Wednesday, 13 November 2019

My Studio Palette and favourite Pigments

Note - I try to regularly update posts with additional information but they don't normally repost. I wrote this post in 2013 and, for some reason, this re-posted in 2019 when I updated it. So I've updated it again to make it completely current!

I am often asked what other colours I use or like, and why. There are rather a lot. I have posted a paint-out of my main studio palette before, which I have recently updated. This would have some of my top 20 pigments, and allows me to paint almost anything I choose as it has a good range of yellows, reds, blues, greens and neutrals. These are all Daniel Smith watercolours as follows:
  • Yellows  - 
  1. Hansa Yellow Medium as my mid or primary yellow
  2. Quinacridone Gold as my warm yellow
  3. Goethite DS as my earth yellow
  4. Raw Umber as my dark cool brown
  • Reds/Oranges - 
  1. Quinacridone Rose as my cool and purple-mixing red
  2. Transparent Pyrrol Orange as my warm red (note 2019 - this colour seems to have changed to a mid orange rather than a red-orange so pyrrol scarlet is probably more useful here), 
  3. Indian Red as my earth red  
  4. Pyrrol Crimson as my deep crimson. (In my smallest travel palette I sometimes use Carmine in place of the crimson and rose pigments)
  • Blues - 
  1. Phthalo Blue Red Shade as my cool blue. 
  2. Ultramarine DS or DV, as my warm blue
  3. Cerulean Chromium as my liftable granulating cool blue
  4. Indanthrone Blue just because I love it - a deep warm blue.
  • Greens - 
  1. Phthalo Green Blue Shade as a mixing green
  2. Undersea Green mix DS (PB29+PO49) for foliage and leaves
  3. Sap Green (PO49 + PG7) for foliage, botanicals
  4. Perylene Green that is so useful for foliage in shadow.
  • Neutrals - 
  1. Buff titanium which is so useful for urban and beach subjects
  2. Burnt Sienna PBr7 is my preferred pigment for Burnt Sienna
  3. Burnt Umber as my warm deep brown
  4. Jane's Grey mixture of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine. This is the one I refill the most. 
Here is the palette - In the first photo from 2013 I arranged the colours with all the yellows together in the first column, then all the reds, then the blues, then greens, then earths. There is more on this arrangement here.

My 20 colour brass studio palette from littlebrassbox  - photo from 2013. 
I now have them in a more 'rainbow' order with light buff titanium, then yellows running down the first column, into reds, blues, greens and then the earths. This is how I tend to arrange all my palettes.

My 20 colour brass studio palette from littlebrassbox in 2019 - same colours but in a different order.

My studio palette colours.

So then what to do with the colours I want to use on occasions but not all the time? 

One option was to use a bigger palette. I had a wonderful large palette that worked very well in many ways. It held 34 colours and had good mixing areas but it took up a lot of space on my work desk and was not easily portable if wet so it was really only good in my studio. (Called the Bullet Proof Palette, by the way, though it is not actually made of glass but strong plastic.) It also had a number of colours that were more for special use than for all the time. My brass one is very compact when not in use, with great mixing space during use. What I wanted was a separate 'extras' set that I could keep in the drawer when not in use but pull out easily when painting in my studio. I've ended up using a set of 18 half pans in a custom made brass box. It works fine :-)

So what are these special extras?

My studio 'extras' palette.
Some are opaque versions of colours I have, some are more granulation, some are cool yellows for florals. They are colours that have their uses in particular paintings. I try to limit the number of pigments I use in any one painting but I like to have a good range to choose from.

Included in this little extras set might be - 

Cadmium Yellow Light - an opaque yellow for when more coverage is required or Hansa Yellow Light Daniel Smith PY3 which is a lovely transparent cool yellow. 

New Gamboge  - the original PY153 version from Daniel Smith. It is the most lovely transparent warm yellow I have tried. Mixable, but at times it's good to start with a single pigment colour. Hansa Yellow Deep is another excellent option.

Benzimida Orange Deep DaVinci - this is a gorgeous orange with a lovely and unusual orange  undertone. Once again it is mixable, but just lovely. Or Transparent Orange Schmincke, which is more transparent and has a more yellow undertone. 2019 update - The DS Transparent Pyrrol Orange that I use in my main palette as a warm red seems to have changed to more of a true mid orange - rather like the Benzimida Orange Deep, Winsor & Newton Transparent Orange and almost the Schmincke Transparent Orange. It would now sit in with my extras and I'd change the main palette to Pyrrol Scarlet for the warm red.

Pyrrol Scarlet DS - a very lightfast warm red. I like the pyrrols and they intermix very well. A bright red can be perfect for certain flower studies. This is the red I recommend in all my teaching, rather than the Transparent Pyrrol Orange that I have in my main palette.

Quinacridone Lilac DS - this is the lovely PR122 magenta that makes the most gorgeous purples, and is prefect for painting bougainvillea. It's great if I want to work in a limited CYM palette too! Not currently in my extras palette as I use Quinacridone Rose to make most purples.

Imperial Purple DS - purely convenience if painting purple flowers. Some might prefer a PV23 Dioxazine violet.

Moonglow DS - this mix of Ultramarine, Anthraquinoid Red and Viridian is just lovely for many floral shaded areas.

Cobalt Blue - this lovely mid or primary blue doesn't get a lot of use, though it's wonderful in the Greek Islands and for skies.

Phthalo Blue GS DS - this is the colour I recommend in all my teaching, rather than the Red Shade that is in my main palette. I have it for demonstration purposes for my on-line tutoring since it is a traditional choice for most people. The Red Shade can be adjusted to look like the Green Shade with the addition of a little Phthalo Green.

Cobalt Turquoise DS - this is an easy enough colour to make but the granulation is something special.

Jadeite Genuine DS - this granulating pine-like green is a beautiful pigment. It mixes a bit like Phthalo green but is much deeper in mass-tone, more like Perylene Green, and more liftable thatn phthalo green. Wonderful in foliage. Still in my little travel palette.

Green Apatite Genuine - I love this colour and use it often. Goes from a light green gold through a sap green to a deep undersea green all in one - still in my little travel palette.

Serpentine Genuine DS - wonderful fro grassy meadows, with lovely flecks of brown in the green wash.

Green Gold - PY129  DS - this is another useful convenience colour for botanicals and foliage.

Yellow Ochre PY43 DS - an earth yellow that is a little opaque. Makes great olive greens, when I don't want the granulation of Goethite.

Raw Sienna PBr7 DS - for skin tones or if I want a warm glow in the sky without it turning green mixed with a blue - one of the characteristics of this pigment.

Transparent Red Oxide DS- this is an option for a burnt sienna but is wilder so I keep it for special purposes, especially rust. Fabulous granulation!

Piemontite Genuine DS - a granulating Primatek colour that has an amazing tonal and colour range. It washes down to a dusty pink. A very interesting alternative to Indian Red, but I like to use both.

Grey Titanium  DS - introduced in 2019, along with Jane's Grey, this is an interesting colour that can be just perfect for concrete, neutral passages in a wash and some stone effects. I tend to use this in my plein air extras palette too.

Lunar Black DS - I don't generally use a black pigment but I love this one due to its extraordinary granulation.

My 'extras' palette colours

I have many other watercolours that I don't use so often so my other problem was how to store and potentially carry these extra pigments when teaching colour workshops. I found the answer that solved all the rattling pans and wrote about Malcolm Carver's flower palettes, and my 'special use' pigments in another post - here. I have also written about 48 'special pigments' that I put into a MAC travel case here, with more detail in the following post here.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Da Vinci Travel Brushes

Da Vinci travel brushes - size 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10,
followed by the Caseneo in a size 8 and a size 10 dagger.
I've posted about the Da Vinci brushes previously here, but I wanted to focus this time just on their travel brushes. They have three main ranges - the Pure Kolinsky 1503 range, the Caseneo 1593 synthetic squirrel range, and the Cosmotop Spin synthetic 1573 range. All are made with the screw on caps so they are very secure while painting or when capped for travel.
(There is also a series 4156 travel range and a series 910 travel range with retractable brush tips, but I haven't tried any of these.)

I love the Kolinsky range, and have used the number 8 to sketch with for years, especially when I am teaching. It is a great size and shape for up to A4 sketch books. It holds a lot of water and comes to a lovely point.

In the same range, I've shown the size 3, 4, 5 and 6. There is a big jump in size from the 6 to the 8 as the barrel size goes up. There is another jump in barrel size for the 10. Click here to see the full Maestro range. I find I use the number 8 and 6 for just about all of my sketches. There is a set with the 4, 6 and 8 in a travel wallet that is just perfect for travel sketching.

Also pictured is the size 8 Caseneo pointed brush and the size 10 dagger - a new shape recently released and really useful as a general purpose brush. It can be used to lay on larger washes, for fine details or for more random leaf and foliage marks. Smaller sizes pointed brushes are available in this synthetic hair. There is a travel flat and a lovely mop in the Caseneo range too. The Caseneo are wonderful synthetic squirrel brushes that really perform well. Click here to see the full Caseneo range.

To see the full Cosmotop Spin synthetic range click here.

Da Vinci is a German company, and one of the largest brush manufacturers in the world. I've been very happy with all the brushes I've used. 

Happy painting!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Greek Islands Sketching Tour and other adventures

It's been a busy year with some wonderful trips including Japan, London, Amsterdam for the Urban Sketchers Symposium and Lord How Island, where I hope to run a week-long workshop in a couple of years. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen a number of sketches and paintings from all these places. (Janeblundellart)

Fabulous colours to paint and enjoy :-)
I've recently returned from teaching a wonderful sketching tour of the Greek Islands. We had three weeks and travelled to six quite different islands, with optional day trips to Turkey and another lovely small island. Our task was to document them in our sketchbooks using pen, pencil, watercolour, ink, gouache, watercolour pencil and some other fun tools.

Sketching in Vathy, Kalymnos. Watercolour.

It was a wonderful group of people and a fabulous itinerary organised by

I'll have enough photos to paint from for years!

I set different challenges for the various subjects we were painting.

Sometimes we painted first then drew onto the wash, sometimes we left the white of the page, sometimes we just drew in ink. That's the joy of a sketchbook - you are free to do what you want :-)

Looking across from Kalymnos to Telendos Island. Watercolour pencil and watercolour.
Some of the group sketching the ancient olive trees.

Demonstrating a study of an olive sprig in an ancient olive grove. Ink and watercolour.

I will be teaching another three-week tour next September, going to a few different islands. Details are on my website here - I keep this updated with all upcoming workshops and demonstrations.

Coming up in Australia is a one day travel sketching workshop at Art Est on the 1 December; a 5-day workshop in Mittagong as part of the Sturt Summer School. Full information is here. And another 5-day workshop in Bathurst teaching Mastering Watercolour. Details here.

Happy Painting!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Rosemary & Co Travel Brushes (updated)

My collection of Rosemary & Co travel brushes in their roll.

I've written about Rosemary&Co brushes before here, but wanted to update the Travel brushes, also called Reversible or Pocket brushes. This is the largest range of different brush sizes and styles currently available and being a direct-to-artist manufacturer, the prices are very reasonable.

I caught up with Rosemary at the Amsterdam Urban Sketchers Symposium in July, where, once again, she was one of the sponsors. I was able to see some of the new brushes they have created, as well as some that have changed a bit. Here is the almost complete range, including the old and new versions of a couple of them. The full range is mostly natural hair, with some a mix and one a full synthetic. As I love natural hair brushes I haven't actually tried the synthetic! But as you can see, most of these are well loved. the sables are Kolinsky sable, the mixes are a mix of sable and synthetic and there are a few squirrel brushes as well.

Rosemary&Co Travel (or Pocket or Reversible) brushes - R0, R1, R2, R3, R3 (new larger case version), R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, R8 (new larger case version), R9, R12, R13, R14, R15, R16 (new).

Close up of Rosemary&Co Travel brushes - R0, R1, R2, R3, R3 (new version), R4, R5, R6, R7, R8, R8 (new version), R9, R12, R13, R14, R15, R16 (new).

Here they are a little larger. This first photo shows the Kolinsky sable pointed rounds. From top to bottom you can see the R0 pointed sable round, the R1 pointed sable round and the R2 pointed sable round. Next is the original R3 pointed sable round, and below that the new larger case version of the R3. They equate approximately to a size 4, 6, 8 and 10. They are great sable brushes with a good point.

From the top you can see the R4 1/4" sable flat, the R5 sable rigger, the R6 sable filbert, the R7 Sable comber, the old version of the R8 sable mop followed by the new larger case version, with the bottom one being the R9 squirrel mop.

From the bottom here, since I don't have the R10 synthetic pointed or R11 red sable mix size 10 round, you see the R12 1/4" red sable dagger, the R13 extra pointed sable mix round, the old version of the R14 small squirrel mop then the new version of the R14 small squirrel mop. Next is the R15 oval squirrel and the newest to the range the the R16 3/8" red sable dagger in the new larger case.

I've used Rosemary & Co travel brushes a lot over the years. It's quite a remarkable range and as a company they are prepared to listen to feedback and improve the brushes or add to the range, which is terrific.

They are exploring different ways to add labels, different handle types, different hair shapes. Getting the larger cases took some research and effort but was requested by the artists who are using the brushes. I'm particularly enjoying the larger dagger and the new larger case R8. My previous old version was almost worn out!

Happy painting.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

White Nights 2019 full range

White Nights, also known as St Petersburg, has been one of the many generous sponsors of the Urban Sketchers Symposium for the last few years now. They have been expanding their range, moving from just full pans to the addition of 10ml tubes for many colours, and expanding their range with 9 extra colours in 2017 and another 9 new colours in 2019. They have also added 7 metallics. I am grateful that they have given me samples to try to keep up, though somehow Venetian Red slipped through the cracks. 

The colours that have been added increase the range to 75 colours and the new colours are mostly lightfast and largely single pigment additions. I've updated my previous post but decided to create a new post of the full range here, this time with most colours scanned rather than photographed, where possible.

These are very reasonably priced watercolours that perform well. Setting up with full pans is simple and gives easy brush access so they suit beginners, though of course many professional artist use them as well. They are made with genuine pigments though some feel to have some sort of filler? And some of the pigments are not lightfast, such as PY1, PV3, PR2, PR4, PO13, PG8 and others. As far as I know the colours with less lightfast ratings have remained in the range so do check pigment numbers if you are working on paintings for sale or exhibition. In a sketchbook, watercolours are protected from light. 

I'll add the full range below. (November 2019 - note - another 8 pastel colours have been added to the range since this post, and another two are on the way - details here).

As always, yellows, oranges and reds are difficult to represent accurately. I've scanned all the swatches but I needed to use a couple of photos for better accuracy for the oranges. As I haven't yet found an updated colour chart, I've used my own system to arrange the colour swatches.

The new Aureolin gives an even better primary yellow option.

White Nights Watercolour - Zinc White, Lemon, Cadmium Lemon, Aureolin (new 2019), Hansa Yellow.

PY216 used in the new Naples Yellow Light and Naples Orange is also known as Turner's Yellow. I haven't seen he orange version before. Both are more opaque colours. I like the Indian Gold as a warm yellow option as it will mix interesting greens.
White Nights Watercolour - Indian Yellow (new 2017), Cadmium Yellow Medium, Naples Yellow Light (new 2019),
Indian Gold (new 2017), Naples Orange (new 2019).

White Nights Watercolour -Golden, Golden Deep, Cadmium Orange, Orange Lake, Orange (new 2019)

Geranium Red is interesting as it looks like a warm red but has a rose undertone in a wash so I suspect it might mix purples too - I'll check that out.
White Nights Watercolour - Titan Red, Cadmium Red Light, Vermilion (Hue), Geranium Red (new 2019), Scarlet.

White Nights Watercolour -Ruby, Madder Lake Red Light, Venice Purple (new 2019), Claret, Carmine.

White Nights Watercolour - Quinacridone Red (new 2017), Quinacridone Violet Rose (new 2017), Quinacridone Rose, Rose, Quinacridone Lilac.

White Nights Watercolour -Violet-Rose, Quinacridone Violet (new 2017), Ultramarine Violet (new 2017), Violet,
Blue Lake.

White Nights Watercolour - Indanthrone Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Azure, Blue (Russian. New 2017).

PB36 used in Cobalt Azure Blue is my favourite choice for a cerulean pigment. A good addition to the range.
White Nights Watercolour - Bright Blue (Brilliant), Indigo, Prussian Blue, Ceruleum Blue,
Cobalt Azure Blue (new 2019).

Cobalt Turquoise is an incredibly popular watercolour.
White Nights Watercolour -Azure Blue, Cobalt Turquoise (new 2019), Turquoise Blue, Green Light, Emerald Green.

White Nights Watercolour - Green Original, Yellowish Green, Sap Green (new 2017), Green Earth, Olive Green.

I love yellow ochre as a colour but shy away from this mix with PY1.
White Nights Watercolour - Chromium Oxide, Green (Russian), May Green (new 2019), Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow.

White Nights Watercolour - Raw Sienna, Red Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Shakhnazarskaya Red, English Red.

White Nights Watercolour - Venetian Red (New 2017, not shown), Burnt Umber, Mars Red, Umber, Sepia.

White Nights Watercolour - Voronezhkaya Black, Payne's Grey, Neutral Black.

The new metallic colours...
White Nights Watercolour - Silver Light, Inca Gold, Bronze, Aztec Gold.
White Nights Watercolour - Antique Gold, Silver Deep, Copper.

With all these new colours, my suggestions for a White Nights 12-colour plein air sketching palette has changed.

I'd look at Aureolin, Indian yellow, Cadmium Red Light or the new Geranium Red (I need to test that in mixes), Quinacridone Red, Ultramarine, Cobalt Azure Blue, Emerald Green (for mixing only), Sap Green, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, English Red (or Sepia) and Payne's Grey. That would now be a lightfast set except for the PV3 in the Payne's Grey. 

I wonder if the Voronezhkaya Black is nice as a neutral tint and grey. It's very soft as a black...has anyone tried it?

Happy painting :-)

Friday, 2 August 2019

Rembrandt Artist Watercolours by Royal Talens

I have just returned home from Amsterdam, home of the Urban Sketchers Symposium for 2019. It was a pleasure and an honour to be part of the faculty, and we were treated to a tour of the Royal Talens factory. It was an hour outside of the city but well worth visiting. Of course, no photos were allowed. We saw parts of the processes of many of their large range of paints and colours. We were also able to try the Van Gogh (student range) watercolours and the pencils and other tools.

I've posted a blog about the previous 80 colour Rembrandt watercolour range here, but it has been updated this year to celebrate the 120th anniversary of these professional watercolour paints. Is is now a range of 120 colours. 18 colours have been reformulated and 40 new ones added in this complete overhaul. I was able to try many of the new colours at the factory experience centre, but they were not able to find all the colours so there are still some missing.

Having tried to work out all that had been done, I then found a very useful brochure here.

I'll make a note of the discontinued colours in case you particularly love any and want to stock up before they are gone.

Once again, they painted out very nicely. They tend to be on the runny side straight from the tube but dry smoothly and rewet with ease.

The number of cadmium colours has been reduced so Cadmium Yellow Light is discontinued.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Chinese White, Transparent Titanium White (not shown), Opaque White (new - not shown), Cadmium Yellow Lemon (improved formula), Permanent Lemon Yellow (not shown).

 The yellows are almost all single pigment now.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Transparent Yellow Medium (new), Azo Yellow Light (changed in number from 268), Cadmium Yellow (new name and was 271), Azo Yellow Medium (new formula and number - was 269), Azo Yellow Deep (not shown - new number and new formula was 270)

Rembrandt Watercolours - Indian yellow (not shown), Aureoline, Gamboge, Naples Yellow Deep (not shown),
Titanium Buff (new).
 Three new oranges have been added, with the mixed pigment 266 Permanent Orange removed and replaced with Brilliant Orange. I've used a photo here and for the next reds, rather than a scan, to try to show the brilliance of these oranges and reds. I just love the oranges made with PO71 and PO72.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Naples Yellow Red (not shown), Benzimidazolone Orange (new), Pyrrole Orange (new), Brilliant Orange (new). 

303 Cadmium Red Light and 370 Permanent Red Light were removed and a number of single pigment reds added.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Vermilion, Permanent Red Medium (not shown, but a lovely warm red pigment).
Cadmium Red (replaces 413 Cadmium Red Medium), Permanent Red Deep, Perylene Red Deep (new).

Rembrandt Watercolours - Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Red (new), Perylene Red (new),
Naphtol Red Bluish (new). Alizarin Crimson (not shown).
Rembrandt Watercolours - Madder Lake Deep (not shown), Permanent Madder Lake (new formula),
Carmine (new formula), Permanent Madder Brown, Permanent Madder Purple (not shown).

Rembrandt Watercolours - Venetian Red, Indian red, Permanent Madder Light (not shown), Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Rose Reddish (new)
Many new rose reds nave been added.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Quinacridone Rose Magenta (new), Rose (new), Permanent Red Violet,
Quinacridone Red Violet (new), Benzimiazolone Violet (new)

568 Permanent Blue Violet has been removed, a number of other purples added.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Mauve, Quinacridone Purple bluish (new), Manganese Violet (new), Blue Violet (new), Ultramarine Violet (not shown)

Rembrandt Watercolours - cobalt Violet, Lavender (new), Ultramarine Deep, French Ultramarine
(now from a new source so very granulating), Cobalt Blue (Ultramarine) (not shown).

Rembrandt Watercolours - Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue Red, Phthalo Blue Green, Prussian Blue,
Indanthrene Blue.

Rembrandt Watercolours - Indigo (not shown), Cerulean Blue, Cerulean Blue Greenish (new - with PB36),
Crerulean Blue (Phthalo) (improved), Cobalt Turquoise Blue (new).
 Cobalt Green has been removed and replaced with a more brilliant pigment.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Turquoise Blue, Cerulean Blue Deep (new), Cobalt Turquoise Green (new),
Bluish Green (not shown), Viridian.

Rembrandt Watercolours - Phthalo Green, Emerald Green, Phthalo Green Yellow (new), Permanent Green.

Rembrandt Watercolours - Permanent Yellow Green (not shown), Sap Green, Hooker Green Light (not shown),
Hooker Green Deep, Chromium Oxide Green.

Rembrandt Watercolours - Green Earth (not shown), Olive Green (not shown), Azomethine Green Yellow (new),
Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre (improved).

Rembrandt Watercolours - Transparent Oxide Yellow, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Orange (new), Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna.
 408 Raw Umber was removed, as was 426 Transparent Oxide Brown.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Burnt Umber, Greenish Umber (new), Transparent Oxide Umber (new), Sepia,
Vandyke Brown.

The Spinal Grey is made with a newly developed synthetic grey pigment - I'll be interested in exploring this further.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Spinal Grey (new), Neutral Tint, Payne's Grey, Davy's Grey (new), Oxide Black (new).

Rembrandt Watercolours - Ivory Black (improved), Lamp Black (improved), Dusk Yellow (new), Dusk Pink (new),
Dusk Green (new).
 The new Metallic colours are best seen on black watercolour paper or over dark pigments.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Silver (new), Light Gold (new), Copper (new), Graphite (new).
 The subtle sparkle of Interference colours doesn't show up in a scan but I'll include them for reference.
Rembrandt Watercolours - Interference White, Blue, Violet and Green. Chameleon Gold/Red/Violet, Chameleon Red/ Violet/Blue

Rembrandt Watercolours - Chameleon Violet/Blue/Green, Chameleon Blue/Green/Gold, Spark Green, Spark Blue, Spark Violet, Spark Pink.

Index to symbols used:
+++ means will last for at leat 100 years under museum conditions.
++ 25 - 100 years under museum conditions.
+ 10 - 25 years under museum conditions.
G = granulation
Empty box = transparent
Diagonal line in box is semi-transparent
Half filled box = semi opaque
Filled box = opaque

These lovely Dutch watercolours are available in half pans, 10ml tubes, 20ml tubes and a range of sets.

Happy painting!