Saturday, August 16, 2014

Micro Watercolor Kits

How compact can you get with your watercolor set? Here are two of the tiniest I've seen, the Pocket Palette and the Winsor and Newton Bijou Box. 

At left is "The Pocket Palette" by artist Maria Coryell-Martin  It's based on those metal business card cases, with shallow metal pans that fit inside, held in place by a magnetic backing. She uses it on her painting expeditions to Greenland and Antarctica (link to her blog).

The book behind it is a 3.5 x 5.5 inch Pocket Moleskine. It's similar to one called "The Perfect Sketchbook" being Kickstarted by an artist named Erwin Lian Cherngzhi with just 5 days to go.

On the right is a 30-year-old Winsor and Newton pocket set called the "Bijou Box," which I used when I was on assignment for the National Geographic in the Holy Land in the 1980s.  

The Bijou Box has 18 colors. It's a nice selection... 

New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Light Red, Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, Paynes Grey, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Sepia, Winsor Green, Winsor Blue, Burnt Umber, and Black

But I think that's too many colors for such a small box, resulting in pans that are only a half inch square. If you begin with fewer colors in larger pans, I believe you're more likely to get harmonious color and more generous paint application.

I'd love to have your vote in the poll at left, where I ask you to vote for your 8 indispensable colors for watercolor painting (Sorry if I didn't mention your favorite---there really are hundreds). 

This video (Direct link to YouTube) is an excerpt from my 28-minute video called "Watercolor in the Wild: BONUS FEATURES."

If you liked the 72-minute main feature, you'll love this one too.
Here's how I shot the dinosaur skeleton sequence
in the Bonus Features video.

This supplement has 12 short segments, delivering bite-size inspiration that you can take anywhere on your portable devices or watch at home in HD.

It consists of 1080p HD releases of my most popular YouTube videos on watercolor painting, some with newly recorded commentary, plus an exclusive video where I use watercolor to render a dinosaur skeleton in a museum.

"Watercolor in the Wild: BONUS FEATURES" is available only as a download from the following:

Previously on GurneyJourney: Watercolor Materials


Greathouse said...

Hey Gurney,

I do have a question. I bought that pocket palette for a friend. However last I saw it it was thrown in the corner cause all his watercolor cracked. It couldn't been gouache which I know cracks but have you had this same problem with yours? Thanks again


James Gurney said...

Greathouse, my copy of the pocket palette came with mostly empty pans and some sample paints that were from Daniel Smith and should be first quality. It's possible that if you filled it with brittle gouache and painted impastos on thin paper that it might crack, but that would be the fault of the paint and the paper, not the palette.

James Gurney said...

Or did you mean it cracked and crumbled in the pans? Some cracking often does happen in any paint set as certain pigments dry and shrink in the pans (esp. earth pigments). If the pigment is especially fragile, chunks can break off and rattle around in any kind of set. I've had that happen with other paint kits. In the Pocket Palette, the pans are shallow and shiny metal, plus pockets do get a lot of jostling, so I would not be surprised to hear of the problem you mentioned. Again, though, I haven't test driven the PP too much. Has anyone else?

Nathalie said...

Let`s see if I can get the link to my fav palette:
It is my pocket palette but I am rather seldom out somewhere to paint. Just wanted to have a custom with fav colors.

runninghead said...

Just read your recent contribution in Imagine FX and I'm really enjoying the recent flurry of posts here. Thanks so much for putting in the extra effort to keep your blog going James, and to such a high standard. It really makes a difference to me professionally and personally it's great to check the daily newsfeeds and find such interesting material.

James Gurney said...

Runninghead, thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you're enjoying all the posts. I'll get back to "regular programming" after Watercolor Week is over.

Nathalie, the link worked. What wonderful colors! Blues, violets, cool reds--mystery and magic in those hues.

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

I only voted for six colors, my other two (not on the list) would be Verditer Blue (by Holbein) and Quin. Burnt Orange (by Daniel Smith)… I like the Verditer better than Cerulean and the Burnt Orange better for Burnt Sienna.
I have had a Pocket Palette for over a year, the only color I have cracking issues with is Raw Sienna (by W & N)… it does that in ALL my palettes. I use the little palette every day, so at least once a day the paints get a misting with water, maybe that's the secret… USE IT lol.

Jobot said...

James: (For full disclosure, I work at DANIEL SMITH)Regarding cracking paint in the pans: I use both watercolor and gouache dried in pans. I fill my paint in the pans and set it on the window sill to dry. Once dry and cracked, I fill in the cracks with more paint. Once dry again, I pour gum arabic (the paint's binder) to fill in the rest of the gaps and effectively "glue" the cracked paint into the pan. This has caused no noticable change in the Gouache-y-ness of my gouache. I do have this same problem and use this same solution when using certain watercolors in Maria's Pocket Palette.

My staff and I LOVED your travel-sketch materials post the other day. Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring!

Unknown said...

I also only voted for 6 on the list- i would add light red and either permanent rose or rose madder (i think Quin. Rose is different?)
I' m lucky enough to have one of the bijou boxes; I also have one of the winsor and newton travel boxes which, although a bit bigger than a bijou box, manages to fit in a water holder and water bottle, as well as opening out to give several mixing surfaces! On balance this works out as an even more compact solution than the bijou box. Its a similar vintage and I think it was originally supplied with cotman paints.
I am really enjoying the posts this week, thanks James!

James Gurney said...

Jobot, thanks for explaining the crack-filling secret. That completely solves the problem. Glad you guys at D.S. liked the materials list. I have a question for you: The Schmincke site says that their formulation for pan watercolors is identical to that of tube pigments. Is that true at D.S. also?

Capt, thanks for explaining your experience with the Pocket Palette. Do you use a water brush with it or a regular brush?

Karl, I've seen those W/N fold-out travel boxes, and they look great. Appreciate the reminder.

Jobot said...

James, DANIEL SMITH does not make pan watercolors. We make tube pigments and Watercolor Sticks, which are our answer to pan pigments. Some people, myself included, cut a 1/2 inch or inch off the stick and cram that into a pan. They rewet beautifully and, in stick form, are like a crayonish version of a water-sol pencil. They're all pigment and gum arabic; no waxes. I know they are formulated very similarly to our tube colors, if not exactly, but as I work on our retail side and not in manufacturing, I'm only speculating. On Monday or Tuesday, I'll check with our chemist and send you an email with an answer that you can then choose to share or not.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Jobot. Haven't tried the pigment sticks, but the way you explained them, I can see how they would be handy.

Nancy said...

Not per the thread, but FYI if you haven't seen this: (Hoping the link will post.)

Unknown said...

I made a palette out of an altoids mini tin! It's somewhat just for fun but I have actually used it with a round waterbrush and it's extremely handy because you can hold it securely with a thumb or small bulldog clip!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Nancy. The link worked. Wow, Nathan is a huge inspiration, one of the best at light and color in the business.

Carole Pivarnik said...

I just adore those little watercolor boxes! I am a fan of making my is one about 2.5" across in a Hello Kitty Nerd tin:

It has just three primaries: perm yellow, magenta, and cyan. It uses water bottle caps for pans. They are essentially free, hold a generous amount of paint and with less adjacent edges than rectangular pans, there tends to be less color pllution. A little blue tack holds them in place. I would like to add a dollop of neutral tint in one corner for faster mixing of darks but I can mix just about anything with these three colors. I carry this tin, a mini waterbrush, a mini black Sharpie, and a short HB pencil in a little pouch. Very portable!

Loving Watercolor Week!

Nancy said...

So he is, and so are you. Thank you for your generosity in sharing and teaching. :o)

Unknown said...

Seconded, Nancy. The 'watercolour in the wild' blog entries and videos are excellent and very encouraging.

I have the Cotman 'field plus' box. It looks fairly impressive all folded out - like an artist's Transformer - and is pretty compact, but still not exactly pocket sized! Though it doesn't claim to be.
I've wondered about the smaller standard field box, but the recent blog posts here - especially this one and it's comments - jog my memory about tins. I glued foam in a 4" cigarette or tobacco tin to hold Conte crayons; some half-pans shouldn't be much more complicated.

The pocket palette is tempting, though. Very slick.

Maria said...

Thank you for sharing the Pocket Palette, James! I created it as a compact solution for my expeditions and it's been great fun to send it to artists around the world. My blog shows the Pocket Palette in action, and tips to use it if you'd like to learn more:
I also look forward to results from your watercolor poll. Your Watercolor Week has been inspiring, thank you!

Mark Martel said...

Hi Jim, love the blog for all sorts of reasons.

I've just started customizing my watercolor kits as colors run out. Ultramarine, yellow-greens, and cad yellows go first.

We moved from Ohio to Hawaii a year back and it's a completely different palette. Here I need really pure, intense colors, I keep looking for that "lost chord" of color. So more ultramarine, and I'm casting for the perfect aqua/cerulean in watercolor, gouache, acrylic and oils. Plus the most intense yellow-green possible.

Do you have any views on using fluorescent colors? I've tried some in acrylics and the regular tones just look dead by comparison (obviously there's a limited range but in combination might be remarkable). I know they're fugitive (fade/dull over time) but I wonder if there's a combination of UV coatings perhaps. I have a high school piece I did mid-70s with some fluorescents mixed with tempera and it hasn't faded noticeably.

Thanks, Mark Martel

James Gurney said...

Maria, you're welcome, and congratulations on the success of the Pocket Palette. I have added a link to your blog to the post.

Carole, what an awesome undercover watercolor kit: a Hello Kitty tin. And you're right--you can totally get by with the three primaries. When I'm taking a super minimum set of gouache I take red, yellow, blue, white, and burnt sienna, and that's all I need, really.

Warren, Yes, there's no reason we can't make our own kit out of Altoids tins or other small metal boxes. There's a micro watercolor group I should have mentioned called the Whiskey Painters who really get into retrofitting small boxes.

Mark, you bring out a good point, which is that you have to pick out a palette to suit what you're painting. My wife needs opera rose to capture certain flower colors, and even though I normally steer clear of high-power pigments like phthalos, I have been very glad to have them at times to hit certain mixtures.

I haven't really done much with fluorescent pigments (fluorescents basically translate invisible ultraviolet light into visible light, so they can create effects that are actually lighter than the white of the paper). They might be good for capturing certain night effects or weird illumination. But I'd test them first for lightfastness. Highlighter markers have not done so well in my tests.

Dave Brasgalla said...

I just want to put in a very happy endorsement of Maria's Pocket Palette. I use it with a Pentel water pen (the squashed barrel keeps it from rolling away) and the smaller Moleskine landscape watercolour pad, and I found a nice little paper-covered zip pouch from Muji that holds everything nicely. I can toss that in my shoulder bag and always have it to hand. To fill the pans, I decided to try something a bit different and just used the "All Terrain" set from American Journey (how can I not buy a colour called "Coastal Fog"?).

Thanks again, Maria, and thank you James for the wonderful posts this week!

Unknown said...

Ah, what the heck. I like scratchbuilding equipment, and I enjoyed seeing the kits and rigs of other commenters; but the pocket palette is much more compact and tidy than anything I could do (something I like when I'm stuffing moleskines and pencils into a pocket rather than a bag) and after browsing Maria's blog, it looks like too good an enterprise not to support.

Plus, I get an extra blog to follow!

I checked out the Whiskey Painters of America too. I laughed when I saw just why they're called the Whiskey Painters! But no laughing at their permanent collection - those are some enviable results, regardless of size. Thanks for pointing them out, James!

Anonymous said...

The "Perfect Sketchbook" kickstarter has just barely met it's goal. Today I found another good option: I never realized that my favorite sketchbook, the Pentalic Aqua (140# watercolor paper which you discovered recently is 100% cotton), ALSO comes in a 3x5 version. That's the same size as the pocket Moleskine, better paper and more pages.
--Kate B

Christopher said...

Hi James, I have a question about the pocket Moleskine, I saw a portrait in the video when you showed the pages of the album, and I was wondering if you think the pocket Moleskine is good for quick portraits, and if it's possible to get results closer to the portraits in your larger Moleskine (i.e More detailed).

James Gurney said...

Christopher, yes, definitely, you can use the pocket Moleskine for small, quick portraits. You just have to work a bit smaller. I took one of those on the road and did lots of tiny landscapes and portraits in it.
Here are some examples:

Thoughts Quotes said...

Love u sir u are awesome, u motivates me everday to do the best.

Love from India.