04 Aug Great Art Blog-Jax Aquarell Watercolours
This time I’ve been playing with Jaxon Aquarell Watercolours…
I’ve been using an Aquarell set consisting of 48 half pans, which gives an excellent colour range including metallics and whites, and you get two really good sized open-out palettes for mixing.
They come in a black metal tin which is tough enough to cope with many days spent in muddy fields, but compact enough to fit in the bag I carry all my stuff around in..
TOP TIP: Actually, it’s probably worth mentioning my go-to bag….It is actually a wash bag as I couldn’t find a pencil case that would take my preferred square format sketchbook. This one takes a 20cm square sketchbook, a set of watercolours, brushes, artist pens, cotton buds, putty erasers and pencils, and all my other favourite bits and pieces. I keep everything in the bag and then I don’t need to mess around hunting for stuff when I get a chance to get out drawing… I always take it with me travelling too, so I can make notes, colour swatches and so on that I can put together back in the studio, for new work and ideas.
I should also say that I’m fussy about watercolours, well about all materials actually…but watercolours can be incredibly disappointing and frustrating if they don’t deliver a really good pigment load. These are terrific, and offer great quality pigments, and good value too.
The colours are notably intense, and they handle well too, both with very little dilution and also when made into really wet washes.
You can tell that Aquarell have been produced with high quality Gum Arabic binders, as they flow beautifully. When you use them ‘just slaked’ with little water you get that intense luminous effect, which you really want to achieve with watercolours.
*GUM ARABIC: Gum Arabic is a binder used in watercolours to hold the pigment particles together and also to help the paint adhere well to the paper support. It’s called Gum Arabic as it was traditionally sourced across the Middle East, although it is also found in Sudan, Senegal and Somalia. Also known as Acacia Gum because it comes from the Acacia Tree, it is widely used in food manufacture as a stabiliser. When a high quality Gum Arabic is used the watercolours develop a luminous appearance as the water evaporates and the paint dries on the paper.
The samples below demonstrate the strength and vibrancy of Aquarell colours, which stand up extremely well to overlaying; creating rich textures, patterns and colour variations.
There are so many different techniques to try with watercolours which actually can be an exciting, innovative and experimental medium… why don’t you use the following samples as a guide and inspiration and give some of these techniques a try!
*All the samples below are on Gerstaecker No 3 Watercolour Paper.
Have a go at…
L.H Top: Clean water dropped onto rich colour R.H Top: Strong wash applied as a resist over white
washes, while still wet. Oil pastel.
L.H Mid: Strong colour applied onto wet paint. R.H Mid: Washes of colour with spray of clean water
to create mottled effect.
L.H Bottom: Strong colour applied in lines of R.H Bottom: ‘Hatching’ and ‘Feathering’
changing thickness to create ‘Cross-hatching’
Above: On the left you can see salt resist techniques; in the top one the salt has been sprinkled onto damp paint, and in the bottom onto wet paint….the result is softer and more subtle on damp paint, and stronger and more speckled on wet-both are good for creating gritty, speckled textures.
You can also see experiments with dropping colour onto both damp paper and paper primed with washes of colour…it’s really worth practising these effects and noting the differences so you can use them in your work.
As in the sample below it’s a good idea to get the feel for working with watercolours as a strong lightly diluted medium and as washes too.
Top L.H: On the left the paint is ‘just slaked’, in other words only just enough water is added to create a usable paint, and then more water is gradually added to create washes…
Bottom L.H: Here paint has been ‘slaked’ or made by wetting the pan, using Winsor and Newton Blending Medium instead of water. Blending Medium can be very useful in hot weather especially as it slows down drying times and allows for easier blending. You can use blending medium on it’s own as here or mix a little with water to extend working time.
Loads to try here:
Find out which you prefer; working on dry paper or priming your paper first with a wash of clean water, blotting it to leave the paper damp but not soaking wet… I use both methods, depending on the effect I’m looking for. Dry paper with strong colour gives greater precision especially for details, but damp paper works beautifully with washes and blending.
*Using a sharp knife or scalpel is a great way of adding white for highlights and contrast. This is best done on dry paint, and needs careful handling, so practise on a sample first!! The important thing is just to remove the very top layer of the paper, working with a very sharp blade to achieve a clean edge.
You can also retain or ‘reserve’ white areas in your work using a paint-on masking fluid, which looks and feels like a thick rubber solution glue. Special ‘masking’ marker pens are really useful for this and easier to use in some ways as the masking fluid goes on blue-easy to see against the white of the watercolour paper. I use the Molotow one pictured right, which I keep in my travel kit, as it is super clean and quick to use!
To use: let the masking fluid dry and then paint over as you like. Make sure the paint is completely dry and then you can carefully rub away the blue masking fluid, revealing white paper reserved underneath.
**This can take a while and you do need to persist….sometimes it’s easier to rub away the fluid with a hard eraser.
Above: Loads of mixed media ideas with watercolours-these are really worth a go as they produce some interesting and useful effects!
Top Row-R.H: Watercolour overlays with white gouache dabs on top for contrast. *Gouache is a water based body colour, which is opaque and works really well combined with watercolour. Personally I prefer to use gouache white to the white in watercolour sets which is never really opaque, and of course to simply add water to create paler shades of colour.
Second Row: Experiments with watercolour overlays plus a little pen and ink and white gouache. The right hand sample is simply washes of gold and silver Aquarell, laid on top of each other.
Below this on the left, I’ve played with subtle colour washes combined with line work using some of my favourite Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens.
Row 3 R.H: Sample using a ‘dry brush’ technique, which involves using the barest minimum water, and taking any excess off onto some paper towel, so the brush makes dry, textured marks which work well directly onto watercolour paper or onto a wash base.
Bottom R.H: Note colour blending using strong colour mixed with Blending Medium.
I always enjoy experimenting with techniques and approaches, and prefer using watercolours in an experimental rather than a more traditional way-in the sample above you can see a wet layer of blended colour….I’ve worked into the wet paint with the bradawl pictured to create linear textures, I also really like the way the tool picks up the colour and allows you to make fine drawn lines. The wrong end of a brush, a dipping pen, or in fact any other sharp implement will do the same thing.
The top two strips above show a flat area of colour washes which have been left to dry and then a layer each of silver and gold wash has been overlaid to enrich the colour….I like to pair the cooler silver with blues and greens, and the warmth of the gold with hotter hues like reds and oranges.
The 8 colour swatches below show each colour mixed with either silver or gold wash, which creates a subtle change in the appearance of the colour.
The top samples on the right show bright dabs of colour juxtaposed and or overlaid-placing contrasting dabs close to each other creates Optical mixes, as used by Georges Seurat, and results in a particularly vibrant feel.
The soft delicate patches bottom L.H above are made using a damp natural sponge to apply colour in varying strengths…this technique can be very useful for backgrounds, soft textures and even for suggesting foliage. The two deep blue samples, show ‘lifting’ colour out using a sponge and cotton buds.
I am always looking for different combinations of materials and especially like building textures…something which can be difficult with watercolour. Here I used Fine Pumice Gel by Golden, which is a fine grey paste and is meant as a ground for pastels. However, I find it’s great for adding subtle texture to pieces-in this case I applied a little paste to my watercolour paper, and then added the grooved texture using a Catalyst Wedge. It dries really quickly, but you can also speed up the drying process with a hairdryer. Finish off by adding colour on top, in this case a two colour Aquarell wash.
Think about working on top of dried washes with other media-pretty much anything can work depending on the effect you fancy….lovely soft artist’s pastels can be beautiful on top of dried Aquarell washes for instance.
It’s fun to exploit the natural properties of any media you use, and watercolours naturally like to run! In the close-up above I’ve played with building many layers of wet washes on a base of ink line work. I’ve tipped my paper each time to encourage the paint to run, trying to guide it in the process. The white I’ve added works as a nice contrast to the Aquarell, and is Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink.
This is an unpredictable but exciting technique, which tends to give you lively, fresh results-it’s important to really go for it!!
Ideas for Finishes:
Playing with surface finishes can make a huge difference to finished work. By changing finish treatments you can place glossy areas against flat matt ones, and add all sorts of richness and depth.
- Try rubbing finished dry watercolour with a little cold wax. You can do this using the tip of a finger or an old brush….it takes a while to dry, but leaves a wonderful warm rich finish with a slight sheen.
- You can even varnish small areas using a waterbased varnish-do a test first to see how much it lifts the colour underneath. To achieve a gloss look you may need a couple of coats because of the absorbency of watercolour paper. I like gloss on deep darks, which really come up beautifully.
- Acrylic Gloss Medium (e.g. by Golden) works really well and can be brushed on even into small defined areas….it tends to leave a slightly textured feel, which can be quite useful.
- Special effect paints can look amazing- I like Interference Gold, which looks white until applied to paint when it turns to a beautiful burnished gold. My tip here is to apply a tiny amount on a small stiff brush, and then work it in really well for a subtle effect.
- Gold Mica Flake can also look great-I’ve tried it above on the long red strip. It consists of a binder that goes on milky, but dries colourless in which flakes of gold are suspended, When the binder has dried you are left with the tiny gold fragments and a slightly glazed surface.
Above: You can see some of the additives I used:-Acrylic Gloss Medium, Gloss varnish, Blending Medium, Gold Mica Flake and Fine Pumice Gel. The yellow thing is my Catalyst Wedge, used to add texture to the Pumice Gel.
Above: Close up of Gold Mica Flake on Aquarell.
The two images above show a couple of sketchbook pages, made using Aquarell…I tend to start off outside with some loose sketches and colour notes, and then play with them back in the studio. You can see I sometimes cut up or tear sections and reassemble to make an interesting composition. I find this really works for me and sketchbook pages made in this way often develop into full blown paintings.
Above are coloured fragments, made on a drawing trip, which I’ve carefully torn into sections…
Then I play with collaging the pieces together to achieve a layout I’m happy with-sometimes this will mean drawing or painting into the piece to adjust contrasts of colour or tone, and especially to tone down tear marks if they are too obvious.
I went on to make an abstract piece using many of the techniques we’ve been looking at. I worked on the same Gerstaecker No 3, this time in loose sheet form. You can see I sketched out a loose composition and then began blocking in colours and shapes…
*Video Clip above shows the dragging colour to draw lines technique: working into wet paint with a sharp tool like a bradawl, and using the same to make s’grafitto lines.
The close up above shows lots of different techniques including; overlaying colour, working wet into wet, overlaying onto dry colour, salt resist, s’grafitto, dragging colour with a sharp tool, and collaging to add layers.
*Very brief video above shows some of the techniques I used…feel free to turn the sound off, it’s just what I happened to be listening to that day!
- Always keep your water clean when working with watercolours, it really is the only way to keep your colours bright and fresh-I tend to have at least 2, and often 4 pots of water on the go at once.
- Put together your own travel kit in a waterproof and wipeable bag-if your kit is ready to go, it makes it so much easier to maximise your opportunities to draw and paint. Exactly what goes in the kit is personal, but this list might get you started: Sketchbook with hard cover, watercolour set, cotton buds for absorbing excess paint and making small corrections, pencils, artist pens like the Faber Castell Pit Artist pens ( I find black, sepia and grey versions especially useful), small water container and some brushes and or some reservoir brushes https://www.greatart.co.uk/search?q=water+reservoir+brushes, paper towels, putty eraser, glue stick for attaching small found items- I don’t usually bother with scissors but tear instead and a Molotow masking pen.
Artists for Inspiration:
There are loads of interesting contemporary Watercolour and Mixed Media artists, the following are just a couple of suggestions:-
- David Tress who had a recent solo show at Messum’s Gallery in London -mainly works now in opaque media, but did many early experiments with watercolour, and uses lots of collaged elements in his work. http://www.davidtress.co.uk
- Paul Stangroom, especially his Window Series http://www.paulstangroom.co.uk/the-window-collection-c18359-menu.html
- Look on the Royal Watercolour Society website for loads of inspiration: https://www.royalwatercoloursociety.co.uk/artists/
My Materials List:
- Jaxon Fine Artist Aquarell Watercolour Set-48 half pans –https://www.greatart.co.uk/jaxon-fine-artist-watercolour-sets.html
- Gerstaecker No 3 Watercolour Paper, various sizes- https://www.greatart.co.uk/search?q=gerstaecker+no+3+watercolour+paper
- Winsor and Newton Watercolour Blending Medium-https://www.greatart.co.uk/winsor-newton-watercolour-blending-medium.html
- Range of Brushes, I like- https://www.greatart.co.uk/jaxhair-flat-watercolour-brushes.html and https://www.greatart.co.uk/search?q=system+3+brushes
- Molotow Masking Pen- https://www.greatart.co.uk/molotow-masking-pen.html
- Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink in White- https://www.greatart.co.uk/liquitex-professional-acrylic-ink.html
- Faber Castell Pit Artist Pens-https://www.greatart.co.uk/search?q=pitt+pens
- Winsor and Newton Acrylic Gloss Medium-https://www.greatart.co.uk/acrylic/mediums-additives-and-cleaning/mediums/1/?all=1
- Daler Rowney Interference Gold- https://www.greatart.co.uk/daler-rowney-cryla-interference-medium.html
- Catalyst Silicone Wedge-https://www.greatart.co.uk/catalyst-silicone-spatula-wedges.html
- Golden Fine Pumice Gel- https://www.greatart.co.uk/search?q=golden+fine+pumice+gel
- Gallery Artists’ Soft Pastels- https://www.greatart.co.uk/gallery-artists-handmade-soft-pastel-sets.html
- Jaxon White Oil pastel- https://www.greatart.co.uk/jaxon-oil-pastel-sets.html
- Golden Mica Flakes- Look for Large Gold Mica Flakes on this page https://www.greatart.co.uk/golden-heavy-body-acrylic-paint.html
I Also Used:
- Clean spray bottle with water-https://www.greatart.co.uk/plastic-atomiser-spray.html
- Salt-large flakes are best
- Paper towels and water-pots, plus hand wash for cleaning up
- Natural Sponge-https://www.greatart.co.uk/natural-sponge.html
- Cotton buds
- Bradawl or other sharp tool
Hope you’ve enjoyed the Blog and see you next time for Blockx Oil Paints! Jo