Carmel Market at Lockdown

Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, during the third lockdown.

This is the first time that I’ve used my new watercolour palette and I’m still figuring stuff out. I’m also using an 8’’x10’’ Stillman and Birn Alpha which is a large format that I’m still getting used to and isn’t the best for smooth washes. I’m embracing the patchiness here and letting the paint do its thing. More importantly, despite temptation I’m not making any adjustments to the new palette now, as I need more time with it.

Also, the Sailor Fude 55 degrees fountain pen is magic. I used one here with Noodler’s Lexington Grey.

Schmincke Horadam Super-Granulating Watercolour Review

Schmincke recently came out with a new series of limited edition Horadam (artist grade) watercolour paints that are super-granulating.Granulation in watercolour is the an affect that is created when the pigments in the paint separate and settle in a diffused patten on the paper, oftentimes allowing other pigments that they are mixed with to show through. In my everyday watercolour palette Schmincke’s Ultramarine Finest (494) is a prime example of a granulating paint that I use both for its effect as an individual paint and when mixed with various browns and greens. The new 900 limited edition series of Horadam watercolours that Schmincke has issued is composed of 25 paints that are divided into five sets: Galaxy, Glacier, Deep Sea, Forest and Tundra. I decided to purchase all five sets out of curiosity, since limited editions in artist grade watercolours aren’t common, I already use Schmincke almost exclusively, and I’ve been embracing granulation more lately in my work.

The 5ml set boxes.

The paints can be purchased in individual 15ml tubes (which is a lot of watercolour paint), in fancy wooden boxed sets of 15ml tubes and in cardboard boxes of 5ml tubes, which is what was available at my local art supply shop and what suited me to buy anyway. 15ml of watercolour paint is a commitment, and artist grade watercolour in general and Schmincke in particular aren’t cheap. The paints aren’t sold in half pans, which I would have preferred over the tubes, and which means that you are going to need empty pans or a palette to use them.

Schmincke Galaxy set

The Galaxy set includes Galaxy Pink, Violet, Blue, Brown and Black. There are some naming peculariaries in this entire series of paints, such as the fact that the paints are super-granulating but the set is called: Supergranulation on the box, and Super Granulation by the dealers. In any case, like all the colours in this set the paints in the Galaxy set have good lightfastness. They are all non-staining (which means that they can easily be lifted off the paper), the Violet and Blue are semi transparent, the Pink and Brown and Black are semi-opaque. This is the most vibrant of the sets, but don’t believe the photos on the package or in the various marketing materials, none of the colours in any of these sets really pops or is as vibrant as they appear to be. All these colours tend towards naturalistic, landscape painting tones.

Schmincke Forest set

The colours in the Forest Set are: Olive, Green, Blue, Brown and Grey. They are all extremely lightfast, the Olive and the Brown are semi transparent, the Blue and the Grey are semi opaque and the Green is opaque. I have no idea why the Forest Brown (944) is called Forest Brown as it’s not a brown at all, it’s more of a greyish green. Forest Blue is also a misnomer, as it’s also a green, this time one that looks like it was mixed with indigo. This is the most monotone of the sets, though if you are focused on landscapes, there are some interesting greens here.

Schmincke Glacier set

The Glacier set boasts the best paint in the series in my opinion, the Glacier Green which is just a delicious paint to have on your palette – a phenomenal and unique green with pronounced brown undertones. I can’t wait to use it in my work, and I’ll be buying a 15ml tube of this. The rest of the colours in this set are Glacier Blue, Turquoise, Brown and Black. Despite what the marketing material may say, there is very little difference between the various blacks in these sets, and if I could I would have skipped all of them and used the Forest Grey and the Tundra Violet instead. All the colours in this set rate in the 4-5 star lightfastness range and all apart from the Brown (which is semi-staining) are non-staining. The Blue is semi-transparent, the Turquoise, Green and Black are semi-opaque and the Brown is opaque.

Schmincke Deep Sea set

The Deep Sea set features the following colours: Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green and Black. The Green here is a misnomer, as it’s also a blue (with only the slightest green tinge) and the violet is greyish and flat compared to the Glaxy Violet (and in any case if you’re looking for a vibrant violet look elsewhere in Schmincke’s lineup). This is probably the most redundant set of the five, and you can pretty much skip the colours here without missing on much. Indigo, Blue and Green are semi-transparent, Violet and Black are semi-opaque. Lightfastness is very good to excellent and non of these are staining.

Schmincke Tundra set

The Tundra set contains Orange, Pink, Violet, Blue and Green. Tundra Violet is another misnomer as the paint is practically black with a tinge of purple. This is the most staining set (Violet and Green are staining, the rest are semi-staining), but also a pretty mixable one. Orange, Blue and Pink are transparent, Violet is semi-transparent and only Green is opaque. It’s also one of the most compelling greens in the set, with it’s olive like tones and its pinkish undertones it’s both unique and generally useful for landscapes.

Paints on my palette and in half-pans

Schmincke aren’t selling these in pans, which is pretty inconvenient if you just want to swap one or two of these into your existing palette.

The paints in the series on Stillman and Birn Alpha paper

I first saw these paints on Schmincke’s Instagram and then on the Jackson’s Art blog. In both the paints are much more vibrant and with much more pronounced granulating, to the point of almost marbling, than what I got when I first created a the above reference drawing. I had a feeling that this was somewhat due to the extreme closeups that they took, and likely also the paper that they used.

Sketch on Stillman and Birn Alpha paper

In any case, since I and many others also use Stillman and Birn Alpha paper for watercolours, I decided to try and create a painting using these paints exclusively. In the end I also added Schmincke Indian Yellow (220) for the signs, but I didn’t mix it with anything else. As you can see, the granulation is still pretty pronounced throughout, but the colours, with the exception of the Glacier Blue aren’t exactly vibrant or saturated.

Paint samples on Magnani 1404 Toscana 100% cotton 300gsm rough cold press paper

I then decided to break out the good paper, and tested the paints on 100% cotton 300gsm cold pressed rough watercolour paper. Here you can see the granulation at its best, and yes, as promised it is pronounced in all of these paints. Yet as I suspected the choice of paper does nothing to make these paints more vibrant, which means that I certainly won’t be using them to replace large swaths of my current palette or recommending that you use them exclusively (especially since there are no yellows here and the red selection is pretty poor).

Paint palette on Magnani 1404 Toscana 100% cotton 300gsm rough cold press paper

Here are the paints all labeled (I got the Deep Sea Black and Green swabs out of order).

Sketch on Magnani 1404 Toscana 100% cotton 300gsm rough cold press paper

Here’s a very quick sketch with these paints on the cold press paper. They are built for washes and wet on wet work, and so relish this paper.

Sketch on Stillman and Birn Beta paper

And here they are on Stillmand and Birn Beta paper, which is better watercolour paper than the Alpha but still not good watercolour paper. You still get much of their effect here, especially if you don’t much around too much with the paint. These aren’t the best for mixing on the palette but do work well with layering and working wet on wet on the page. If you like to put down paint in washes and see what it does, these paints are for you. If you like to work in a more controlled fashion, you likely aren’t a fan of granulating watercolours anyway.

Closeup of granulation on Stillman and Birn Beta paper

You can see the granulation here, and some of the best colours in this set at work (Tundra Orange, Glacier Green, Tundra Violet, Forest Green, Tundra Green and Glacier Brown).

Closeup of granulation on Stillman and Birn Beta paper

Again you can see the granulation at work and how the effect lets the whiteness of the page show through, bringing light to a dark patch.

So, would I recommend all 25 paints? Of course not. Of the paints in these sets here are the ones that seem worthwhile:

963 Glacier Green (the best of the bunch!)

983 Tundra Violet (a great replacement for black in your palette, if you have it)

952 Deep Sea Indigo (bonus points for a transparent indigo with reddish purple undertones!)

964 Glacier Brown (the best brown of the bunch and the most saturated of them, with dark black green undertones)

942 Forest Green (a saturated green in a natural but not easy to mix colour with reddish undertones)

985 Tundra Green (a natural greyish yellow green that is not easy to mix and has brown undertones)

981 Tundra Orange (because this is a transparent paint in a colour that is rarely otherwise granulating, with pinkish undertones and a good generally useful hue that will work well in mixing).

If you’re looking to buy sets, the Tundra set and the Glacier set are the best in my opinion, but it depends on what colours you use most often in your palette.

Decrepit Old Buildings Can Be Beautiful

A drawing of a decrepit, old building in central Tel Aviv. Painted only using the new Schmincke super-granulating watercolours (Galaxy, Glacier, Deep Sea, Forest and Tundra). The only exception is the yellow, which doesn’t exist in this range.

My review of these colours will probably be up this weekend.

Starting To Get Back To Normal

I met with friends for a meal for the first time in a little over a year and it was glorious. We were all vaccinated, and so we could sit down and talk over food and drinks in Tel Aviv that was starting to get back to normal. There are still plenty of signs that Covid is still with us: we were masked at first as was the staff, the first place we chose to go to had closed down and due to the new occupancy rules it was difficult to find a place that could seat us. None of that mattered as we sat down and talked and laughed for hours. I hadn’t realized how much I missed meeting people face to face until I finally had a chance to do so.
As I was waiting for everyone to arrive I sat on a bench and drew the first thing that I saw in the dusky evening. In the end I ran out of time and light, but I decided to leave the drawing as is and not fix it at home. A true Urban Sketch that will forever capture the moment for me.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 4

Day four of the One Week 100 People challenge, and the one I struggled with most so far. Started really late and when I was tired, and barely got the daily twenty drawings in. Also first smudge of the challenge (no 70), but it’s something that looks relatively fixable. I’m gaining confidence, speed and a better insight to human faces daily with this challenge, so although it’s tasking, I intend on finishing it on time.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 3

Day three of the One Week 100 People challenge. It appears that the street photographers aren’t exactly catering to sketchers, or they’d take more profile pictures than they currently do 🙂
I’m getting into a pretty good rhythm, and more importantly I’m getting better at figuring out where to start each portrait. Many start with a general outline, others start with the hair, or the nose->eyes->lips. Every day it gets a little easier to draw people, and though 20 people a day is still far from easy, I do feel like I’m getting the most out of this challenge this year because of my choice to work directly in pen and with no shading or paint.

OneWeek100People 2021: Day 2

Day two of the One Week 100 People challenge and today was more challenging than yesterday, mainly because I started late and had trouble finding decent photographs. Photographers apparently love photographing blurry people, masked people, people with their backs to them, other photographers (while they are taking photographs and their face is half covered by the camera), or people from a large distance. Some of them also love photoshopping their subjects to death, so I’m now able to find a half decent subject only every five or six photographs. Thankfully the pool is huge and varied, with people in all ages and from all over the world, so while things are slowing down a bit, I’m still grateful for the the opportunity to enjoy the work published in this wonderful group. Even if I can’t use all of the photos there, I am thoroughly enjoying perusing through all of them.

OneWeek100people 2021: Day 1

I’m doing the One Week 100 People challenge again this year (I skipped it last year but I have done it before). It’s a challenge that I find difficult but very rewarding, and this year perhaps more so than in the past. I’ve decided to work from Flickr photos, to challenge myself to draw every clear face that I see in the photo pool that I’m using, to work fast and directly in pen and ink. I’m also not hiding behind watercolour at the moment, but we’ll see for how long my resolve holds. These all took a minute or two each, and were drawn with a TWSBI Vac 700 with an EF nib and Platinum Carbon ink on a Stillman and Birn pocket softcover Alpha. There’s some feathering and spread with this ink, which I’m not enjoying, so I may switch to Staedtler Pigment Liner pens later this week.

Lego Architecture Trafalgar Square

I created this page as part of Liz Steel‘s excellent Sketchbook Design course. I remember drawing it while listening to a live Q&A with the Mischief Theatre improvisors on Instagram. I got back to building Legos after more than 20 years because I saw how much joy Adam Savage took in building Legos and I decided that I wanted some of that childhood joy back too.

I discovered that legos have become much more sophisticated these days, especially the Ideas and Architecture sets, and that building Legos puts me into a zen like mood that beats anything I’ve been able to achieve with meditation so far. My mind becomes calm and focused on the step that I’m on and I can utterly forget about my problems for a few hours. If I didn’t have budget and space limitations I would be knee-deep in the giant Millennium Falcon set as we speak.

Today I discovered that a local Lego guru is collecting money to buy sets for kids that are going to spend Passover in the Oncology departments of various local children’s hospitals. For years he’s been purchasing sets for kids, teenagers and young adults that are hospitalized for long periods of time, at first entirely from his own pocket, and now with the help of donations as well.

If you can, treat yourself and someone you care for to something like a Lego set, or a nice pen, or a cool notebook or just a half hour of listening to them talk about whatever they want to. I think we could all use a little kindness pick me up right now.

Silver Needle Tea Seminar and Virtual Tea Seminar Review

Silver Needle Tea virtual seminar spread.

I drew this spread as part of Liz Steel‘s Sketching Now Sketchbook Design course, and it records my experiences from the final virtual tea seminar session that I had with Juyan from The Chinese Tea Company. I took all of the seminars that she offers, and I can see that she’s running a few of them again later this month and next month. I highly, highly recommend them (I’m not affiliated or paid to say this in any way, I’m just a happy longtime customer of her wonderful shop). Whether you are just starting out in Chinese tea or you’re well versed in Gong fu tea brewing, you’ll learn a lot about tea and tea tasting in her seminars, and have a lot of fun along the way. You get four tea samples that you drink while your in the seminar (and there’s enough left over for another brewing post seminar too), Juyan gives a presentation about the tea, the grower and the growing region, as well as tips on how to assess the leaves, brew them and taste them. The seminars are small and intimate, and are a wonderful way to spend an evening. If you’re starting out the Fundamentals of Oolongs and Green Tea Exploration (currently sold out) are phenomenal, the Wu Yi Rock tea seminar is a must – a gateway into understanding a complicated and elusive tea (as is the Phoenix Oolong seminar, if she gives it again). The Puer tea masterclass (also sold out) is just that, and a great way to get familiar with an easily misunderstood class of teas, and the Silver Needle White Tea seminar will take you by surprise. Until this seminar I thought that white tea in general and Silver Needle in particular is boring, but it’s anything but that.