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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly review:affordable gouache

I started using gouache in 2004 when my artistic ability (and obsession!) was just developing. I had just started a college summer course and had never heard of it before but it soon became my go-to paint for the next 5 years until i went to university and branched out a little. I loved the versatility of it, the fact that you could use it as you would watercolour (very dilute) or more thickly. Though unlike watercolour it’s opaque. For this reason I find it preferential for pieces where I want vibrant colours. However, this type of paint does dry fast so you’ll need to work fairly quickly, which is why when I’m doing more involved pieces I like to use water-mixable oils (a faster dry time than traditional oils, but not as fast as paints such as gouache and watercolour).

Gouache can be expensive with individual professional tubes costing as much as much as £10. However, there are budget options available. These sets are great for experimenting with and I own both professional and cheaper brands and use them together. A more purse-friendly brand that I’ve found to be quite good is Reeves, not as cheap as paints you’d find in bargain stores, but not as expensive as professional brands, this set is a good in-between, so that’s the brand I’ll be reviewing today.

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Name: Reeves Gouache Artist Colour Tube Set – 24

Price: £9.99-£27

Where to buy:  Hobbycraft, The Range (cheapest so far), Amazon, ebay, many other craft stores/online

Having tried various brands, including professional more expensive ones, I’ve never felt disappointed with Reeves gouache. In fact, I trusted it enough  to use during my time at university alongside these more expensive brands and still use it today. It retains its quality well and doesn’t dry out after months of storage, unlike a much more expensive brand I also regularly use. It still remains smooth, whereas the more expensive brand had become thick and unusable. For students on a tight budget and beginners wanting to just experiment before shelving out for premium brands this is a great option.

These paints can be used on their own, but I find them useful as ‘base colours’ underneath soft pastels. I do this to achieve a ‘softer’ look, but the good thing about gouache is it can also be used for pieces where you want vibrancy. Reeves gouache delivers this and they mix easily with water. The more liquid texture (in comparison to more expensive brands) can be thanked for this. However, the fact that it’s more liquid may suggest that to save costs there are more ingredients such as water and binding agent and less pigment, which is what gives you vibrancy. Gouache is made of pigment, water, and a binding agent such as gum arabic or dextrin. In higher quality paints you’d expect there to be more quality pigment. However, these paints are very workable and once you get the hang of them you can control the intensity of your colour by adding more/less water.

One issue with the Reeves set is actually not specific to this brand, but shared by all gouache paints; the fact that you must be careful when using the paint undiluted/thickly or you risk cracking. One thing lacking with this specific set though is any assurance of permanence, which is something you do get when selecting professional/more expensive paint. Winsor & Newton for example use the system: AA, A, B, C with AA being extremely permanent and C being most likely to fade. If you’re creating a piece of artwork for exhibition it would be best to opt for a brand that gives you an idea of the permanence of your paint and opt for the highest possible. For everyday experiments and general practice though I feel the Reeves set serves a purpose and the quality is good for a mid-range product.

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‘Moving’ Gouache base under soft pastels

 

To see some of my past gouache work, click the icons:

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Monthly mini review: Derwent pastel pencil set

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Product name: Derwent Pastel Collection

Price: £16.00 – £53.98 (for 24 piece set)

Rating: 3.5/5

About: A tin containing 24 pieces: 8 conté-esque hard sticks, 14 pastel pencils, 1 sharpener, 1 putty rubbergood

  • If, like me, you tend to use a lot of detail then pastel pencils are for you! I found I had much more control than when using stick pastels and was able to do finer details.
  • Whilst pastels can be quite mucky, the beauty of these pencils is that they leave your hands clean.

 

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  • This set can be pricey, and prices range hugely depending where you look.
  • Availability of individual/replacement pencils can be limited. My local hobbycraft didn’t stock them.
  • One thing I feel would make the set more complete is a blending stump.
  • Not suitable for large areas.

 

conclude This set gave me an excuse to get stuck in to a medium I don’t use of a regular basis. It’s suited to those who’ve dabbled, but want to gain more experience in this medium, and those who have struggled with larger pastel sticks. This set is great for detail enthusiasts, rather than those who prefer to work on a larger scale, and more for those with a real interest in art as opposed to being something you drag out on a rainy day for the kids. Although not my favourite medium, I enjoyed experimenting, and plan to use them again.

ELLIE
‘Thirsty work’

 

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Osnir Narcizo ‘Heisenberg’

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Hannah (Melomiku)  ‘Tobi the Recon/Spy’

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Susan Mitchell – ‘Work in progress’

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Talent on the doorstep

Last month, in the post titled ‘A cofession‘ I mentioned ‘One For Sorrow’ (my mixed media oil/graphite piece) was included in the winter exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili. At the end of last month all entrants and their guests were invited to a presentation event with the mayor of the town, and, being the first time I’d seen the complete exhibition I was blown away by the talent I found myself faced with. I’m pleased to say my piece was highly commended, but what a tough decision the judges must have had choosing from so many unique and powerful pieces.

As he exhibition draws to a close, I want to introduce you to some of the gifted participants, and hope you’ll find their work as inspiring as I do. (Social media icons are clickable)

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‘Carousel Pony Painting’, oils, Elin Sian Blake.

 

Elin Sian Blake – Elin’s agricultural history is communicated strongly through her artwork, with work including beautiful Welsh landscapes and her favourite subject – Welsh Cobs and mountain ponies. She studied graphic design at the University of Glamorgan. Above is one of my favourite pieces from Elin’s online gallery.

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Neil Chard – Like Elin, Neil studied at the University of Glamorgan, studying Art Practice. As soon as I entered Y Galeri Caerfilli I noticed Neil’s atmospheric portrait. Neil’s work is detailed and you can see the real skill behind each piece. Above is his piece ‘Face in Recession’ in oils.

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‘Tide in at Polperro’ – mixed media, Shirley Fursland

 

Shirley Fursland – Shirley describes herself as an ‘amateur artist’ who ‘enjoys using acrylic and mixed media’. Shirley’s exhibited piece stood out to me as I thought the way you could see some of the newspaper print on the roof of one of the houses gave it a real quirky feel. Her pieces are wonderful examples of how texture can be used to create interest. You’ll find contact details for Shirley on her website.

aheadOn the 14th I’ll be bringing you my ‘monthly tutorial’, but with a twist! As it’s valentine’s day we’ll be showing some love for sea life (as well as ourselves – your heart will thank you for this healthier version) by whipping up some vegan sushi. Over the coming year, as promised, I’ll be replacing some arty/crafty tutorial slots with animal-friendly cookery. But don’t worry, I’ll still be including some creative ones, starting with a mini sewing project in honour of St David’s Day on the 1st March.

I’m also working on a couple of reviews that’ll appeal to art lovers, and will be scoping out a promising-looking exhibition.

Monthly Review – paintbrush cleaners

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What put me off oil paints initially was the fight to get my brushes truly clean. I tried a few tips (and stained a few sinks!) before finally discovering what worked best for me. I used to keep a set specifically for using oils and always found there’d be trace amounts of paint left behind on them,tainting the colour I was trying to create. Some people swear by washing up liquid, but as I often work with small brushes for fine detail, I find the condition of my brushes just as important as the removal of paint. In this months review I’ve brought you three of the best conditioning cleaners, their strengths, downfalls, and where to get your hands on them!

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Name: Water washable oil brush cleaner

Brand: Daler Rowney

Price: £5 – £6:50

Stockists: Jackson’s Art Supplies

Rating: 3.5/5

Benefits:

  • Low odour (solvent free)
  • Biodegradable
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning, using natural oils

Negatives:

  • Slightly tricky to pour (if pouring into smaller pot)
  • Can separate slightly
  • No longer stocked in high street stores such as Hobby Craft/The Range

How to use: As this can slightly separate be sure to shake first, then pour a moderate amount into a smaller pot. Wipe excess paint off your brush using tissue/paper towel before swirling your brush around a few times in the cleaner. Tap off excess before swirling in a jar of water and drying on paper towel.

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Name: Turpenoid Natural

Brand: Weber

Price: £5 + depending on size (236ml shown in photo)

Stockists: Jackson’s Art Supplies , Amazon

Rating: 4.5/5

Benefits:

  • Low odour
  • Doesn’t separate
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning
  •  Nontoxic
  • Can double as a medium

Negatives:

  • No longer easily available in high-street stores such as The Range/Hobby Craft
  • Tricky twist cap (though good if you have inquisitive children!)

How to use: I pour a little into a separate pot, wipe the excess paint off the paintbrush wish paper towel, then swirl the brush a few times in the cleaner. You can either wipe with a paper towel and carry on, or swirl in water then dry (as I do)

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Name: The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver

Brand: B&J

Price: £4+ depending on size (Available in 4 sizes, 75ml shown in photo)

Stockists: Pegasus Art , Jackson’s Art Supplies , Amazon

Rating: 4/5

Benefits:

  • Suitable for all paints, not just oils
  • Conditions brushes whilst cleaning
  • Beautifully presented
  • no odour
  • Cleans incredibly well

Negatives:

  • One of the pricier cleaners
  • Some waste, as you have to wipe away left over paint grime from the top

How to use: Wipe off excess paint from brush, swish in water then carefully rub in circular movements on the solid block of cleaner. Swish brush in a clean jar of water before drying with a paper towel.

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And the winner, by the tiniest whisker is… Weber Turpenoid Natural! Whilst I noticed how conditioned my brushes were, and how well The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver cleaned my brushes, I found Turpenoid Natural lasted longer and cleaned just as well. However, if you’re looking for a universal brush cleaner, as opposed to just oil cleaner, I would highly recommend giving The Masters a try.

Happy painting!

 

psst! Now that you’ve got the cleaning up afterwards sorted, why not head on over to these tutorials for some inspiration?

Painting clouds with oil paints

Treetorial

 

 

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