While watching Steve Fleming’s Paint Alexandria demo, I noticed his brush, which looked like an oriental brush, and the lines he was getting out of it. It was a Silver Brush company “Black Velvet.” (http://www.dickblick.com/zz061/96a/) I ended up ordering a few (best price I found was at Dick Blick). They are a Synthetic-squirrel combination, hold a lot of water, and shake out to a very fine point, so they are quite versatile. While not a true oriental, I used them to paint some respectable bamboo (those of you who do Oriental brush painting will get the picture here.), although I did that with watercolor, not ink.
The Lunchtime Sketch
I now carry a watercolor kit to work, and nearly every day do a sketch at lunchtime. I have the good fortune to work near a botanical preserve, so there is no lack of subject matter—creeks, ponds, waterfalls, wild flowers, tons of trees, chipmunks, deer, lots of birds, and the ubiquitous squirrel. Not that any of the fauna stick around long enough for me to draw, never mind paint, aside from the Canada geese. Some days are better than others, but progress is definite and most of what I learn in the process is applicable to oil painting. The sketch book is also a diary of sorts and a pleasure to leaf through. This is a great habit to get into.
My kit is a small backpack (LL Bean junior backpack) with:
2. A Richeson tri-fold palette (9-1/2x 12”) (http://www.utrechtart.com/dsp_view_product.cfm?classId=1214&subclassID=121411&brandname=&item=51720). I got this from Utrecht’s, it has 18 DEEP wells and an interior lid that folds over the wells (I place a long, narrow plastic bag—like the ones some stores will put the brushes you purchase in—with a piece of folded paper towel inside the bag for padding to help seal the wells for transport when paint is wet). The palette has room for 6 or 7 w/c brushes and good mixing area. I have seen folding w/c palettes with a well seal on cheap joes and jerry’s artorama websites (http://www.jerrysartarama.com/art-supply/catalogs/0072048000000).
3. A tri brush washer (about 3x3-1/2x1) when nested (http://www.cheapjoes.com/art-supply/H1024T_9638_tri-brush-washer.asp or http://www.pochade.com/ProductCatalog.asp?Ptype=42). This is a nifty little do-hickey, with three containers that nest for storage. It has a handle, and is quite stable when the three containers are hooked together. I got mine at Utrecht’s, but they didn’t have them last time I was there. I carry water in a small springwater bottle and pour it into the container when ready to paint.
4. An old chloraseptic spray bottle, with water and a little gum Arabic. The bottle is small and cylindrical, so relatively compact.
5. Brushes: 2 flat wash brushes, a liner, and an assortment of rounds.
6. Other stuff: Bug spray; Plastic trash bag to sit on; Piece of white candle; Pieces of blue paper shop rags; Pencil and waterproof micron pen; Eraser; Viewfinder.
Ross Merrill’s Watercolor Tips
For watercolorists who have not attended Ross Merrill’s workshops, here are a few tips from him.
1. Coating the paper with a solution of 1 package of Knox gelatin to three cups of water (boiling—let cool before using) makes lifting color off the page easier. I did the pages in my w/c sketchbooks (which are Strathmore Aquarius II, a synthetic rag, which I do not love). I coat each page and turn a hair dryer on it until the shine is gone before doing the next page. The next day I do the reverse side of the pages. (I save the gelatin in a jar in the fridge.)
2. Using a candle or piece of paraffin to hold out whites, or sections of a washed area, works well. Caveats: once it’s there, it’s there; it’s hard to see where you have put the wax. Making broad strokes using the side of the candle is a great way to preserve sparkles on water.
3. Gum Arabic. I am now a big fan of gum Arabic. It does three things, makes color easier to lift, keeps pigment from blooming (this can be counteracted with ox gall), and intensifies color. I put a bit in my spray bottle and use that to wet my paint. It does tend to make the paint a bit soupy—some pigments more than others (namely new gamboge and perinone orange)—and longer to dry, so take that into consideration when packing up your paint.