Monday, November 3, 2008

schmincke aquarelle watercolors lunchtime lesson

I have a confession. I had a small green plastic container from Herbalife that Lord only knows where it came from and I had been hanging on to it for ages. Years maybe. Anyway, this plastic container is divided into six neat little compartments, too small for anything significant, and too big for really small things. So when I started thinking about incorporating watercolor washes in artists journals, I knew I was on to the perfect container for pans of watercolor.

I knew nothing about what I was doing, and I have since learned that you can purchase nifty little watercolor containers made perfectly for watercolor pans for cents on the dollar - AND they come in packs of 12, 24, and more. Lesson learned. So I went over to Pearl and stood in the watercolor aisle for like 45 minutes, bearing in mind all I had read about how you really only need 2 or 3 or maybe 4 colors to get started. And this made perfect sense to me, so I decided on the Schmincke Horadam line Aquarelle Watercolors and bought a 102 (permanent Chinese white), a red and a blue (I lost the labels and now could kick myself), a Payne gray, a lemon yellow, and a magenta because I needed one more to finish out my six and wanted to stay in the primaries.

Oh joy when I brought the watercolor pans home and they fit perfectly in my little case. These are the things that make artists happy - when tools work, when systems do not collide, when organization frees up brain space so one can think about really important things. Here's what I learned. The white is a bit light for me, the red is beautiful, the blue looks like two completely different pans of color whether applied light or dark, the Payne gray is gorgeous in light application, the yellow is a bit cheery (neon) for me, and the magenta is lovely. I made an attempt at mixing an orange with my yellow and red - this was successful. My attempt at mixing a green with blue and yellow was less so and my next trip to the store will involve buying a green.

I used my very favorite plastic watercolor paint brushes with barrels that hold water so you don't have to mess with it, and learned two important things in watercolor application. One - keep aside one specific brush for darker tints - the tints stain the brush bristles and you may want to only use your dark bristled brush for dark tints. Two - the watercolor water-holding paintbrush has two strange features: a) it holds the paint in the middle of the bristles when it appears to the eye that the bristles are clean. You have to give the brush another squeeze and out will drop an eyelet of color. b) the watercolor seeps into the brush's plastic chamber - this happened particularly with the lighter colors of white and yellow (which I know makes no sense at all, but you try it and you'll see).

All in all, the Schmincke watercolors are absolutely beautiful when dry. The little pans are perfect for traveling and I am very excited about their potential uses. Only one problem - my artists journal's pages aren't made to hold watercolor ... time to look for a journal with coarser paper. Also, if you're going to buy these watercolors, invest in the sets - it'll save you money and time. If you want to purchase some Schmincke for your very own use, here's what DickBlick has to say:

Schmincke has been developing and manufacturing its Horadam line of watercolors since 1881, and the company is now owned by the fourth generation of the original family. Schmincke has a reputation for using only the highest-quality natural gums, water-soluble resins, and pigments.
Schmincke is the only watercolor manufacturer in the world that uses the exact same formula for their tube and pan colors. Other manufacturers extrude their pan colors. Schmincke hand pours the same watercolor paint that is in their tubes into convenient pans. Then the pans are left to air dry. This process is repeated three more times. The pan colors are consistent all the way to the bottom, and they last and last!