Handmade Watercolour Brands

Most of the watercolours in my collection are from established brands such as Schmincke and Sennelier.  However, there is another option for purchasing watercolour paints.   Independent watercolour makers are a growing industry.

Buying watercolours from handmade paint makers is one way to try out unusual pigments.  Indie paint makers buy powdered pigments from sources such as Kremer Pigments, or collect their own natural pigments.  Handmade brands sometimes offer pigments that are not available in larger brands.

Buying from an indie paint maker is kind of like buying usable art.  The personality of each paintmaker shows through their packaging, colour selection, marketing, etc.  Many handmade brands also have curated paint collections with a consistent “look” or personality to their paints.

Handmade watercolour paints are not a budget option – the high manual labour cost of making watercolour in small batches means that indie paint brands tend to be more expensive than commercial brands.  (Some) indie paint brands can also be frustrating, as indie paint makers may use creative names for common pigments, advertise fugitive paints as lightfast, and do not publish pigment information.

My favourite handmade watercolour brands

Here are a few handmade watercolour brands I love.  I have had amazing experiences with these brands:

Pruche

Made by the lovely Eve Bolt in Montreal, Canada, this brand was my introduction to handmade paints.  Eve made a great series about her paintmaking experiments when she first started mulling paints.  Pruche offers a small but solid range of earth colours and bright synthetic pigments including common favourites and a few uncommon (and uncommonly beautiful) earth colours.

Pruche paints have clear and concise pigment documentation in the listings, on the packaging, and directly on the pans, which I strongly appreciate. Pruche paints have a pleasant, even consistency, strong pigment load, rewet readily and are neatly poured into, in her words,  “the nice pans from Jackson’s” (Eve and I agree on this point, the half-pans at Jackson’s are much nicer than many other half-pans on the market).

Muted Primaries
Muted mixing chart featuring two earth colours from Pruche (Salmon and Spanish Gold Ochre)

Pruche paints are an ideal choice if you are looking to supplement or replace a basic collection of commercially made paints.  Her use of primarily single pigments and great pigment documentation make it easy to shop for both well-known pigments and unusual extras.

I have used Pruche paints (in Spanish Gold Ochre, Prussian Blue, and Salmon) as the inspiration for a limited gamut travel palette I recently built, and will tour in my next blog post. Like many brands, Eve posts her shop updates on Instagram

Everything, Everything Mixes

These are mad scientist paints.  I strongly, strongly recommend making friends with EEM’s creator, Amé, on Instagram.  There, you’ll learn how she sources all kinds of rare and unusual pigments, and then mixes them up into moody, granulating, crazy, colourful, misbehaving magic paints that also happen to be vegan and smell like cloves.

EEM
Special Delivery from Eventually, Everything Mixes.

She makes paints out of ground up epidote and burnt green earth and the rare bluer shade of cobalt teal which she found in some hole in the wall shop in Berlin. If you buy Flüsch Green (a spring green made with the unique PB71 Zirconium Cerulean) she’ll ship you a multimedia painting of one of her cats.

My EEM paints are fun paints.  They’re more of a wild ride to use than strictly practical (although I have found practical uses for them – the Flusch Green is actually perfect the bright springy undertones of many plants).

Penholder Art

If you’re a pigment geek  or history buff looking for the highest pigment load, or rare discontinued pigments, Penholder Art is the handmade paintmaker for you.

Manganese Blue PenholderPenholder Art is, I believe, one of only 2 remaining small manufacturers of real unadulterated PB33 Manganese Blue paint, an absolutely beautiful electric blue pigment that has been discontinued from pigment production due to toxicity.   Penholder Art also produces several other rare paints made with toxic/discontinued historic pigments.

Penholder Art is a relative newcomer to the paintmaking world, and slightly rough around the edges.  Packaging can be slightly messy and some paints can be a little sticky/messy.  However, Dan from Penholder Art is very friendly and approachable, and offers fantastic prices on some of the most saturated and vibrant paints I have ever seen.

Other indie brands

Greenleaf and Blueberry

The (relative) giant in the handmade  watercolour world is Greenleaf and Blueberry.  They have a massive social media cult following, which allows them to post flash sales which sell out within minutes.

Greenleaf and Blueberry Swatches (Not Colour balanced)
Greenleaf and Blueberry Colour Test Page (Not Colour Balanced

In September 2017, I managed to catch one of these sales, and impulse bought myself a little earth secondary triad of three whole pans.  They are nice paints, but after taxes and shipping and duty, cost me over $120 CAD, or over $40/pan (for earth colours!).  I honestly can’t imagine any paint, no matter how revolutionary, being worth that much money, and these paints are just nice.

For comparison, I swatched out some similar colours from other handmade and commercial brands, which were all less than a third of the price.  All these paints rewet and granulate similarly and are equally saturated.

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Comparison of Greenleaf and Blueberry Paints with EEM, Pruche, Daniel Smith and Da Vinci Paints

On the far left to right we have Celadonite Green Earth by Eventually, Everything Mixes, compared to Green Earth by G&B.  I had trouble getting a saturated pigment load from either as I’ve done in the past, perhaps because of the super dry and cold weather.  However, these two paints are nearly identical.  The EEM paint is about 1/3 the price per volume.

In the middle, I compared Purple Ochre to Piemontite Genuine (Watercolour Stick) by Daniel Smith, and Mars Violet by Pruche, which are both very similar but slightly more reddish than the G&B paint.  Both the Daniel Smith and Pruche paints rewet much more easily and are more saturated.  The Pruche paint is around 1/3 the price per volume, and the Daniel Smith sticks are a great deal, at about 1/8th the price per volume.

On the right, I compared Orange Ochre to Spanish Gold Ochre by Pruche, as well as Raw Sienna by Da Vinci.  The gold ochre is slightly more yellow, and the Raw Sienna is slightly browner, but they are all very similar and equal saturation (although both handmade paints required some coaxing to rewet in this dry weather). The Spanish Gold Ochre, again, works out to about 1/3 the price, whereas the Raw Sienna, always an affordable paint, I got on clearance sale for $5 for a 37 mL tube (which I think works out to about 1/16 the price or less).

I was hesitant to post this review, because Greenleaf and Blueberry is a cool company who make an effort to source unique pigments, and they really are good paints.  If money is no object, Greenleaf and Blueberry paints are great.

However, I wanted to post an unbiased review to cut through some of the social media hype. If you’re on a budget, you can get very similar paints without spending nearly so much money, and even support smaller handmade paint makers in the process.

Other Brands

There are also a great many other handmade watercolour brands I am less familiar with. A few brands I watch out for are Peppercon Arts, Wanderlust WC, Hushwing Watercolours, Rivervale Watercolor and Ruby Mountain Paint Company .

Do you have a great handmade watercolour brand to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS.  LEE ANGOLD  IS A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM AND THE JACKSON’S ART AFFILIATE NETWORK.  THESE ARE AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAMS DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR SITES TO EARN ADVERTISING FEES BY LINKING TO PRODUCT LISTINGS.

 

The Daily Leaf

Daily art challenge by Lee Angold- painting a leaf every day in 2018.

Happy New Year!

This year I will turn over a new leaf (pun intended) with a year long project titled “The Daily Leaf”.  Each day in 2018, I will collect a leaf outdoors and create a sketch, painting or illustration of each leaf I collect throughout the year.

Who

Hi, I’m Lee Angold.  I’m an artist focused on botanical and scientific subjects, and this is a personal project I’ve set for myself.

I welcome others to join me. Feel free to join the ride for a week, a month or even just a single leaf.  Tag your daily leaf paintings with #dailyleaf on Instagram and Twitter!

What/When?

Starting today (January 1st, 2018) and every day in 2018, I will collect a leaf outdoors, and create an illustration/sketch of that leaf.  I will also record the location where each leaf was collected, and strive to identify the species of each leaf.

I will share my daily leaf illustrations on social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) using the hashtag #dailyleaf, as well as through periodic updates to this website. The size, scale, style and media used in my illustrations may vary, and I may arrange multiple daily leaves into larger illustrations containing multiple leaves.

Where?

My leaves may be collected from wherever I happen to go.  The only rule is I have to personally collect my daily leaf, outdoors, myself, each day. Unfortunately, these rules mean I cannot paint the cool leaves from the tree in your backyard, unless you invite me over to pick a leaf myself 😉

Realistically, I spend over 90% of my life within a 1km radius, mostly between my home and my studio, so you can expect that most of my leaves will be found in midtown Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada.  As some of you reading this from similarly arctic climates may already have clued in, this also means that my leaf selection for several months will be …interesting (for select values of interesting where interesting mostly means dry, brown, decayed, and found in a snowbank).  This is part of what makes this project so cool (Right?  I hope? Somebody reassure me please!)

Why?

Why a daily challenge?

grid200I am a strong believer in the  power of daily habits, both in art and in life generally.  I’ve been impressed with my progress during past daily challenges Inktober 2017 and September Watercolour Challenge 2016.

My daily art pieces are a reflection of my environment.  My daily pieces are also particularly affected by other factors such as my mood, time constraints or just new materials and techniques I am eager to try out.

Why leaves?

Leaves are a very popular and very feared subject for artists.  They are deceptively complex, and can be difficult to render right.  They are also plentiful and diverse, and in a variable climate like here in Kitchener-Waterloo, the appearance of leaves offers a unique way to track the weather and seasons.

By painting a leaf every day, as well as documenting it’s location and species, I expect by the end of the year to have created a unique yearlong “journal” snapshot.  This project will be a diary of the changing seasons and an insight into biodiversity focused in a small urban area.  It will also serve as a record of my own development as an artist over the course of the year.

 

 

How (The Rules!)

  1. Each day I will pick up a leaf.
  2. I will collect my leaves outdoors (no houseplants)
  3. I need to collect and photograph one leaf each day.  If I’m really sick or really grumpy I may fall behind on illustrations, but each day I need to collect and photograph a leaf.
  4. At the end of 2018, I will  have 365 illustrations.  Like in previous month-long challenges, I won’t beat myself up over falling behind, but I will catch up.
  5. My leaves may be collected directly from plants, or  from the ground.
  6. Leaves may be in any condition.  Chewed up partial leaves, leaf skeletons and soggy decomposed leaves are  leaves. However, compound leaves with multiple leaflets count as one leaf
  7. I will photograph each leaf and record the location where it was collected
  8. I will attempt to identify the species of each leaf.
  9.  I will illustrate each leaf on watercolour paper.  I am free to experiment with different painting/drawing media and illustration techniques throughout the year.
  10. Illustrations may be different sizes, and I may choose to create larger compositions with multiple leaves spanning several days.
  11. I will post my progress on social media with the hashtag #dailyleaf

What Else ?

 

I’m not sure yet what will come out of this project.  An exhibition?  A book?  An interactive map?  I am open to suggestions and opportunities – let me know in the comments below what you think, or hop on over to my Ko-Fi page to show your appreciation with some creativity fuel.

At the start of this new year and new project, I am committed to letting go of anxiety and logistics concerns, and  focusing on creation. I’m diving in, and committed to creating some great art and great habits every day in 2018.

Daily art challenge by Lee Angold- painting a leaf every day in 2018.
Daily Leaf 001 : Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) January 1st, 2018.

Oh… you didn’t think I would end this post without a leaf, did you?

Without further ado, here is my first #dailyleaf of 2018.

Daily Leaf 001 is a Norway Maple leaf picked up around the corner from my house.

Of course, I couldn’t just pick a simple flat leaf for day 1, I had to go for a huge crumpled up palmate leaf. This sketch is rendered in a little bit of everything – graphite, blue col-erase coloured pencil, watercolour, and ink – a reflection of how buzzy and excited I feel right now!

 

What is artistic style? Do I have one? Should I care?

As a new freelance artist and illustrator, it is very hard to resist getting sucked into worrying about “artistic style”.

There’s no denying that creators with a distinctive and cohesive “look” to their pieces have a certain edge in selling their work – viewers who are attracted to one of their pieces will likely enjoy all of them.  The repetition of showing visually cohesive work tells a story and creates a brand.  People will recognize an artist with a distinctive style by their work, even without seeing a signature.  Customers will feel like they are purchasing a true insight into the artist when they buy a piece that is part of a larger visual narrative.

But what is artistic style, and can it be cultivated?

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