Saturday, 16 February 2019

Watercolour Goodies Part III

And finally I can post the main event of my watercolour goodies series: my Grandmothers 36 halfpan Schmincke watercolour palette.
I could not narrow down a manufacturing date for these tins, but I did learn that Schmincke is still selling these on their webpage, the product code is still the same, probably all that has changed over the years are the included colours.

Inside I found 34 colours, most of them in halfpans, but not all of them the original Schmincke colours or even in labeled pans. Well, that tells me my Grandmother used this box a fair bit, enough to have used up pans and also to warrant some customisation. In the next picture you can see I swatched them all out and if I found a colour name, number or even brand on the halfpan I also took a note of it.
Reactivating all of these beauties was highly exciting and enjoyable, two came back to life in a very strange way. One of the reds in the top row on the right was really grainy and needed a lot of paint to even come up as a colour, and another one reactivated like a sponge. It expanded (like a sponge) and I could take the paint out of the pan centre, but the rims of the paint inside the pan were also of a spongy texture. You can see which one I am talking about in the next picture, top row, 5th paint (orange) from the left.

In the previous pictures you could see the palette all nice and cleaned up, but before I went to cleaning it with a toothbrush and toothpaste, I took samples off every colour that had been mixed on the palette, the last paints out of this tin to have been used...

I was starting to wonder how I could possibly pay homage to the scope of colour and in a way heritage wealth I had been given, so I decided to make a giant swatch card for this Schmincke palette as well. Also I am planning to be using all of these colours so I do want to get a good idea of what they are capable of...
It did not occur to me how big of a swatch card this would have to be until I had the grid all marked out with 1/2“ squares  and ready to be labelled with the paint names insofar as I knew them. (Pay close attention to the mixing area in the tin on the right, I will reference this picture later)

But too late now to back down, so I got started slowly but surely.

Even cleaning out the samples from the mixing trays provided me with what seemed like endless entertainment. For the most part the colours flowed so nicely together and culminated in the most beautiful swirly marbeled effects.

Getting there very, very slowly. This is my progress after about an hour of swatching...

But it was so absolutely worth it. I needed several sittings to complete my colourchart, getting faster towards the finish because there were less and less colours to swatch. To help me keep an overview over which colours I was currently doing, I marked thicker lines between the colours of the rows of halfpans and also around the squares with the original shades.

Remember the mixing trays in the earlier picture? I thought I had it as clean as I could get it, but after hours of swatching and mixing paint samples in the same spots...

So that was my gift of my Grandmothers watercolours, I hope you all enjoyed the report of my swatching process, most likely it is much more exciting to do it yourself than to just read about it. 
As a little treat I wanted to share a last little surprise here. In my Grandmothers collection were several halfpans with not enough of paint in them to hold on to them and sometimes there also was no colourname. What made 6 of them special however were the pans themselves: they are made from glazed white porcelain, with the name G√ľnther Wagner stamped into the bottom. He was the head chemist, and later owner, of Pelikan. He gave the company its logo with the Pelikan and her chicks that helped me date one of the tins I showed you in my first post. I have not found references anywhere online as to when porcelain halfpans would have last been used or sold by Pelikan, but I can tell they are old and I will definitely cherish (and of course use) them ;-)

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Watercolour Goodies Part II

So welcome to part 2 of the short but sweet watercolour goodies series. Today I will show you my Grandmothers small travel palette and also some tins of surplus or refill paints. I have to also mention that these small palettes and pieces are somewhat „edited“, by my mother as well as myself. My mother was sorting through all these paints some years ago, fitting into spare tins whatever did not have a fixed place in a palette or was left over, then as I received the paket, I also sorted through them. What colour I could not identify and wasn‘t enough of there I cleaned the pans out and keep them safe for future use, but more on the pans later.

First one up is my Grandmothers travel palette. She would have bought all these paints in the 1980s to early 90s, and she did go outside and do a good bit of plein air painting. She also visited the Zoo frequently to paint and draw the animals. In a later post I might share a watercolour painting she made in a museum, it shows a small egyptian statue. 
Well, point is, she had a travel palette...

And all cleaned up inside, with paints reactivated and sampled, ready to go once more. Some of the colours came with labels and names/numbers, and I tried to identify them as much as I could.

Now I had to see what this little palette was capable of...

I have to say I have never seen such a very, very neutral palette. And some of the colours are highly granulating and very opaque, almost like modern gouache paints.

Next is a little vintage (?) tin with more goodies inside!

Yes, I guess this tin is old enough to be labelled „vintage ;-)
It contains Schmincke (some Horadam) watercolour tubes. They are still soft, and of course I had to check them out. In some the paint had hardened just inside the srew top, but a little water and a toothpick sorted that problem, good thing that watercolours never really dry out permanently. And I have to admit that I really like that Cerulean Blue.

This following one is a bit of a toughie. In a way it could be said that in this tin are all the „leftovers“. But most of them are full pans, and were presumably bought as full pans, so leftovers is not quite accurate. I really had trouble figuring out how to view this one, until I learned that this tin was filled by my mother with whatever did not have a place anywhere else. And then I also put in one or two leftover half pans, so colourtheme wise this one is a little all over the place.

Some of the colours are really nice, I do like the two intensely coloured blues, and the yellows as well as the darker of the two reds. I have no idea what colour the majority of these full pans are. When I got them they all had some fluff growing on them, and when I reactivated them I did so with really hot water from my kettle.

AsI stated, this tin is a little all over the place when it comes to colour scheme. That did not stoo me from swatching all the colours out with each other, and taking notes for future reference.

I am aware that, since I do not know most of the colours names, when the pans run out, the colour is gone. So I will take careful note of the ones I like the most and see if I can find a close match to them in the future.
Also I am very much concerned about the paint formulations. During my research I found references to colours having been discontinued due to „labelling regulations“. Well, I get the manufacturer doesn‘t want to admit any toxic ingredients in their paints, and I also know that at least the majority of modern watercolour paints do not contain the likes of lead and real cadmium and such toxic materials any more. But my colours are a little over 20 years old and a lot can change in formulations during that time, it will be good to remember this when painting and not stick brush tips or handles into my mouth or dump my paint water into my vegetable patch. 
I really have to come up with some nice motif to paint with these goodies...

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Vintage Treasure

Happy New Year everyone.
I sincerely hope your year started as well as mine. My Mother was sorting through some stuff recently and she found my Grandmothers old watercolours.
I started experimenting with watercolours and have heeded good advice from 

John Muir Laws

on how to „pimp“ a small travel palette and optimise the colour choice in it. So my Mother sent me my Grandmothers watercolour stash and oh goodness what a treasure. It is so much, I am going to split everything into several posts to really do it all justice.

First up is a student watercolour set made by the company Pelikan, this is a set that has been used in schools in Germany, Pelikan was a german company  founded in Hannover (my hometown) in about 1830s, and when I grew up  they were a standard school supply manufacturer.

I was trying to date this tin, but even with the serial number inside I could not find a proper timespan during which this tin would have been sold in shops. But what I found was some information about the company logo. On this page I found out that the logo was customized several times, the amount of Pelikan chicks in the nest was adapted to the amount of children the company owner had! Even though it doesn‘t give accurate information what years these changes took place, the logo was „streamlined“ from 4 chicks to 2 chicks in 1937, then even later down to 1 chick.

My tin has 4 chicks so I know it was made before 1937, my Grandmother might have had this in school.

I took out all the little tin pans and set them aside to allow the paints to soak up a little bit of water; in the meantime I set to work with water, a soft toothbrush and some toothpaste. I think the tin cleaned up quite nicely. I loved to see that the travel palettes back then were set up the same way as today: the paint section can be removed for extra mixing space...

And of course I had to try them out. The paints are still so beautifully vibrant, and they feel much nicer to work with than any modern pupil quality brand of watercolours. The only one to reactivate a little lumpy (gritty?) was the lovely purple on the bottom right. And what I would call a Sap Green today was called French Green Imit.

I can hardly wait to paint a proper little picture with these colours, but that is for another post...

Sunday, 11 November 2018

And... more handbound diy journals...

A few months ago I posted about a handsewn leatherbound journal I made. This is what it looks like:

I really love my journal. I can art in it, write in it, I even added a little glitter shaker because I love glitter more and more. But I really missed a journal for out and about, one that will fit into my handbag. I might add that I am not really a big handbag gal, I like my handbags to be small yet roomy, and I do not buy handbags because I can make them myself just the way I want them. But my handbag is just not big enough for my A5 size journal, it fits inside, but then the bag won‘t close. 
So I took out my leather scraps and my paper pads and watercolour paper leftovers and now my journal has a little sibling!

The style and layout is the same as for the big one, six little lined paper inserts for writing in and in front the art journal insert from watercolour paper. This journal is 100% handsewn though, I have learned from the last time that my sewing machine can‘t handle several layers of leather. So I used my dremel tool with the smallest drill bit to pre- drill the holes for sewing the scraps of leather together.

In the next picture you get to see the layout with the different inserts from above.

Another thing I did differently is the paper cover around each insert. In my big journal I used heavy cream printer paper, in this little beauty I took my little kids art, cut some of it to size and used that for the covers. Now, I have a lot of kids, they happen to produce a ginormous amount of art I just do not want to keep and yet can‘t quite throw away. So for me to repurpose some of it in this way is better than the recycling bin.
This one is from my youngest son.

And this is from his twin sister.

They really use paint so differently: she uses lots of different colours, with quite dainty strokes. He saturates.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Taking My First Art Course

I decided to take an art course. It came advertised and organised through my local art gallery and I had met the teaching artist briefly before so I decided to go for it. It teaches Line, Tone and Form and in the first lesson we learned about „measuring“. That is when an artist holds out a pencil toward the object to be painted and uses the pencil to measure everything! It is tedious, I can see it can have its uses and I hated it. I got really frustrated and felt kind of stupid towards the end and I drifted off a bit mentally and started to embellish the boots I was supposed to measure...

Yes, I can be a little devil ;-)

Then yesterday was the second part of the course, we used different types of charcoal to draw some tasteful scenes our teacher had prepared for us. It always starts out with us making a 5 minute drawing of a scene we have before us. Then we do a blind drawing of the same scene, where we can look at the scen but not at what we are drawing, that is always funny and I really enjoy it...

Yeah, this is already a lot better than the first time I used this technique, we do this to help slow down our eyes to be able to see more details. we started drawing with compressed charcoal.
We did another round of blind drawing and I tried to focus more on the fabric folds in the background.

Then we follow this up with a line drawing, we can look at both the paper and the object, but we are not allowed to lift the pencil/charcoal off the paper, it has to be done in one continuous line. Again this is to help slow the eyes down even further.

I really should practise this at home a lot more, my eyes tend to dart over the objects way too fast... and I am still drawing parts of the same still life...

Now we had a lot more time for our drawing (20minutes) and we had to use the full side of the compressed charcoal and not the pointed edges. First block in very lightly where everything is and then get to the details later. I loved doing this...

Then we switched places around a little to get to draw different scenes (I think most participants stayed where they were).

First we used willow charcoal to give our sheet of paper a medium tone, then we used a range of charcoal sticks, erasers and paper stubs to work out the lights and darks of the scene before us. I found this very difficult because I tend to work and think more in outlines than lights and darks and tonal range. I had not worked with a monochrome range before and it was also new to me to take colour out to create highlights. I still like how it turned out, maybe because I did not feel nearly as frustrated as with the boot measuring...

I am looking forward to the last part of the course...

Monday, 16 July 2018


I love feathers. Of all kinds of birds, in all shapes and sizes. They remind me of lightness and I keep using feather patterns in my art projects.
After I had made my June postcards I had some of the coloured watercolour paper left over. It would have been a waste to throw them out and so I went ahead and made some feathers out of the scraps. I tried to use as much of the paper as I could and ended up with differently sized feathers which I then made into a fan with a brad and srap paper discs.

Making my feathered fan gave me an idea for the end of year teachers gifts in my local playschool, after all they looked after all of my children and now my last set of kids is moving on into big school I wanted to make the teachers gifts a little special. 
So I took papers and my trusty Gelatos and made more colourful paper to cut out my feathers from. I had to make 5 feathers in total for 5 teachers, and out of each paper piece I got a big feather and 4 small feathers.

Cutting out some details and marking the feather lines with my paint markers. I had planned to attach the little feathers with the furry string you see in the next picture but I changed my plans and improvised...

Apart from the feathers I also made hand tie dyed bandana scarves. I made 6 scarves, wrapped them all and then chose 5 at random for gifts, this is the one that was then left for me...

And the little feathered scarf gift parcels all done up. As you can see I ended up using brads to attach the small feathers.

The large feathers all have a Thank You note written on the back. Since I had randomised all the gifts I could not really personalise the notes, but from what I heard later all teachers loved their scarves and feathers...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Whimsical Girls

I was writing in a previous post about an artist named Tamara Laporte, working under the name of Willowing. I purchased a series of art lessons of her webpage and started taking her lessons bit by bit, it is slow going during the summer holidays when all the kids are at home and „under my paintbrushes“ so to speak.

One of the most recent lessons was called „The Happy Traveller“ and the subject was a front facing whimsical girl with a travelling companion (or several) and a little paper pouch for a message to myself. I really enjoyed painting this girl, Willowing went into great detail how she is shading faces and all the little details that go into it. She also makes a lot of use of collage and brayering with acrylic paints.

This is my Happy Traveller:

As you can see she is already framed and hanging in my living room. She is my first whimsical painting I framed and put on display, so of course she is very special to me. She is supposed to be happy, I am still working on facial expressions; at least she does not look tortured, just a little sad. I used watersoluble crayons, gelatos, acrylic paints, matt medium, tissue paper and international stamps for collage, white and black paint pens and pencils for added colour and shading.
I can not really recommend using modern stamps for collage, their surface is slightly water and paint resistant and not easy to work with so I ended up covering some again with tissue paper to tone them down.
I also used the ghostly flowers again, the same ones I made for the postcard swap last month.

I really enjoyed this class and can only recommend it, I am looking forward to my next willowing lesson.

But first I made another whimsical girl, this time I tried to work and build up the face layers from memory, to get a feel for what happens when I use different paints and techniques together. This time however I was a little uncertain what to do for a background. I seldom plan my girls, they just grow and „happen“ to be quite honest. My husband suggested a red fiery inferno, my own plan had been some cool green foliage forest design behind her. So I decided I could try out both and decide later...

I cut out her outlines and made the background on the front and back of a separate piece of watercolour paper: reversible. For the undecided viewer ;-)
I used my watersoluble crayons and gelatos, acrylic paints and paint pens, watercolour markers and tissue paper for the collage on her collar amd sleeves.

I am not sure, she still needs a little something to set her off optically a little bit more from the background. Maybe a slight shadow line? Or a halo of sorts?