Tag Archives: winsor and newton

Quiet April

Purple Sunbird

Easter holiday and midway through April. Time flues! I have not done much painting but have been busy with my design work.

The designs have, mostly, been in the form of new Sicilian style ceramic tiles that I sell through Zazzle and I shall continue my focus on this after the Easter break.

I am planning a trip to Sicily in May as my mother has had significant back problems in the last two weeks, having fractured a couple of vertebra a couple of years ago. She is 94 and a tough character but needs support. My brother will be there for a while before I can get there .,. travel is still difficult despite Covid19 seemingly improving.

While I am based in Sicily I shall continue to paint, design and photograph but at some stage will also visit my daughters and grandchikdren in Paris and UK. I hope to buy some paint and paper stock while there.


The only paintings completed so far this month are the Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) (above).
From a photo I took during my days (3 years) in India, these were common birds especially in the Botanical Gardens, Gachibowli, Hyderabad a short walk from where I lived. They share many traits with the hummingbirds of the Americas and can sometimes be seen hovering when collecting nectar.

Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
Quite a common bird in India where I saw several, including the odd one mobbing other birds, presumably in competition for food.

Both watercolour painting on A4 paper
Prints and original on sale.

Thanks for following. Happy Easter


Cashew! Bless you!!

Cashew fruit (false fruit), nut and leaves

Knowing that the first week of the month is usually peppered with admin distractions, including the recent termite attack and a plumbing leak, I decided to start work on a botanical painting that could be handled as a project that allowed stops and starts.

I used a photograph that I had taken of a cashew fruit and leaves from my wife’s grandparent’s farm. The photo is on sale via Alamy if anyone is interested in using it.


I made an initial pencil sketch on A3 paper based on my photo. The photo itself was taken a few years ago with fruit and leaves carefully arranged on a white background and photographed in natural light.

I then lightened the pencil lines with a soft kneadable eraser so as to give me a guide without creating more work to erase the lines after painting. When painting in watercolour I prefer to have very light pencil lines only.

The leaf veins were painted in with a light wash of cadmium yellow before applying a light cadmium red wash on the fruit. I pulled off some colour with a damp brush to ensure I knew where the highlights would be. As the nut is a pale colour I decided to paint it first, initially with a very light wash of raw umber before subtly building up the colour.

To see more clearly where I needed variations in tone I applied a very pale wash on the leaves – darker in parts where I wanted to see shadows.

I then made adjustments to the nut to give form and texture.

As I did with the fruit (pseudo fruit – as the seed is formed outside the pulp rather than within it – which defines a fruit) I used a damp brush to take out colour in the leaves where the highlights would be.

I had thought of leaving the fruit to the end but, as it was the star of the painting, I painted this next.

The leaves of the cashew are a yellowish green so, to accentuate this, I painted a yellow-green wash over the leaves to make them more vivid. A couple of subtle washes were added to the nut: red at the top and green below – barely visible but it made a difference.

I worked on each leaf, working on each segment between the veins, until all of them were painted. I had to take out some colour to create smaller veins on some leaves.

The final stage involved adding shadows in key areas and adjusting the colours to show where the leaves were slightly deformed.

I would have preferred a brighter red for the fruit as I find it too dark. That may be a result of the paper I used. Perhaps hot-pressed paper would be better.

I like to leave this type of painting for a few days to take a fresh look and make adjustments if necessary. I may add some shadow under the leaves.

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Shoot Stock

Experiment in ink

This week has not been as productive as I would have liked – not even one painting per day completed! In fact I did three on Wednesday and one yesterday.

The three that I did midweek were, as the title above implies, an experiment in drawing ink.

I used a set of Winsor and Newton drawing inks. The pack contains eight small (14 ml) glass bottles of ink that I used undiluted and applied with watercolour brushes.

The subjects were Nagajubans which are traditional Japanese robes worn as undergarments beneath a kimono, so as to avoid the complicated process of cleaning the kimono. From what I can see these robes are generally colourless to avoid clashing with the beautiful kimono patterns. I have to admit my ignorance of such things as, although I lived for about 15 years in Asia, my only visits to Japan were in Tokyo airport (so does not count as a country visit!).

Nagajuban: Blue with gold chrysanthemum, Yellow with cherry blossom and Green with yellow magnolias. Each painted on A3 watercolour paper.

My objectives were firstly to try out the inks that I had only used before to see their colours on paper, and to create a set of paintings that was interesting and unusual.

Learning points:

The colours can be mixed, though I used each separately.

The colours are not fast. Layering caused them to bleed, so care is needed to keep colours separate. I used the bleeding to my advantage in the yellow nagajuban by first painting the yellow, then terracotta in multiple layers for the branches, red, deep red and plum for the cherry blossom, and finally another layer of yellow that softened the blossom.

The colours dried quickly. That is no surprise to me as I live in a hot climate and have challenges when painting in watercolour. I had to apply a second layer to hide the brush marks, though this proved advantageous in creating an impression of texture in the material.

The pack contains black paper indian ink (waterproof) and seven water-based colours: ultramarine, purple, brilliant green, peat brown, sunshine yellow, vermillion and deep red.

I signed the pieces with both my regular painting signature and a gago-in (the hanko or signature stamp known in china as a chop, from the Hindi word chapa) – I have a couple of Japanese / Chinese painting sets which included chops ready to carve my “signature”

An interesting experiment. I may do more ink experiments in future.

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Venetian landscape

Veneto farmhouse on A3 paper

This week was severely disrupted by things happening, or not happening when expected, so I only managed to paint a landscape (two versions) and do a portrait drawing in pencil.

The landscape is a view of a farmhouse near the town of Porto Santa Margherita, Veneto, where my mother lived for many years. Whenever I visited I would often drive out into the countryside to take photographs of the farms, waterways and villages.

Earlier version on A4 paper

I had experimented with the view of the farmhouse on A4 paper but wasn’t happy with the either the composition or the lines. There are elements in both versions that I like so I may have another try when time permits. The hills in the background, foothills that lead up to the Dolomites much further to the north, were not included and I would like to put emphasis on the flatness of the land. There is a river beyond the tree-line but otherwise trees in the landscape are less noticeable.

There are actually three trees in front of the farmhouse, as painted in the A3 version, but I had separated them in the earlier version.

I hope I can clear all administrative tasks over the weekend and allow time to catch up on my painting projects next week.

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Attempting botanical illustration


Botanical illustration is, for me, an aspiration. While I have painted quite a few flowers in the past I have treated them as floral paintings rather than botanical. The reasons for the difference in terminology were covered in a couple of posts, the last at the end of last year. I decided to attempt a botanical painting to see what I could learn from the process.

The initial drawing took me over an hour to complete, closer to two hours, but perhaps should have taken a bit longer to ensure all details were recorded before painting. I didn’t time myself though this would be an interesting part of the process for future paintings. Getting the drawing right before painting avoids heartache later in the process.

The initial wash, a very pale pink using Rose Lake and Lemon Yellow, gave me the base colours. I left some areas unpainted where I expected to have some highlights.

This process took about a hour.

I left the painting to dry overnight and, next day, started first on one of the darker buds and then on an outer bud. This gave me an indication of the tonal range. I then worked randomly on various parts of the flower, allowing areas on which I had worked to dry. I think I spent about 3 hours painting before closing down for the day.

Next day, yesterday, I spent the whole day working on the painting. Working on the yellow parts first, then the reds and deep reds, leaving the negative space in parts to finalise the painting with the stamens.

This is a situation in which a wider palette would assist. I launched into the painting having quickly assessed that the paints I would use would be: rose lake, violet, cadmium red, raw umber and a couple of yellows. I also used a touch of paynes gray that I had mixed myself. In botanical painting I would need to assess exactly which colours and colour combinations to use.

One needs a very steady hand to get into the detail and edges of the flower. I suspect this is where I need to focus attention – my hands not being as steady as they once were – and will account for quite a bit of the time expended on a painting of this type. This took me well over 12 hours to complete so, if I were to do another, I reckon ten times that length of time will not be out of the question if I want to regard the end product as botanical rather than floral.

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South African Hornbills

Last week was an uncreative one in which I did not paint, just catching up on admin stuff which included a tidy up of my Saatchi Online collection. While this painting lethargy was due mainly to lack of paper on which to paint I was also unmotivated to do anything on canvas. Good to have a break every time once in a while.

In the previous week, however, I completed a set of four Hornbill pantings, each on A3 paper.

These hornbills were painted from reference pictures I had taken on trips to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. In total I have seen about 150 bird species in the park – plenty of material for future painting projects.

There are 8 hornbills in South Africa but these four are the only ones that I have seen:

Southern Ground-hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas), Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus) and African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus). The other four Hornbills are not found, as far as I know, in the Kruger National Park.

Bare-throated Bellbird

Bare-throated Bellbird (Procnias nudicollis)

The call of a Bellbird can be heard from a great distance. I was driving along the Graciosa Trail, near Curitiba in the south if Brazil, when I heard its call.

Whenever I visited the trail, usually at dawn, I had the habit of opening the car windows and driving more slowly than the permitted 40 kph (25 mph) so I could hear the sounds of the Atlantic Rainforest at its best time.

I recognised the call immediately, having seen and heard specimens of the bird in a couple of zoos.

Near the start of the trail there is a tiny track that once led to a large house, now derelict, in the direction of where the bird was. I followed the track for about 150 metres, parked, and entered the forest. As I listened for the bird I became aware of other sounds. Something was moving and it was certainly not a small creature. It could have been a dog, a primate or even a jaguar. I decided it was better not to find out as I was alone.

The bellbird would not have been visible in the dense forest but I managed to see it perched in a treetop once I got to higher ground.

The painting is on 300 gsm watercolour paper, approx 42cm x 30cm (A3).

The green bare skin of the bird was produced by mixing a touch of intense blue with viridian. The greyish shades in the body were made with very pale washes if Paynes Gray with accents of ultramarine, yellow ochre or burnt sienna.

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Why use a huge palette?

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour chart

I remember walking into an art supply shop in Mexico City where I saw a huge range of colours. I was like a child in a sweet shop – I couldn’t decide what I wanted so I just bought colours without any real thought. That was a few years ago before I decided to take up painting more or less full time.

Having now had the benefit of seeing other artists at work, via You Tube, and hands on experience in painting I wondered what conclusions could be drawn from being faced with such a wide choice of colours when, in fact, we only need three!

My own collection of paints includes Winsor & Newton, Daler-Rowney and a couple of other (Italian and Brazilian) brands.

Suppliers offer a couple of ranges of colours – professional and student. The reason for this is that the pigments used in professional grade paints are expensive while the student grade paints, without going into the full analysis of manufacturing processes, have I believe substituted dyes for mineral-based pigments. That is not to say that student grade paints are inferior, far from it as they are both high quality and less expensive. Professional artists use student range paints.

I use both student and professional grade paints and, depending on the colour, generally prefer the pro version but am certainly quite happy with the student range for certain colours.

After reviewing a number of artists’ palettes I concluded that many artists use a palette limited to between 8 and 10 colours, depending on their speciality eg landscape versus botanical. I found that I use a palette of 8 or 9 colours for landscapes but up to 20 colours for bird portraits.

The underlying reason is not because it is easier to use a specific colour from a tube or pan (eg quinacridone red versus scarlet lake) but because using a colour from a range avoids the necessity to mix colours to match a hue in the subject. Mixing or glazing colours is ok to a point but there is a danger of creating muddy mixes, or glazing to the extent that luminosity is lost when trying to achieve a specific colour accurate to the subject.

These issue are not really relevant to me – I have to manage costs rather than manage a range of individual hues, though some colours are not available in the student range eg quinacridone gold or naples yellow. I may rethink this approach in due course but, for the present time, it suits me even for my bird portraiture.

Winsor & Newton

Daler Rowney

Note: Although there are other manufacturers eg Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Schmincke and many more, I have no experience of these.

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How I Paint – 12. Reference Videos

Cherry-throated Tanager

I began to paint regularly, in water colour, a couple of years ago. In order to brush up on aspects of the art I would, and still do, look at some artists’ videos in You Tube. While there is no substitute for learning with a teacher I found the videos useful for specific techniques.

If I lived somewhere where I could find a watercolour or acrylic teacher I would certainly invest in lessons. I recommend this approach as it eliminates uncertainties and helps to develop style with confidence.

Even now I watch videos just because I enjoy watching each artist paint their subjects in their style. I find that one or two have similar styles, both in painting and in teaching, but there is usually always a tip to take away from one or another.

While I admit that this is not 100% complete it acts as a guide to finding some worthwhile videos. Here is my list of links that I hope is of value:

Artist Videos

Name / Link Specialisation Medium

Charles Evans Landscapes. Water colour and acrylic

Tim Wilmot Landscapes. Watercolour

Alan Owen Landscapes. Watercolour

Geoff Kersey Landscapes. Watercolour

Nitin Singh Landscapes. Watercolour

Louise De Masi Nature Watercolour

Eric Yi Lin / Watercolour Cafe Landscapes Watercolour

Frank Clarke Landscapes. Watercolour and acrylic

Anna Mason Botanical / Nature Watercolour

Billy Showell Botanical Watercolour

Julia Trickey Botanical Watercolour

History of Watercolours

Well worth reading for anyone interested in water colour painting.

Supplier Videos

Winsor & Newton

Winsor and Newton is a supplier of artists materials for students and professionals. Very high quality.

Daler Rowney

Winsor and Newton is a supplier of artists materials for students and professionals. Very high quality.


One of the most respected makers of water colour papers.


Another premium quality paper manufacturer that I use for photography as well as for water colour.

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Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

I was asked to paint a butterfly at the beginning of this week so did a stylised painting using watercolour paints and some pend and ink. I then decided to do a painting of the Monarch.

Although I lived in Mexico City for some time, and was within a day’s drive of the area where Monarchs hibernate during the winter, I was working at the crucial period for the two winters that I spent in Mexico. I have actually seen Monarchs, though they were very far from Mexico when I saw them, but they are such instantly recognisable insects that I wanted to paint one.

This was done in water colour (Winsor and Newton) on A4 paper.

Although the black appears to be black I used Paynes Grey in a couple of layers so that it appears black. The white spots on the wings were not painted, just the paper showing through where I painted around them.

Fun project but took more time that I usually take to paint a subject of this size.

This is the stylised painting that kicked off the project: