Introducing: QoR Light Dimensional Ground

A white, lightweight paste that spreads like frosting, Light Dimensional Ground by QoR can be applied smooth and thinly, or built up to create ridges, peaks and other interesting textures. The extremely absorbent surface of Light Dimensional Ground allows washes to spread quickly, while accommodating fine lines and detail as well. Try dropping color into lightly wet areas to create beautiful blooms. And during the month of March, QoR Modern Watercolors, Mediums, and Grounds are on sale at 40% off!!! If you haven’t experienced it yet, now is a good time to try QoR Light Dimensional Ground!

How To: QoR Masking Fluid

QoR offers a latex-based Masking Fluid to complement their range of modern watercolors and mediums. Masking Fluid is ideal for hard-edges and highlights with watercolor compositions. Have you tried using masking fluid when working with watercolors? If you haven’t yet, now is the time to try! QoR Masking Fluid and all QoR Mediums and Grounds are on sale for 40% off through March 31st!

A Handful of Our Favorite Pencils

Ever wonder why standard pencils are yellow? During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a way to tell people that their pencils contained high quality Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils yellow to communicate this “regal” feeling and association with China. Today, a majority of basic hexagonal graphite writing pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow and what was once perceived as “regal” has now become “common”. Here are a few of our favorite pencils, none of which can rightly be called “common”.

PRIMO Euro Blend Charcoal Pencils by General Pencil

The General Pencil Co. have been manufacturing writing instruments in the USA since 1889, and we happily carry some of their pencils. Their PRIMO Euro Blend Charcoal Pencil is a smooth charcoal pencil made of an exclusive, rich, black, euro blend formula. Less dusty than other charcoal pencils, and available in three degrees: 3B, B and HB, as well as in White and the Elite Grande. Did you see the General Pencil Co. factory in Jersey City featured in the New York Times Magazine? It’s a good read.

MONO Drawing Pencils by Tombow

MONO Drawing Pencils by Tombow are drawing pencils that offer superior extra-refined, high density graphite. Smear proof lines help produce crisp, clean drawings with the added value of slow wear for smooth, dense writing.

Grafwood Graphite Drawing Pencils by Caran d’Ache

New to the store, Grafwood Graphite Drawing Pencils by Caran d’Ache! Yeah we’re not wild about the name Grafwood either, but it probably sounds better in the original Swiss. Designed for specialists, these extra-fine, hexagonal graphite pencils include a range of blacks from hardest (lightest) to softest (darkest). These are the pencils with the most complete range of graphite leads, the diameter ranges from 2.1 – 3.6mm depending on the degree. Each pencil is made using Premium FSC® certified cedar wood and is varnished in a color that precisely depicts the hardness and depth of the black. Developed and manufactured in Switzerland. Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal.

My absolute favorite pencils to write with are the Blackwing Volumes Pencils. Volumes is a quarterly, limited edition program featuring new, never before seen Blackwing pencil designs inspired by cultural icons and events. I usually get a box of the editions featuring extra-hard graphite, so I currently write with Vol. 530, which pays tribute to the California Gold Rush and eureka moments of the creative process with a gold-colored semi-hexagonal barrel, gold ferrule, and black eraser.

The Blackwing Vol. 530 is a tribute to Sutter’s Mill, California Historical Site No. 530, where gold was first discovered. The Blackwing 530 celebrates eureka moments of the creative process.

When I run out of those, I have boxes of Vol. 162 (white barrel/black ferrule; mathematician/writer Ada Lovelace), Vol. 54 (rose barrel/teal imprint/silver ferrule/blue eraser; Surrealist Art), and Vol. 205 (6 white and 6 green jade barrel/gold ferrule/gold imprint/black eraser; The Silk Road). And I use the Blackwing Point Guard to make sure I conserve the point and lead, bc I’m obsessed like that.

The Blackwing 16.2 is a tribute to mathematician, writer and visionary Ada Lovelace.
The Blackwing Volume 54 pays tribute to surrealism. The number 54 is a nod to 54 rue due Chateau in Paris, the birthplace of Exquisite Corpse.
Each Blackwing 205 set contains six green jade pencils and six white jade pencils. The number 205 references the molecular weight of jadeite, the most sought after form of jade. 

Currently, we only have Vol. 33 1/3 in stock, which is a tribute to vinyl records. It features a matte black finish and matte black ferrule to go with its black imprint and black eraser. The gloss black foil banding near the grip was inspired by the grooves on a record.

Blackwing Vol. 33 1/3

What’s your favorite pencil?

Introducing QoR Watercolor Ground

Watercolor Ground by QoR is a fluid acrylic primer that creates a porous surface similar to hot press paper on many different materials, including canvas and panel. You don’t have to limit your watermedia-based art to only paper, you have options. Watercolor Ground dries to an absorbent, lightfast, and flexible surface that withstands repeated lifting and scrubbing. Suitable for a full range of watercolor techniques, including wash and staining effects, Watercolor Ground can also be used to return stained areas to an absorbent white surface. During the month of March, QoR Modern Watercolors, Mediums, and Grounds are on sale for 40% off !!!

How-To: Neocolor II Water-soluble Wax Pastels

This video covers various basic techniques with NEOCOLOR® II Water-soluble Wax Pastel by Caran d’Ache: drawing, graded applications, washes, watercolour effects and techniques. Soft, velvety texture, ultra-high pigment concentration, luminous colours, excellent light resistance, and superior covering power – these are more than just crayons. The NEOCOLOR II Water-soluble Wax Pastels have the widest color range on the market – perfect for dry or wet drawings, water color effects, washes and sgraffito. On sale for 20% off through March 31st!!!

Artist Michele Usibelli and M. Graham Artists’ Gouache

Michele Usibelli and M. Graham Gouache Paint

Check out this video of artist Michele Usibelli using M. Graham Artists’ Gouache Paint for her studio and plein air work. M. Graham Gouache is made in the time-honored tradition of binding pigment with pure honey and gum arabic, just as it was for Dürer and Boucher. The base of Northwest blackberry honey protects the color’s brilliance and offers direct, smooth application.

If you’ve wanted to try M. Graham Gouache, or need to stock up, you’re in luck! M. Graham Artists’ Gouache is on sale for 40% off!! Buy any 3 colors, get 1 FREE tube of Quinacridone Red, Rose, or Violet!! Sale ends March 31st but the FREE tubes are while supplies last, so don’t miss out!

Win A Trip to Holland and “The Rembrandt Experience”

Rembrandt Zelfportrait Apostel

2019 is the year of Rembrandt! To recognize the spirit of Rembrandt in all of us, Royal Talens, manufacturer of Amsterdam Acrylics, Amsterdam Acrylic Inks, and Rembrandt Artists Pastels presents a competition for artists around the world!

How To Enter

Take a high quality photo of your artwork

Share on Instagram or Facebook and use the hashtag: #RembrandtArtExperience add a hashtag with your home country and add @RoyalTalens. (Example: #USA@RoyalTalens)

Describe how Rembrandt influenced your work and maybe you win the prize!

What’s “The Rembrandt Experience”?

  • A trip for two to Holland where you visit Royal Talens for a tour and see where Rembrandt products are produced. Enjoy an in-depth Rembrandt Masterclass covering all Rembrandt products and techniques
  • The next day you will float the canals on a boat tour of Amsterdam. Explore the Rembrandt house to see where Rembrandt lived an worked. Be spoiled with a guided tour through the Rijksmuseum where you’ll see the largest collection of Rembrandt’s work on display.
  • The winning art works will be displayed in the Rijksmuseum Library during a dinner honoring the winners held in the museum. 

Enter the contest now! The last day to submit artwork into consideration will be October 4, 2019. Nominees will be announced October 21, 2019. Nominees send in their artwork before November 18, 2019. Winners will be announced December 16, 2019. Rembrandt Experience trip dates are April 23-26, 2020.

How-To Video: Getting Started with Water-Soluble Colored Pencils

Strathmore’s Artist Educator Sarah Becktel shares her tips for using watercolor pencils.

Check out this video where Strathmore’s Artist Educator Sarah Becktel shares her tips for using watercolor pencils. This video has become the top video on Strathmore’s YouTube Channel because of Sarah’s straightforward method of teaching both classic and unique ways to get the most from watercolor pencils.

Raw Materials carries a carefully-curated selection of water-soluble or watercolor pencils, but below are three we love, including the artist-grade watercolor pencil that Sarah uses in the video, Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils.

Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils by Caran d’Ache

Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils by Caran d’Ache

Superior-quality water-soluble color pencils for the most exacting requirements by artists, illustrators, and graphic artists. Perfect for mixed media applications, and can be used with Pablo permanent colored pencils, watercolor, gouache, and Neocolor pastels. Available in 120 colors, the soft water-soluble lead is 3.7mm, with a high breaking-strength. Encased in premium-quality, FSC-certified cedar, the colors are bright and have excellent lightfastness. Throughout the month of March, all Supracolor Soft Aquarelle Pencils and Pencil Sets are on sale for 20% off!

Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell

The fully water-soluble lead of the Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils have vibrant colors, optimum opacity and good lightfastness. High-quality materials and innovative production technology provide high tip-breakage resistance with SV bonding along the 3.3mm lead. Using a wet paintbrush drawings can be transformed into stunning watercolor paintings. Dry drawing techniques of colored pencils can also be used with these watercolor pencils. These hexagonal pencils are easily sharpened with all common sharpeners.

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell

Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils by Faber-Castell contain the highest quality pigments for unsurpassed lightfastness. They feature a buttery smooth color laydown and are easily blended and layered without waxy build up. The thick 3.8mm break-resistant and fully water-soluble leads can be easily blended when wet for rich watercolor effects and become permanent when dry. The lead is housed in premium California cedar wood casing with SV bonding to strengthen lead and resist breakage, while providing sharp fine lines and excellent point retention. Available by Special Order.

What makes QoR Watercolors different?

Check out this video which explains just what makes QoR Modern Watercolors different from other watercolors. SPOILER: It’s Aquazol®. You’ll want to check out the video anyways because the colors are so pretty. In any case, the patented Aquazol® formula is excellent for all your traditional watercolor needs but offers even greater capabilities than ordinary (traditional) watercolors made with Gum Arabic. Explore the range of vibrant colors and unique qualities of the only modern watercolor, QoR. Also, all QoR Watercolor, Mediums, and Grounds are on sale for 40% off!!! Sale ends March 31st, so don’t miss out!

Introducing Joanna Barnum, Watercolor Artist

We are delighted to introduce DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Artist, Joanna Barnum! Joanna will take us step-by-step through her process for making a watercolor portrait.

For this portrait painting, “Fae”, I started with a photo of my friend Amy, a dancer and professional fairy, who did an impromptu photo shoot with me at a festival. I liked her wistful expression and fanciful costuming as the main inspiration for the painting. This piece is an example of my typical portrait painting process in watercolor.

Reference Photo

I like to work with photo reference as the jumping off point for my portraits because of how a photo can capture fleeting expressions and movements, as well as the memories of a particular time and place. Although I also enjoy painting the model from life, and this practice informs all of my other drawing and painting, a live model is more limited in what can be sustained for several hours. Sometimes I hire specific models I want to shoot photos of (or press friends and family members into service), other times I’ll bring my camera to events to capture more organic moments. I particularly love working with dancers, actors, and all kinds of performers, since they’re very at ease in front of a camera. I might have a particular concept in mind when I start shooting reference, or I might just file the photos away and see what they inspire for me later on.

I look for expressions, gestures, and light that inspire me in photos, but I don’t worry about keeping the original composition of the photo, or painting everything exactly as shown in the photograph.

In this case, I first crop from a larger full body photograph, and then move the portrait 2/3 to the right of a horizontal composition so that we can follow the subject’s gaze through the composition. I plan to eliminate the extraneous background information, and handle the environment in an expressive way. I also plan to paint the overall colors a bit warmer than what my camera captured, since the photo has a slight cool caste to it.

Preliminary Drawing

I like to work on 300lb cold press or rough paper. I don’t stretch my paper, but I might clip it to a board to make manipulating the piece easier as I work. I’ll start with a fairly well defined preliminary drawing, which allows me to be looser and more relaxed with the painting process- I know that I already have my likeness nailed down. To avoid overworking the paper before I begin painting, I will transfer the basic lines for the image from either a separate preliminary drawing or a draft copy of my photograph, and then I will refine and develop the drawing using an HB (#2) mechanical pencil. I try to avoid excessive erasing.

Step 1 – Expressive background.

Since I want a loose, expressive background for this piece, I begin there. I work mostly wet on wet, painting a soft interpretation of the natural environment in the photo, leaving out extraneous elements. I also add a big swath of pink radiating out from the flower, to create sort of a magical feeling. I allow some of the background to merge into the shadow side of the figure. I also sprinkle some salt in areas of the background while it’s semi-wet to create small salt blooms as an additional atmospheric element. When I’m working a large area like a background, I try to use the largest brush I can, only switching to smaller brushes for more control when I need to.

Step 2 – Cool underpainting.

My basic process for painting a portrait in watercolor starts with a cool colored underpainting. This is a personal quirk I developed through trial and error when I painted lots and lots of (too cheap) portrait commissions right out of art school. Painting believable flesh requires using not just warm colors, but including some cools- and I found that painting some of the cools first helped to set them “under” the surface of the skin, and helped me get a good sense of the overall value structure of the painting right from the get-go.

It’s vital to note that this is NOT a full-value underpainting like one might do an umber “grisaille” in oil painting. Since everything put down on the page in a watercolor will remain visible through subsequent transparent layers, going overboard with this initial cool layer would be completely overwhelming. I just focus on the cool shadows I see. Large sections of the portrait remain unpainted at this stage.

Cerulean Blue, Chromium is the color I used most often for this stage. It has a slight warmth to it, and even at full strength, is not too deep in value. However, I will sometimes integrate greens, other blues, and purples at this stage, depending on the complexion of the subject or the lighting of the scene. On a subject with dark skin, the cool underpainting might shift to using more ultramarine blue and purples.

During this stage, I also make sure to put the white of the eyes and any visible teeth mostly in subtle cool shadow. Aside from any bright highlights on these areas, they are never fully the white of the paper. I also usually carry the cool shadows into other areas, like clothing, for consistency.

Overall, I tend to think in shapes of value and color, leaving fairly hard edges to my shapes. I might soften the edge of a transition within a face with just a little bit of clear water or with a dry brush texture, but “smoothness” is not something I concern myself with- I don’t think of it as a fundamental characteristic of watercolor. The major relationships are more fundamental in creating the illusion of realism. And any blooms or organic textures that arise in the course of painting are embraced and appreciated.

Watercolor bloom detail.
Step 3 – Lightest warm fleshtones.

Once the previous layer is fully dry (I use a hair dryer if I’m impatient), I look at my photograph and identify both the pure white highlights on the flesh, and the lightest light warm flesh tones. I put down a large wash on all of the flesh areas, except for the white highlights, in this light flesh color. It goes right over the cool underpainting. Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Scarlet, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and Quinacridone Rose are the colors I usually choose from when mixing this color. There is no one exact formula- it depends on what I observe. In this case, the lightest light areas in the subjects face seem to shift more yellowish, so I used mostly Indian Yellow and Pyrrol Scarlet, well diluted. While this wash was wet, I drop in a little bit of Pyrrol Scarlet under the subject’s chin where there is a particularly warm sunny glow.

Step 4 – Mid-tone warm fleshtones.

Once again, I allow the previous layer to dry fully. Now I am layering my mid-tone warm flesh color on top of the lightest lights, leaving some of those previous light areas unpainted. Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Scarlet, Permanent Alizarin crimson, and Quinacridone Rose are again usually the colors I choose from for the mid-tones, although for a dark skinned subject, I may also introduce Burnt Sienna at this stage. The mid-tones on the subject look more pinkish to me, so I use cooler reds in the mix. There will also be variety from one area to the next in this layer. It’s important not to be too hesitant when painting the warm mid-tones. At this stage of the painting they will be the darkest thing on the face, which can lead to a tendency to want to paint them too light. Better to be a little more aggressive now, rather than realizing at the end of the painting that all of the mid-tones are too washed out.

Step 5 – Blocking in all the other areas.

Before I move on to adding more detail to the face, I make sure that all other areas of the painting are blocked in with an appropriate light color. I try to work a painting as a whole so that I can understand the overall relationships, rather than totally finishing one area while another is still totally unpainted.

At this stage I may switch to using mostly smaller brushes, as the areas I’m handling are getting smaller. I build up details and darker areas as needed to complete the painting. Colors here could be anything. As I darken some shadows on the flesh, I may return to using some cool colors. Small shadows that define the features can be warm darks or cool darks. I mix neutrals and darks using a variety of complementary color pairs.

Eye detail.

It’s important that the lights and darks in the finished painting feel well balanced and create a pleasing movement around the page. Sometimes there is a tendency for beginners to make the nostrils and the pupils of the eyes the only dark areas on a face, which looks odd. And when it comes to details like the texture of hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, it’s important to observe carefully and not default to a cartoon idea of what these things look like. Think about bigger shapes first, with individual hairs being just an enhancement in certain places.

“Fae” by Joanna Barnum, 12″ x 16″, 2019

Tips for painting portraits in watercolor:

Use the largest brush comfortable for an area, and switch to a small one for more control or detail only when you really need to. Don’t get caught up in trying to cover a lot of area with a tiny brush.

Think of breaking down the major value changes in the face like creating a stencil. Big shapes and accurate values are more important than smoothly blending one value into the next. A preoccupation with blending and smoothness can lead to an overworked painting, or a face that lacks structure.

Embrace the fundamental character of watercolor. Allow it to be alive and do what it wants to do, to some degree. Accept blooms, tide lines, and other organic textures that arise naturally during the painting process as a beautiful, natural part of the process rather than fighting them or trying to “correct” them. An organic “accident” is more beautiful than overworking an area trying to force it to behave in certain way.

Don’t isolate features – don’t think of a “nose” or “lips” as separate objects that need to be worked separately from the rest of the face. Work in big connected shapes.

If realistic full-color flesh tones are the goal (as opposed to an intentionally limited palette- which can also be great) it’s important to have both a warm and a cool red.

All flesh contains cool tones as well as warm tones.

Materials:

DANIEL SMITH Watercolors – I love how pigment rich DANIEL SMITH Watercolors are, enabling me to achieve intense color saturation easily; and and how readily they re-wet back to full strength even when left to dry on a palette – just like new with no scrubbing or rubbing! The wide selection of colors offered, including those with unique properties not available elsewhere, means each artist can choose precisely the palette that works best for them, and find exactly what is called for in any circumstance.

  • Quinacridone Rose
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • Pyrrol Scarlet
  • Indian Yellow
  • Sap Green
  • Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cerulean Blue Chromium
  • Ultramarine Violet
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Payne’s Gray

Brushes

  • #1 round – Synthetic white sable
  • #4 round – Synthetic white sable 
  • #10 flat – Synthetic white sable 
  • 3/4” flat – Synthetic white sable 
  • 2” flat – Synthetic white sable 
  • #16 round – Faux squirrel

Palette – For small pieces and travel, I use a plastic one with individual wells for color and large divisions for mixing. For large paintings, I use a variety of enamel butcher trays and individual ceramic dishes.

About the Artist:

Photo of artist Joanna Barnum

Joanna Barnum uses watercolor to express universal emotional states and the unique spirits of her portrait subjects, balancing experimental, abstract use of the media with sensitive realism and symbolism.

She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006, and has since made her living as an artist across the realms of fine art, illustration, and teaching. 

She is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society and serves on the boards of the Baltimore Watercolor Society and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters’ Association. Joanna’s work has been recognized by American Illustration, Illustration West, the “Splash: The Best in Watercolor” series from North Light Books, Infected by Art, and at juried watercolor society exhibitions and plein air painting competitions around the country. 

She has worked with clients and collaborators including Renegade Game Studios for the game Overlight, NASA, AARP, Cricket, Faerie Magazine, Eating Well, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Her work has recently appeared on Every Day Original online, at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO, and at Rehs Contemporary Galleries in New York, NY. Joanna also teaches her approach to watercolor as a guest workshop instructor for watercolor societies and institutions.

Joanna currently lives in Harford County, Maryland with her husband and their greyhound (and studio manager) Zephyr.