Thursday, April 01, 2010
Back from Blighty
I was in London again this week. As usual it was a mad rush trying to do everything in too few days. Well, it was a mad rush once we got there - we had a 6 hour wait at Geneva airport and EasyJet were still having problems when we returned. I thought I might have had to forgo the usual visit to Green & Stone, but I just managed to scrape one in on the last morning before heading for the airport.
A few days before we went, I discovered a Billy Showell DVD on my shelf that I'd forgotten all about called Watercolour Fruit & Vegetable Portraits. I'm always saying I should practice more with watercolours and I do get a book out once in a while and give them a go. It never really comes to anything and I give up again, depressed. But looking at the DVD and seeing the brush, water and paint in action, I was inspired. Out came the paints again but still I'm struggling, with the paper mainly. So I decided to order brushes (and another DVD!) off Billy Showell's website and see if I can find some paper I like. The only paper that has come close was in a pad made by Green & Stone with Fabriano Artistico paper (140lb HP) but they are no longer being made. So with some advice from a very helpful assistant there, I came away with two papers to try - the two large watercolour sketchbooks on the right in the photo. One has the Fabriano Artistico paper but feels slightly rougher than the original Green & Stone version, and the second (with the black cover) is an RKB Fat Pad with Saunders Waterford HP paper. Well, stone the crows, I think I may have found a paper I like! This is really lovely paper. Not too smooth like Arches HP satine, but with just the right amount of texture. It doesn't absorb too quickly and the colours still look vibrant when they've dried.
The brushes too are great. I've been trying all sorts of brushes, including 'miniature' brushes, trying to get some sort of control. These have such a fine point and a good shape for holding water, that I feel I have more control than I did with the smaller brushes.
Also in the photo, top left, is a paper I tried last week - Minerva made by L'Atelier du Papier. It felt right but I noticed colours didn't look so bright and they also looked rough and grainy when dried, compared to another (a Bockingford) that I tried at the same time. I know finding the right tools for watercolour is a lengthy process of trial and error and I'm probably less patient because I didn't have too much problem with drawing - I settled on cartridge paper very early on and have always been happy with it. Watercolour is a whole other ball game but I do think, with this combination of brush and paper, I've taken one little step forward, at long last!
The small sketchbook, middle right, is a lovely little Green & Stone 'travel' sketchbook bought on impulse. It has a lovely old fashioned feel about it, with it's cloth cover and pencil holder. It also has a press stud to keep it closed. I think Winsor & Newton's travel journals would be just perfect if they didn't have those buttons and string. Very pretty, but not practical. I like the slight yellow tinge to the paper too, as if to emphasise it's old fashioned look. Only problem is, on the plane home, when I could have drawn something, I didn't want to ruin it! I wonder what these companies make of their customers - if the product doesn't suit us, we complain, but if it's perfect, we're too afraid to use it!