Thursday, June 14, 2012


In 1952 I was in the Boy Scouts, and working for a Merit Badge dealing with birds.  My father surprised me one day with a small set of Winsor & Newton watercolor pans.  I recall a Scarlet Tanager that I painted with Vermillion on a 3" x 5" index card.  Now this was something special.  Watercolors have been in my studio since that time.  There is something amazing about the flow of the liquid which is very exciting.

For architectural renderings in school, I selected line drawings with a watercolor wash as my preferred representation.  The lines were either pencil or ink.  I liked the results so well that I have been using the technique for over fifty years.

Pencil drawing with watercolor. The original is 13" x 9" and from the early 1990's.
During the summer of 2003, I was recuperating from Lyme disease and on an I.V. every day.  I spent most of the summer painting indoors.  However, Beth went into our extensive garden, where I probably got the Lyme, and brought in flower cuttings for subject material. 

Ink lines with watercolor. Garden flowers. 8" x 6.5"

Watercolors come in three basic forms: dry cakes, tubes and liquid.  For my usage I prefer tubes because I get a lot more color in one purchase.  This is important for me as grandchildren who visit the studio to make Valentine's Day cards can consume an entire cake of red color in one sitting.  With the tube supply, I just squeeze out a little more onto the palette tray and the work continues.  The unused portion is left to dry and can be easily activated for use with a few drops of water. Mold can grow on damp, covered paint.  I only use the cover for the tray when the paint is completely dry to protect the colors from dust and foreign particles.

A note about color layout on my pallet whether it is watercolor or oils.  From the upper left moving clockwise blue, green, yellow, orange, red, violet.  Some time I add the earth colors in the orange family and depending on the pallet size, or  sometimes they come after the violets and other pure colors.

For scale of this photograph, the tubes are the half ounce size which is 3" in length.
The above tray is what I usually use for average size paintings.
This is the Kremer box with 14 full size snap in pans and room for two brushes.

This is the box spread out for work. There is a lot of mixing areas.
Snap out pans are shown removed for illustration.

Rather large graphic study for a commercial client.
The color is straight out of the tube and onto the dinner plate and thinned with water.
The brush is a number 10 Da Vinci quill. See post from Feb. 21, 2012 for a brush photo.

Over the years I slowly acquired Winsor & Newton Series 7 finest sable brushes in varying sizes up to a number 8.  Larger sable brushes get to be rather expensive, especially today.  Many of my sable brushes were purchased years ago.  Synthetics have become acceptable in their quality and budget.

My favorite paper is Strathmore 640 gsm, cold pressed, sized, watercolor paper.  It is thick enough that is does not warp or buckle. I always lay the paper on a level, flat surface for the best control of the liquid. 

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If you have a technical interest in the composition of tube watercolor, this illustration will show the complexities of the modern product.  The image is from the site Handprint by Bruce MacEvoy.  Handprint is the finest guide to watercolors.  It truly is the most extensive and detailed work on the subject and an excellent reference source.

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