Whenever I see a piece of art that I really like, I almost always wonder what tools and supplies the artist used it make it. It's the analytical mind trying to piece together how something came to be. So for those interested in knowing what materials I use, here is the current run-down.
My favourite paper to paint on is Arches 300lb Cold Press. It can take on a lot of water and paint and a lot of scrubbing without warping or tearing. Due to its price, I was at first hesitant to make the switch over to this heavier paper. One 22x30 inch sheet is is similar in price to an entire pad of lighter paper. I’ve come to appreciate that the price is worth the prevented headache that can occur when using lower quality material. It's a tough pill to swallow when you have to redo a painting because the budget paper you used couldn't hold up.
Many of my smaller paintings are done on a block of Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper. I like using a block because I don’t have to tape down the painting or worry about the paper warping.
Up until a few months ago, I was using fairy inexpensive brushes. My frugal side couldn’t bare to pay $20+ on one brush when I could buy a pack of 5 for the same price. In life it's often the case that you get what you pay for. Brushes are no exception. The cheap ones were okay for a little while, but they quickly frayed and required frequent replacement. In the end, I wasn’t really saving any money by going with the cheaper option.
This past summer I was gifted a pair of Kolinsky Sable brushes by a fellow watercolour painter. These brushes are much higher quality than what I had been using. Admittedly, I was a little intimidated at first to paint with them because I didn't want them to get ruined.
These brushes look and feel nice, but more importantly, they keep their point for a long time. This is particularly significant to me since my work is often detail heavy. I need a brush that can keep its point so I can paint tiny and thin objects.
I still use my cheaper brushes, but only for very coarse work such as lifting paint or applying watercolor ground.
The two brands of paint that I’m currently using are M. Graham and Daniel Smith. The two colours that I find myself using most frequently are M. Graham’s Quinacridone Rust and Daniel Smith’s Ultramarine Turquiose. Most of the trees, leaves, moss, and earth I paint have at least a little bit of one of those two colours. I find that they both mix well with my other paints to create many beautiful shades. I love their versatility.
Other - Gel Pen, Watercolor Ground
In many of my paintings, I’ll use a Uni-ball Signo white gel pen for highlights and details. It’s great for creating starry skies, snowflakes, and bubbles. In my experience, other brands of white gel pen dry out fairly quickly. The Uni-ball Signo on the other hand, has a great shelf-life.
A few months ago, I began painting some pieces on wood panel. In order for the watercolor paint to adhere properly to the wood, I have to apply a few layers of absorbent ground to surface I’ll be working on. It takes a little while to dry completely, so I'll usually work on another piece while I wait.
I’ve tried a few brands, but have had the best success with Daniel Smith. Even though I can’t quite achieve the same level of detail when painting on the watercolor ground as I can achieve on paper, it’s neat to be able to expand the range of surfaces that can be painted on. The ground comes in several colours, but I use transparent and titanium white.
Another use for the watercolor ground is for error-correcting. Watercolour painting can often be unforgiving. Mistakes are not as easy to cover-up as they are with acrylic or oil paint. The watercolor ground is one tool a watercolorist can use to redo a section of their painting.
It has taken me a while to come to these supplies. My toolkit has gone through many versions over the past few years. I'm sure this list too will change, but for now it is serving me well. Thanks for reading.