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 a palette devoid of green paint. This poses no problem because a variety of attractive greens can be mixed here, especially with vibrant Primrose.

Because colour wheels are interesting, below is a diagram which shows the approximate location of these well-spaced 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)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Copying Huang

I have been following Qiang Huang's painting blog for some time now. His expressive brush strokes and strong colour contrasts are something I would love to be able to achieve. My own oil paintings of late have been improving, but I seem to have a fear of bold colour (which is something I struggle with in my watercolours, too).

This week I selected two paintings from Huang's blog and was determined to copy them. It was difficult, but I persevered and am happy with the result. I learnt a lot about colour and value, but especially colour! The colours I was mixing initially were nowhere near as strong as they needed to be. Completing this colour study exercise was very rewarding and enlightening. You can see my efforts and their details below.

After Huang's Warm Up:

Oil on board, 6x8

After Huang's Vibrant:

Oil on board, 6x8

There are a few problems with my paintings, but overall they work.  One paint I found particularly nice during this exercise was Michael Harding's Lemon Yellow. I never thought I would come to love the Lemon Yellow as much as I have - it's a wonderfully useful paint! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Introducing Alexander

Alexander will be two months old at the end of this week. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Some abstract monoprints from tonight's class, printed on vintage Grumbacher paper (click an individual print to enlarge):


Monday, September 6, 2010


This morning while watering the garden I came across a cute crop of little yellow mushrooms!

The mushrooms are Leucocoprinus birnbaumii or the more pronounceable "Yellow parasol". :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pigments and Palettes

Later this month I'm attending a one-day oil painting workshop given by a local artist.  It's a beginner's class, but I'll take anything to do with oil painting right now. (I'm finding it is the most convenient medium for me to work with now that I am home with my first baby - I can come back to a piece hours later and just pick up where I left off.)

The workshop will be focused around creating paintings with a limited "primary triad" palette consisting of only cyan, magenta, and yellow.  The instructor has recommended the following (Art Spectrum brand):
  • Cadmium Yellow (PY35)
  • Permanent Magenta (PV19, PV23)
  • Phthalo Blue (PB15:3, PW21)
I will be using my M. Graham & Co. paints, plus Michael Harding's Magenta - PR122 is too much of a glorious pigment to go unused. :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lino Print: Lighthouse

I began cutting this block before I had the baby, but tonight I finally got around to finishing it and then pulled a print. I think I like it. :)

Sakura ink on Fabriano, 15 x 20cm (6 x 8")

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Print: Ochre Landscape

Tonight was an evening of mixed feelings - I pulled a lovely print from a plate I etched yesterday (which was wonderful), but this is also my last art class before I go to hospital next week to have my baby (which was a bit sad as I don't know when I'll be well enough to come back).

Anyway, here is the print.  I experimented and used oil paint for this one - Maimeri's D'Italia "Yellow Earth from Verona".
Ochre Landscape, 7 x 19cm (2.75 x 7.75")

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chine Collé Print: Poppies

During tonight's art class we were working on more print making techniques.  One which I had particular success with was Chine-collé. This technique involves two (at least) pieces of paper - one is your normal heavyweight print paper, the other is a fine paper like tissue paper or rice paper.  First you cover the damp printing paper with paste, then lay a piece of fine/decorative paper onto the damp printing paper. Next, you place your plate onto the paper, and then roll everything through a printing press.

For my first piece, I put some watercolour washes onto tissue paper, and then pulled the print. Here is the result:
Welsh Poppies, 15 x 15cm (6 x 6")

More images will follow once I have scanned them in. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lino Printing

Well, it's been years since I cut a lino block, but I worked on one today and loved it.  Here is the print:

Sakura ink on Stonehenge, 15 x 15cm (6 x 6")

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maxwell Wilks Workshop

This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a two-day soft pastel workshop held by Australian artist Maxwell Wilks. Max has a very fresh approach to pastels, and the vibrancy in his work is amazing. He achieves this by a very direct application of his pastel layers - coupled with the fact that he never blends or smudges anything.

Watching Max at work was a real treat, so to commemorate the event, I purchased one of the pastel painting demonstrations that he did on the first day of the workshop. Here is his masterpiece:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Etching: Lake Edge

A print from tonight's etching and print making class:

Gamblin ink on Fabriano, 15 x 15cm (6 x 6")

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Field Paintbox

In a recent forum post I showed my outdoor paintbox, so I thought I would add the same information here.  The metal paintbox is from Natural Pigments, and has been a favourite of mine for a couple of years:

These are the colours I've used above, from the back left. (All colours are M. Graham & Co unless otherwise noted.)
  • Back: Payne's Gray, Raw Umber, Winsor & Newton Caput Mortuum Violet, Terra Rosa, Maimeri Avignon Orange, Quinacridone Rust, Trans Yellow Iron Oxide.
  • Middle: Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue, Holbein Cerulean Blue, Maimeri Turquoise Green, Cobalt Teal, Daniel Smith Undersea Green, Winsor & Newton Perm Sap Green.
  • Front: Winsor & Newton Quin Magenta, Daniel Smith Quin Fuchsia, Daniel Smith Organic Vermilion, Indian Yellow, Naples Yellow, Daniel Smith Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Nickel Azo Yellow, Azo Yellow.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I have recently added etching to my long list of current creative endeavors! :)

This week saw me preparing some stylized landscape drawings to use as the basis of my plate image. They were all drawn in tight detail using 1.8 and 2.0 technical pens. I picked two suitable drawings to be etched onto my plates, one can be seen below:

A closeup of my linework:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Watercolour: Police Creek

Today our painting group went to a local park to take advantage of the beautiful weather and paint en plein air.  I was rather pleased when I produced the following:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


A couple of weeks ago I attended a 2-hour bookbinding class. It was rushed, slightly stressful, and showed a very quick-n-dirty approach. No written instructions, no precise cutting or time to take care, just 18 people frantically trying to keep up with a harried instructor who had a plane to catch. At the end of it, though, I had an intriguing little book, and had learnt (more or less) how to do a multiple-needle coptic bookbinding stitch.

I went home with another bookbinding kit in my bag, and googled around for some instructions I could work along to (the multiple-needle coptic / chain stitch *is* complicated at first). This time I carefully cut everything with unerring accuracy, worked at my own pace, and found the whole process throughly enjoyable.

I made some mistakes, and will be re-stitching the book with different thread, but for my second attempt at making a book from scratch, I was very pleased. I had decided to make a fabric-covered book, as I have some taupe suede which makes very pretty fountain pen cases, so I figured a matching book would be nice. I also stitched on some little floral motifs using contrasting thread for some added interest.

The cover:
Detail of the spine, showing the braid formed by the coptic stitch:
In the class, we used a heavy black 5-ply Barbour waxed thread and darning needles. It is incredibly strong thread, but very thick and a bit unwieldy. I won't be using it again for any projects, as I have found nicer 3-ply and 4-ply threads in a bigger colour range that are better suited to the finer finish I like for my books. I have also invested in proper bookbinding needles.

Some helpful links:
Instructions vary, but I prefer to start with the front cover first. This way, your final tie-off knots end up inside the back folio or section, rather than in the front.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Manganese Blue!

My paints from Blockx arrived yesterday! Two tubes and two full pans of their now-discontinued Manganese Blue watercolour paint... such a delightful colour!

The NOS pans look like delicious little gold foil wrapped chocolates, and the tubes have hand-written labels - too cute!

If you are after some PB33 for yourself, check out the 'Good Bargains' section of the Blockx online store. The Blockx personnel were super-friendly via email, and shipping to AU was only a few dollars.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rublev Eighteenth Century Palette

Here is a scan of a watercolour set from Natural Pigments. This is the rather lovely "18th Century Palette": (Click to enlarge!)

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.

(Update: 2013: Over time, some paints became unusable, and would no longer produce colour when re-wetted, even if soaked. Vivianite (Blue Ocher) was of much interest to me but is now just an inert lump which does not respond to water.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Painterly Things

Well, I have been shopping for art supplies again! I have a nice assortment of watercolour paints enroute, and am looking forward to putting them to use. Here is the list:

From Daniel Smith:
- German Greenish Raw Umber
- Lunar Black · Lunar Blue · Lunar Earth· Lunar Red
- Moonglow
- Fired Gold Ochre.
I love textural paints, and since I love my Lunar Violet I figured all the other Lunar variants were worth a look.

From Natural Pigments:
- The gorgeous 12 pan 19th Century Watercolor Palette
- The cute 8 half-pan Watercolor Case
- Historic blues: Lazurite · Royal Smalt · Vivianite
- Earth reds: Indian Red · Violet Hematite
- Olive Green
I am a huge fan of earth paints, but also have many paintboxes with specific palettes such as bright earth, classical and Zorn.

Photo © 2005-2010 Natural Pigments, LLC.

From Blockx:
- Their discontinued Manganese Blue (PB33) in full pans and tubes.

Oh, happy, happy!