I’ve been trying to draw better foliage, which made me want to investigate the various greens I can mix from my current palette. So for the first time I dedicated time and a few sketchbook pages to experiment with green watercolour mixes. I thought that the process would be tedious and boring, but it ended up being very interesting. Mixes that looked like mud on the palette came to life on the page. I discovered a whole host of green hues that I had no idea that I had access to. And once again I fell in love with Schmincke’s Glacier Green.
Note: DS stands for Daniel Smith and Sch for Schmincke. The paper is Stillman and Birn Alpha.
On the day before our last of our latest trip to London we went to see the Royal Style in the Making exhibition at Kensington Palace, colloquially known as the “Diana Wedding Dress Exhibition”. The tickets included a visit to Victoria’s childhood rooms in the palace, and the exhibition had other dresses on display, but you knew immediately what it was about once you entered the exhibition pavilion.
The dress was prominently displayed, most of the visitors (not many, due to Covid restrictions) were congregated around it, and it was HUGE. The thing was large, and puffy like an overdecorated wedding cake, and had a train that was just bananas. I can’t imagine what it was like being cramped with so many meters of lacy, embroidered fabric in the back of a car on her way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Looking at that dress I thought to myself that it ended up being more symbolic of Diana’s life than designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel had envisioned. She was stuffed into an overly symbolic, stifling, uncomfortable life that made it difficult for her to show her best qualities: her warmth, her ease with human connection, her genuine care for people, and the simple way she just lit every room she entered.
There were two other dress designs in the exhibition that caught my eye. The first was a salmon coloured dress that David Sassoon created for Princess Diana as her wedding day dress and she ended up wearing as a “working” dress. It’s much more sensible, colourful, chic and warm and it although it still has terrible 80’s style stamped over it, you can see how it would have worked well on her at the time.
The second dress is prototype of the Queen Mother’s Coronation dress, and it is sleek, chic, and yet also intricate and sophisticated. Of all the dresses in the exhibition, this dress best stood the test of time, and I could see it be worn by an A-level star at the Met Gala.
If you are in London and you can get tickets to this exhibition, I do recommend going, both to see Victoria’s childhood rooms, and to see the dresses on display (although fair warning, there aren’t many of them). Princess Diana had a good eye for fashion and how it would allow her to connect with people (she didn’t wear hats because you can’t cuddle a child with a hat, and she liked costume jewellery because it gave the children she picked up something to play with), and to send subtle and not so subtle messages about what was going on in her life (search for the black sheep sweater or the fabulous “revenge dress” to see what I mean).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I first saw these paints on Schmincke’s Instagram and then on the Jackson’sArt 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.
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.
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).
Here are the paints all labeled (I got the Deep Sea Black and Green swabs out of order).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
In early January we had a bout of very foggy days and I took photos of various city scenes in the lockdown and the fog thinking that I’d later draw them. I thought that drawing fog in watercolour would be pretty straightforward, because what is easier than just drawing wet on wet and letting the watercolour do its thing? But after looking more closely at the photos I realized that fog isn’t just grey sky melting into the landscape, it’s also a muting of colours, a flattening of the landscape, the lack of shadow. In the end I drew two small landscapes, one urban and one of the park, and although they were challenging I enjoyed drawing them enough to want to have the same experience with the text. The grey writing in Hebrew in the bottom right corner is a line out of a well known rock song that embodies a lot of the spirit of Tel Aviv. It was written using Diamine Silver Fox on a semi-wet background, to facilitate ink spread.
These drawing also showcase a shift I have made in my palette and my mixing over the past few weeks. Once things settle down I’ll probably post about my new palette.
I tried to get my hands on the Timex X DDC Scout watch designed by Aaron Draplin for three times before I managed to snag one. They are sold out so quickly that if you want one you really need to set an alarm and be quick with your keyboard and mouse. Then our local post office tried to do a vanishing act with my package, but finally, a month after I ordered it, I got my hands on this orange and black beauty. I only use analogue watches, usually Swatch watches (in recent years it was System 51 Swatch mechanical watches), but I’ve never owned such a heavy watch. It took me a day to get used to it, and since then it has been my constant companion. It is a beast of a MACHINE but an eye catching one, and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. I highly recommend getting one, if you have any interest in watches.
I think that there’s nothing better than plain pasta or pasta with a little cheese if you’re not feeling your best: it’s perhaps the ultimate comfort food. I created this page as part of my Sketchbook Design course with Liz Steel, and this one is all about exploring how to use text as part of my page design. Gave Rohrer & Kilngner Helianthus ink a spin, which is also something that I decided to experiment with. Like many yellow/orange inks it tends to crystallize on the nib and feed, so I’m “sacrificing” a Pelikan Pelikano for the effort. Pelikanos are great beginners pens that don’t get much love in the community probably because they are less ubiqutous than Lamy Safaris and their standard nib offering is a Pelikan medium which is very wide. If you’re an artist I recommend purchasing one (with a converter), as they have less tendency to dry out (with permanent inks) than Lamy Safaris and they indestructible workhorses that have very smooth (and wide) nibs.
Drawing made with Schmincke watercolours on a Stillman & Birn Beta which I’m still on the fence about. It’s better than the Alpha for watercolour washes, but it’s still not great, and it’s not great for pen and ink or fineliners. Also the glue connecting the sections isn’t the best, as it needs forcing apart once you hit a new section, and oftentimes leaves an unseemly tear in the middle. The sketchbooks are good, I just wish that the sections were sewn together and that the paper would lean into being watercolour paper more – so that they would be perfect. However, changes like these would mean a price increase, which would make them unappealing, since a large part of the Stillman & Birn softcover sketchbook appeal is their price. In the end it’s a nice sketchbook that I don’t feel too precious about, which is the main point, and is why I’ll continue using it.
The first week of Liz Steel’s Sketchbook Design course is underway, and so far I’m having a blast and drawing much more than I used to. I’m also learning a lot not just from Liz, but also from the other participants in the course. One of exercises this week was to create a page with our Sketchbook Design course goals, and here is mine. I also drew the Phoenix Community Garden in London’s West End to accompany my goals. Hopefully I’ll be able to return to it later this year.
Tools used: Stillman & Birn A5 Beta, Lamy Safari pens with J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche and Noodler’s Black, Schmincke watercolours.