Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review: Craig Young Paintbox

This review has been a long time coming, as it was around five years years ago that I received my paintbox from Craig Young.  The problem was, when it arrived I was so disappointed that I couldn't bear to look at the thing and just put it away.

This is very contrary to what most people say about Craig Young paintboxes. I was prepared to be as happy as any other artist when I ordered two paintboxes for delivery to Australia. One box was a gift to my watercolour painting mentor, and one was for myself. I had chosen the 16-pan model, "The Paintbox". I ordered the paintbox and all was well. A year and a half passed. I had allowed eighteen months, and planned to present the paintbox to my mentor for her birthday. Craig and I had discussed when it needed to be ready by, and as I gave him so much notice, I was assured this was not a problem.  As the date drew closer, I enquired about the paintbox, it was not yet started, but I was assured it would arrive in time.

The paintbox did arrive in time, but I was so disappointed in the quality of it that I cancelled the order for my own paintbox. I was appalled, and couldn't believe I had parted with more than five hundred Australian dollars and now had a paintbox I was too embarrassed to give away as a gift.

First was the lumpy appearance of the paintbox. Nothing was quite as smooth as it could-and should- be:

There are plenty of photos of lovely smooth Craig Young paintboxes around, but this isn't one of them.

Then there was the paint finish, poor would be a good word for it:

Exposed brass, overspray, chips and unpainted areas.

This next issue really annoyed me. The long strip of metal in the lid presses against the enameled inner lid - this chips paint off both surfaces. It shipped to me with that chip:

Surely this little ridged area could have been filed to ensure it didn't make contact?

This is another annoying one. The left mixing well is smoothly finished with minimal sharp rim. The right mixing well is unevenly cut out, and traps paint in the overhanging sharp lip area. Too hard to file this away? The two wells on the other side have the same issue, so four wells; one ok, three sub-par.

So different.

Rough brass snap-point or saw-point areas are also present.

The Paintbox, No. #930. I would have been ashamed to put my name on it.

On and off over the years I have taken this paintbox out and wondered about it. Did I get sent a b-grade or old paintbox that had been laying around? Did it get banged out in a hurry when I contacted Craig about it? Who knows, who cares. Just know that for all the great reviews, I'm sure there are more people like me who paid a lot of money for something so disappointing.

A couple of years ago I decided to make peace with the paintbox. I put a new and lovely palette of paints in it, and we've been getting along ok.  It just a shame that such a neat design is spoiled by the poor quality.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Artist's Palette: Thomas Aquinas Daly

One day, about three weeks ago, I was sitting in my home studio drinking coffee and staring into space. I was listening to some music on my iPad (which I had just recently started using again, it having had been unavailable for the last few months). While I sat there, my eyes drifted to my bookcase, and somehow found my copy of 'Painting Nature's Quiet Places' by Thomas Aquinas Daly. I started to think about how much I love Daly's work, and presently I brought the book down from the shelf and began reading it again.

I have attempted to emulate Daly in my own watercolours many times, but the specifics of his style and technique remains a mystery to me (him being a modern day watercolour master and all). It was while pondering his style that I began to speculate about his palette and the paints he used, something I have pondered many times before. Suddenly, I decided I wanted to understand his palette, and being a paint pigment nerd I made a list of Daly's paints, researched the colours and then laid them out on a colour wheel, in the fashion of the handprint artist palettes.


Daly's traditional paint choices form a somewhat subdued split primary palette.While I couldn't quite find an artist whose palette is as constrained, Michael Rocco comes closest, with both choosing 16 paints developed around the "primary" triad footprint.

Since the reliance on mixing comes from Daly's palette, I decided to order a few tubes of his essentials to complement my existing paints, and start mixing to see how broad the mixing capabilities of his paints were. Daly uses only Winsor and Newton. Daly's palette, as per his 1985 book is as follows:

  • Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Deep
  • Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Light Red
  • French Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue
  • Davy's Gray, Payne's Gray
  • Olive Green
  • Warm Sepia, Ivory Black
Luckily, I have old Winsor and Newton catalogues. In recent years Winsor and Newton have reformulated Light Red and Davy's Gray, and discontinued Warm Sepia (amongst others). A minor brand revision occurred in 1995 or so, and a major revision occurred in 2005. The changed paints that feature in the Daly palette have undergone minor change, none were fugitive or unstable to begin with. The Light Red is now brighter, the Davy's Gray is now semi-transparent due to the removal of the white which made it opaque, and they suggest adding Burnt Sienna to Sepia to approximate the colour of the old paint (Warm Sepia).

I substituted M Graham for Winsor and Newton's Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, and Cadmium Red. Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine, Ivory Black, and Prussian Blue were also substituted for their M Graham equivalents - all paints being matched pigment for pigment - ditto for Holbein's Cerulean Blue. Next, I ordered Winsor and Newton's Davy's Gray, Payne's Gray, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, and Olive Green. Winsor and Newton's Olive Green (PY42,PG7) surprised me - it is a lovely paint, and I had nothing like it in my collection of 230+ tubes. I have included Alizarin Crimson, PR83, a fugitive pigment. I don't sell my work and this is not my everyday palette, so I'll enjoy Alizarin Crimson for what it is.

I have put my paints in my Craig Young paintbox:

The Paintbox, 16 full pans.

Palette index.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Returning to life...

It's been awhile. My life has been a series of challenges one after the other these last few years, and then this year...this year has been the most challenging yet. I think I am coming out of it, but one side-effect is I have lost much of my artistic confidence and desire. While it has almost hurt not to pick up a brush or pen, looking at my oil paint pochade box just makes me utterly heartsick. I have had to store it out of sight to keep the depression at bay. I attend a weekly private group studio, and until the last fortnight, I have sat there every week for months and months staring into space and drinking endless cups of coffee.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Annual Exhibition

Well, it's that time of year again. Each November I participate in a group exhibition of works from my weekly art class.  We're a good group who have been working together for three or four years now, and the skill level is quite strong.  This year we are in a new display location, and have planned a more elaborate setup.  I think it will be a wonderful exhibition. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Still Life - WIP

Well, I decided to stop procrastinating and just get on with it.  Last night I started a painting from a basic still life scene I setup in my office.  The lighting wasn't great (not hard enough), but it should suffice.

The underpainting - lights and darks blocked in:

Stage 2
Stage 3
Initial colour layer.  Hopefully I'll be able to put some more time into this today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oil Paints Incoming

I placed a large order with Blick this week for the following delicious oil paints: -

Blockx: Crimson Lake · Venetian Red
Holbein: Nickel Yellow
M. Graham & Co.: Anthraquinone Red · Cadmium Orange · Cobalt Blue
Michael Harding: Crimson Lake · Genuine Naples Yellow Light · Naples Yellow · Permanent Sap Green · Yellow Ochre Deep
Maimeri Puro: Cadmium Yellow Lemon · Kings Blue Light · Sandal Red
Old Holland: Burnt Umber · Violet Grey · Persian Red
Gamblin: Perylene Maroon · Quinacridone Orange
Schmincke Mussini: Atrament Black · Bluish Grey #2 · Brownish Grey #2 · Caput Mortuum · Natural Bohemian Green Earth · Translucent Yellow · Vermilion Red Tone
Shiva Signature: Raw Umber
Williamsburg: Brilliant Yellow Pale · Italian Raw Umber · Turkey Umber.

(Hooray for the overvalued Australian Dollar!)

I ♥ Paint

Oils in Progress

I have a couple of new Qiang Huang studies in progress this week, but firstly, an update on my copy of Huang's Moon with Clouds:

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"
Next is Huang's Color Behind Light (which is proving most challenging). More work needs to go into my shape modeling and values.

Oil on panel, 9 x 9"
Finally, we have What a Pair.  I have been struggling with the apple here, but I like the background.

Oil on panel, 7 x 9"
It may seem odd that I'm copying Qiang Huang's work, but, confidence is always a problem, so when I get more adept at simplifying subjects and handling paint, I'll post my own works.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rublev Eighteenth Century Watercolor Palette

Browsing the Natural Pigments website recently, I noticed that they have made considerable changes to their "18th Century Watercolor Palette" product since I purchased it in May, 2008.

The lists below compare the old and new paint choices:

2008 Palette 2010 Palette
Lazurite (B29)
Nicosia Green Earth (G23)
Verona Green Earth (G23)
Italian Yellow Earth (Y43)
Gold Ochre (Y43)
Italian Dark Ochre (Y43)
Venetian Red (R102)
Ercolano Red (R102)
Italian Burnt Sienna (Br7)
Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm (Br7)
French Raw Umber (Br7)
German Vine Black (Bk8)
Prussian Blue (B27)
Green Earth (G23)
Olive Green (G23)
Yellow Ochre (Y43)
Gamboge (NY24)
Vermilion (R106)
Madder Lake (NR9)
Indian Red (R102)
Burnt Sienna (Br7)
Burnt Umber (Br7)
Payne's Grey (Bk9)
Bone Black (Bk9)

Because I do not have the updated palette on hand, I can only approximate the paint choices based on my own knowledge. Rublev make three Burnt Umber paints, and two Burnt Sienna paints (all of which I own) - so while I can make an educated guess, it is still a guess.  With a nod to Bruce MacEvoy, I have provided two small diagrams to help visualise the paint differences and their approximate place on the colour wheel:

C18th Palette, 2008
C18th Palette, 2010
As you can see, this is quite a radical shift in terms of palette colour and mixing range.  The main improvement of the new palette is that the paints chosen are better spaced within the colour wheel.  The two yellow paints were originally quite interchangeable unless applied full strength, and their mixing capability was similar. The addition of Gamboge (fugitive NY24) should make for sweeter yellow tints.  With the introduction of Madder Lake (fugitive NR9) and Prussian Blue, purple becomes possible - the previous mixture of Lazurite and Venetian Red could only produce a greyed violet-brown colour. However, the loss of subtle Lazurite is a sad one, as it is a lovely and highly textural paint.  Gone are Ercolano and Venetian Red, instead we have Indian Red (a favourite paint of mine) and bright Vermilion - the pretty but toxic PR106.

Original C18th Palette
(A comparison image of the updated C18th Palette will be added shortly.) 

I have tested almost every watercolour paint in the Rublev line, and all have delightful textural properties.  I use these paints mostly for small works or field sketches, as the paints are best applied and then left alone. Re-wetting them and brushing over them lifts them and destroys the texture.  The updated palette introduces mostly staining paints - this will reduce lifting with the brush in mixtures and help to make the paints a little easier to use.  While the updated choices are a good introduction to historical paint, I do wish strident Prussian Blue was not the only blue choice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rublev Nineteenth Century Palette


Earlier this year I treated myself to a Rublev "19th Century Watercolor Palette".  The main attraction for me was the presence of real Vermilion (Mercuric Sulfide PR106) and a lead yellow, Chrome Yellow Primrose (Lead Chromate PY34). While both of these toxic historical pigments are readily replaced with a cadmium paint, I was curious about the originals all the same.

C19th Palette (click to enlarge).

As you can see, this is palette devoid of green paint. Because colour wheels are interesting, below is a diagram which shows the approximate location of these paints on the colour wheel:


From the website:

"Due to the large particles of this color, we recommend using this watercolor only with rough watercolor paper or with additional watercolor medium to aid the large particles to adhere to the paper."
This is good advice. These paints disturb easily and do not accept re-work, put it down and leave it. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Brush Cleaners

A couple of years ago, I was at a product event and saw a Chroma liquid soap brush cleaning product being demonstrated.  It was quite impressive.  From Chroma:
"Chroma Incredible Brush Cleaner is a superb soap for cleaning and maintaining all your fine brushes. It cleans and preserves natural or synthetic brushes, easily removes acrylic, oil or lacquer and even removes dried paint that is years old."
I can attest that all of the above is true - especially the years-old paint bit. For dried paint, make a slightly dilute solution of soap by adding water, and then coat the brush head. Best results are achieved if you leave the brush for a few hours.

The only other soap I have tried is Da Vinci All Natural Brush Soap with Conditioner (Kernseife). This curd soap is also an excellent cleaner, and seems kinder - not a lot of lather is produced from this bar of soap. The Da Vinci is not effective at removing old paint, but for normal use either cleaner will leave your brushes soft and squeaky clean. :)

After oil painting, my normal cleaning process is as follows: First, I use oil and then odourless solvent to clean my brushes, then I wash them with soap.  I swish my brushes in a few drops of the soap cleaner, and then 'comb' out the paint with a soft toothbrush to loosen it. I rinse then repeat this process a couple of times.  If you don't use any solvents to clean brushes your brushes first, the Chroma or Da Vinci will still do a brilliant job - it just takes a little longer.


Usually a watercolourist has no need for brush soap, but once a year or so I do like to clean my most used brushes. The heavily staining pigments like phthalocyanine blue/green and dioxazine purple do build up.  After cleaning a watercolour brush, make sure the brush is rinsed thoroughly.

Chroma Incredible Brush Cleaner - 250ml (~$12AU)
Da Vinci All Natural Brush Soap - 100g (~$9AU)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Knife Painting


Well, I had great fun at the Marie Green oil painting workshop I attended yesterday! We had just started painting the still life when Marie began to observe me, and after a moment suggested that I try the subject using only a painting knife, and not my brushes - she said it would be a good challenge for me.

I had never done a knife painting before. I have used the knife here and there, but for the first time I painted everything with the knife and learned a heck of a lot. The painting is not great, but given that I only used four tubes of paint and one knife, I think it's OK.

Fish and Fruit 
Oil on paper, 11 x 14"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing Panels - Take 2

I sealed the last of my masonite panels today - I prepped eighteen in total. Half are quite small at ~6x8 or so, while the rest are assorted larger sizes. The first coat of gesso is on, and drying, so I should be able to do a second coat this evening. The good thing about preparing a large batch of panels is that by the time I finished applying a thin coat of gesso to the eighteenth panel, the first panel was nearly dry.

I have three new jars of Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to try out - I ended up buying Rose Grey, Soft Umber and Raw Sienna. The Raw Sienna is especially beautiful!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fourth WIP

None of my paintings were dry enough to go on with in class tonight, so I started another Huang copy.  This time it is Moon with Clouds.  Here are the first layers:

 Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"

For me, the most educational aspect of these studies is value and colour mixing.  I often work with a very large palette, but completing these studies has seen me work with only four or five paints.

Two paints which I have been enjoying today are Michael Harding's Unbleached Titanium Dioxide and Maimeri's D'Italia Green Earth from Verona.

Oils in Progress

I started two oil paintings on the weekend, and then began a third last night. The first WIP (work in progress) is a copy of Huang's A Pair of Pears. I have blocked in the lights and darks, but still need to add some interest to the background and shadows, and define the fruit further.

Oil on board, 6 x 8"


The second WIP is a copy of a soft pastel painting I found online some time ago.  I have no idea who the artist is - the image is one of hundreds of references files I have saved on my computer.  If you are the artist, or know the artist, please contact me.

This was a particularly interesting painting to copy because of the delicate yet effective shadow colours. The vibrant background just sings, but because I used Cadmium Orange, I'm still waiting for it to dry three days later.

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"


The third WIP is a copy of another unknown pastel painting. If you are the artist, or know the artist, please contact me.

This is the least complete of the three paintings I am working on, and is a more complex subject than the previous two paintings. I am enjoying this one immensely. It is an excellent study in colour and value.

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"

Hopefully I'll make some good progress on these tonight in class.

Currently I am the only person working in oils in my weekly art class.  We all tend to work independently on our own projects, with the instructor visiting us throughout the lesson to assist and answer questions.  Since I have begun painting with oils in class (something I do on and off during the year), the medium has gathered a lot of interest in our group. (We are mostly a group of watercolour and mixed media artists.) There is a one-day oil painting workshop coming up this weekend, so I hope to encounter a few local oil painters to talk with, and maybe find someone willing to join me on plein air trips. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preparing Panels

Today I prepared a batch of small masonite panels for my oil painting.  The masonite is a little thicker than I like at about 6mm, but at least I won't have to worry about it warping.  I sealed the panels, and then brushed 3 coats of gesso on to all sides and edges.  Later, I used a roller to apply some thinned Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to some of the panels.  From AS:
"Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer is a fine tooth, quick drying acrylic primer which bonds aggressively to practically any clean, dry surface - all types of papers (300 gsm or heavier recommended), canvas, card, ply, plastic, glass, timber, ceramic and metal. Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer can be applied with brushes, sponges, rollers etc."
Primarily used as a fine tooth surface for pastelists, Colourfix Primer is actually a multimedia product.  It can be used as a base for pastel, conté, acrylic, or oil.

I'm very happy with the Colourfix Primer painting surface.  Thinned down with a little water, it dried to a beautifully fine tooth, and then I lightly sanded the surface with some 600 grit sandpaper just before painting.  This has produced a perfect painting surface for me so far.

The Colourfix Primer doesn't need to be thinned, but the more you thin it, the smoother it applies.  Visible roller patterns and brush strokes will be visible if you use it straight. This can always be sanded down, but I prefer thinner coats.



Because I have sanded the Colourfix surface, I don't feel the surface tooth will be damaging to my brushes.  So far I have tried Rich Beige and Storm Blue Colourfix, and I plan to try Raw Sienna, Soft Umber and Terra Cotta next.

Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer - 250ml (~$14AU)