I use artist quality paints and archival paper, to ensure that I get the best result possible, and that the painting is able to last for generations.
I always recommend my students use good quality / artist quality materials. Cheap / inferior products can be frustrating and disapointing to use, and are often a false economy as you need to use more product to attempt to achieve a good result. You are much better off with a good quality tube of a red, yellow and blue, than a big set of poor quality paints.
My preferred brands are Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Maimeri Blu and Daler Rowney. Eventually you end up with favourite colours from various brands. Other professional quality brands that are readily available are Schminke, Sennelier, and QOR.
These modern pigments have excellent lightfastness, so when archival paper is used and the painting is properly framed and cared for, they will last as long as, or according to some; longer than, oils or acrylics.
Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients:
pigments, natural or synthetic, mineral or organic;
gum arabic as a binder to hold the pigment in suspension and fix the pigment to the painting surface;
additives like glycerin, ox gall, honey, preservatives: to alter the viscosity, durability or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and
solvent, the substance used to thin or dilute the paint for application which evaporates when the paint hardens or dries. Water is the solvent used for watercolour painting.
The pigment in paint, which provides the actual colour, is derived from a fascinating array of sources, from madder plant roots to cochineal insects to minerals mined from particular spots in secret locations.
Whilst living in London I attended Winsor and Newton workshops, hosted by the Soanes Museum, where we learnt about where pigments are sourced from, how they are extracted and treated, down to how they are colour matched to all the previous batches of colour. We were given the raw ingredients to make our own, which was fascinating.
Pigment properties are particularly important to watercolour artists, due to the different ways they react to the water and each other, and the very different effects the different pigment properties produce.
Properties such as the transparency, opacity, staining ability, granulation and flocculation are part of what makes watercolours so exciting to work with, and I will address these in a separate article.
The best art papers are designated archival, meaning they will last without significant deterioration for a century or more. Archival means that the papers are made entirely of high alpha cellulose or 100% cotton or linen fiber (that is, they are lignin free, as lignin causes darkening and embrittlement under light exposure), pH neutral (meaning there is no residual acidity left from the chemical processing of the pulp), buffered (a small quantity of an alkaline compound, usually calcium carbonate, is added to neutralize the effect of atmospheric acids), and free of any artificial paper brighteners or whiteners (e.g., ultraviolet dyes).
I use both Arches, and Saunders Waterford depending on the scene I am painting. There are a few other good quality brands available, and all have their different qualities. The way the papers are produced and sized changes the way the pigment works with them, and it is worth trying a selection so you can experience the differences and make your selection.
The main art supply stores in central Auckland are:
The French Art Shop, Morningside
Studio Art Supplies, Ponsonby
Gordon Harris, New Market
If you like shopping online, this is the site of a UK company with a great range of products.
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