It’s full-on watercolour for me at the moment, and this includes some testing of different palettes.
- Testing a few cheap student grade kits. I’m teaching architects again and these are the kits which various people have purchased (mainly under $50 from Eckerseleys) and include the Koh-i-noor discs, Winsor and Newton Cotman kit (which is actually $70 these days – what!), a Reeves kit in a long red metal tin and a large plastic Jasart Voyager Watercolour Travel Set.
- Getting to know the White Nights Plien Air kit (I tested and reviewed a large set a few years ago).
- Testing some brand new paints by Roman Szmal whom I met in Krakow (these beautiful artist quality paints are still in the development stage).
- Trying to find Winsor and Newton and Schmincke equivalents (if possible) of my 12 colour kit which I use in SketchingNow Watercolour.
Hmm, this is going to keep me busy for a while!
I can’t post this photo without saying a few words about student grade paints.
When you are starting out with watercolour it can seem like a good option to buy the cheaper kits because after all you don’t know if you will like watercolour painting. It’s also easy to think that you are not good enough to use the top quality paints. But in many respects this is false economy as the quality of some of these kits can be so inferior that you don’t really experience the magic of watercolour. The colours might be either be flat and insipid or too intense and there will be no pigment interaction)and your results will be disappointing.
I totally respect anyone who can’t afford artist quality paints, I really do! I was telling people in a workshop last week that my kit would cost nearly 300AUD to set up – so that is not something you can really expect everyone to be able to do at the start. Especially if you are just doing a brief ‘intro to sketching’ type workshop. (Hmm, I’d also like to discuss how building your own palette is a process of trial and error that occurs over years of painting. Copying other artist’s entire set, although handy to get you going, will not (and should not) work perfectly for you. It’s a topic for a separate article.)
However, I do think that it’s better to buy a few tubes (or pans) of artist quality paint and learn to mix, rather than buying a big kit of student grade paints. These few artist paints (such as my basic palette of six colours) will give you a much better sense of how beautiful watercolour is and this will be a greater motivation to develop your painting skills. I think it’s much easier to get frustrated and discouraged when learning to paint with student grade watercolour.
I know some people don’t think that they are good enough to use artist grade paint, but the student grade can really hinder your progress. Plus it’s always best to have a more positive attitude: ” I want to give myself the best chance of learning how to paint with watercolour.” And I can’t resist adding the comment, that doing a watercolour course, is a great time to invest in some artist quality paints. You have licence to upgrade!
Having said all that, it is possible to get acceptable results with student grade paint – you just have to work harder and pick up a lot of paint with your brush for every wash. I started with a Cotman kit and used it for 15 months before I decided to upgrade. Of course I wish now in hindsight that I had started with artist quality but in the overall scheme of things it’s not a big issue. It’s also good to note that the White Nights paints are a great entry level kit.
In terms of a limited set of artist quality paints, as I mentioned earlier, I have a recommended starter palette of six colours. And… drum roll please… I’m super excited that Daniel Smith are bringing out a few pan sets including one called the Sketchers Kit. This kit will contain my six colours with extra pans to expand your palette. There is no need to tell you how excited and honoured I am to have worked with Daniel Smith on this. THis low res image is the only one I can find of the sketcher’s kit.
I don’t have any more details about these sets but it was nice to see a preview of one of the sets on Instagram in the past week. You can read more about the sets here on Doodlewash and about Jane Blundell’s Ultimate Mixing Set here.
Anyway… I’ve gone on a few tangents today. But would love to hear from you.
Did you start with student grade? When and why did you switch to artist quality?
Or are you still using student paint? Have I convinced you to upgrade?