Commenting on a previous post about “Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered,” Mandy asked what supplies would be useful for beginning to paint with watercolor.
First, let me preface this post with a very important point: ART HAS TO BE FUN. If you are going into art – in any media – with a sense of duty or obligation or if you think you can do something better than someone else to prove your talents, forget it! It will become a chore and a yoke around your neck. Creativity can’t happen under this heavy burden. While art is a lot of things, the one thing that touches people most when they view art is sensing a joy or passion from the creation.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get down to practicalities.
You need some basic supplies:
1. Watercolor paper (often called a “support”). I’ve written extensively about what to use in some previous posts here and here.
2. Watercolor brushes, which I’ve also written about previously in this post.
3. Lastly, you need watercolor paints.
Since I haven’t written much about the watercolor paints I use, this post will cover paints.
Paints – What brands?
You can use whatever brands you like, but I recommend you don’t start with student grade paints.
When I began painting watercolors in earnest, I gravitated toward the tried and true standards of Winsor & Newton. Winsor & Newton is based in England and has been making pigments since 1832. They now provide watercolor, gouache, oils, and acrylics. They are great paints, most of them tested for lightfastness and reliability in performance. They also provide a brochure that shows each shade they offer, its properties (transparent, opaque, granulating, etc.) , lightfastness, toxicity, etc. Any reputable art supply store will carry this brand, as well as the mega art supply store online: www.dickblick.com. I get most of my supplies from Dick Blick as it often happens that the paints I get from my local store are not fresh. Dick Blick has a fast turnover of paints so they’re always of good quality.
Please note, however, that Winsor & Newton produces two grades: Cotman and Artist’s. Cotman is the student version; Artist’s grade is what you should use, whether you are a student or a professional. I know, the Artist’s grade is pricey! But in the long run, you’ll be so much happier with results if you pay a little more now. Besides, you don’t need a huge palette of colors to begin with. You can start out with a basic dozen and then add more as you have money to spend.
Note: W &N carries at least 2 sizes of paint tubes (5 ml and 14 ml) , so you can buy small tubes to begin with, which will be more manageable financially. Unless you are painting very large works, these small tubes will last a long time.
Other brands I use are Holbein, which is made in Japan. I find this brand very consistent. Sometimes I find shades that are more intense and slightly different than Winsor & Newton, so I add a tube to my box now and then.
The only other brand I’ve tried is a relatively new one (since 1976) : Daniel Smith, based in Seattle, Washington. Not all the colors are lightfast. You have to study them online (www.danielsmith.com) or request a catalog and read carefully. But I love their quinacridone series for unique shades and intense colors! I have about a dozen of their tubes.
The key here is experimentation. You may find you like a range of colors produced by one brand and another range that suits you in another brand.
What colors to start with and how many?
If you are seriously penny-pinching, you can start with just 6 colors that contain the basics. These are the colors I began with (all Winsor & Newton), which you can pick and choose from. I’ve included a sample, but each computer monitor will translate them differently, so nothing will be entirely true – just to give you an orientation :
In the next post, I’ll talk about some interesting characteristics of certain paints and how to start using them. Don’t worry, it’s a lot of fun and can be quite exciting!