB35 Cerulean too - a useful non-staining cool blue colour. Ultramarine is the classic warm blue - it's hard to set up a watercolour palette without it.
Isaro Watercolours - Ultrmarine Violet, Ultramarine, Indanthrone Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue.

Indigo Blue is made with two blues and a brown pigment rather than the usual black and blue mix, which is great to see. As far as I know, Schmincke and Da Vinci are the only other manufacturers to make an Indigo hue without black. There are no cobalt turquoise colours (PB36) in the range.
Isaro Watercolours - Indigo blue, Prussian Blue, Phthalo Blue, Turquoise Green (not shown), Phthalo Green.

Emerald Green is Viridian - often not a strong pigment. The Isaro Grey Light is an interesting soft convenience grey.
Isaro Watercolours - Emerald Green, Phthalo Green Yellow, Chromium Oxide Green,
Olive Green (not shown but this is the new formula), Isaro Grey Light.

Chartreuse Yellow is often called Green Gold - a wonderful pigment for the look of sunlight through foliage, or as a cool yellow option. The Yellow Ochre says it is made from PY42 on the colour chart but PY43 on the website. I am not sure which is correct, but it's a lovely version of this colour. Oxide Orange is the most orange version I have ever seen of a PR101 colour - really lovely.
Isaro Watercolours - Isaro Green LIght (not shown), Chartreuse Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Oxide Orange.

Isaro Watercolours - Burnt Sienna, Mars Red, Mars Brown Light, English Red (not shown), Venetian Red.

Raw Umber was not as strong is I'd like. The Sepa and Van Dijck Brown are really dark versions of these hues.
Isaro Watercolours - Oxide Purple, Burnt Umber (not shown), Raw Umber, Sepia, Van Dijck Brown.

There are a number of 'Metallic Touch' watercolours that contain mica or copper. It is difficult to show sparkle but I have included these after the Lamp Black swatch. Steel Blue is a bit like my Jane's Grey but with mica added.
Isaro Watercolours - Payne's Grey, Lamp Black, Steel Blue, Icy Lake, Imperial Moon.

'Or' (Gold) is included on the website but not in the colour chart, so I created a swatch for that. I also created a swatch for Nickel Yellow as it was on the colour chart but as it is not on the website I assume it has been discontinued. It is not a very strong pigment in any brand so that's not surprising.
Isaro Watercolours - Silver Sky, Eternal Summit, Star Dust, Coppery Red (not shown), Gold (not shown),
Nickel Yellow (not shown and probably discontinued.)

2022: the range has grown and you can now purchase these 75+ colours from Jacksons in the UK. Here is the full current range (affiliate link).

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Mijello 20-colour palette

My teaching palette. 20-colour Mijello palette.

I'm always playing around with colours and palettes but this one is working so well I thought it deserved its own post. It is the Mijello 20-colour palette, that I received in the UK last year. It is available from Jacksonsart.com. It is slightly larger than the very popular 18-colour fusion palette, that I also like, and used previously, but with this I can add a couple of my most used convenience colours. Of course the same colours could be set up in a Masters Palette too. You can see a huge range of palette options on my website here - I have just updated this Palette section :-)

I really like the open-well style of palette rather than pans or half pans - they provide excellent brush access and plenty of space for the paint. This has three large mixing areas and you can remove the clear insert to clean it or to place it over a painting to check the colour match.

I use it for my teaching, so it has my recommended palette colours. If you want 20 colours I think these are also hard to beat :-)

The colours are Daniel Smith - here's a paint-out and explanation. The links are to my blog posts showing the colours in mixes.

Buff Titanium - I use this all the time for urban sketching and for the subtle colours of some Australian natives.

Hansa Yellow Medium - a lovely primary yellow - great for mixing brighter oranges and greens

Quinacridone Gold - this is the PO49 but the new hue also works well - wonderful for a golden glow or for mixing gorgeous greens.

Pyrrol Scarlet - I think this is a beautiful warm red, and it neutralises beautifully with phthalo blue GS (For my personal palettes I use Transparent Pyrrol Orange but the scarlet is gorgeous.)

Pyrrol Crimson - a rich crimson that neutralises with phthalo green BS

Quinacridone Rose - another lovely primary option - this mixes clean purples and is a lovely rose.

Ultramarine - a great warm blue

Cerulean Chromium - so useful for skies and for a bit of extra granulation

Phthalo Blue Green Shade - a transparent staining colour that I generally only use for mixing

Phthalo Green Blue Shade - another transparent staining colour that I use for mixing. This neutralises with Pyrrol Crimson

Perylene Green - a fabulous deep green for landscapes and florals

Undersea Green - a gorgeous neutralised green convenience mix. Great for landscapes and florals.

Sap Green - another really useful convenience mix - I use this and undersea green a lot in urban
landscapes too.

Yellow Ochre - I love using this as an earth yellow in an earthy primary triad.

Goethite - this is one of my favourite watercolours due to the extraordinary granulation. I use it for urban sketching, beaches and landscapes

Raw Sienna - lovely for skin tones and for the golden glow of sunsets. More transparent than yellow ochre.

Burnt Sienna - a nuetralised earthy orange - excellend as a basic skin tone and for mixing a range of browns.

Indian Red - the most opaque watercolour if used at full strength, this is also lovely in an earthy triad.

Raw Umber - a deep cool brown - really excellent for leaf litter, urban sketching and trees.

Jane's Grey - I don't make up palettes without my convenience mix of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine.

The colours can also be seen in the palette link to my website here

Sunday 11 March 2018

TWSBI Diamond 580 fountain pen

The TWSBI Diamond 580AL filled with Sailor Storia Lion ink
For all I love fountain pens, one of the frustrations of using them is that they run out of ink. So do other pens of course, eventually (and they get thrown away) but fountain pens need to be refilled regularly, especially if using them for sketching and cross-hatching!

I carry small Nalgene bottles of ink with me when travelling or sketching so I have some on hand, but I've long been curious about the TWSBI pen as it has a massive (2ml according to their literature) ink capacity. I am using the TWSBI Diamond 580AL which is the largest of the series with the largest ink capacity. The Diamond 580 is identical, except that some of the parts that are metal in this pen are plastic in the 580 version, so it is perhaps 25% lighter.  It also comes in a mini version that is shorter and slimmer.

It's available in Australia from Larrypost, who specialise in all things pen, sketchbook, watercolours and ink. In the US I'd recommend Gouletpens.com. I filled the pen with a sample of Sailor Storia 'Lion' ink, a lovely golden brown ink, also from Larrypost. This is a pigmented ink so is fairly waterproof - an important consideration when sketching with watercolour. I wanted to use a fairly light colour to do the sketch for this sandstone building in Pyrmont. You can see the large capacity of this piston filling pen that works without a cartridge or converter.

Drawing with Sailor Storia Lion ink and the TWSBI Diamond 580

I have the Extra Fine nib, which always my preference as I really like fine lines. This is a Taiwanese pen with German nibs, so the Extra fine is not as fine as my Japanese EF nibs, but it is a really nice line width for writing or drawing - very like the Lamy. You can see how light the sandstone is in this picture, and why a black ink or even my usual dark brown or grey, would have been too strong.

Completed with watercolour, the initial line-work almost disappears.
Union Street, Pyrmont, ink and watercolour.

I wanted to test out this pen for other purposes too so I've filled it with black De Atramentis Document ink - my go-to ink for drawing with fountain pens. I'll give it a run with the black ink in my diary and sketches and see how it goes.

The TWSBI pen is also available with a gorgeous ink bottle that has a two-lid system containing a very clever filling mechanism. You can fill the pen without getting your hands covered in ink! You take off the top part of the bottle and the nib from the pen and fill the body from the beautiful and cleverly designed bottle. The special filling mechanism works with the TWSBI Diamond range, the TWSBI Classic range and also with the 'universal' converter so it is really nifty! Of course you can use fill any other pen from the bottle in the usual way.

The TWSBI Diamond 580 pen and the Diamond 50 ink well.
It is heavier (28grams) than some of the other fountain pens I've used, and quite thick in the barrel so it doesn't easily fit in the pen loop of my dairy. I usually use a Lamy Joy as it slots in very nicely. So I am keeping this one in a pencil case in my handbag.

I wasn't sure whether I like the lid posted or not - it is heavier than the Joy posted but feels shorter un-posted. It is not strictly designed to 'post' - it sits on the turning screw that is used to fill and empty the pen rather than fitting fully over the barrel of the pen. The Mini version, however, does post normally. The Classic version doesn't post at all. Of course I don't post the Lamy Joy nib, but I often do with other pens. It's all about the weight and balance of each pen.

Lines made with a Lamy and a TWSBI, both EF nibs.
I ended up using it un-posted most comfortably when I took it out sketching on Saturday and gave it a proper run. It is a robust nib, not intended as a flexible nib, but there is a bit of line variation possible - press lightly and get a very fine line, press more firmly and get a darker and thicker line. Turning the nib upside-down also gives a fine line but any finer so I didn't really bother doing that with this pen. It ran very smoothly with the De Atramentis ink and I enjoyed working with it. It certainly didn't come anywhere close to running out of ink! And that is the big feature of this pen - ink capacity. If you write and draw a lot, it's hard to beat. Interestingly is also coped very well with the medium texture of this watercolour paper. The EF Japanese nibs such as my Sailor 1911 EF can struggle since they are so fine.

A Moreton Bay Fig and Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden, Lavender Bay, drawn with the TWSBI Diamond 580 pen and De Atramantis Document Black ink. The paper is Fabriano Artistico.
November 2018 edit - TWSBI also make an Eco pen, which is almost the same to look at initially, but has a lightly narrower nib and is made with different plastic and without the 'diamond' stying; and the newly introduced Go, which is a spring filled pen at a very low cost. I'd recommend looking at the Eco as an excellent starter fountain pen for sketching. It is also lovely to write with. I'll add a blog post soon.

I'll be taking the Kaweco for a spin at some stage. I do love drawing with fountain pens :-)

For more on fountain pens see Lamy here, My Favourite Pens for Drawing here and Working in Ink here. There are also many posts on mixing inks on this blog - just use the search tool :-)

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Da Vinci Watercolours and a Sydney workshop.

The 12-colour Da Vinci full pan set.

Da Vinci watercolours are one of my three favourite brands. They come in a range of tubes sizes including (in the US) massive 37ml tubes, and some colours are available in pans. You can see the 12 colour set left - the full pans are larger than 'normal'.

It's a pretty good range, though I would make a few changes if I were to use just 12...

The empty Da Vinci palette.

They are incredibly consistent across the range. They are generally nice and thick from the tube, they don't separate, they dry nicely with minimal shrinkage and they rewet with ease.

They are largely single pigment colours, and are labelled clearly. They also include genuine cadmiums, so these are what I'd use then I want more opaque colours.

This is a palette I've put together of 20 of my favourites from the range. I alternate between the cool Hansa Yellow Light and my preferred mid yellow Arylide Yellow - one I use, the other I tend to teach with. Either work beautifully. (The Da Vinci Yellow in the set above is very similar to Arylide yellow and is another excellent primary yellow option.)

All but two in this palette are single pigment colours - the Sap green is a very nice convenience mix of phthalo green and yellow ochre and the Jane's Grey is my own convenience mix of PBr7 and PB29.

My 20-colour Da Vinci palette
I love the earth colours in this range - like Daniel Smith, they use the PBr7 for the burnt and raw siennas, the raw umber is deep and cool and the permanent alizarin crimson is a gorgeous PV19 version that is as close as I have found to the genuine, but fugitive, alizarin crimson pigment. I also love the Benzimida Orange Deep. It's a gorgeous rich mid orange. I normally mix oranges but this one is so lovely I'd include it, just as I'd include Schmincke's lovely Transparent Orange in a Schmincke palette. In my Daniel Smith palettes, I use Transparent Pyrrol Orange as my warm red, but it is far more red then this orange. As far as I've noticed, they are totally intermixable with Daniel Smith and Schmincke too.

The Da Vinci range includes gouache, acrylics and oils as well. They come from Southern California and are readily available in the US and Canada, but only at Pigment Lab in Sydney. You can see my post showing the (almost) full range here. I'll be doing some watercolour workshops using them and the Wallace Seymour watercolours through Pigment Lab this year, with the first coming up this month! You can see more detail and book a place here. (And of course you could use any brand of watercolour you wish!)

Happy painting!