Process: Watercolour Supplies & Colour Palette
My palette as of this morning, after painting sketches of red and yellow tulips.
I thought some of you might be interested to read about my watercolour painting process, so here is a first post detailing what types of paints and colour and paper I work with. Above is my watercolour palette. I like this palette for watercolour because it has lots of paint wells but isn't very large. I had a larger one when I first learned to paint but after a while it became unwieldy and I purchased this one instead. It's good to have a white plastic tray because colours mixing is easiest on a white background.
Now for colours! I strongly prefer Windsor & Newton to any other watercolours, and it has been that way since I learned to paint from an artist in our neighbourhood when I was 12 (unsurprisingly, he preferred them too!). Some of my tubes are actually from that time (it takes forever to go through watercolours guys!). So the original palette that that artist suggested I buy was Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna and Payne's Grey. And he was totally right, for what his main subject matter was (landscapes). In fact, if you are buying beginner watercolours, I would still recommend those colours.
For painting flowers, you need a wider scope of more "fantastical" or vibrant colours, and I find sometimes I need to go pick up an extra colour if the flower has a specific hue I am unable to mix with my current palette (I am looking at you, corally pinks and vibrant purples!). For leafy greens, I often mix my own colours from yellow and blues on my palette, as they look more natural and less artificially vibrant. When I do use pre-made greens for leaves, I like Oxide of Chromium and Olive Green (both very very different but invaluable if that is the colour of the leaf you are painting!). For florals I also find Naples Yellow to be a great colour softener... I often mix it into other colours to soften them, and add a warm tone.
For abstract painting I love Naples Yellow and Pthalo Turquoise and Cadmium Red. Pthalo is a complicated colour because a tiny bit added to any other colour quickly dominates and drowns out the other colours. I often don't use it in anything but abstracts for that reason, and I am careful about using it wet on wet. But I still love it because it's SO PRETTY!
From top: HB Pencil, mechanical pencil with a hard lead, gum eraser, 0.25mm permanent pen, 0.03mm permanent pen, watercolour brushes in size 0000, 0, 2 and 4.
For the drawing and sketching and finishing stages, I use a mix of mechanical and normal pencils and a gum eraser that I have also had since I was 12. I prefer to draw from life (in front of the flower, etc) but sometimes I have to draw from an image (like with house portraits, or if I can't take the plant to my studio, etc). I will get into that process in a later post. I like my pencil lines to be pretty faint but I normally don't erase them when I begin painting. I know that the official watercolour advice is to have no pencil, but I personally like a bit of pencil work and sometimes even add a bit more to my drawings (or ink) when I am done painting them, to add definition, depth and focus. Let's just say it's part of my "style", ha!
I usually use these small brushes for all floral work. I have larger brushes for big washes but I prefer usually to leave a lot of background white and I don't have a need for the large brushes very often. Mostly they come into play during the early stages of a house portrait when I am filling in a large expanse of roof or what have you. The 0 brush is my current favourite. It's capable of filling in a petal fairly quickly but also has a fine enough point to do tiny hatching lines as well. I also really love sable brushes, they are well worth the money!
I didn't take a picture of the paper I like, but here are some papers I use and for what types of work:
- Arches 300lb Hot Press - This is the mothership of all watercolour papers and I love it to death. It's so heavy that it won't buckle under even the wettest washes. It's also really expensive and I just can't afford to use it all the time.
- Aquarelle Arches Watercolour Blocks (and recently some Fluid Watercolour Blocks) - watercolour blocks are lovely. The paper weight is about 140lbs but the edges of the block are all bound together which acts asa stretcher and keeps the paper from buckling. I often use these for house portraits and lots of other things as I like the paper finish (nice and smooth!) and the portability and the many sizes it comes in. You use an X-Acto blade at the end of painting to separate the top sheet from the rest of the block. My only complaint is that with the Aquarelle blocks, I often find the last few pages unusable because they have started to separate from the edge binding.
- Yupo - Yupo is a plastic paper I just started to experiment with for abstracts. So far it's a lot of fun. It's great for colour saturation and unpredictablity, but also if anything wet drops on it, all your paint could slither off the page (a definite bummer). You can actually wipe an entire watercolour painting off of Yupo with a wet paper towel.
- White Illustration Board - I am currently liking white illustration board for watercolours, too. It's very strong and won't buckle but is cheaper than the 300lb arches.
Phew! So that's it for supplies for today. Does anyone have any questions or suggestions for me?