Watercolor Art-the Frugal Way

Frugality means using things that are inexpensive, free, recycled, refurbished and re-purposed.  This is a life-style for our family.  My main weaknesses are art supplies and journals.  These things call my name and want me to spend big bucks on them.

Here are some inexpensive art supplies that work well.  They aren’t the highest quality, but they are really a bargain for the price.

I found a watercolor palette I had filled with Marie’s watercolors on the shelf, slipped behind a storage box.  I filled this palette (I purchased several of these and have them filled with various brands of watercolor paint) to use for Plein Air painting.  The thumb hole makes this palette very easy to use when painting outdoors.  It’s lightweight and shuts tightly.  Remember to let your paints dry before shutting the lid tightly.  You don’t want mold to grow in your paints because they remained wet while tightly closed.

After finding this palette-unused and waiting for action-I couldn’t resist whipping up a few things with these paints.

I included my artist bio photograph, thought you might be interested in seeing my face…

I modified the palette by adding three wells in the middle section.  I used hot glue to make the barriers.  I filled them with yellow ocher, burnt sienna and sap green.  There are 15 wells in the palette without adding the additional three.

I have found really great quality brushes at both Walmart and Meijer.  You can also buy them at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s.  Use your coupon at either Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. The Royal Langenickle line of brushes with the synthetic bristles are an inexpensive brush that works well.  I am a brush fanatic.  I am always trying new brushes out to see if I like them.  I have even purchased a set of Plaid brushes-which are usually used in crafting, not for watercolor painting.  I have been pleasantly surprised by their quality.  I have never lost a bristle in my paintings, they keep their point, pick up both water and paint easily and hold a sufficient amount for most applications.  I was surprised to find these were the brushes I used to create the stuff above.  I thought I had grabbed the more pricey Princeton brushes.

Confession time:  I purchased some art supplies from Blick and Jerry’s the night before last.

I know, I know.  We are supposed to be on a spending freeze-purchasing only those things essential to complete the project, like adhesives.

Well, these things were pretty essential.

I bought paper.  I have been creating like a mad woman and have run low on my basic supplies.  I needed more watercolor cards.

And I have used up a great deal of paint.  I needed to replace several empty tubes of Van Gogh watercolors so I can refill that paint palette.  Van Gogh is another reasonably priced watercolor option for those of you just starting out, or without a great deal of money to spend on expensive paints.  I think, with the discount, my tubes were 2.65 or close to it.  That’s incredibly cheap for very good quality paint.

Van Gogh is listed as a student-grade paint, which means it’s safe (within reason-always be sure to wash your hands after using any paint supplies, don’t rinse your brush in your coffee cup and then drink it, don’t let your kids eat the paint…common sense here people!) for students to use.  Some artist grade paints should not be used by kids because they contain cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, zinc, and other things no one should ingest.  But, to be honest with you here, Van Gogh is one of my favorite brands of watercolor paints on the market.  I have used many, although not nearly all of them, and I am really impressed with Van Gogh.  They are not all pure pigment, which is why they are cost effective.  I don’t have any problem using these paints in my work.  I have been extremely happy with them and they are my go-to paints for quick “sketches” and cards.

Another reasonably priced watercolor option is Turner watercolors.  They are professional quality paints from Japan and they are nice as well.  Inexpensive as far as professional quality paints are concerned.  In fact, they are down-right cheap when you compare them to other paints on the market.

My favorite professional watercolors are QoR watercolors by Golden.  These paints have a different binder than is usually used in watercolor paints.  They are new, have introductory prices and that’s why I bought each of the offered sets when they came out.  I fell head-over-heels in love with these paints.  The colors are breathtakingly vibrant, rich and lush.  Each color (when mixed with one of the others) creates some truly spectacular colors!  This is why-when you get new artist materials- you should swatch out your colors.

Although the process can be lengthy, you will never be sorry you did it.  Here’s how you do a color swatch sample:

You make your squares, based upon how many colors you have to swatch out.  Write their names on the top of each column and along the left side of each column.  Now you start to work on the swatches.  Notice there is a blank spot in each column?  You will need an extra square for that.  Begin with your first color.  I like to go in ROYGBIV order, but you can do this in any order you want.  Just make sure you have the same color in the same order for both the top column and the side column.  I began with Alizarin Crimson.

I wet Alizarin Crimson and place the color in the spaces where they are labeled.  Next I place a spot of Alizarin Crimson and the next color, Pyrrole Red Lt., together on my palette, combining them.  This becomes the color that I put in the square which meets beneath Alizarin Crimson and sideways in the Pyrrole Red column.  You are simply mixing the two colors together and putting them in the grid space where they join.

Now, some people like to combine the colors using more of Alizarin Crimson and less Pyrrole Red Lt. in the first column that meets, then on the other side use more of the Pyrrole Red Lt and less of the Alizarin Crimson to show the colors combined with each listed color as the primary color and the second color then added in a smaller amount.  This will show twice the amount of color possibilities, with each color added to every other color as the primary color and the secondary, added, mix color the other way.

I hope I explained that well enough for you to understand.  If not, let me know and I’ll try again.

While, as I mentioned, this can take a great deal of time to do-it is well worth it.  I have swatches of all my paints, all my colored pencils, my water soluble pencils, my markers, my water soluble media-water soluble crayons, pastels, inks, etc. everything that I can combine colors with-I have swatched.  My water soluble pencils I did not combine with other colors-I simply made a swatch of the color when water is added to it.  These swatches I keep in my pencil storage boxes-taped to the lid of the metal cases they came in-labeled with the pencil name beneath the swatch.

Why do you make swatches?  With the watercolor paints you have a document of the color combinations you can make with these colors.  Of course there are only two colors combined on my swatches, and if you add a third or forth color to the mix you will get many different color options-or they will become a muddy brownish mess.

This is why I stick with two.  I know what I have and how to get the color back, if I really like it.  I also recently found The Mind of Watercolor and was impressed with his paint color choices.  I was thrilled with his color combinations, as I have not used some of his favorite color choices.  It’s always exciting to find colors and combinations you have not used before, and I really like these.  I want to try them.

I will continue this after a bit.  Home things calling me.

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