Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers Travel Set

Ari Cat posing with the W&N Watercolour Markers Travel Set
For scale and because he's beautiful.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers are a new product. Pigmented and archival, they join pan and tube watercolors plus their brand of watercolor sticks as another form of delivering artist grade watercolor. With 36 open stock colors, the range is small as markers go but very good as watercolors. Colors include a lot of hues, which suggests to me that modern pigments like quinacridones that are lightfast, transparent and vibrant form the backbone of the color mixes. Pigments are not listed but the color names with "Hue" suggest it.

Cheap Joe's has a sale on these for the holidays including tin sets of 6 and 12, open stock, sets of 24 or 36 and the 8 color Travel Set. Open stock is about $5 a marker and my Travel Set was $39.99 - the usual big discount at an online store. 

I have a great fondness for travel sets and portability. So with the case, two good if small W&N Sceptre brushes size 0 and 4 rounds, water bottle, clear folding water bucket and 7" x 5" Bockingford watercolor paper pad essentially free in the sale, I decided to go with this range rather than the 12 color tin. 

Case and accessories are all good. I'll review the paper later both with markers and with other watercolor techniques. The water bottle is generous, so is the bucket and the case is deep. There's plenty of room to add other markers and a small pocket between the water bottle and brush loops to add Niji water brushes, pens, or a candy tin with other supplies. There's room above the markers to put in a Sakura or other pocket watercolor pan set or any other self contained small field supplies you want. Pigma Micron pens fit across it neatly. So this case is a good choice to contain all your field supplies in one unit as many of my friends do for their journaling adventures. Small oblong art journals would fit in the paper pocket depending on flatness or width. Very useful zippered case with nylon over a sturdy stiffener.

Colors included are Alizarin Crimson Hue, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Dioxazine Violet, Prussian Blue Hue, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber and Ivory Black. Color swatches on the website seemed pale both on the Winsor Newton site and at Cheap Joe's but came out stronger in person although Alizarin Crimson Hue doesn't go as deep dark as I'm used to with Permanent Alizarin Crimson let alone the original pigment. 

The markers have a bullet tip with a pointed cap on one end and a brush tip with a blunt cap on the other. Warning! The blunt tip has to go down when you put them back in the case. If you put it in upside down with blunt on top and pointed cap downward, you can't get the marker cap out again. It gets stuck in the pocket and takes needle nose pliers to wiggle it loose to get it out. This is a weird, mildly annoying thing about the case but irrelevant in tins or other cases. Just remember that if you get the Travel Set, the case won't let you put them brush tip up even if you use it more. 

My first test was a monochrome sketch in Prussian Blue Hue.

Monochrome Prussian Blue Hue Skyscape and Mountains

Wow! Unlike my first color tests on printer paper, the color washed out beautifully. These perform well for pen and wash sketching using the bullet tip. I experimented with some techniques to gradate a sky using a very dark blue pen-wash and it worked well. Some lighter areas I just pulled color out of the darker ones or used what was on the brush after blending. I love how they wash out.

On the packing slip I tested each color to see if the markers all worked. I always do this with any set of markers, they can be factory defective even from the best companies. The color didn't wash out well on that slip so but both tips performed beautifully. The brush tip reminds me a lot of the Pitt Artist Pen Big Brush tip - pointed, springy, very sharp point good for precision and juicy.

I found out by accident knocking around one of them that they're juicy enough to splatter some tiny droplets of Alizarin Crimson Hue on the plastic coated cover of the Bockingford pad. So using a pencil and tapping the marker on it to do splatter effects will work, at least while the markers are new.

Sketches with W&N Watercolour Markers
Mixing and Blending

Next, I started testing overlays, color mixtures and wash textures. I had a lot of fun creating both mixed violet and dioxazine violet passages in the daisy. My life sketch of my sleeping cat worked well, similar to pen sketches of him but the soft wash on his brown back added another dimension plus gave me some brown on the water brush to darken the shadows on the pillows. I played with different colors on the pears, oranges and persimmon to see what kind of hues I'd get mixing and washing.

Sap Green is actually a vibrant, very bright neon green. I knocked it back with Alizarin Crimson Hue, Burnt Umber and Dioxazine Violet and it's still very saturated. If you're doing underpainting, this could be great or you may want to start off with Yellow Ochre and just bring in a little of the green on it. You'll find your own favorite combinations and techniques.

I easily pulled color off the tips with the waterbrush when I wanted to gently modify a wash without mixing as drastically as I would putting marks of another color or to make light marks. I've been using my Niji waterbrush for convenience but the included Sceptre brushes, water bottle and bucket would do the same thing. Mixing colors was very easy and on the brown-gold pears I was able to soften fresh marks and work them into the area gently. It takes a little getting used to, washing out marker lines and dots.

I love using a brush tip marker. That's one of my favorite sketch modes. My favorites to date were Tombow dual tip markers and Pitt Artist Pens Big Brush as well as their smaller Brush Tip. But the Tombow Dual Tip brush pens are not intended to be lightfast. They're fugitive design tools. Not something I'd feel comfortable underpainting a pastel sketch with or using for a painting on good paper for fine art or mixed media fine art.

Winsor & Newton has filled a big gap. Handle them as you would brush tip markers, but be aware this is real watercolor, strong, mixable and more lightfast. They have a few quirks but overall I'm glad I got them beacuse of that big gap.

Pulling the Ivory Black out and taking the cone cap off the bullet tip, I pulled the bullet tip right off once, but was able to put it back in place. It seems to be working right now. So handle them a bit gently, if they come apart put them back together and always put the blunt tip down if you're using the Travel Set.

These are not markers like Prismacolor markers or Copic or other design markers. You won't find a range of hundreds with gradated tints and darks to use individually, tints are created by wet brush pulling color off the tip or by pulling tints out of darker marks. Or by scribbling some color somewhere else and pulling it up out of that.

It's very easy to mix colors back and forth between areas, An accident putting violet into the green pear to mute it brought some green back to mute the violet shadow, so I started doing it deliberately to all the shadows to mute them a little. If handled delicately, the bullet tip can make very small dots. For the oranges in the back, I covered them with Cadmium Yellow Hue solidly and then dotted Alizarin Crimson Hue over it, then washed, giving a suggestion of orange peel texture while creating a good bright mixed orange. I could have smoothed out the persimmon but didn't because this is a typical quick sketch, not a refined painting.

In conjunction with other watercolor forms this can be a very powerful tool. They're fast for sketching, the tips are high quality, the paint's good and they're worth the money. Just be really careful about mechanical problems like putting them in upside down or pulling the cap off too hard. They're not quite as sturdy as other markers I've owned but those were all fugitive except the Pitt Artist Pens. Those really did need tint markers because there was no thinning out the colors once down. 

I bought these largely to use for underpainting field pastel paintings but with how they handle, sketching and painting is irresistible. It'll take a while to discover all the techniques possible with this new form of watercolor. I've often thought some of my Tombow sketches could be taken seriously as paintings but it's frustrating that they're fugitive. 

As a combination with Pitt Artist Pens it's great. These are watersoluble, the Pitt product is also archival but permanent and nonsoluble. Marks you don't want to move go in Pitt, marks you want to be able to soften in Winsor & Newton. I may invest in the full range eventually or not, but this set is going to prove very useful. The travel kit is a good bargain and can become a carryall for assorted small field supplies.

EDIT: 11-19-2014

Went out, decided to make the Bockingford paper a new entry.