Handmade watercolours: testing and painting

Handmade watercolours made – now the fun of using them begins.

Until I’ve tested the paints for consistency and lightfastness, I’m not using them in any painting that’s for sale. I have to be able to guarantee the quality of my materials and while the handmade watercolours are really interesting, they’re not yet tried and tested.

In the meantime, I’m getting to know them by painting a series of greeting cards which are being sent off to family and friends.

Handmade watercolours

Greeting card – daffodil bank

Handmade watercolours

Greeting card – Read earth, blue sky

Handmade watercolours

Greeting card – dawn trio

Testing handmade watercolours

Here’s my testing process so far:

Handmade watercolours

Naturally, I’m creating swatches in my colour journal. The details will be added as I get confirmation of the characteristics of each paint.

Handmade watercolours

I also wanted to see how the paint reacted in different papers.  As I mixed them, I tried each one on three sheets of watercolour papers of various weights and textures. They reacted well on all of them. Now I’m checking specifically for colour fastness – which will take time.

To do that, I’ve painted a stripe of each of my 13 handmade watercolours on two different papers. One is a 300lb watercolour paper, and the other a mixed media paper.

Handmade watercolours

That should read Paint test – Jan 2016!

Each sheet has now been sliced down the middle. Half of each sheet has been placed in a brown envelope and placed between large books on my bookshelf to block out as much light as possible. The other half of each sheet has been placed on a south facing windowsill where it is exposed to moderate sunshine. Next January, I’ll compare the sheet halves and see how well the sunlight exposed paint has fared.

Another article about my handmade paint project can be read on the Wash a Week Challenge website

Making Watercolour Paint

When I started painting, I never would have imagined I would be tempted into making watercolour paint. But somehow, this is where I find myself now. And its been both fascinating and fun. Making Watercolour Paint Pigment Display

It all started with a visit to an art shop in Venice where the delicious display of pigments in the window tempted me inside.

Making Watercolour Paint Pigment Jars

where the delights of making watercolour paint became apparently. Look at all those gorgeous colours lined up in shiny glass jars!

Making Watercolour Paint Pigments

I had to have a go at making watercolour paint, starting with a festival in blues and then added 7 other colours to increase my Venetian palette.  Unfortunately, these bags of loveliness don’t come with instructions. I had to start by researching a method and recipe.

Recipe for making watercolour paint.

Start by making a base for the pigment.

  • 1 part gum arabic
  • 3 parts warm water (I used very hot water as its easier to dissolve the gum arabic)
  • 1 part glycerine
  • 1 part honey (optional)

Then mix in pigment to the base in a 1:1 ratio.

In the first phase, its important to make sure the gum arabic is fully dissolved. In the second phase, mix until the paint is smooth. It takes longer than you think.

Making Watercolour Paint mixed

Once mixed, the pigments stay wet for much longer than the commercial tube paints. I presume this may be partly because of the glycerine and honey additions. The effect of this is to make the paint slow to dry on the paper.

I’m still getting to know these paints. I’ll be testing them next and will write about my results. For one thing, lightfastness on any of these is an unknown. I can’t use them in any paintings for sale until I know how they react over time.

Making Watercolour Paint Pin jars

I started with a small batch of each colour – and still have a (very small) jar full of each colour I bought. This is years of supply at the rate I paint.

It may not be necessary to go all the way to Italy to have a go at making your own paint. There is an art shop in London which supplies pigments, resins and gums. I’ve not been there before, but it looks as if its worth a visit.

A word of warning: I was careful to wash my hands thoroughly after making each batch of paint – its a messy business. Strictly speaking, I probably should also have used a dust mask as I don’t know the toxicity level of any of these pigments. I will be getting a good quality mask for future paint mixing and I would suggest it for anyone wanting to try making their own paint.

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015

The annual SEAW selected exhibition started on Monday 5th October with a preview and prize giving event. 182 paintings were delivered to the Wymondham Art Centre on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning by 38 hopeful artists. By Monday afternoon,  judges Olwen Jones RWS, Julia Sorrell RI and Ann Roberts of WAC had selected 82 paintings for the exhibition and the hanging committee was hard at work putting them on display.

SEAW Selected Exhibition – 2015 Prize winners

SEAW Selected Exhibition 2015 - winning paintings

The winning paintings – Photography by Janet Hathiramani

The judges awarded six prizes from these paintings:

Mary, by John Glover was awarded the RWS Presidents Award and cup, and will be hung at the RWS Open Exhibition at the Bankside Gallery in 2016.

Other prizes were awarded to Tony White, Ruth McCabe, Alan Noyes, Gilly Marklew (who was one of my first watercolour tutors) and finally, to my painting, The Amphitheatre. I was over the moon to have received this endorsement. Its a first for me and I’m deeply honoured to have my painting hung on the same wall as such a talented and experienced group of watercolourists.

The Exhibition is on until October 18th.

Pathways

I’ve just completed Pathways – a landscape I was commissioned to paint during  Cambridge Open Studios in July. In discussing what the clients wanted, I put together a painting plan.  The painting should be in the blue/green colours, have no buildings, include an interesting sky, and a pathway – or two.

Pathways by Vandy Massey

Pathway. Watercolour 49 x 39 cm

Elements in Pathways

This painting takes the viewer for a gentle walk with countryside features along the way.

Hogweed and Grasses in Pathway by Vandy Massey

Hogweed and grasses

Heading over the brow of the hill, a patch of hogweed waves in the breeze. Look carefully at the stems below, and you may find a spiderweb suspended between two stalks.

Wild Grasses in Pathway by Vandy Massey

Wild grasses

Look through the long grasses to the fields below.  Grass seed heads blow. Spores dance in the breeze. As you progress along the route, terraced hillsides and fields of golden crops appear. Hedges and pathways criss-cross the land. Tree copses and woodlands fringe the farmlands laid out neatly in the distance.

Horizon in Pathway by Vandy Massey

The lake and the pathway on the horizon. Purple hills in the distance.

Until finally, the lake appears. Trees on the bank are reflected in the still water.  Wander further to the right and over the rise next to the trees on the horizon. There are hills beyond, and more fields to explore.

Painting Fresh Flowers with Olivia Quintin

We ended summer with a celebration – painting fresh flowers with Olivia Quintin for two days.

A full house of 14 artists came to spend the weekend painting fresh flowers. They came from the local area, from 2 hours drive away south of London, and some even flew in from Holland. From my experience of painting in Belle Île with Olivia, I’d say she attracts wonderfully diverse groups of artist – all of whom have one common factor: the desire to paint with Olivia.

Feedback from the workshop was overwhelmingly good with most of the artists wanting to come back and paint with Olivia again next year.
(Yes – we are planning another workshop for 2016)

Olivia’s preparation for the workshop was impressive. She came ready with exercises designed to allow artists to paint the same subject at each stage, but at a level that suited their own experience.

The day before the workshop we loaded up with flowers. The weather was cool so they were kept fresh outside in the shade until they were ready. Our garden was even more blossom-filled than usual for a couple of days.

ready for Painting Fresh Flowers

Fresh flowers ready for painting

At each stage, Olivia demonstrated the particular watercolour technique she wanted her students to master.

Olivia demonstrates

Olivia demonstrates

It didn’t take long before everyone was completely enthralled and happily practicing new skills.

totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers

Hard at work – totally absorbed in painting fresh flowers

Painting Fresh Flowers – A few demonstrations and results

Olivia's Roses

Olivia’s Roses

painting fresh flowers in a glass

Olivia Quintin’s demonstration flowers in a glass

And a couple of my little exercises:

Freshly Picked by Vandy Massey

Freshly Picked

Cosmos in a Glass by Vandy Massey

Cosmos in a Glass

Olivia brought her glorious watercolour earrings along with her, much to the delight of those with pierced ears, and some who got in a bit of early Christmas shopping. Olivia’s earrings and other watercolour jewellery are sold in her Etsy shop and it was brilliant to be able to see them in the flesh, succumb to the temptation and buy a few pairs.

Olivia's Earrings

Olivia’s Earrings

Our two days of painting fresh flowers went past in a flash. My Facebook feed is showing images of flower paintings being done by some of the attendees – so the flower painting continues beyond the workshop. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see some more of my workshop paintings posted there, and more to come.

Watercolour journal – exploring colour

Over Open Studios weekends last month, my sketchbooks and watercolour journal got as much attention as my paintings. I found myself discussing the method I use to get to know watercolour pigments. I use a system I picked up from the blog of the fabulous Jane Blundell. She is well worth following if you want to get a better understanding of watercolour palettes.

The artists who visited were asking about the colour swatches in the watercolour journal, and many of them commented on their knowledge that they should be doing more of the back to basics.  Visitors who described themselves as non-artists paid more attention to the little sketches I do in the watercolour journal to keep myself entertained while I explore different pigments.  Today I decided to share my journal so far on Youtube.

A flip through my Watercolour Journal

This weekend I played with the idea of painting three different flowers in different styles, with the intention of capturing a different character in each. (You may notice them in the video)

Watercolour Journal - Elegant Magnolia

The delicate colour of magnolia flowers always makes them look refined and elegant.

Watercolour Journal - Flirty Fuschia

Fuschias seem to dance and flirt with their fluffed out petals. They look like little ballerinas sometimes.

Watercolour Journal - WIld Poppies

And the poppy – we love its freedom, its bold colours and its wild ways.

Cascade Watercolour, power and energy

vandymassey.com Cascade Watercolour

Cascade: Watercolour and acrylic medium 28 x 38 cm

Viewed from the bottom of the waterfall, the water is the star in this painting. Water is increasingly a feature in my work. I love its dynamic nature and its many facets: in this painting, the power and energy of the falling water as it crashes onto the rocks.

I treated sections of the painting differently to achieve the effects of energy in the water, and solidity in the rock face. The under-wash of acrylic medium in blocky shapes of the rocks was allowed to dry and treated as an adapted support for the image. Conversely, the acrylic medium was included at the wet stage for the cascading watercolour waterfall. This allowed the mediums to mingle and interact on the paper with breaks showing the rock face behind the cascade.

The Cascade watercolour has been added to my Artfinder page.

Cascade watercolour

Paper: 640gsm Arches
Medium: watercolour with some acrylic medium.

 

 

Cambridge Open Studios and the Art Safari

There’s a bit of a buzz in the house at the moment. We’re getting ready for Cambridge Open Studios in a fortnight.

I had the pleasure of going to see the studios of two other artists yesterday, both are experienced artists and have strong styles. They have very different styles of Open Studios and I was impressed by them both for different reasons. Jo Tunmer and Claire Marie Wood inspired me in different ways which was fabulous when faced with a weekend of framing, and organising to get ready.  And it was lovely to have a chance to visit a couple of other studios. So often its not possible if your studio is open on the same weekends.

After a couple of days of working on the preparations, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re making progress. The framing is done:

Cambridge Open Studios preparation

All framed up and waiting for hanging

My Running With Brushes will be on display providing some exposure for the project. I wish I could display the whole collection, but even without being able to show the works of other artists, it should raise awareness.

Cambridge Open Studios display

My Running With Brushes paintings on display

Cambridge Open Studios in Whittlesford

We’re having an Art Safari in the village to make Whittlesford a good destination for Cambridge Open Studios visitors. With 4 artists works on display within a 5 minute walk, visitors will have plenty to see.  It’s taken a bit of organising – firstly to make sure we could all be open on the same days, then to arrange our preview evening for the same time and date. Finally, we got the marvellous Lori Bentley to design our map which will be available at all studios and has gone out in 400 guidebooks around the area.

Between the four artists taking part, many mediums will be on display: watercolour, pastel, oil, acrylic and collage. The range is rich and the colours vibrant.

Art safari social media

If you’re in the area, pop in for a coffee and say hello.

Painted Paper for Painted Wolves

African Wild Dogs, otherwise known as Painted Wolves are endangered.  They are small sociable canines, native to Sub-Saharan Africa.  Their habitat is being destroyed and there are now fewer than 6000 Painted Wolves living in the wild.

Jeremy Borg, CEO of South African wine brand, Painted Wolf Wines is on a mission. Today he started an epic journey on two wheels from Cornwall to Scotland. Along the way there will be wine tasting events and an art auction. Jeremy’s progress can be followed on the Painted Wolf Facebook page.

The Amphitheatre - printed donated for Painted Wolves

Jeremy’s Top Dog Trek will raise finds for the conservation charity, Tusk in three ways: Donations, Jeremy’s ride sponsorship, and an amazing online Art Auction which opened at noon today and will continue for the duration of Jeremy’s ride. Bidding will close on 30th June. I’m very proud to be one of a group of artists who have donated works to this Art Auction.

The two artworks I have donated were painted this year in the Drakensberg. Each one is a hand-detailed giclée print. The original painting in watercolour is reproduced as a limited edition of 25 prints. Then each one has additional watercolour and ink detail, making it a unique piece of art.

How the Painted Wolves Art Auction Works

Bidding for a piece of artwork is easy. A simple online form must be completed to register. Thereafter, simply place your bid in a comment on the artwork page. Come back from time to time and check the current bid because the highest bidder on 30th June will be the owner of the piece of art.

The AmphitheDrakenberg Dusk donated for Painted WolvesThe Painted Wolves auction art works include original watercolours, acrylics, hand detailed giclee prints, photographs and sculptures. The first 3 bids were received within 5 minutes of the auction opening and artworks will be on display at a number of events along the route.

If you’d like to have a look at all the artwork, you could look at the auction website (where bids can be made), or download the full catalogue pdf.

Eugen Chisnicean’s Watercolour Workshop

Eugen Chisnicean’s first UK watercolour workshop took place on the weekend after Easter. Attending artists had three days of fantastic attention from a very patient and accomplished teacher.

All of the artists on the workshop were experienced watercolourists, and all were pushed (willingly) out of their comfort zones at some point during this watercolour workshop. We all realised how easy it is to get stuck in the ‘easy’ groove of doing what comes comfortably. Sometimes its really valuable to examine our methods of working to see whether we are still true to the rigour of theory and principle.

watercolour workshop - painting on The Lawn in Whittlesford

Eugen Chisnicean – preparation for plein air painting.

The weather wasn’t perfect for a plein air watercolour workshop session, but we braved the breeze and dodged the rainclouds to spend the first afternoon painting on The Lawn.

There’s always a level of discomfort at the idea of people coming over to watch what you’re doing. Every one of us acknowledged that we know we should do more plein air painting. Somehow doing it as a workshop group made it feel a bit easier than going it alone. It was also fascinating to see how a view we wouldn’t normally see as a painting can provide inspiration for a solid composition.

 

“…has dispelled some of my trepidation at working ‘plein-air’. It was also useful to attempt subjects I wouldn’t normally consider.”

watercolour workshop with Eugen Chisnicean. Demonstration painting

Demonstration painting by Eugen Chisnicean. Whittlesford Lawn

Eugen Chisnicean’s UK Watercolour Workshop – reactions

Rather than writing more about the workshop myself, I’ll share some of the words emailed to me by the artists who attended:

“I loved watching a master at work. He was very generous with his tips & already I find I am going through the check list before starting a painting.”

Palette envy. I definitely want one like this.

Palette envy. I definitely want one like this.

“Eugen’s workshop was great fun. I particularly liked the mix of theory and practice, and the way Eugen combined them in his demonstrations. The tasks he set us were challenging – but that’s as it should be – and ensured that we didn’t remain too embedded in our cosy comfort zones. As a result I already feel that I have a much better understanding of what I’m trying to achieve, and am looking forward to seeing the benefits in my future work.”

Preparation is key. A reminder to put in the ground work before going to work on the final piece.

Preparation is key. Eugen reminds us to put in the ground work before going to work on the final piece.

And a last few words:

The three days that I was there, I can not pretend that I was not struggling. I could not understand why I was finding it so difficult, as I am usually quietly confident in how I haphazardly paint in watercolour.

Each evening, I would get back home and was eagerly questioned by my family on how I was getting on with the painting course.I could only reply, that I had never experienced so many difficulties in putting my pencil and brush to paper!

The answer was simple really. I was not just attending an art workshop, I was attending a MASTERCLASS art workshop!

I so appreciated the time he gave to us, showing us simple ways that would improve our watercolour techniques (and his patience when I could not get it!) and the demonstrations were truely amazing! How he transformed an ordinary landscape scene outside the memorial hall into a masterpiece…. was outstanding!

I learnt so much and not just that, Eugen in his quiet manner taught me not to be afraid of my own weaknesses(I have been so afraid of the easel, but now I have finally bought one, which I am surprisingly, using all the time! )

A true Master ,Eugen, Thank you so much for all your help”.

As for me: my brain was stretched by three days of intensive working with Eugen. And hosting the workshop meant I had a wonderful opportunity to go on an exhibition visiting day to London with Eugen. We stopped in at The Mall Galleries to see the RI Watercolour exhibition, went to the National Gallery to look at some works of the masters, and finally, had the enormous pleasure of discovering by chance that the National Portrait Gallery had an exhibition of Sargent’s portraits (the highlight of the day).

And I managed a painting I felt quietly pleased with in the course of the workshop. Onward and upward. Loads still to learn and loving the process.

VMW092 - Summer Day in France blog