Monday, 21 January 2013

Paints and things

I talk so often about the colours I use, and I am aware that lots of them do not have the old traditional names that so many of us are used to. So I thought it might be interesting to have a brief look at my palette, and how I have organised it, so that it might seem a little clearer. I also thought I might let you know about my brushes and a few other products that I am never without. So lets start with the palette.

Quite some years ago, the government was sponsoring further education for the  'less young' members of society (if my memory serves me right). And with some voucher system there were several options from which to chose. A couple of friends and I selected the Michael Wilcox system of paint mixing which came with this plastic palette which I never got around to using as it was meant to be used. Having a clear-out several months ago, I came across it and thought what an ideal palette for all the new modern colours I am now using more and more. It enables me to have at least 33 pigments in the tray, and that is lovely for flower painting, as it avoids too much mixing. The colours I favour most are in the bigger inner pans and the less used ones are in the outer ring. I have also used the corner triangles to have test blobs of new colours from Peter who is very generous with his paints. I really intend to keep these and the inner triangles for mixing. What I really like about this tray is the size of the wells. I can easily add water to the well and get brushfuls of rich colour, but which quite happily dry out quite quickly.I don't use the Michael Wilcox system at all, although I understand it can be very successful, but it seems a bit like painting by number, although I understand it has been very scientifically developed. Because of the number of colours with very different names, I do need a colour chart.

I, therefore drew out a circle on cheap watercolour paper, the size of the inner circle, and painted a swatch of each colour together with the name of the pigment and the supplier, so I would know where to get replacememens, and people often ask me whose colour one of them might be. Its also easier when writing my blog etc.
I have photographed this in two halves in the hope that you can read the writing if you enlarge the photo, should you be curious about any of the colours. This circle has now been stuck onto the clear plastic lid and the chart matches the colours in the palette.
The manufacturers are as follows:
WN is Winsor and Newton
G is M Graham
DS is Daniel Smith
DR is Daler Rowney
M is Maimeri
SMK is Schminke

As for the rest, I use Pro Arte synthetic brushes from the 007 series, some of which I buy as seconds from art fairs. I do have some sable brushes but rarely use them as they are too soft for me. Just occasionally I will use a biggish one for a wash as they hold much more paint.

I always use Fabriano Artistico Extra White paper, either Rough or Not in 2 sizes on pasted blocks. 30x45cm or 35x51cmand it is usually 300g in weight I have been a bit disappointed of late with regards to the blocks as they seem to come apart with amazing ease, and I have had to stretch some pieces onto a board, which defeats the object of having a block.

As for the rest, I use blue Pebeo Masking Fluid, Granulation Fluid, Indian Ink, Acrylic Gouache,and a small spray bottle of clean water containing a few drops of ox gall to soften the paints before I start.

Obviously there are lots of other bits and pieces but those are the most important 'ingredients,!

I prefer the Acrylic Gouache to the chinese white watercolour or the ordinary gouache as it is has a lovely creamy consistency, very white and bleeds beautifully when dropped into wet washes. I use it a lot!

I did begin by saying.....a brief look at......... I hope I have not gone on too long!


  1. Thanks Peter, hope others feel the same!

  2. Thanks for this further insight into your working methods. I like your continuing search for new pigments and ways of using them. Do you never find it a little bewildering when you sit down to begin your picture with so many colours at your disposal or do you always make your decisions on palette before hand and then stick to them? Your reports seem to indicate that you are very disciplined in this regard.

    1. Thanks for your comment Mick. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am not at all disciplined with regards to colour choices. I tend to have an image in my mind as to what it will look like and then just go with the flow. I do have favourites and often I mix them for what I need as close as possible with 2 or 3 pigments and then realise that I have a colour in the outer ring that would have been just right. Also when you are dropping copious amounts of paint into a very wet patch, you can never be sure of how they will mix!

  3. I too find it very helpful to create color wheels of my paints. Thanks for sharing this information Yvonne!

    1. Thanks Laura. Its useful across the dark pigments because they can look very similar in the pans, and although I am quite familiar with my palette, I have been known to dip my brush in the wrong colour!

  4. Now I know what you use to create your delightful paintings. Most interesting Yvonne, thank you.

  5. Yor are very welcome Ray. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Gracias, sigo tu "curso" con mucha atenciĆ³n.

  7. Thank you for all this information. I had not heard of the Michael Wilcox color system or seen the palette. It is very well designed, although doesn't seem to offer enough mixing area(s) for larger paintings. Are you still using this palette and are you still as happy with it as when you wrote the blog? I'm getting ready to go back to watercolors after a 15-20 span with fabrics and fibers. I have 5 old palettes that are perfectly serviceable, except that I now have quite a few DS colors and some other new colors that have been formulated since 1990!

    1. Hi Pat,
      Yes I still use the Wilcox tray, filled with very much my favourite colours which have not changed much. I do have a twelve pan box which I bought empty and am now filling it with new colours as I acquire them.
      In fact, I rarely use the empty central parts for mixing, but carry a china palette or plate or the purpose. I swop this if I am going outdoors for a much lighter plastic one. Hope that is helpful.

  8. Thanks, Yvonne. That is very helpful. I have Pike palettes, a Robert Wood palette, plus some smaller ones. And I have some old porcelain film processing pans that are great for mixing - never thought to use them! So thanks for the help. I'm now getting very excited about returning to watercolor painting! Have an art quilt show next weekend, that comes first. Then a Christmas sale for my bird portraits in acrylics. THEN I'll turn to watercolors, at long last!