Watercolours: Grumbacher Academy Watercolours (review)

As I’ve often lamented on this blog, currency conversion rates and excessive postage costs have meant that I can no longer buy art supplies from the big American retailers, which tend to have a much larger range of products and brands than we do here in Australia. Some of these brands are only available from specific American art supply stores, making it even more difficult (if not impossible) for me to get my hands on them. So when my parents said they were going to America and Canada for a holiday, I immediately started plotting what I wanted them to get, so I could give them a big list when they left. They arrived home this morning, and happily they’d managed to get just about everything on the list (though I’d mentioned they should only get them if they happened to find an art supply shop on their way, Dad apparently walked around San Francisco for half a day to three or four different stores, so I definitely owe him some beer or Wild Turkey). I’m planning to do reviews of all the different goodies I got, starting with the Grumbacher watercolours.

I actually wanted the Grumbacher Artists’ watercolours, but whether my Dad misread my list or the staff member he handed it to misread it, I ended up with Grumbacher Academy watercolours, which are the student grade line. Either way, it was still a new brand I hadn’t tried, and I haven’t reviewed a lot of student grade stuff on this blog, so it’s a good chance to even things up a bit.

Here are swatches for the three colours I got.

The strength of the colours is very good compared to most other student grade watercolours I’ve tried (including Winsor & Newton’s Cotman watercolours and the Sakura Koi watercolours). As is common with student grade paints, there are a lot of multiple pigment mixes in the Academy line; all the paints I have include at least three pigments. This means it is important to check the individual pigments, as the more pigments a mixture includes, the higher the chance of one (or more) being fugitive.

I tried using these watercolours fresh out of the tube and squeezing them into a palette and leaving them to dry out overnight. While some paint brands dry almost solid within a few hours, the Grumbacher Academy watercolours were still a little squishy the following morning, and when I started using them the following night after they had finally dried out, they rewet perfectly well. The Naples Yellow Hue watercolour, however, was almost completely fluid when I poured it out of the tube, and it’s still a little gooey even after two days. Luckily it still seems to work alright, though it was a little weaker than the other two colours I have. I should also note that some colours like cobalts and earths can be a lot harder to rewet (regardless of brand) so test these colours with a small amount before squeezing out a whole lot onto your palette. The Grumbacher Academy watercolours are quite active wet-in-wet, allowing for subtle blended washes.

Here’s a small still life I painted from imagination on a Strathmore watercolour ATC. I used a little white gouache for the highlights on the top section of the glass.

Grumbacher Academy watercolours are a reasonably priced student grade paint that perform almost as well as some artist grade paints, making them excellent for both beginner artists and more experienced artists who may be on a tight budget. They’re difficult to find outside the US, but if you are an American, these would be an excellent watercolour to start with.

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