My Current Palette

So after writing this post about the physical side of building a new watercolour paint box, here is my updated palette. I’m using a new Moleskine Portrait Watercolour Sketchbook as my sketchbook of choice for the watercolour part of Liz Steel’s teacup course (that starts today), and so I used the first page to create an index for my current palette.

My watercolour palette for May 2023

Every watercolourist’s palette is unique and full of choices that reflect their subject matter preference, the place they live in, and various personal idiosyncrasies. Please don’t copy anyones palette as-is (including mine), but rather understand the artist’s choices and tailor your palette choices to your own needs. To this end, I will explain some of the choices behind my paletter.

There are 24 half-pans in my palette, and 23 unique colours. Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium now appears twice in my palette, once for mixing and once for using as an unmixed mid warm yellow. Yellow paints get dirty if you even look at them, and they are difficult to clean after a dab of this or that paint made its way to them. Of the three yellows in my palette I use DS Hansa Yellow Medium the most for mixing, which is why I opted to have a second half-pan of it this time (it’s a new change that I’m trying out).

Of the 23 paints, 15 are Schmincke Horadam and the rest are Daniel Smith. I’m pointing this out so that you feel comfortable mixing between paint manufacturers on your palette. This can be done so long as you are using the same grade of paint in each maker (artist grade, for example).

There are some classic examples of watercolour palette building in this palette and some that are a bit off. There are warm and cold sets of yellow (Hansa Yellow Medium, Lemon Yellow), red (Quin. Rose and Alizarin Crimson) and blue (French Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue deep), and there’s a rather standard set of earth tones (Pyrol Oxide, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Van Dyke Brown and Burnt Umber) but there’s some weird stuff too. I’ll be focusing mostly on the weird stuff.

There are three greens in my palette. I sketch mostly landscapes and having premixed greens saves a LOT of time. Of the three greens I use Sap Green the most, either by itself or lightening it with yellow or darkening it with blue. It also has a brightness and vivacity that you cannot obtain by mixing your own green. The two other greens are opaque (which means they don’t mix well), and cover two very common and difficult to mix green shades. Schmincke Tundra green is part of their super-granulating series, and has some pink undertones to it. It also covers a wide variety of olive coloured local plants. The Cobalt Green Dark is a brand new addition to the palette, replacing Schmincke’s forest green. This paint works as an “artificial” green, for things like benches and fences that were painted green, and a greyish-green for the many greyish-green local plants.

Then there are some “magic” paints. Schmincke Glacier Green is on the palette as a cool “glass” and sea blue, and it’s super-granulating and dual pigmented. You can see the pigment party going on with it in my swatch of this colour.
Liz Steel has influenced me to add an orange and a turquoise to the palette. They bring joy to the painting, the turquoise is useful as “glass” and “windows” when I want something brighter than the Glacier Green and the orange paint is much brighter and more alive than any mixed orange that I could ever hope to create. It’s useful to add a splash of colour to a painting, to help focus the eye in a certain area. The two Daniel Smith blues on my paletter are also Liz Steel inspired, and at least one of them may be on its way out due to low use.

Paynes Grey Bluish is one of my most heavily used pigments, as part of sky and sea scenes, denim jeans, as a shadow colour, for asphalt and to darken other mixes. A must have for me.

The two violets on the palette are also personal choices, though the Tundra Violet will likely be replaced with something else in the near future. Purples are very difficult to mix without getting muddy not registering as purple, which is why the Cobalt Violet Hue paint on my palette. The super-granulating Tundra Violet is much less useful, and may find its way out my palette.

I hope this gave you some insight as how to think about the pigment choices that you make for your palette. Again – create your own palette and don’t just force yourself to use a copy of someone else’s

Urban Sketch at Pro Democracy Demonstration

Back to the weekly pro democracy demonstration. Used some new art supplies that I’ll review later. Tons of energy and wind tonight.

Process photo
People gathering to demonstrate

Phoenix Community Garden

The Phoenix Community Garden at the heart of Soho, London is one of my favourite places on earth. How much do I love this place, that was brought to greenery out of the ashes of a parking lot? I visualised it while I was going through my first and very painful biopsy. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice to say that it took a very powerful positive memory to help me keep my body still during the intense pain of the procedure.

I love this new sign.

The garden is a haven for plants, people and wildlife in the heart of a busy city, and it is full of character. You get to see how bits of masonry and bobs of donations are recycled into a joyful mishmash of urban gardening.

No two benches here are alike, every pot and container has something weird or unique going on (from smurfs to little signs).

There’s a pond surrounded by broken paving that even has some goldfish moseying along in it.

And the place is cleverly built to be full of books, crannies, corners and elevation shifts, making it look much larger than it is.

I managed to get a quick sketch in before the rain started, nothing too fancy as my neuropathy was terrible today.

Find yourself a bit of green to find joy in today. We could all use a bit more of that.

Urban Sketchers Sketchwalk: Dizengoff Square

I went on a sketchwalk with our local Urban Sketchers chapter to Dizengoff Square, a central square in Tel Aviv that has been a gathering place since before there was a state of Israel. It was hot for the season, and the place was jumping with colour and activity.
This was sketched on a Moleskine Watercolour A5 portrait sketchbook, with Staedtler fineliners and Schmincke and Daniel Smith watercolours. The white was added with a Uniball Signo Broad UM-153 gel pen. You can see some process photos below.

Weekly Update: Out Sick

I’ve had a cold this week, which is to show just how well masks and isolation work as it’s the first cold I’ve had in years. I haven’t missed it.

After a rainy week and then a sick week, my running has been suffering and the first race of the year is in two week’s time! I went back to running today, and planned to ease in with a 3k run that ended up being a 5.5k fast run because I was enjoying myself so much. It’s cold outside, but it isn’t raining, and that makes it perfect running weather.

After three days of being cooped inside, I went outside to draw yesterday, and I tried a new kind of composition, which I kind of like:

I finished reading “A Gentleman in Moscow,” and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m focusing on finishing “Erebus” by Michael Palin next before working my way through my kindle backlog and the stack of physical books that I want to read this year.

I’ve written my Lamy Studio Terracotta limited edition filled with Diamine Yule Log dry, and I’m now using a Lamy Safari Charcoal with Diamine Deck the Halls and a Lamy AL Star Charged Green with Diamine Alpine mostly, as they’re the next in line, with a couple of Kaweco sports, to be written dry. I’ve currently got 26(!) pens inked up, and it looks like I’ll be dumping out ink from a few of them, for the sake of my sanity. We’ll see how things go next week.

I’ve been my fountain pens mostly for journalling, on a Stalogy 365 notebook that I’ve started using. Every time my journalling gets into a rut, I switch notebook formats and that generally works to get me journalling again. The Stalogy is smaller than the Moleskine’s that I generally prefer to journal in, but it has fountain pen friendly paper, which is giving me the chance to use my pens. This is not to say that I don’t use fountain pens with my Moleskines (I do. I don’t care that they show through and sometimes bleed, as I have more than enough of them to use just one side of the paper), but that it’s nice to better see the properties of the inks that I use. Drying times aren’t great, and the cover is floppy, which means that I probably won’t be using this format long term. For now it works, as I’ve been journalling regularly, and I can use the Stalogy without looking at the various hour and date notations on the page. They are very feint, and I’ve turned the notebook upside down, so they are completely irrelevant to me.

I’ve been doing a lot of NTC workouts lately, and they’re tough but a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a way to work out more, using the NTC app is a great option. They have a large variety of workouts, workouts that are as long or as short as you need them to be, and workouts that are built for small places and little or no equipment (mostly you’ll just need a mat). It’s all completely free of charge, and has been that way for years. I’ve been using them for over a decade, and the quality and variety has just gone up with time. Even 5-10 minutes of exercise a day is better than nothing, and this is an easy and fun way to get into training.

Have a great and healthy week!

Weekly Update: Dungeon World and Urban Sketchers

It’s been a busy past two weeks.

Unreal sunset yesterday

I ran my first tabletop roleplaying convention game for a group of strangers and it went great. It was an evening convention for “oldies” – players over 30 years old – run entirely by volunteers, and the vibe was wonderful. There was tea and biscuits, as befitting people our age, and about 8 tables running games in two rounds. I ran a Dungeon World game on the first round to three delightful and creative people, and we all had a great time. The game itself ran for three hours, including an half-hour general intro and intro to the system. It took me something like six hours to write the adventure from scratch, create the pre-made characters and write an intro to the system and to the game. I also did a test run of the game before the convention, and it helped me tweak the game and make it much better.
I got to experience a great story and have a really fun time with a group of funny and nice people, and I got to get someone who hasn’t played since he was a teenager back into the hobby. I will probably be running another convention game in the future, maybe even later this year.

Game table setup just before we started.

I’ve also launched the first D&D campaign I’ve written in years. It’s set in a new campaign setting that I’ve created (also something I have done in well over a decade) and it’s the most complex kind of campaign with the most players that I have ever run. Set in a university like setting that is functioning at the brink of an all out war, the students are called to fill in for the ever dwindling university staff while still trying to study for their degrees. The game is set in short adventures running two or three sessions, with a changing cast of characters, and is built for busy people who can’t commit for a years long campaign. Some of the play is done via a telegram group, and there’s a growing campaign site in obsidian portal, which works to keep the play alive from session to session. The logistics of it is monstrous, but so far people appear to be having fun and I’m enjoying myself, so all is well in the world.

I’ve finished January having read four books (two Agatha Christies, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” by Aubrey Gordon, and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson). I’ll be posting reviews of the latter two books later on this week probably. Meanwhile, I’ve started reading the deliciously delightful “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles after having eyed it for a long time. I’ve decided to read all of the 20-something e-books that I have languishing in my Kindle instead of going for this year’s Tournament of Books.

Urban Sketches from our sketchwalk

I went on my first Urban Sketchers sketchwalk in a good long while, and while my hands aren’t what they used to be and I took time to warm up as I hadn’t drawn for a while, I still got a few good sketches out of the three hours we had, and I enjoyed myself. You can read more about it here.

It’s finally decided to winter here, so I’ve been forced to run on a treadmill and I’ve gotten back to doing NTC training sessions. NTC have added whiteboard workouts, which are a challenge (to say the least), and treadmill running is still heinous, but at least I get to do some speedwork (also heinous) while I’m doing it, thus killing two birds with the proverbial stone.

There have been a lot of good Lego deals here lately, so I really need to start building some of the sets that I have before I’ll drown in boxes (and then think about what to do with them once I’ve finished building them, of course). There’s something meditative about building Legos. I started to get back to them once I was in my month in and out of hospital waiting for my cancer diagnosis to be finalized, and the Legos today aren’t those that I had as a child. They are much more sophisticated, interesting, and creative than those that we had as children, and I can lose myself in a set just like I can lose myself in a good book.

Even the small sets are fun.

As for the fountain pen countdown, I’m down to 28 inked pens now, likely down to 27 by the end of today.

Quick sketch of a friend’s dog with a Parker 51 on Hahnemule Cappuccino paper.

Have a great week!

Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv: Atarim Square

Last Friday there was an Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv sketchwalk to Atarim Square, which is right near the beach. The weather was scorching hot for this season, and I hadn’t planned for it (no hat, no sunscreen) so I worked as quickly as possible on this first sketch and then looked for subjects that I could sketch from the shade.

Sketch of the Tel Aviv Marina beach.

There were a lot of boats out and the sea was unbelievably blue and clear. You can see the rocks that make this beach not a bathing beach.

It was noon, which meant that there were very few places in the shade. I found one next to a playground and made a quick sketch of part of the scene there, making sure to obscure the little girl’s face. There was a huge crow prancing around quite fearlessly.

I spent a lot of time looking for places to sketch in the shade, so I ended up having to sketch this scene very quickly (less than 15 minutes), take some reference photos and add the watercolour later. It’s the local bar and reception for the nearby hostel.

What I love about going to Urban Sketcher outings is seeing how everyone finds something different that catches their interest and is worth sketching in the same small area. Seeing all the different sketching styles is also a lot of fun.

Here’s the finished sketch of the bar/reception area from above. They have some wild graffiti on their walls, so this was really fun to paint.