A couple years ago, when I began to play in sketchbooks, I reintroduced myself to watercolors. I bought some pans and tubes, and tried them out. Then I set them aside. Then tried them again. Then I set them aside. Again and again. I'm like one little burst of wind in a big hurricane. I circle around, throwing things about with abandon. Upending, causing chaos. Yup. That's me.
What I realized this spring, and came to me in one of those wonderful flashes of insight, was I was trying to make the watercolors act like acrylic (or I suppose oil, although that is one medium I have never tried). What attracts me to watercolor is its translucent nature and homage to light, but when I used it, I slathered. That is the only word I can come up with.
And yes, I want to take a class or classes or go to a workshop, but right now, that is not possible. I'm sure that much of what I am laborously grasping could be pointed out in a session or two with a good teacher but A) my health keeps being a thorn and B) I'm a slow learner even with a good teacher.
Anyway, with this insight, I immediately stole Liz Steele's palette choices. Except that she published them on her blog and I didn't break into her house. I copied it pretty closely including adding my own personal favorites (right now Moonglow and Lapis Lazuli which I cannot seem to live without. I find this palette to be pretty spectacular for the kind of on-the-go sketching I do. I have no idea if better color choices would more accuratley reflect the hues in my environment, and honestly, I don't care. That will come, or not. I find the range flexible and fun. Here's palette Box #1
She details warm and cool choices of the three primaries, and then adds some for their combining possibilities. I have had a great deal of fun playing with combinations and recently getting a better handle of the value of granulation and issues of staining (as I begin to use better paper).
I even copied the idea of using an old kids watercolor tin for a palette holder from Cathy Johnson (I think that's who I stole that idea from). I love it. I use rubber cement on the bottoms and when I want to change they pop right out.
Box #2, below. I have a little palette with these colors which - well - I just love them. Honestly I do. I consider it my guilty pleasure box, like bon-bons. Or fudge. Yeah, more like fudge. Since I don't actually eat bon-bons but will growl if you come near my fudge. Not joking. These are a small selection of paints - mostly Daniel Smith, that have wonderful qualities on their own. They're either colors that Liz doesn't use but I love (like Phthalo. Turquoise or Quin. Violet, or granulate in obsenely delightful ways (like Moonglow or Lunar Blue) or just make my toes curl with pleasure.
Before Liz Steele, I stole Roz Stendahl's choices. Roz does an amazing job on her blog of discussing paint and paper and sketching choices. I read and reread her posts and you have to read the comments because sometimes her response to a question is longer than the orginal post. She is generous but non judgemental in providing all the details. Non-judgemental in the sense that she explains how materials worked for her and why she prefers what she prefers, but she gives all the technical information so you can decide what will suit you. It's a goldmine of pigment and ink and paper structure. And fun too.
A couple of the ones above come from this palette. I'm not currently using it, although I've kept it intact because I enjoy it. I took it to Spain with me last summer, and love the size for travel. But having used it for a couple years now as my go to travel palette, I felt it was time to explore in another direction. Oh, and it's guoache, which fed into my slathering impluse.
Current Box #3. This, below, is the a palette that I've been using at home, switching and swapping colors out. Over the summer, in my compusive handling of my paints, I divided them by manufactorer. I put samples in pans and sorted them that way. Because that's the kind of thing I do. But this tin is full of a variety of brands, some favorites and some jetisonned from other spots. I'm very happy with it, and it keeps surfacing. There are a couple choices I'm already thinking of rotating, but we'll see.
Current Box #4 It is made up of as basic a palette as I'm going to get. Lots of the books I've read talk about a three color palette, or even two - with ultramarine and either umber, sienna or ochre used. This is one of those topics that is taking me a long time to absorb. I get the basic idea easily, but the full meaning ... I look at the examples and consider and then read and then consider. Then when I practice I realize how little I've actually understood.
Wet paint, an independant art store in Minnisota, always has a Schmicke palette that they have commisioned for a fantastic price, and I've bought a few for myself and as gifts. In that or another example there were near duplicates, and these pans were taken out in an effort to streamline. For test purposes, I would have prefered single pigment paints, but these are close enough and, 'the perfect is the enemy of the finished', is my motto here. I've been using two or three from this in little sketches and forcing myself to see how the paint interacts.
I was the kind of kid who had all my foods seperated on my plate. I sort my watercolor by manufacturer. I have odd and sometimes unhelpful ways of being compulsive.
I also have a small sketchers Cotman palette that has seen a lot of hard duty. It's plastic, lightweight and great for staying in my bag or car for when I realize that I'm stuck somewhere and feel the urge. I keep a Niji waterbrush with it and a small moleskine of some kind. Right now that palette is taking a rest, but I seem to grab it when I want something basic and known.
I include this page, not because I have any actual insights or information to share with you, but because I am always wondering about other people's supplies and how they chose what they chose and love all those details. So these are my current details.
Some women buy shoes or handbags. I buy my sunglasses at home depot. My van is a '99, which was an upgrade two years ago when someone ran into us in our '98 plymouth voyager which I inhereted from my mother. I wear clothes I bought in college (yes, I do but admittedly mostly at home). But paint, I splurge on paint. Sometimes I feel guilty. The way I feel guilty when I sit down with a pint of Hagan Daz. After all, anything that makes me this happy must be bad for me. But when I can't sleep in the middle of the night, I just giggle. There it is. And I can live with that.