After months with no sketchwalks, Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv met up at Gan Meir for a sketch session. Here are the results:
What would you have done?
Welcome back to Vengeful Fortress, a fantasy roleplaying game that I’m drawing in ink and watercolour (no pencil underdrawing, to save time) as I’m running it for my group of players. We’re now in Part 3, and here are Part 1and Part 2 (which also include a review of the sketchbook I’m using, the Stillman and Birn Epsilon).
As you can see, things are starting to heat up. I’m using a TWSBI Diamond 540 fountain pen with a fine nib, filled with Rohrer and Klingner SketchINK Lotte. SketchINK Lotte is a black pigmented and waterproof fountain pen ink. It’s not a saturated ink, and you can see the grey shading quite clearly here in the lettering and the line work. R&K SketchINK Lotte is also a hard starter, so while it does flow well enough when you get it primed up with a few preliminary scribbles, if you put the pen down for even a few minutes, you’re going to have to prime it again. It is, however, waterproof and relatively fast drying, which makes it worth my time using it. In case you’re wondering if “hard starting” is just an issue with this pen or this nib, I have tried R&K SketchINK Emma and Lotte in a Lamy Safari and a Super5 pen and they are hard starters in all cases. It seems to be a property of the ink, perhaps because it dries to relatively quickly, or because of the particular waterproof formula R&K are using here.
So know that you can trust the Rohrer and Klingner SketchINKs with your watercolours, and know that they’re great for when you’re in a rush and don’t want to wait for the ink to dry, but also have a bit of scrap paper for the first few seconds before you use them .
You can find part 1 here. You can see that there is a slight bit of show through with the Stillman and Birn Epsilon, but at only 150 gsm that’s to be expected.
There’s no show through for the ink, and though it may not seem that way, there was no spreading. Also, if you like granulating watercolour effects, the Stillman and Birn Epsilon paper seems to be a champ for that.
Decided to work on a more conventional piece, and so I drew a watercolour portrait of Urban Sketcher Rob Sketcherman at work.
A sketch on location of my polling station in Tel Aviv (don’t be creepy) on election day.
While I was sketching an elderly volunteer came for a chinwag in the shade, and then stayed and chatted for a good long while. I guess he was lonely. And later two girls came around selling cookies and lemonade for charity, so I bought a cookie and talked to them while they watched me draw and tried to sell their wares.
Schminke watercolours, Staedtler pigment liners, Stillman & Birn pocket Alpha.
Went to the Tel Aviv Pride Parade 2019 with the wonderful Tel Aviv Urban Sketchers group. Met a lot of lovely, joyful people in the crowd, and managed to draw two watercolour sketches before the heat and crowds got to me.
People were so kind with their remarks and the vibe and music was just awesome. Tel Aviv Pride is just one more reason to love my city.
Beautiful, happy people:
Happy Pride day!
Watercolours are scary to work with, because unlike other drawing mediums (except ink washes), they have a mind of their own and don’t stay where you put them, and they don’t mix like other mediums, because of their transparency. There’s also a lot of very cheap, poor quality watercolours out there that the beginner may be tempted to buy, that will only be able to produce “grainy” or washed-out drawings. So, here’s how to build your first watercolour palette:
Which company should I choose?
Any company that has artist grade watercolours that has several series of paints, with different price points for each series, is a good choice. The key word is “artist” and not “student” grade, and that Cobalt Blue (expensive) should not cost the same as Yellow Ochre (cheap).
Quick explanation: student grade pigments are low quality pigments whose only winning quality is that they’re cheap. Your time and work are worth more than that, trust me. Artist grade pigments are much higher quality, and since we live in a “post truth” world, don’t trust the label, check that there’s a price difference between different pigments. Certain pigments cost more, and the companies that use them want you to pay for that. Usually companies will have about 4 “series”, with 1 being the cheapest, and where you’ll find most of the browns, and series 4 being most expensive and where you’ll find most of the blues and some yellows and reds. Don’t fall into traps like “this is a Japanese maker,” or “these are hand made,” — every good quality maker will have grades to their paints. It’s not a “Western” or “Big Company” thing — it’s economical common sense.
OK, artist grade and several, differently priced series, but really, which company should I choose?
It depends what you’re going for and where you live. If you live in the US, Daniel Smith is a good option, since they’re the most readily available. The problem is they come in tubes, which isn’t the most economical or convenient of ways to start working with watercolours. If you want to start with Daniel Smith you’ll either need to buy empty half-pans and fill them, waiting for a few days for them to set, or buy a plastic watercolour palette with wells, fill them and wait for them to set.
Winsor and Newton Professional half-pans are probably the best place to start, if you can get them (and they’re pretty widely available). These are excellent and affordable. Just avoid the Cotmans paints, which are their student grade ones. Make sure that there’s “professional” printed on the label. They are the goldilocks of watercolour pigments
Schmincke Horadam (not Academie) is what I use, and is the favourite of many watercolourists as it has the most vibrant pigments that are the easiest to lift and rework. They’re more expensive and difficult to obtain, and if you’re used to other pigments their vibrancy might scare you off at first. (BTW – Schmincke is pronounced shmin-keh, and not schminkee. It’s a German company).
Sennelier is even more difficult to find, and is the opposite of Schmincke, being more subdued and transparent. If you really want to get into glazing, these may be for you, otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend them.
White Nights watercolours are also good, a midway between W&N and Schmincke, but they’re difficult to find, particularly outside of sets.
Which should I pick: Half-Pans, Full-Pans or Tubes?
Quick explanation: you’re starting out, so half-pans are the best, and should last you for a long, long time, since you use so little pigment in watercolour painting. This will also let you experiment with different pigments later on, maybe even switching companies without breaking the bank. When you get into “heavy” use, you can switch to full-pans, or tubes, which are the most economical of options, if you actually get to use them.
Which colours to choose?
Start with these: Lemon Yellow, Raw Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Sap Green, Alizarine Crimson, Payne’s Grey (blue tone).
Every company will have them, although their names may differ a bit.
Later on I’ll discuss how to understand pigment labels (so you can pick your own), and which ones to pick for different kinds of drawing, but with these you’ll be able to draw landscapes, portraits and still-life, and they’re all transparent pigments, which means they mix well and glaze well, without creating “muddy” effects.
Quick explanation: this is the standard, classic watercolour palette, except that I’ve switched a few pigments with others that mix better. That’s why there’s no Cadmium Yellow or Cadmium Red here. Payne’s Grey is God’s little gift to watercolourists — you’ll use it a lot for shading and mixing, and as an added bonus, except the Cobalt Blue, these are all series 1 and 2 paints, which make them cheap.