Coloured pencil time

Last year I bought a 7 colour pencil while I was travelling in Japan. I didn’t really use it until earlier this year. Of course it soon became such a favourite that I quickly used it up.

Unable to find this un-branded pencil locally I went back to using the other multi-coloured pencils in my stash. (I have previously discussed the Koh-i-Noor multicolour pencils). Here is a comparison.

Left to right are the 3 colour Koh-i-Noor Magic Pencil; the 4 colour Lyra ‘Super Ferby’ and last the remains of my 7 colour pencil next to it’s replacement. Yes! I found the ‘rainbow’ pencil online. Apart from the shape of the barrel, the original is round and the new one is a rounded triangle, there seems to be no difference between the two.

I also did a colour comparison so you can see the differences between the three.

I really enjoy using these colour pencils in my regular cafe sketches.

Here is a sketch with the 7 colour pencil. I find the intensity of these colours quite satisfying.

By comparison here is the 3 colour Koh-in-Noor in action.

The 4 and 7 colour pencils can be readily manipulated to select a preferred colour, while the 3 colour pencil is more difficult to control in terms of colour selection. Any of these pencils is worth trying in your sketches. They can also turn a simple line drawing into an interesting sketch.

Face Painting

Here are some more watercolour sketches of faces of people in cafes.


My first sketch, which also included some pen and ink (note to self I find the ink lines rather distracting, even though they give ‘definition’)

As part of my ongoing strategy to disrupt lazy habits I decided to use only a Daniel Smith test palette for my colours. This palette includes a number of colours that I don’t have in my paint selection. The other benefit using this card is that it’s a lot easier to carry if you are traveling light.


The John Orlando Birt colour palette for Daniel Smith

I was happier with my results when I ditched my pen and just stuck to the watercolours.


Man in a puffa jacket, 26 June 2017, watercolour

I think that this head of a small boy was the most successful on the day.


26 June 2017, small boy, watercolour

Another day and another cafe, same watercolour palette. Three people who were sitting at the same table.


Three portrait sketches, 4 July 2017, watercolour

Colour therapy

I decided to buy some of the Daniel Smith watercolours that I tested last week and a few days later they were in my letterbox. Along with my purchases came yet another sample palette, this time from David Taylor, an Australian watercolour artist. I sat down the other morning to do another test run of this set of colours – but I’ll spare you the details because I realised that I was just having immense fun mixing colours on the page.

What a revelation that I find myself so tied up in drawing and painting specific subjects that I have managed to forget how good it is just to play with colour!

Manganese Blue Hue and French Ochre

Manganese Blue Hue and French Ochre


The earthy tones of Perylene Green and Transparent Red Oxide


LHS, Cobalt Teal Blue with a flash of Cadmium Red; and RHS, Quinacridone Gold blending with Bloodstone Genuine


I’ve decided to make a book of my colour samples, not only because I can use them as a reference, but also because I’m sure they will bring me great joy simply to look at!

If you would like to indulge in other explorations of colour I can highly recommend I Send You This Cadmium Red… A correspondence between John Berger and John Christie, Actar, (English language edition 1999). This book documents an exchange of colours, ideas and exploration of colour and its meaning and expression between Berger, an art theorist and novelist and Christie, a documentary maker and creator of artist’s books.

Testing, testing – Daniel Smith Watercolours

The range of paints on offer to watercolour artists these days makes me feel like I’m stuck between being a ‘kid in a candy store’ or caught in an expensive minefield. With the cost of tubes of paint so high, experimentation can come with a big price tag. I was trained to mix my paints from a standard set of colours so selecting from the 195 colours on offer in the Daniel Smith range, excluding the 48 Luminescent™ watercolors also available, is a daunting prospect. With all that in mind I recently sent for a free sample card of watercolours, The Georgia Mansur Palette, from Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor.

The Georgia Mansur palette, a modest 16 colours, is fairly close to what I normally paint with. Although is does include colours such as Quinacridone Gold,  Pthalo Turquoise, Indanthrone Blue and Carbazole Violet that I don’t normally use. I was keen to see how these paints would stack up against my usual Windsor and Newton (W&N) colours.

The Georgia Mansur Palette, from Daniel Smith

The Georgia Mansur Palette, from Daniel Smith

I started by making a series of colour tests, mixing the 16 paint samples in a matrix, just as they came on the sample card.

Reds and violets

Reds and violets

The paints were painted on a Canson 200gsm cold pressed Montval Aquarelle block.

Yellows and blues

Yellows and blues

Green, blue and earth tones

Green, blue and earth tones

My initial assessment is that I couldn’t see much difference between the standard colours in the Daniel Smith (DS) range eg Cadmium Red,  French Ultramarine etc, to those I use already. The one exception was the DS Burnt Sienna which seems particularly ‘thin’ in comparison to the Windsor and Newton version of the pigment. I have no idea why this is the case.

Many of the painters I’ve seen on online  video tutorials and DVDs are using new classes of pigments, such as the quinacridone’s, that provide a greater intensity and lightfastness than more traditional pigments. I wasn’t sure about how these would work in my palette, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Quinacridone Gold that I sampled. It mixed in a beautiful way with many of the other pigments, particularly with the natural pigment paints such as Sodalite and Bloodstone Genuine, (see below).

Trying to get a wider range of mixes on one page

Trying to get a wider range of mixes on one page

I found the Pthalo Turquoise and Carbazole Violet to be a very intense colours, that are of little relevance to the landscapes I normally paint. I could see these paints being used in a tropical setting, but at this stage they are not colours that I’d buy.

What did come as a revelation were the four PrimaTek® Colors included in the palette. As the enclosed information said these are “made from naturally occurring pigments. …Most have a natural luminosity and many granulate.” The Sugilite Genuine has a silver sheen that I first mistook for a synthetic additive (it’s the 3rd colour down on the chart of ‘red’ colours), unfortunately I don’t think the scan clearly shows its natural luminosity. I was particularly taken by the Sodalite Genuine and the Bloodstone Genuine, whose ‘aged’ colour really appealed to me. I’m also a girl who loves granulation in a pigment!

Now the good news is that if you’re interested in sampling the Daniel Smith paints you can purchase samples of Paint It Colour Cards, at $A7.95 for 66 colours or the full range of 238 colours at $A33.65. That’s a lot of testing to do! If you are in the market for 15 mml tubes of paint you are looking at prices between $A20-$A40, depending on the pigment you are selecting. I think it’s definitely worth exploring the colour card option to help you decide what you do and do not like.

My top picks from the Georgia Mansur Palette were Quinacridone Gold, Sodalite Genuine and the Bloodstone Genuine. I’ll be adding these to my regular colour palette.