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David Howell PPRSMA


WORKING METHODS - WATERCOLOUR


I’m always amazed at the range of colours that most paint manufacturers produce, because you don’t actually need many.  I work with around 12 – 15 tried and tested pigments that I know will work anywhere and with any subject. They consist of the primary colours in warm and cool versions and a selection of earth colours.


PRIMARY COLOURS

COOL   WARM


Cobalt Blue  Ultramarine Blue

Alizarin Crimson Cadmium Red

Cadmium Lemon Cadmium Yellow


There are less expensive alternatives, especially for the cadmium colours but I love the strength of them.


EARTH COLOURS


Yellow Ochre : Raw Sienna : Light Red : Raw Umber : Burnt Sienna : Burnt Umber


That’s a basic 12 colour palette that gives me any colour or tone that I need. There are no greens because a whole selection of natural greens can be made from using the primary colours.  I occasionally add one or two others  –  Cerulean blue is lovely for colder skies and water, whilst Brown Madder is a softer alternative to Alizarin.  Prussian Blue occasionally gets an outing but as a very strong staining pigment, needs care and Sepia comes in handy for dark accents.  I use ‘Artists Quality’ paint in both pans and tubes from various sources but predominately Winsor & Newton, Old Holland, Sennelier and Daniel Smith.  


PRIMARY COLOURS

COOL                        WARM


Cobalt Blue                Ultramarine Blue

Alizarin Crimson       Cadmium Red

Cadmium Lemon      Cadmium Yellow




EARTH COLOURS


Yellow Ochre : Raw Sienna : Raw Umber : Burnt Sienna  Burnt Umber : Light Red

That’s a basic 12 colour palette that gives me any colour or tone that I need. There are no greens because a whole selection of natural greens can be made from using the primary colours.  I occasionally add one or two others  – Cerulean Blue is lovely for colder skies and water, whilst Brown Madder is a softer alternative to Alizarin.  Prussian Blue occasionally gets an outing but as a very strong staining pigment, needs care and Sepia comes in handy for dark accents.  I use ‘Artists Quality’ paint in both pans and tubes from various sources but predominately Winsor & Newton, Old Holland, Sennelier and Daniel Smith.  



PAINT BOXES


I have a collection of paint boxes, which all get used from time to time. My little W & N Bottle Box is always useful – carries 12 ½ pans and has a water bottle built in and part of the lid acts as a reservoir and the whole thing just slips into a pocket.  Sadly it isn’t currently available but there is a similar one listed in Old Holland’s range.  With a folding brush (Escoda sable size 12) and a PITT waterproof pen and a sketch book (usually Khadi) plus a stool, I’m operational in the simplest form. Otherwise I have Craig Young handmade brass boxes – the palette box is a favourite but I also have a couple of similarly styled Holbein boxes.  The latter are handmade in Japan in tinplate – nicely finished and the plus point is they are much lighter to carry around than the brass version.



W & N Bottle box

Craig Young palette box

BRUSHES


I tend to use large brushes.  Squirrel hair mops, either in flat or Petit Gris form, are used for initial washes – they get paint on to the paper quickly – always important if wind and weather are drying things quickly - and then generally I will switch to sables with their ability to control the amount of paint released.  I tend not to use anything smaller than a size 12 most of the time, although something finer like a rigger is needed for things like mooring ropes and telegraph wires.  Most of my sables come from Rosemary Brushes – www.rosemaryandco.com   I really haven’t bothered with synthetic brushes in the past but recently I have been using a size 16 sable and synthetic mix brush from Po-Arte’s ‘Connoisseur’ range.  It’s reasonably priced,  points well enough to do a lot of detailed work, holds a lot of paint and has found a regular place in my brush line-up – see – www.pro-arte.co.uk   There will be others out there but even as a pro., it’s impossible to try everything but in a changing world there might come a time when whacking weasels in Siberia or Mongolia to get hair from their tails to make sable brushes might go out of favour for environmental reasons or they might just run out of weasels.


PAPER


I use a variety of papers, all of them 100% cotton apart from the occasional sketch on cartridge paper in a sketchbook.  Currently, most of my sketching is done with a 20 x 20 cm Khadi sketchbook, a small w/col box and Faber Castell PITT pen.  There’s a nice sense of freedom working this way and I sometimes extend it to working with slightly larger loose sheets of Khadi 320 gsm paper – yes it cockles a bit but having my head thinking it’s only a sketch results in nice loose painterly small watercolours.  I also use blocks, which are handy to carry – usually Arches but more often than not I will cut 640 gsm weight paper into ¼ sheets, which are substantial enough to be worked on en plein air without stretching and a few of them tucked in the rucksack weigh a lot less than a block.  


For general use in the studio I use sheets and the paper is invariably soaked and stretched on a board to ensure that it is flat to work on.  Arches is always a reliable paper but my favourite is the Indian hand-made Khadi.  It’s available from some major online suppliers or directly from www.khadi.com in standard sheet size but also in handy and economical cut sheet packs.  As a hand-made paper it is somewhat more unpredictable than a regular mould made paper but the colour reproduction and the way it works, in particular with wet in wet areas is brilliant.  I also use Two Rivers, Waterford and Fabriano.


Essaouira - Pen and wash sketch on a Khadi sketchbook

Painting with watercolour is fun, frustrating and fascinating and occasionally very rewarding.  Like all painting it works better when you let your hair down a bit, take risks and above all enjoy it and in the present lock down situation it’s arguably the best option for working on the kitchen table or a quiet corner

My book ‘Painting with Watercolour’ covers the subject in much more detail and is available directly from the publisher at www.crowood.com or on Amazon both in Europe and the USA and from other online art material suppliers.

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