Pencils: Derwent Procolour Pencils (review)

Every few years it seems Derwent come out with a new line of coloured pencils or drawing blocks of some sort, and one range that came out within the last couple of years was their Procolour line. Being the coloured pencil addict I am, naturally I had to try some.

Up until now, I’ve usually bought the full range of coloured pencils in any given line, since I like to have ALL THE COLOURS. This time I didn’t want to commit to the full range straight away (for reasons I’ll talk about later in the review), so I just got a small tin. I had to buy a separate Chinese White because it didn’t come with the 12-colour set I bought, but all the larger sets come with a white.

Derwent marketed these pencils as a cross between their Artists pencils and their Coloursoft pencils. A lot of coloured pencil artists complain about the Artists pencils being too hard and waxy (though I don’t mind the harder texture, as I said in my linked review), while the Coloursoft pencils often get criticised for being too dry and chalky (which I’d agree with at least to some extent, though I still like using them). Procolour pencils are meant to be midway in firmness between the two, not as hard as the Artists, but not as crumbly as the Coloursofts.

I think the Procolour pencils bridge this middle ground nicely. They layer more easily than the Artists pencils, so you can build up more layers than you can with Derwent’s original hard pencil line. They also don’t seem to leave as much ‘dust’ as the Coloursofts, which is good for me (as I find I often smudge things by accident), but for those who like to use smudging as a technique, might be considered a downside. Procolours are also not particularly opaque; they’re not as transparent as the Artists pencils but they’re also nowhere near as opaque as Prismacolor Premier pencils or even Derwent’s Coloursofts. I did also have problems with internal breakage with a lot of them, especially the Ivory Black and the Grass Green. I have been careful with them since I bought them so it’s possible the tin was dropped while it was still in the art supply store.

At about $2.60 per pencil in open stock, they’re a little more expensive than the Artists pencils but about middle of the range for pencil prices in general. But once the next Derwent range comes out, they’ll probably decrease in price to be more in line with their existing ranges, as seems to be the case usually with Derwent lines.

I remember when the Procolour pencils were first announced, many artists on the art forum I visit were excited and hopeful. Hopeful that Derwent might finally, at long last, be listening to their pleas for a proper lightfast range of pencils. Unfortunately those hopes were in vain, as a lot of the problem colours in the Artists and Coloursoft ranges – particularly blues, reds and violets – are also problem colours in the Procolour line. Depending on your preferred subjects this may not bother you, but floral artists in particular will struggle to find colours they can use in their work that are above 5 on the lightfast scale.

(on a side note, not long after the Procolour pencils released, Derwent announced their Lightfast line, at long last giving artists the lightfast coloured pencils we’ve been asking for. These have only just launched recently but I haven’t been able to afford any yet. This announcement was also why I only bought a small selection of Procolour pencils, as I want to save my money for a bigger set of the Lightfast line)

Here’s a parrot I drew with the Derwent Procolours, based on a photo by Wendy Sinclair.

If you want a reasonably priced pencil that’s not too hard and waxy but also isn’t too soft, Procolour pencils are worth trying. However make sure you check the lightfastness ratings for each colour you want to buy or use, as there are a lot of colours that will fade if they’re used in a drawing that’s going to be displayed.

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Coloured Pencils: Scarlet Macaw Parrot (demonstration)

Last time I went to the art supply shop near my Dad’s work, I decided I’d get some Derwent Procolour pencils to try. I didn’t want to commit to a full set in case I didn’t like them, but unfortunately the 24 colour set I wanted was out of stock, so my only option was the 12-colour tin (which didn’t include White; I had to buy that separately). Most of my coloured pencil drawings are done with a full range of pencils open in front of me, and though I don’t necessarily use them all, it’s easy to get the colour I want when I can always find something pretty close. Having a small range seemed like it would be challenging to work with, so I was eager to see what I could do with just 13 colours. As always, if you don’t have these specific pencils, just use the closest colours you have in whatever set you already own.

Apologies again for the poor lighting in some shots; I mostly have to work at my desk at night as I am busy with academic work during the day, and my desk light isn’t great (I really need to look into getting a natural light bulb, so if anyone can recommend one, let me know in the comments). This drawing is based on a photo of a scarlet macaw by Wendy Sinclair in her now-closed Facebook group that provides reference photos for artists, but I believe she now has a Patreon for people who want to use her pictures. I love colourful parrots and I’ve been wanting to draw one in pencils for a while (most of my Rosella and Lorikeet art has been watercolour or acrylics).

Derwent Procolour Pencils:
-03 Buttercup Yellow
-09 Deep Chromium
-12 Primary Red
-20 Cerise Pink
-26 Imperial Purple
-32 Prussian Blue
-34 Spectrum Blue
-46 Sap Green
-49 Grass Green
-55 Burnt Umber
-59 Brown Ochre
-71 Ivory Black
-72 Chinese White

Derwent Blender Pencil

Brush and Pencil by Alyona Nickelsen
-Colored Pencil Touch-Up Texture
-Colored Pencil Titanium White

I used Stonehenge 250gsm paper, which had a decent amount of tooth, but I did find myself struggling to get more layers on in the later stages. If you have something with a bit more texture or even with a sandy surface, try using that.

Step 1
Draw or trace the outline of the scarlet macaw onto your paper, using the faintest lines you can (especially if you’re using a greylead). For this step, you’re basically just blocking in the colours using a light pressure, so you can see where all the colours will go. Use Buttercup Yellow on the yellow parts of the bird’s feathers, and Spectrum Blue for the blue bits (you may need to use more pressure on the outer feathers to differentiate them from the paler inner ones, and for the lines down the middle of feathers). I also used a tiny bit of Prussian Blue to indicate the particularly dark shadow under his wing on the lower left. Add a tiny bit of Spectrum Blue to the tips of some of the yellow feathers to give them their green points.

For the red areas, lay in a light-to-medium layer of Imperial Purple just above the macaw’s beak, under his beak and down the front of his neck, bringing it around towards his back a little. Do the same for the red feathers that are in shadow on his tail. Along the upper right side of his neck and back, add some Deep Chrome in small semi-circular strokes, following the pattern of feathers. Bring some of these down into the areas where the red feathers merge into yellow ones. For the main tail feather, colour most of the left side with a pale layer of orange, leaving some white. Now add Primary Red over all the red areas of the bird, making sure to allow some of the orange to show through along his neck and on the tail. Going over the Imperial Purple with Primary Red will give you a nice dark red. Be sure to leave a few highlights as well, especially on the top of his left wing and a little along his neck and back on the right. There are also some areas of his tail that are almost white, so take care to keep those protected. Add a little Spectrum Blue to the very end of his tail.

Colour his foot in lightly using Ivory Black, then use the same colour with a bit more varied pressure to colour the black areas of the bird’s beak (making it dark at the base and lightening it towards the tip) and his pupil in his eye. For the pale part of his beak, add a very light layer of Cerise Pink, making it slightly darker as it gets closer to his face. For the branch, build up layers of strokes that follow the line of the branch using Brown Ochre, Burnt Umber and Ivory Black, keeping the Ivory Black mostly on the shadowed underside of the branch and focusing more of the Brown Ochre along the top. Add a few strokes of Deep Chrome as well. Add a slightly darker layer of Ivory Black followed by Burnt Umber for the shadow of the bird on the branch. Also note that in later steps I refined the shape of the branch to give it a small offshoot and make it end as if it was broken off rather than continuing out of the picture, so if you want to save yourself the hassle of having to erase parts of the branch like I did, plan ahead 🙂

Step 2
Now we start building up more layers of the same colours, to make our bird more vivid. Add more Spectrum Blue to the medium and dark blue feathers (using outward diagonal strokes on the tail feathers to create texture), with a little green in the ones that touch the yellow feathers. You may also want to add a bit more Prussian Blue in the shadowed part of the wing on the bottom left, and on the inner part of the blue right tail feather. For the yellow feathers, add a few light strokes of Spectrum Blue that… feather outwards (yeah, I know) to give them a little more shape and definition, then put another layer of Buttercup Yellow over them with a medium pressure. Add a little more Deep Chrome along the back of the macaw’s neck and in some parts of his back, and another layer of Imperial Purple above and under his beak/around his neck.

Add a bit more Imperial Purple in the darkest shadowed areas of the bird’s head and neck, and a bit more Deep Chrome to the back of his neck. Start layering Primary Red over this with a heavier pressure (say medium, to medium-heavy) to get that rich blood red colour.

At this point I used a kneadable eraser to get rid of some of the right side of the branch, so I could reshape it into a broken-off end (kneadable erasers are better here as a vinyl one will damage the paper with the rubbing action). I also added another light layer of Burnt Umber, Brown Ochre and a little Deep Chrome to the branch, building up the strokes to show the bark texture.

Step 3
Here we continue down the body of the bird, strengthening the red colours. You may want to add another light layer of Imperial Purple to the darkest shadows above and under his beak, and also to the one red tail feather that’s in shadow. Add more Deep Chrome to the back, and the upper parts of the main tail feather and along the outsides (the middle of the tail feather should mostly be a very pale orange, with a white bit just before the blue tip), then go over all this with Primary Red, varying pressure a little along the head, neck and back to allow some of the orange to show through.

For the pale blue feathers in the middle of the macaw’s back, burnish over the light layer of Spectrum Blue you have with the Chinese White pencil, using a medium-heavy pressure. If you have a softer white pencil (like a Prismacolor Premier or Caran d’Ache Luminance) you may want to use that here (I just used Chinese White for the sake of my review of the Procolours, as where possible I like to do pieces for review using only the product I’m reviewing if possible). This won’t lighten the feathers that much, especially if you’re using a harder white pencil, but it would smooth out the pencil strokes a bit. Using a light-medium pressure, burnish the Chinese White over the outer blue tail feathers as well, then go over them again with another layer of Spectrum Blue, still using the downward diagonal strokes to follow the feather patterns. I added a darker layer of Imperial Purple to the shadowed red tail feather, then another layer of Primary Red, before bringing more of the Primary Red down parts of the main tail feather. I also used very light (as in barely touching the paper) Cerise Pink and Burnt Umber to dot in some texture in the white area around the bird’s eye (and then smoothed it out a little with Chinese White), but I don’t think you can really see it in the photo.

This was the point where I decided the branch needed more work, but as I said earlier, if you plan ahead, you won’t have this problem. I drew a slightly jagged edge on the right end of the branch, to make it look like it had rotted or broken off, and then I added a small offshoot from the branch down on the lower left. To make this look more like it was part of the original branch, I added a little shadow around where it joins the branch and underneath with Ivory Black and then Burnt Umber, before using these colours as well as Deep Chrome and Brown Ochre to build up more layers on the branch. I also burnished a few random patches with Chinese White to create a vague sheen of moss or lichen, though again it doesn’t show up well in the photo.

At this point the parrot and the branch are close to being finished, but will still need a little more detail and some more layers built up. However now the parrot needs a background.

Step 4
The background will take some time and it may seem tedious, and the temptation to just do it all one flat colour will be strong, but if you are patient enough to build up the layers slowly, it’ll pay off at the end. Using the Ivory Black pencil and a light touch, lay in some vague, abstract patterns in the background, making some parts of the upper right and lower left corner darker than the others. You’re aiming to create the suggestion of a leafy background with light shining through in some parts, so make sure you leave some gaps either white or with only very pale black. Go over parts of this with Imperial Purple to build up different types and levels of darkness, covering some of the white patches you left in the black. You’ll probably also find as you go through this process that you’re not happy with the abstract pattern, but you can just cover up any light patches you think look distracting or out of place (you’ll notice I did that with some of the light patches at various stages). One thing I will suggest is to try to make the tone of the background contrast with the parts of the bird it touches, eg. keep it light against the dark reds and blues, but dark against the pale yellow feathers and white beak.

Step 5
Again using light to medium pressure, continue building up colours in your background. I added some Burnt Umber in the darkest parts of the corners, then added some Buttercup Yellow and Brown Ochre to some of the light areas, countering these with some Spectrum Blue in some of the dark and medium areas. Then I went over almost all of the background with green pencils; Grass Green for the lighter areas, and Sap Green for the darker areas, though I did leave some of the blues and yellows showing through in some places.

Step 6
Add more Ivory Black and Imperial Purple, expanding the dark areas further towards the centre and opposite corners of the drawing and weaving in some dark areas through the centre as well (here I also covered up some of the light patches I decided I didn’t want anymore). Add some Buttercup Yellow, Brown Ochre and Deep Chrome in a few small areas with a medium pressure, just to give some variation on the greens, then add in some more Spectrum Blue in some areas. I also added some Prussian Blue in some of the darkest sections before once again going over everything with Sap Green (for the darker parts and some light parts) and Grass Green (mostly just for the light parts).

At this point, the scarlet macaw is very close to being finished, but both the background and the parrot still need a few more layers to smooth them out and some more defined details.

Step 7
I added another layer of dark colours to the background, and a bit more Imperial Purple and Primary Red to the darkest areas of the parrot, as well as some Primary Red to the main tail feather. Then I got out my Brush and Pencil Touch-Up Texture and Colored Pencil Titanium White and prepared a thin white mixture of the two. Using a small brush, I painted in the highlights along the bird’s left wing and down the right side of his neck and upper back, as well as along the top of the branch and the end of the branch and offshooting twig. When this dried, I went over the white areas on the branch with a light layer of Brown Ochre pencil. Finally, I used the white liquid to sign my name in the lower right corner, and when this dried, I went over it lightly with Grass Green and Buttercup Yellow.

That concludes today’s drawing demo. I hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful. Keep an eye on my blog for my reviews of the Derwent Procolour pencils and the Alyona Nickelsen Brush and Pencil products.

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The Controversy of Convenience Colours

I am a member of a number of art groups on Facebook, but every now and then I join new groups or leave existing ones. My reasons for leaving are varied; sometimes the group just ‘dies’, and with no one really posting in there I see no reason to stay a member. Other times the moderator or admin are too pedantic about various posting policies which not only stifles discussion, it just makes it an unpleasant place to hang out.

And sometimes, as happened today, I leave because a seemingly large number of the members hold toxic views and will absolutely not listen to any logic or reason that might convince them to reconsider, instead choosing to abuse and harass anyone who has the audacity to make a comment they disagree with. I’m not going to name the group as I don’t think they deserve the extra traffic or air time, but the topic under discussion was ‘convenience’ colours, or specifically this group’s militant attitude against them. It’s not the first time I’ve come across such a hatred towards these colours, but it probably won’t be the last either, so I thought it was worth writing an article about it.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a convenience colour or mixture is a paint made up of two or more pigments. Many paint manufacturers (whether it’s oil paints, acrylics or watercolours) will proudly state how many of the colours in their line are single pigment mixtures, and for the most part, colours made with only one pigment are a good thing. If you know exactly what’s in the tube of paint you’ve bought, it’s easier to tell how it’s going to react or mix with other colours (the more pigments you mix together, the higher the chance you’ll end up with a muddy or at least less vibrant mixture than you were aiming for). You’re also less likely to run into problems with your colour changing over time if one of the pigments is less lightfast than the others and fades (see my watercolour lightfastness tests for examples of some Lukas multi-pigment colours changing because the red pigment used was fugitive).

A lot of artists seem to enjoy heaping scorn on those who use convenience mixtures, calling them lazy or otherwise questioning their skill or the quality of their art, but are these multi-pigment mixes really as bad as they’re made out to be?

Mixing colours takes time. Maybe not much time in the grand scheme of things, but it all adds up, especially if you’re new to painting and aren’t sure how much of each colour you need to mix to get the one you want. This means you not only take longer to mix colours, you also use up more paint (and for beginners who are often already anxious about ‘wasting’ their art supplies, this is not a good thing). Lots of people who are new to painting don’t know where to start when it comes to selecting colours, so they will often buy a set of colours put together by the manufacturer, and these sets often include convenience colours like Sap Green or Payne’s Grey. While I do take exception to the fact these sets often include fugitive colours as it would be better for beginners to learn with lightfast colours instead of learning with fugitive colours and then having to ‘relearn’ colour mixing later on when they decide they want to sell or display their art (dear paint manufacturers: STOP PUTTING ALIZARIN CRIMSON IN YOUR SETS! FFS) and I believe that sets should include as many single pigment colours as possible, some of the convenience colours can be really helpful for a beginner. Most sets I’ve seen that include a green will include either a Phthalo Green or a Sap Green, and nearly all sets seem to include a Phthalo Blue. Phthalo colours are very dominating and it can be difficult to mix colours with them, as you have to use more of the other colour than you think you would need. Pre-mixed colours are often less intense and can be easier to handle for new artists until they get used to mixing.

For some people, multi-pigment mixtures aren’t just a matter of convenience, but necessity. Various disabilities can mean that people have less energy or mobility issues that make mixing colours challenging, exhausting or even painful. I come across a lot of artists on YouTube and various blogs and forums and while their content focuses – for the most part – on their art and the supplies they use, some of the artists occasionally discuss their chronic illnesses or disabilities that impact how often they can make art and even how they have to set up their studio to make things easier for themselves. For most able-bodied people (like myself), painting is just a matter of going into your studio or setting up your watercolours or acrylics or whatever and starting to paint, and being able to do so is something we pretty much take for granted. But for people who have significant limits on their ability to do daily tasks, they need to be as efficient with their energy as possible; if they don’t spend so many spoons on mixing paint, they might be able to get more done in other aspects of their lives that day.

I can also provide a personal example of this. My artist grandmother doesn’t really do much painting anymore because the tremor in her hand has progressed to the point where she can only hold a brush for 10 or 20 minutes or so (on a good day) or not at all (on a bad day). However, in her younger years, she was often time poor, so time she saved from having to mix colours by being able to use a tube colour was extra time she could spend actually painting. Once her hand started to deteriorate, convenience colours allowed her to paint for longer before she had to stop for the day because her hand was too tired and shaky. Instead of having to mix a blue and a yellow or a phthalo green and a yellow, and then mix other colours into that mixture, she could just start with a tube green and then adjust it as necessary. While she has effectively given up painting now (preferring to sit with me when I paint and squeeze out colours when I need them), she has said that without convenience mixtures, she would have had to stop painting earlier than she actually did.

Some of my own convenience colours in various mediums.

Obviously if you use convenience colours and intend to sell or display your work, you should conduct your own lightfastness tests to see if they will change, but if you’re just doing sketches in journals or mucking around for fun, it doesn’t really matter. You may also find you have problems with some convenience colours – particularly greens – looking artificial or unnatural if you use them straight out of the tube, but most artists still add small amounts of other colours to convenience mixtures to get the colour they want. On a side note, it’s important to remember that different manufacturer’s versions of a particular convenience colour may vary wildly, so if you can, look at a colour chart online before buying a specific convenience colour in a different brand (for example, in the lightfastness tests I linked to above, there are three examples of Sap Green and all are completely different).

Also, even if you don’t really need to use convenience colours, sometimes they make things so much easier. I use a lot of dark grey, and rather than having to mix it all the time with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna (both colours I use frequently on their own or in other mixes), I find it so much easier to just use Payne’s Grey. I tend not to use convenience greens as I prefer to use a phthalo green and add yellows, reds or blues to make them look more natural, but I am fond of some convenience colours like Naples Yellow (which is sometimes made of a single pigment but is often made up of two or three colours) or various pale flesh tones. Even though I’ve been painting for a long time, I always find it tedious and difficult to mix a pale flesh tone I’m happy with in a timely manner and with a minimum of paint wastage, so why would I keep fart-arsing around trying to do so when I can just get a pre-mixed skin tone and add pinks, yellows or browns to it to get the exact colour I need?

I think if you can get single pigment mixtures and mix your own colours, you should try to do so where possible (not only for pure colours but also to gain a more thorough understanding of colour theory), and if you don’t wish to use paints with more than one pigment, that’s perfectly reasonable. However people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or ashamed if they do use convenience mixtures. I mean, it’s right there in the name: ‘convenient’. For a lot of people, convenience is the difference between being able to paint and not having enough time or energy to paint, and I think that anything that helps more people make art should be considered a good thing.

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Watercolour Paper: St Cuthberts Mill Samples (product comparison)

A few weeks ago, St Cuthberts Mill posted about their new Millford paper on Instagram. Intrigued, I made some inquiries about it and they kindly sent me a little packet of samples of various types of paper from their line (I later discovered you can buy the same sample packet from Jackson’s in the UK for about 50 cents, so if you want to try these papers out yourself, you can do so without breaking the bank). I already use and love their Saunders Waterford rough press paper so I was keen to try out other papers from their range.

The sample packet included six sheets: three of Saunders Waterford (in hot press white, rough white and cold press high white),  two of Bockingford (cold press and rough, both white) and Millford (cold press white). All six sheets are 300gsm, or 140lb.

As these are just samples, they’re relatively small sheets (roughly A5 size) and have the information about them printed on the paper itself, with space in the middle to paint on them and experiment. It says you can use a variety of mediums with them, from acrylics and gouache to pencils and pastels, but as I am primarily a watercolour artist, that’s what I’m going to use to test these samples. They also sent a single A5 sheet of the Millford paper with no markings on it, so I’ll save that and use it for a proper painting (and probably do a more detailed review of it in a separate post).

In order to give a fair and accurate comparison, I painted the same scene on all six pieces of sample paper, using the same selection of brushes and paints. The watercolours I used were Winsor & Newton Artists watercolours, specifically, the following colours:

  • Winsor (Dioxazine) Violet
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Payne’s Grey

It was a quick sketch that took less than an hour for each piece, as I wanted to be able to use the same techniques and methods on each sheet of paper and I didn’t fancy doing six copies of a detailed, time-consuming painting. On some of them, I didn’t use dark enough colours in the water, but I still felt I was able to get a good idea of how each paper handles.

Bockingford Cold Press White
There seem to be a few watercolour paper manufacturers with a Bockingford line in their range. I have a few pads of Daler-Rowney Bockingford (cold press), which I mostly use for doing watercolour charts and thumbnail sketches as part of my planning for larger paintings. St Cuthberts Mill’s Bockingford cold press paper feels much the same as Daler-Rowney’s; it has a subtle but still discernible texture. It’s also a little bit brighter white than the Saunders Waterford papers. Colour can be lifted relatively easy, but it does buckle a lot when a heavy wash of water is applied (moreso than the Saunders Waterford). This was the second piece of paper I tested and I think I inadvertently used stronger concentrations of colour on this one than on the Saunders Waterford rough paper I tested first. One thing I found odd was that the colours seemed to separate more on this paper; for the trees on the misty bank in the background, I mixed a pale mauve from Cerulean Blue and Winsor Violet, but you can clearly see in this painting how the Cerulean Blue seemed to granulate and leave the Winsor Violet behind. I don’t know if this was caused by the paper but it was the same mix I used on the SW rough paper, so I don’t know what else it could have been.

Bockingford Rough White
This was the fifth sheet I tested. The same texture but more pronounced than the Bockingford cold press white, it created much more noticeable granulating effects, which are especially noticeable in the sky area and in the misty bank of trees in the background (which again seemed to separate out into the two colours I’d used to mix it). It took a little longer to dry than the Saunders Waterford papers, but it didn’t buckle as much as the cold press Bockingford, and it still allowed me to lift colour easily when I wanted to.

As with Daler-Rowney’s Bockingford paper, I suspect St Cuthberts Mill’s Bockingford paper is aimed at students or amateur painters. It’s also the cheapest at about $4.60 AUD per 56cm X 76cm sheet at Jackson’s (UK). It’s still acid free and archival, but not 100% cotton like the Saunders Waterford or the Millford. It is, however, noticeably whiter than the SW or Millford white papers (but not as bright as the SW high white). Even with the rough paper, I find the Bockingford texture to be smoother, more uniform (for lack of a better word) and slightly less absorbent than the Saunders Waterford. The Bockingford papers are available in sheets (individual and packets) and in pads and blocks.

Millford Cold Press White
This paper was apparently brought in to replace St Cuthberts Mill’s discontinued Whatman paper (which I never tried so I can’t comment on how similar they are). I left this one til last in my tests since it was something new, and at first I thought it seemed similar to the Saunders Waterford cold press paper in terms of texture, but once I started applying paint to it, I noticed it doesn’t absorb the paint as much as other papers do. The card says it’s “hard sized” which gives it a high resistance to water (according to their website). Indeed, the paint almost seemed to float on the surface, especially when I used thick, heavy washes (when I used less water it seemed to behave more or less normally). This meant some of my washes spread a little further than I wanted or intended them to, but it was still an interesting effect and it’s something you could get used to and learn to work with. It’s also noticeably whiter than the Saunders Waterford white papers; almost as white as their high white paper. The colours I used looked bolder and brighter on this paper but I’m not sure if it’s due to its whiteness or because of the different sizing. I should note that, like the SW hot press paper, the Millford paper suffered some damage after I pulled the masking tape off, even though it was only on there for an hour. Millford paper is about $7.60 AUD per 56cm X 76cm sheet at Jacksons, making it the most expensive of these papers. At this stage it’s only available in sheets (individually or in packets), not pads or blocks.

Saunders Waterford Hot Press White
I’ve never been a huge fan of hot press paper (mainly because it doesn’t suit how I usually like to paint) and the Saunders Waterford hot press paper didn’t change that feeling. This was the third sheet I tested from the sample pack. It’s a very smooth surface, so those who do illustration work will probably find this is suitable to their painting or drawing style. The first thing I noticed was that it seems to absorb the paint more and dry very quickly compared to the cold press and rough papers in the sample packet. This made it more difficult for me to get the wet-in-wet effects I like to use as the first wash I put down was often dry (or at least almost dry) by the time I could put down the next colour, even if I already had it mixed up. The smooth surface of the paper also seemed to make paint spread in a more uniform way when I did drench the paper and add more colour, as you can see by the mauve background trees; though I dotted in some of my purple colour in an uneven manner along the bottom, it spread much faster and further, filling out the whole square I’d wet with clean water and resulting in a more blocky set of trees and an ugly hard edge instead of the distinct shorter and taller trees with soft edges in the other sample paintings. The autumnal background trees also didn’t look as variegated and mottled as I was aiming for as the colours I dropped in blended together more completely than on the other papers.

As I mentioned above, the even spread and fast drying properties probably make it excellent for those who paint fine detail and need the paint to stay exactly where they put it, but it doesn’t suit my painting style that well. Funnily enough, this hot press paper also didn’t seem to buckle anywhere near as much as the cold press and rough papers. However, it also doesn’t seem to be as sturdy as the other papers, as it began to pill a little bit when I lifted the wind streak from the water, and when I pulled the masking tape off, there was noticeable damage where it had been (even though it had been on there for less than two hours). It’s also not as easy to lift colour from the hot press paper, most likely due to how fast it dries (as you can see, the wind streak on the water is a lot less defined than on the other paintings). If you enjoy using granulating colours, the effects of those will be much less noticeable on hot press paper.

Saunders Waterford Cold Press High White
Saunders Waterford is a cold press paper so it has a distinct texture, though not as pronounced as the rough paper. The texture also feels more natural and random (at least to me) than the Bockingford papers. It stands up quite well to heavy washes and allows colour to be lifted or scrubbed up without too much difficulty. Pigment flows nicely on the paper and you can get some nice granulation and dry brush effects. Unlike the other SW papers I got in the pack, this one was high white, which is a much brighter white than the standard white (the regular white paper has a bit of a yellowish cream tinge). I felt that this made the colours look that little bit more vibrant. This was the fourth paper I tested from the sample pack.

Saunders Waterford Rough White
When doing my sample paintings, I actually used this paper first, since I already use it regularly and am familiar with how it handles. I figured it could act as a sort of control for all the other papers, which I’ve never used before. An artist grade paper, it has a lovely, natural-feeling rough texture and is quite sturdy, able to stand up to heavy washes and scrubbing techniques (though it will buckle when lots of water is applied if not taped down, as most watercolour papers do). It also allows most watercolour to be lifted easily, with the exception of some notoriously staining pigments like the phthalos.

On a side note, I did a more detailed review of this paper here. Of all the St Cuthberts Mill paper ranges, this is my favourite.

The Saunders Waterford papers all seem to be about $6.50 per sheet at Jackson’s, as well as being available in packs of sheets, pads and blocks (I can buy most locally in white papers but none of my nearby art supply shops seem to have it in high white, which is disappointing). It’s definitely an artist grade paper. My preference for watercolour paper is a rough surface, and I tend to use either Saunders Waterford or Arches. Both are excellent brands but I find that Saunders Waterford is usually significantly cheaper than Arches, without a loss in quality.

If you haven’t tried St Cuthberts Mill’s watercolour papers yet, I’d recommend getting a sheet or pad of some of them to try. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional artist, they’re a good quality surface at a reasonable price, and you can find most of their papers easily in your local art store (as the Millford paper is only new it’ll take longer for it to get into circulation, but it’s worth getting some to play with if you get the opportunity).

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Skyscape Baubles: Starry Mountains

Time for the third in my Skyscape Baubles series! I’m having fun painting these, as well as finding them nice and relaxing after a day of stressing over research-related stuff.

Starry Mountains
The third in my Skyscape Baubles series is Starry Mountains. I’ve seen the starry sky motif on a few different things lately, from leggings to pencil cases, and after randomly browsing various photos of different coloured nebulae, I thought the subtle and beautiful colours would lend themselves well to watercolours. I also thought the pale blues and dark greys of a mountain would suit the deep blue-black of the night sky. The small stars were painted by splattering white gouache, with the larger ones having more detail added with a fine brush.

“Starry Mountains”. Schmincke watercolours and Art Spectrum Gouache.

Hope you liked my third Skyscape Bauble painting. I’m hoping to add more to my blog soon. This design (along with my other Skyscape Baubles) are also available on my Society6 store.

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Skyscape Baubles: Desert Sunrise

Since my Aurora Forest Skyscape Bauble got a pretty good reception, I was eager to keep painting more pictures in the series, especially since they’re quite small and easy for me to actually finish (which is good for my reduced attention span at the moment thanks to our boisterous puppy).

Desert Sunrise
I wanted to do something brighter and lighter as a change from the dark colours I used in my first bauble, so I decided the mellow tones of a sunrise would be interesting to do. Some time last year I tried to do a desert painting in acrylics, and while the painting failed, I still liked the colours, so I used the same soft purples, blues and pinks for the sky, as well as the brighter yellows and oranges for the sunlit horizon. The ground was done in three layers, with each successive layer being darker as it got closer to the camera. I wasn’t aiming to replicate any particular desert but I’ve always liked the beautiful rock structures in Monument Valley so I put in a rough imitation of one, along with a few cacti and scraggly shrubs.

“Desert Sunrise”. Schmincke watercolours.

Keep an eye on my blog for more Skyscape Baubles in the future. In the mean time, you can get this design and others on my Society6 store.

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artdragon86 now has a Society6 Store!

I have now set up an account on Society6 in order to sell some of my artwork as prints and on other everyday items. This way people who like my art but can’t afford to buy the original (or who I can’t afford to post to because they live overseas and the postage from Australia is too expensive) can still enjoy it on stationery and kitchenware products, or on home decor items and tech accessories.

Here are just a few of the products and designs available so far:

Click here to visit my Society6 store, or just search “artdragon86” on the Society6 site. (at the moment several of my items don’t seem to show in my storefront by default so you’ll need to use the Department and Products dropdown boxes to search for particular designs on some products)

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