I recently reviewed the new increased range of Van Gogh watercolours, made by Talens who also produce Rembrandt. Van Gogh, although originally only 40 colours, have never been a strict student quality brand more of a mid-range type with the student quality range called Amsterdam. I used them for a time in the distant past before being seduced by the alluring charms of Artist Quality watercolours.
With the steep escalation of prices of artists quality I thought I'd try some of the cheaper ranges starting with Van Gogh. Incidentally Jacksons recently published a 'Materials Guide'. In the section referring to watercolour I was surprised to see they are now splitting them into three groups. 'Artist Quality' are no longer the top of the range which they now classify as 'Professional'. Interestingly Winsor & Newton now call them 'The Professional Range'. Artist Quality are now somewhere in the middle with 'Student Quality' the bottom range. Is this a ploy to claim they are better than some competitors or just to justify the eye-watering prices.? Cynical me looks at all this with a jaundiced eye. They also claim that 'professional quality' have a much higher concentration of pigment. This is something I once accepted until reading what the Handprint man Bruce McEvoy had to say about it. Bruce said that pigment concentrations varied from paint to paint and I suggest anyone interested find this in the relevant Handprint page and see for themselves. Although Handprint is no longer updated - sadly - it's still available tp peruse. Now on to van Gogh.
I apologise that these swatches are less than ideal, in particular the top one where the paint appears streaky. I think this is because the paper I used isn't either Waterford or Fabriano and of a lesser quality.
The bottom one is Fabriano which is better and certainly less streaky. Together they will just give you an idea which you may or may not wish to explore further.
My overall impression of the paint when sqeezing it out of the tubes is that it is quite fluid. The two dusk colours are obviously influenced by Daniel Smith introducing several similar ones. The single interference colour 'Gold' seems quite weak on first impressions, although the Dusk colours are fairly strong.
I can't really say a lot more as I haven't attempted a painting with them yet. I probably shall as I have the complimentary colours and a few others. My main criticism of the new range is that many are multi-pigment paints, although there are sufficient single pigment paints for a moderate sized palette.
My current 'best picks', using my criterion of quality and price taken together, are Lukas and Sennelier. This of course applies to the UK and most of Europe only as prices vary considerably across the globe.
Of the two I'd give Sennelier the edge with both 10ml and 21ml tubes, as well as pans, and a larger range. Lukas are limited by having a 24ml tube - although they do pan colours as well - which may be too large for many hobby painters. Sennelier paints are fairly liquid due to the use of honey but not as much as Graham. Lukas are like toothpaste consistency out of the tube but dissolve very easily and well when water is applied. This is the position at the moment but things change. Daler Rowney were once a 'best buy' but no longer with a substantial price hike. They are in the same group as Lukas so I'm wondering whether Lukas will change at some stage. Difficult isn't it.
Here are some of my latest paintings. One or two others I did have been binned. This is my work warts and all!
Red Squirrel 16" x 12" 'Where's that Nut?"
A Male Capercaillie - iconic Highland bird
'Big cat" 16" x 12"
Isn't he cute- 16" x 12"
"Nice Horse" 16" x 12"
These were partly painted at home and finished off at my AVA Summer sessions where we do our own thing rather than a programme. I do the drawings in my tiny converted bedroom studio and then start the painting. This is usually the small areas of detail like the eyes. IF (in my opinion) I get them right I then proceed to complete the painting in stages. After completion I usually wait a day or two and look at it again when I often see things that need a little more work. I try and avoid over finishing though. Charles Reid used to say 'you don't finish a painting you stop when you reach a point when you don't know what more to do". He also said be a little crude and also don't be precious it's only a painting".
This was our recent Avon Valley Artists exhibition as part of Saltford Festival. A decent standard, although the group is smaller than it used to be, with 85 paintings exhibited.
Here are this months batch. Once again I've tried to get as good a variety as possible, although my personal preferences - which may shine through - are loose and impressionistic. One problem I have is not always being able to identify the artist. This is frustrating as there are some wonderful ones out there where the name is written in Cyrillic, or the painting in not identified by artist ! Unfortunately I'm unable to translate Cyrillic and I am reluctant to include paintings without knowing the artists.The other slight problem is whether all are actually watercolours. I think the odd one may slip in that isn't. If watercolour is involved I do include mixed media. Any corrections welcome.
The late Charles Reid
Jean Haines (?) Rather more detailed than most of her work. Is it Her?
This new product seems to be creating much interest, although the effects it creates will be mainly of interest to those who like 'loose' and/or impressionistic paintings. Thanks to Stephie Butler who is experimenting with this product and has kindly allowed me to show her paintings.
Available in a 50ml tube or container. Jacksons have it at £21.50p at the moment and seem to be the cheapest. Other suppliers are charging two or three pounds more. Sorry about the photo this was the best image I was able to download.
I must first qualify my comments. I have not yet bought this product so have no experience of it. I am fascinated though and despite being a little shocked at the price am tempted to buy some.
Here Stephie has used Daniel Smith Wisteria. She was not happy with the initial result, due to it containing white she thinks, so added some Ds Lunar Blue which improved matters somewhat. Personally I think she's being too critical. I love it, although I don't like paints that have white in them. In my humble opinion white makes make the paint cloudy and hardens in the tube after a short while.
In this instance the added paint is Daniel Smith Iridescent Antique Copper. Great granulation from both the charcoal and the paint.
Here the paint is the new Transparent Orange (PO107) from Winsor & Newton. It's expensive introduced as a 'special' in a limited edition but now generally available. The colour is being praised by artists who have tried it but if you want a cheaper alternative try PO71 available as Permanent Orange from Lukas and Translucent Orange from Schmincke. PO107 is a bit of a mystery as it isn't listed in the pigment database.
This one uses DS Lunar Blue again with vine charcoal for detail.
This one has vine charcoal for detail and something called Brou De Noix. I have to confess I don't know what that is even though I've tried to find out.
As readers of this blog will know I am anti the high prices for Daniel Smith watercolours in the UK. There is a massive push to promote them by numerous high profile artists. I don't believe amateurs being told they must buy them is ethical, unless they are affluent which many aren't. I know they are excellent paints with some unique colours. I have bought quite a few in the recent past and they are good I don't dispute that. The Lunar colours however have gone hard in the tubes, a cardinal sin in my opinion. There are many excellent paints from Winsor & Newton, Schmincke, Lukas, Rembrandt that are equal to what Daniel Smith offer but at a lower price. None offer such a huge number but are so many really necessary? Remarkably Van Gogh (Talens) have introduced some iridescent paints and Lunar type colours in their recent revamp. I intend to try some as they are ridiculously cheap by comparison. .
I love the above paintings from Stephie and am very tempted to try this liquid charcoal I probably shall.
Here are my latest efforts. As usual I make the proviso that I don't post these as good just my work. All are 16" x 12" and mostly on the back of discarded paintings. You can do this if you use good quality paper in the first place. These are almost all on Waterford.
The Apache Kid. He never surrendered and was still about in the early 20th century before vanishing for good.
Maribou Stork - Nasty creatures and don't they look it!
The unexpected death of Charles Reid has shocked his many friends, followers and students.
Charles Reid 1937 - 2019
I first became aware of Charles Reid following an article in - I think - The Artist magazine. It may have been associated with one of his books. Later I noticed Judi Whitton, a relatively local UK artist, had changed her style and it showed elements of Charles Reid. Later I did several workshops with Judy both plein air in the Gloucestershire area, then residential at Crantock Bay in Cornwall. She told me she had gone on one of his UK workshops at Stow in the Wold and was so impressed with his fresh approach she was influenced to alter the way she painted, which previously had been more John Yardley-like (who is a personal friend).
Once I became interested I started buying his books and DVDs. My wife says when I get an interest I tend to go overboard! At around this time I had contact with Craig Young, from whom I bought some of his hand-made palettes and Craig told me Charles latest flower painting book, which followed an earlier one- the only book of his I don't have - explained all his methods in detail. I bought the book and the accompanying DVDs.
Around this time Craig had been organising Charles UK workshops, two consecutive weeks, bi-annual I think. I discovered on my first one that several of his regulars, who had been going for years, did both weeks, moving on to the second venue immediately afterwards.
I have written extensively of my experiences on his workshops, apart from anything else meeting some very interesting people including professional artists. I had intended for this to be more extensive but, when checking what I had previously written, realised I would simply be repeating myself. In addition what was previously written, especially about the workshops, was done so when all were fresh in my mind.
How did I rate Charles as a teacher? First of all you needed to buy into the Charles Reid way. He began as an oil painter and taught at Famous Artists School in America. At some stage he was asked to do watercolour and knowing little or nothing about it transposed his oil painting methods to watercolour. He said some of the things he taught with watercolour were unusual compared to the prevailing orthodoxy. This of course was the attraction to many like me. He was quite candid that not everyone liked the way he painted, and joked some people said he couldn't draw a straight line!
I regarded him as an excellent teacher always approachable - except when he was concentrating on a particularly tricky part of the painting when silence was golden. .We painted outdoors when the weather allowed and indoor subjects were still life's, portraits with a live model and old black and white photographs. The initial drawing involved keeping the pencil on the paper all the time. He was very patient and talked continuously explaining what he was doing and why. He would go quiet when he was doing small detail or a particularly tricky bit. When he had his break he would wander off smoking his pipe. Sadly his pipe smoking apparently led to the pulmonary fibrosis which was the cause of his death. Actually I did not see him smoking much apart from when he had his painting breaks.
The things that burned into my brain from the lessons he taught included the following: You should be a little crude, mistakes are part of it, small details large generalities, try for a first time finish with little overpainting. This isn't all and my workshop reports go into more detail. One of the reasons I did the workshop reports was that I soon realised I was somewhat privileged to get on his workshops, especially in the UK. Many, many more artists would like to have done so but for different reasons couldn't. His many books and DVDs are also musts and most can still be obtained with a little searching although prices can be high on some of the books.
What were the best workshops I attended? All of them I would say apart from the last at Stow. The standard wasn't as high with ten new people on it, one of whom had never previously painted in watercolour. I was also involved in a fractious house move at the time and wasn't fully focussed. I had intended to show Charles how much my painting had improved since my first workshop but my paintings were generally poor, although I did partially redeem myself with a decent portrait on the final day.
Stow was the last occasion Charles came to England, apart from an International Artists holiday arranged by Travelrite. I obtained details but it wasn't for me involving being picked up at Heathrow (!) and travelling around in a coach with different hotels. I also felt after Stow perhaps I'd reached the end of the line.
Charles continued to be very active within America up until quite recently. I would love to have done one of his portrait workshops but he said I'd have to go to America. On the last occasion I saw him I tried to persuade him to do an up to date portrait book. He did do a DVD called 'Figurative Watercolours' instead which was filmed after Stow.
My last word on Charles Reid? The well-known guitarist Chet Atkins, when asked what the attraction was of Elvis Presley, said 'HE WAS DIFFERENT'. That's my view of Charles. HE WAS DIFFERENT. Goodbye Charles you will be sadly missed.
Articles in the blog as follows.
December 2009 - Reflections on Two Painting Courses March 2009 - Watercolour Solutions (Book review) January 2010 - Watercolour Landscapes Masterclass (DVD) March 2010 - Portrait Painting in Watercolour (book obtained used) September 2010 - Charles Reid 10 Lesson Course (Multiple DVD) September 2010- Charles Reid Checklist (materials) March 2010 - Watercolour Solutions (book review) January 2011 - Thoughts on Painting Courses October 2011 - Charles Reid at Crantock Bay October 2011 - A conversation with Charles Reid 2012 - Figurative Watercolours (DVD) September 2012- Watercolour Secrets (book review) May 2013 - Another Charles Reid Workshop May 2013- Charles Reid at Stow July 2014 - Charles Reid January 2015 - New Charles Reid book. April 2015 - Charles Reid Sketchbook
The painting workshops I attended with Charles Reid were:
Burford 2006 Catalonia (Spain) 2008 Urchfont 2010 Crantock Bay 2011 Stow on the Wold 2013
My wife went as a non painting partner to both Catalonia and Crantock Bay, spent some time with Charles wife Judy and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
I came to watercolour somewhat late in life and initially decided to learn all I could about past English watercolourists, whilst ruining paper and getting a palette together. The end result is over 150 books on the subject as well as almost the same number of DVD’s. Whilst deep into the careers and art of Turner, Wesson, Merriott, Buckle, Muncaster and Seago I always considered Rowland Hilder to be more of an illustrator than a watercolourist, but my opinion was changed dramatically when, whilst on a visit to my native Norfolk, early in this century, we visited a friend of a friends house who I had been told had an impressive art collection.
After a couple of drinks in the garden we were ushered into the lounge and above the mantle piece was a full sheet watercolour of Norwich Cathedral stark white against a thunder storm sky and so obviously a Hilder. The painting was so dramatic and lit up the room. I was told the provenance of the painting and shown other art work in his collection including some paintings of the Scottish Colourists which were impressive, but none caught my interest as did the Hilder.
The Hilder I was more aware of was JJ Hilder, (1881 - 1916) an Australian watercolourist who is to Australian art what Turner is to the English and there have been no fewer than eight artists in the Hilder family since 1788.
Rowland Hilder, of course, is from the same family and was born in New York in 1905 but the family returned to England in 1915 so his father, who was English, could enlist in the army.
His early school years were not happy and his American accent didn’t help matters. He was never happier than when he had a pencil in his hand and an art master suggested to his parents that he should take up art.
He was admitted to Goldsmitth College of Art and initially studied etching and then illustration. He exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 18 and the publishers Blackies and Jonathan Cape commissioned him to illustrate their books.,
He lived somewhat frugally as his income from book illustration only netted £120 per annum and it would have been fine had he not decided to marry Edith Blenkiron, a botanical artist whom he met at the Goldsmith College.
In 1928 he was approached by Jonathan Cape to illustrate a reissue of Mary Webb’s book “”Precious Bane” a rural novel set in the villages and countryside of Shropshire. He went to Shropshire with his soon to be wife and stayed at the novelist’s cottage. This was where he realised the potential of the winter landscape as a subject.
During the war, like many artists, Hilder was involved in designing camouflage for the War Office and painting posters for the National Savings Bank which he did for the duration. At the end of hostilities he formed a small family business with his wife and father called “The Heron Press”. They printed, amongst other things, greeting cards.
The cards depicting Hilder’s winter landscapes were very popular and the generic term “Hilderscapes” was born. It was a term he disliked but became resigned to.
At the time Christmas cards usually depicted holly, mistletoe and the mandatory Robin. These were superseded by paintings like “Winter in East Anglia” and “Shipping becalmed - Thames Estuary”This earned Hilder the unenviable title of “The Man who killed Cock Robin”.
Like another high profile artist of his generation, Edward Seago, Hilder had a boat called “Peter Pugg”which he used to sail around the North Sea and Thames Estuary gathering information for his marine paintings.
He became a member of the prestige art group “ The Wapping Group” who painted, sketched and drew on the Thames every week during the summer months, which must have been a nice break from his winter landscapes. He was active in the Group from 1950 to 1972 and was President of “The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour” from 1964 to 1974.
Today we think of Rowland as a landscape painter, but in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s he was looked on as a superb draughtsman and his black and white graphics were second to none. This was where his reputation was initially made and also gave him a head start when it came to watercolour.
I have no idea whether he painted in oils but he certainly painted in acrylics and articles in “The Artist” reveals that he was at the forefront of that medium as soon as it hit the art world.
The articles he wrote for “The Artist” on watercolour were instructive and in depth and many were about a specific pigment - Lamp Black. This is in stark contrast to the lack of information on the accessories he used. There are photographs of him using a box easel outdoors and there are pictures of his studio palette but as for what were his preferred brushes, paper and other accessories I can find nothing.
He tells the story of John Singer Sargent and Monet who used to paint together. Sargent had occasion to borrow Monet’s palette and was amazed to find that black was absent. Monet explained that black doesn’t exist in nature and as a result had no place in his palette. Sargent couldn’t apprehend that someone could paint without using black.
The theory comes from the Impressionists and the idea mainly applies to those who work in oils, but as we know there are more watercolour artists who’s palettes are bereft of black as there are those with it.
Payne’s grey and Neutral Tint are all made today from a mixture of Lamp Black, Monastral (Winsor) Blue and Alazarin Crimson.
Hilder wrote that one can get a full range of neutral greys ranging from black to white using Lamp Black. You can then change the neutral grey tones by changing the hue and you have the formula for making any grey you require ( without resorting to the new Daniel Smith’s superfluous greys).
For a purple grey add a touch of Alazarin Crimson and for a brown grey add Burnt Sienna. A green grey is obtained by adding Cadmium Lemon Yellow. Other yellows mixed with lamp black at differing strengths can give a myriad of greens.
That, more or less, establishes that Hilder had Lamp Black on his palette - Ivory Black he considered too oily and difficult to control in large washes.
Pigments in his palette were:-
New Gamboge, Permanent Yellow, Cadmium Lemon, Raw Sienna, Yellow Orche, Alizarin Crimson, Rose Madder, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Permanent Mauve, Monastral Green,
Orange, Brown Madder, Vermillion, Cadmium Red, Indian Red, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Monastral Blue, Payne’s Grey, Neutral Tint and Lamp Black.
Rowland Hilder was and is considered to be the quintessential English landscape painter and I suggest even more so than J M W Turner.
Regarding books by Hilder John has this to say:.
"There are many books on the art of Rowland Hilder, most are biographies with little or nothing about Hilders watercolour methods. One book I can recommend is "Painting Landscapes in Watercolour". This book contains details of how he treats skies, his palette and several demonstrations together with a substantial gallery".
I have looked into this writes PGW after my own research, and what John has said on the subject. According to this Hilders first book, written in 1966, was Starting with Watercolour" and this was reprinted in 1989 by North Light Books in America. His next book was "Painting Landscapes in Watercolour " in 1983 , followed by "Successful Watercolour Painting" in 1986. As John states some of the other books attributed to him are in fact edited by Dennis Thomas such as "Sketching Country" in 1991. A check on both Abebooks and Amazon found that most are available on the used market and prices are pretty low. That surprises me a little given his reputation.
The above are more examples of his work. This concludes another excellent piece by John.
I was shocked to learn today that Charles Reid died last Saturday. Apart from the fact I did five workshops with him, four in England and one in Spain, we were also close in age, he was slightly older by not quite five months. I shall write an appreciation when I have had time to absorb this and gather my thoughts.
This month most of these are from high profile watercolour artists. I'm very envious of their talent and what they can produce. Some are amongst my favourite artists, although there are many more spread across the World who come on the same category. I hope you like them.
The Great Gerard Hendriks - just gets better and better!
Yuko Nagayama - this Japanese artists needs no introduction. This is rather different to her usual subjects - mainly flowers.
Bev Jozwiak - She has many subjects this is terrific love it.
From Stephie Butler an experimental painting using the new liquid charcoal and the similarly new Transparent Orange from Winsor & Newton . I think it great.
Vickie Nelson -another excellent American
Morten E Solberg Snr. A terrific exponent of wild life paintings
Catherine Rey - She loves clocks!
Alvaro Castagnet -The Workshop King does he ever rest! That red appears in many of his paintings.
Janine Gallizia - The Australian Artist long time in Europe but now going back home.
Charles Reid - My Guru
Myint Naing from Myanmar - Another of these fabulous Asian artists
Rae Andrews Gillian - I don't know this artists but like her style.