As Part II of this series of painting equipment articles indicated, a tightly stretched substrate is my preference for watercolor work in order to minimize buckling of the paper during wet wash applications. Even more important to my painting technique than the substrate, however, is my choice of paint. Over the years, I have utilized numerous brands of paint and admire several for their unique characteristics. I often choose a palette from a specific manufacturer based upon the character I wish a particular watercolor painting to emote. I prefer heavily granulating natural pigment paints for textural pieces or works depicting metallic objects. Conversely, I often choose very vibrant, heavily pigmented paints that possess very minimal granulation characteristics for floral work.
One of my early favorites consisted of a selection of Winsor & Newton tube paints housed in a Guerrilla Painter brand covered palette. The plastic palette worked nicely and I still return to the Winsor & Newton paints on occasion. The company’s Opera Rose will always be one of my favorite colors for floral work.
After reading an interesting article in Watercolor Artist magazine by Cathy Johnson, I learned about a company based in Willits, California USA called Natural Pigments that was selling vintage reproduction paints as well as pigments, binders, and paint making supplies. Their line of naturally pigmented watercolor paints was being marketed under the Rublev brand name and promised to be accurate reproductions of paints from yesteryear. I began using their 18th century reproduction palette in pan form and created an entire series of lock, key, chain, and door paintings using them. Eventually I switched to their tube counterparts and I still regularly use selected paints from their line. A couple of my favorites are the German Vine Black and Prussian Blue. I keep a selection of Rublev paints in a Possum Palette for quick access. An interesting aspect of the Rublev paints, is the fact that each color behaves uniquely under the brush. While one color may feel waxy, another may be very grainy. Another may create smooth gradations while yet another may easily leave behind brush marks. The unique quality of each paint is definitely one of the charms this product line possesses. One drawback to this series of paints, however, seemed to be the sporadic availability of certain pigments. I often had to supplement my palette with equivalents from other manufacturers when the Rublev selections were back ordered. Some pigments could be unavailable for up to 6 month stretches. I haven’t checked lately but I hope the brand’s availability has become more consistent because these paints are absolutely incredible products and I highly recommend that you try them if you are feeling a bit adventurous.
The sporadic availability of the Rublev line of paint prompted me to search for naturally pigmented products from other companies. After experimenting with several, I settled on the Primatek series from the Daniel Smith company in Seattle, Washington USA. Their products are amazing and I fell in love with the company’s Rare Green Earth and Sedona Red watercolor paints. Daniel Smith’s Lapis Lazuli had a great hue but tended to harden in the tube after a short amount of time. It could be quite difficult to clean from my palette if it dried in place. In fact, I would occasionally need to chisel it off.
When I began delving into my floral series, I searched for a line of paints that were heavily pigmented, vibrant, and responded well to repeated glazing. I looked once again to the Daniel Smith company and built a palette from their selection of transparent watercolors. I really like how these particular paints seem to stay wet and workable for a little longer than many brands I have tried. They withstand repeated glazing and are very concentrated which is perfect for my painting style.
At some point during my transition from natural pigment paints to more modern varieties, I was approached by a representative of the Sennelier company and asked to participate in a blind study designed to help the business reformulate their watercolor product line to meet the desires of modern artists. To be asked to become a part of this iconic company’s history simply goes far beyond flattering.
For those who are unaware, Sennelier has been supplying materials to artists since 1790 and its clientele have included such notables as Van Gogh and Renoir. An interesting facet of the company is its continual pursuit of innovation and customer satisfaction. They are not afraid to develop new art products based upon the desires of their clientele. History has shown that on several occasions Sennelier has created a specific product to meet a particular client’s requirements or creative techniques. Reading Pascale Richard’s History of Sennelier will definitely enlighten those who wish to learn more about this company’s desire to innovate and provide the tools necessary for an individual artist to freely create.
The blind study in which I participated involved a selection of nearly 60 small tubes of paint paired with a comment form and rating system. There were approximately 5 different tubes for each color and each possessed different characteristics. I was asked to paint a small sample utilizing each tube, note the characteristics, and rate my preference for each formula. The formula critiques and sample paintings were shipped back to the Sennelier company in France and about a year and a half later the company released a newly reformulated line of watercolor paints marketed under the L’Aquarelle name.
I currently use a selection of these paints in my more recent work and find them an utter joy to use. The paints don’t lift particularly well but that makes them very nice for repeated glazing techniques. They are probably among the most heavily pigmented and vibrant paints I have ever used which make them perfect for floral work. The paint remains workable for a very nice amount of time and I find I don’t have to rush to complete a gradated flower petal or background wash in order to avoid hard edge formations.
As can be deduced from this article, I enjoy experimenting with paint from different manufacturers. Each company’s offerings provide characteristics that are as individual as the artists that use them. While some strive to have their product lines behave in a homogenous manner from color to color, others desire to have each paint perform uniquely. I often combine paints from different manufacturers in different areas of a painting in order to exploit each product’s individual characteristics. While many artists become attached to a particular brand of paints for a variety of reasons, I find it to be an interesting and somewhat unpredictable element of the artistic process to implement a previously unutilized brand of paint.
If you are an artist, is there a unique watercolor paint you use? If so, leave a comment below and let me know what characteristics you admire and how you utilize the product. Every artist has a different vision for their work and it is always interesting to learn what others use to accomplish their artistic goals.Tagged with: blind study, brand, daniel smith, equipment, granulation, manufacturer, natural pigments, paint, painting, palette, rublev, sennelier, watercolor