Friday, January 1, 2010
Starting off the new year as a materials geek...
I finally had a chance to test the Stephen Quiller watercolors I'd received a few months ago. The primary claim of this line is that the pigments are balanced to give perfect neutrals when complements are combined (and each tube is labelled to identify its complement). Taking into account that it's difficult to mix exactly perfect proportions, my impression is that they perform as advertised. However, I found them a bit gummy to brush out -- perhaps due to the use of honey as one of the ingredients.
As a comparison, I mixed neutrals using the same Winsor Newton pigments, with one exception -- I don't have cadmium yellow on my palette so I substituted Winsor yellow, knowing that it was not likely to give a clean neutral. Although my camera distorts the color just a bit, I think you can see that the Winsor Newton neutrals are comparable to those mixed with Quiller paints. The W-N mix of ultramarine violet and Winsor yellow is muddy, as I suspected it would be. That's because Winsor yellow is a staining pigment and is not compatible with the granular ultramarine violet whereas the cadmium yellow, another non-staining pigment, mixes well with that violet.
In sum, I'm happy with the W-N colors I have on my palette -- I know which pigments can be successfully mixed and I have a wide range of pigments for that reason -- and I prefer their consistency.
I've also been trying out some new masking fluid -- Masquepen -- using the Supernib Plus for the little blue dots you see on this early-stage painting. The beauty of the superfine nib is that you can make very consistent-size dots -- these are about 2mm in diameter. It really is important to clean the nib frequently however, because it's so fine that it can clog up in a very short time. I keep a bucket of soapy water on the table and rinse the nib every few minutes, blowing the soapy water through the tip and running a fine wire through it to make sure it's completely clear. The other areas on the painting have been masked with either Incredible White Mask or Winsor Newton Colorless Masking Fluid applied with a Cheap Joes Uggly Brush -- the masking shows up as slightly darker and a bit shiny where the light hits it. I dip the brush in liquid dish soap and then rinse it slightly and wipe it before dipping into the masking fluid. I also rinse the brush regularly and repeat the soap step before applying more masking.