Sunday 10 December 2017

Product Review: Lutea Watercolours

It was a wonderful surprise to receive an entire pack of the Lutea range (worth almost £300/EUR340/US$400) when I asked to review it, and honestly, they were a pleasure to review, and I've not been able to put them down! I was a little dubious at first - I'd actually bought 3 colours out of curiosity already, but I thought the palette of the whole range might be a little limiting - I actually found out that this is a REALLY versatile palette. Ok sure, there's no true warm red, warm yellow or warm blue, but the net effect of that is that all mixes are lovely and muted and soft and even though very few of the paints share any pigments, they're all "of a type" in hue and colour depth. I can see a lot of use for painting works at sunset or in subdued light, for example, which makes colours mute slightly, or for etherial dreamscapes and fantasy works. 

The Lutea watercolours are made by Anne-Sylvie Godeau in Belgium and they are available from Jackson's in the UK, who have international shipping at good prices. The palette is as follows - I talk in the accompanying video about how the paints are made and what plants they are from, so please consult it for more details. Whilst Lutea takes its name from the Latin feminine adjective lutea, meaning "the colour of saffron" (e.g. one could wear a stola lutea (saffron coloured women's gown) or calceus luteus (saffron coloured shoe) - the adjective changes gender to match what it describes), there is no saffron-derived paint - but you can make a similar hue with the Yellow and the Orange mixed together, of course ;)

Prices are for Jackson's and are for 9mL tubes - I've heard some people talk about these paints as "overpriced" but actually, if you look at the price per 5mL (standard watercolour size), you're looking at £9.50 to £12.78, which is well within the price ranges of Winsor and Newton Series 4 colours as well as Daniel Smith and Qor! Personally, for what they are and the effort required to produce them, and given that they use handmade pigments made in-house by a small company not a giant pigment house, I think the prices are actually really reasonable for a high-quality high-end paint.

Pink - Madder Lake (NR9 Madder Lake) [£19.50]
Red - Madder Lake (NR9 Madder Lake) [£17.10]
Carmine - Cochineal Lake (NR4 Cochineal) [£23.00]
Violet - Logwood Lake (NBk1 Logwood Lake) [£19.50]
Blue - Indigo (NB1 Indigo) [£21.50] [£23.00]
Grey - Strawberry Lake (N/A) [£23.00]
Brown - Walnut Lake (NBr7 Juglone) [£23.00]
Dark Green - Meadowsweet Lake (N/A) [£17.10]
Light Green - Meadowsweet Lake (N/A) + Indigo (NB1 Indigo) [£17.10]
Yellow - Goldenrod Lake (N/A) [£21.50]
Dark Orange - Thyme Lake (N/A) [£19.50]
Orange - Cosmos Lake (N/A) [£21.50]

The lightfastness ratings are all fairly good - relating to 50-100 years of normal display in most of the paints - I mentioned Violet was one of the lower ones in my video but some of the others are also a little low too. That said, for most painters, our work isn't going to be hung for 500 years so why worry? Quite honestly, it's a bit arrogant to assume you're so important that 100 vs 500 years really matters!

Lightfastness ratings of Lutea watercolours as determined by Green'ing International, Loire Les Marais, France. The Blue Wool Scale goes from 1 (poor) to 8 (excellent) but these paints were not tested for levels 7 and 8, hence those rated 6 I have listed here as "greater than or equal to 6" as further tests may show their lightfastness is even higher). I have also included the equivalent ratings on the ATSM Scale, which goes from I (Excellent) to V (Poor), along with how long such ratings correlate to normal display conditions - NOT based on direct summer sunlight, but normal display conditions
PaintBlue Wool ScaleATSMHow long should it last under normal display conditions?
≥ 6
50-100+ years
≥ 6
50-100+ years
≥ 6
50-100+ years
15-50 years
≥ 6
50-100+ years
15-50 years
15-100 years
Dark Green
15-100 years
Light Green
≥ 6
50-100+ years
≥ 6
50-100+ years
Dark Orange
15-100 years
≥ 6
50-100+ years

In this video I mention that these paints are particularly suited to a number of types of painter, and that I would spell out which colours are particularly useful for each group to just get started without needing to buy all the colours:

Landscape artists - Dark Green, Light Green, Blue, Brown, Grey, Yellow, Dark Orange
Seascape artists - Blue, Grey, Dark Orange, Light Green
Botanical artists - Red, Pink, Violet, Carmine, Light Green, Yellow
Portrait artists - Dark Orange, Brown, Grey, Yellow, Pink (and Zinc White Gouache - see below)

Products Used In This Video

In addition to the Lutea paints that I have linked above to purchase, the following other products are used in this video:

I have done a video about these brushes, I love them. I used the 1/2" flat and the 8 round in this video, which you can buy as a set.

Golden Acrylic Medium GAC-100
[£11.60 for 236mL bottle - I show the larger size in this video]
This is what I used to show that you can make acrylic glazes with these paints easily. It's a really useful medium for acrylic painting and one of a range that Golden produces.

This is what I used to show that these paints could be opacified with gouache - you can make awesome flesh tones with Zinc White gouache, Orange from this range and then use the Brown and Grey to add shading and shadow. I like the W&N Gouache a lot - it re-wets easily if you want to dry it down (add a drop of glycerine to each half pan so that it doesn't crack when dry) and it goes a very long way!

Colourworks BRUSHO - Black
[£4.26 for 15g jar]
I used this to add texture and interest to a wash - it's a powdered watercolour that is a lot of fun to use.

Winsor and Newton Gum Arabic 
[£5.60 for 75mL] 
This is really useful for making washes smoother and it makes the colours seem more vibrant. It's the vehicle used in most paint brands - some use Gum Senegal (aka Senegalese Gum Arabic or Kordofan Gum Arabic) instead, and Qor by Golden uses Aquazol, which I've explained previously. If you think about oil painting, adding extra linseed oil (the vehicle of oil paints) into your paints gives you longer drying times, more time to work the paint, a glossy finish and a more vibrant, transparent colour - Gum Arabic added to watercolours does exactly the same thing, and I found it worked beautifully with these watercolours by Jackson's - both the pans and the tubes.

Winsor and Newton Ox Gall  
[£5.60 for 75mL] 
I used Daler and Rowney's ox gall in the video but to be honest, I prefer the W&N one for both quality and price. Ox gall is a combination of bile salts from cattle bile obtained from abattoir waste - deoxycholate and so on - and they act as a surfactant to reduce the surface tension and promote better wetting of the pigment grains - just like soap would do when washing the dishes really. If you paint on some high-end papers such as Arches by Canson or Millford by St Cuthbert's Mill that have really very hard sizing, a touch of ox gall in your water can help to wet the paper without the water beading up - of all watercolour mediums, this and Gum Arabic (below) are the most useful. Ox gall is usually sold as a solution in a bottle which can be a bit inconvenient, but if you would prefer a solid ox gall that you can keep in your palette, you can also get that - I use it en plein air a lot and these Schmincke pans of it last AGES and smell of lavender, which is nice! 
Half-Pan Schmincke Onetz [£3.20]
Full-Pan Schmincke Onetz [£4.80]
If you would prefer a vegan alternative, there is one sold under the Qor brand by Golden [£9.60], which is particularly popular.

[£11.10 for 10" by 14" 12 sheet pad]
This is a great "every day" paper - it's chemical pulp (wood) so not too expensive and it's quite hard wearing - this is the paper I tell all beginners to move to as soon as they can and then once used to it, move on to a cotton paper - but even though I use a 100% cotton paper for actual works, I use Bockingford for day to day use, sketching, studies and warm-ups as well as en plein air work.

The Langton Prestige Cold Press 140lb 100% cotton paper
[£16.80 for 10" by 12" 12 sheet pad]
This is one of the more economical 100% cotton papers and it's good for beginners and every day use - I think it makes for a lovely sketchbook if you bind the paper sheets into a nice binding and give it as a gift or use it for all paintings around one theme. It's quite hard wearing but the sizing is not very hard so lifting isn't always easy - though it's hard-wearing enough to handle a scrubber brush.

Friday 8 December 2017

Christmas 2017 Gifts For Watercolourists

Buying for an artist isn't always easy, and with Christmas 2017 coming up and every shop in the market selling things at amazing discounts, I wanted to pull together some ideas for gifts for watercolour painters - most are items I have reviewed in the past 12 months but others are "old faithful" high quality products. Rather than day-to-day supplies like general paper blocks etc, I've focussed on things someone may not own or even consider so they can get a bit of a surprise with their gifts!

Jackson's Artist Watercolours - Set of 12 full pans
(£47.70 or EUR54.21 or US$63.78)
I've reviewed this set recently and absolutely love it. Normally priced at £53, it is current discounted. You can watch my review of it here.
[not suitable for vegans]

Daniel Smith PrimaTek Watercolours - Set of 6 tubes
(£31.50 or EUR34.66 or US$40.78)
This is a set of 6 paints formulated from finely ground natural minerals - Rhodonite, Amethyst, Jadeite, Piemontite, Hematite and Mayan Blue (a mix of copal, indigo and clay). They're a lot of fun and quite different to most watercolours as they have extreme granulation, for example. The set normally sells for £40.90. You can watch my review of the Primatek colours here.
[not suitable for vegans]

Golden Qor Watercolours - Introductory Set of 12 tubes
(£43.20 or EUR49.09 or US$57.76)
The Qor watercolours from Golden are unusual in that they use an artificial binder in lieu of gum arabic, and have very strong flow. They are particularly popular at the moment, and as well as open stock, a number of sets are available, of which this is probably the most useful as a gift. With an RRP of almost £59.96, this is an excellent price point! You can watch my review of the 24-set that contains all of the colours in this set here.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolours Set of 12 large pans
(£15.48 or EUR17.60 or US$20.69)
These Eastern watercolours (stickier and more opaque than Western ones - very good on rice paper and for sumi-e) are very popular with card makers and this set of 12 very large pans is a good way to try them out. With an RRP of £20.06.
[not suitable for vegans]

Lutea Extra Fine Watercolours - Individual 9mL Tubes
The Lutea brand are entirely made from flower pigments and are exceptionally beautiful and may be a nice, unusual gift for an experienced watercolourist. The colours that may make the best gifts are as follows as they would make a nice primary triad, plus an unusual deep violet as a bonus feature. All are rated 5-6 on the blue wool scale (1-8, 8 being best) for lightfastness, which is around 3 on the I-IV scale many manufacturers use.
Violet (Logwood, NBk3 and NBk4) £19.50 or EUR22.16 or US$26.06
Red (Madder, NR9) £17.10 or EUR19.45 or US$22.86
Blue (Indigo, NB1) £21.50 or EUR24.44 or US$28.74
Yellow (Goldenrod, N/A) £21.50 or EUR24.44 or US$28.74
[not suitable for vegans]

Schmincke Horadam - Set of 12 half pans
(£58.00 or EUR65.93 or US$77.52)
These are beautiful fine-quality paints from Germany and are amongst the best watercolours in the world. This little palette contains Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Carmine, Cadmium Red Light, Prussian Blue, Finest Ultramarine, Phthalo Green, Permanent Green Olive, Yellow Ochre, English Venetian Red, Sepia Brown and Ivory Black, along with a little travel brush and a swatch card. They have very high pigment loads and are actually good value - they have an RRP of £68.35. You can watch my review of this little palette here.
[not suitable for vegans]

Nevskaya Palitra White Nights - Set of 12 full pans
(£15.60 or EUR17.70 or US$20.80)
White Nights paints are of very fine quality and are perfect for beginners and experienced painters as they are artist-quality but very economical. They are comparable in flow, colour and fine quality to Schmincke in many ways but they are far more economical. This set of 12 full pans has an RRP of £25.95. You can watch my review of some White Nights colours here.
[not suitable for vegans]

Jackson's Kolinsky watercolour brushes - set of 3
(£15.50 or EUR17.68 or US$20.78)
Really best suited to the more advanced painter, or the novice who is wanting to move upwards. Kolinsky is the non plus ultra of natural fibre watercolour brushes, and this set from Jackson's is nicely presented in modern, classy packaging and comprises the following range of sizes which are particularly useful for those painting fine detail such as in botanical paintings:
Round Size 1
Round Size 5
Round Size 7
[not suitable for vegans]

Jackson's Icon sable-synthetic watercolour brushes - set of 3
(£16.50 or EUR18.82 or US$22.12)
Suitable for beginners or advanced painters alike. These brushes blend sable with a pored-synthetic that gives the brushes snap and strength so they're not as delicate/fragile as pure kolinsky or sable can be, so they are better suited to beginners who haven't quite got to grips with brushwork yet. This is a lovely versatile set, with a good sized quill (pointed mop) for washes and loose work, a round for precision and a lovely flat that is SO good for glazing! You can watch my review of this set here.
Round Size 8
Quill Size 2 (aka Pointed Wash)
Flat 1/2" 
[not suitable for vegans]

Jackson's Speciality badger/squirrel watercolour brushes - set of 3
(£16.80 or EUR19.17 or US$22.54)
These brushes might be nice for a very experienced painter as they're the kinds of morphologies that you can get away without but once you have them, they make such a difference! They are specifically designed for painting foliage and in landscape painting but they're also useful for seascapes and in abstract work. The fan and comb are both made from badger hair, which is very stiff and excellent for making tight little marks when used vertically. The dagger is made of squirrel hair, which will paint lovely long lines and hold a long of paint - it's a sign-writing brush sensu stricto, and it's super-useful for painting fences, blades of grass and anything you'd normally use a rigger for - this is even sharper:
Stippler Fan, Medium
Foliage Comb, 1/2"
Dagger, 3/8"
[not suitable for vegans]

Jackson's Raven watercolour quill (pointed mop) - VEGAN FRIENDLY!
(£17.20 or EUR19.58 or US$23.01)
This is a totally vegan brush - the fibre is a synthetic designed to mimic squirrel hair so it will hold a lot of water - it's also a WHOPPING brush at 1.6cm in diameter, and, being a quill (pointed mop), there is no glue, oh, and the 'quill' is plastic. It's a lovely huge brush and would help loosening up and painting in a more expressive style, and is suitable for all levels of painter.
It comes in many sizes, but I'm recommending as a gift:
Quill, Size 6

Saunders Waterford Cold Press 7.5" by 11.0" 25 sheet spiral pad of 140lb
(£17.40 or EUR19.80 or US$23.28)
Saunders Waterford is a beautiful 100% cotton paper that the Royal Watercolour Society has approved. It is internally sized with gelatine and surface sized, so your colours will look vibrant and washes will stay wet for longer. It's a robust paper that you can scrub on with lifting brushes without causing any damage. I've reviewed this paper previously and shown what it's capable of and I recommend this as my personal favourite paper. I personally use the Rough finish in the 300lb weight, but I think the Cold Press finish is better for most artists as Rough isn't for everyone, so that's what I've picked out in this useful spiral bound book that could be used as a journal or for working on paintings all on one specific theme. Perfect for advanced painters as well as novices that have already moved onto cotton papers - I'd not suggest this for someone not yet used to cotton in the context of being a good gift.