Urban Sketching Kit 1: Watercolours

Urban Sketching Kit 1: Watercolours











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The first watercolours I used for urban sketching were by Winsor & Newton, a set of 24 Cotman colours. Since then, a lot of water – and colour – has flowed under the bridge. I have been through many watercolours, and I still get very excited when a new set arrives.

I would like to share with you the watercolours I use at the moment, and how I use them.

An urban sketching set of watercolours is not the same as one meant for “plein air” or landscape painting. As an urban sketcher you’ll find yourself needing psychedelic colours that just don’t occur in nature. I wish I’d known that when I started out.

(Note: If you’re looking for information on how colours behave, their technical properties such as transparency or lightfastness and so on, then I’m not the person to come to. I am less watercolour artist and more colour-in artist…)

I love using lots of pretty colours, and a quick glance through my sketchbooks will tell you that I love areas of pure, clean colour. Red, yellow, pink, lime, turquoise, jade. Intense colour. Art I love is always full of bright colour – vintage posters from the early 20th century, tropical scenes by the post-impressionists, Japanese prints, contemporary illustration.

So let’s get down to it – the watercolours I use today!

I use Schmincke and Daniel Smith with occasional watercolours by Winsor & Newton if I particularly like them. About a year ago I switched from half pans to watercolours in tubes, which I use to refill empty pans. I use a lot of paint, and I get much better value out of tubes of watercolour than a pan. It works just as well as a pan of dried paint. The wet paints dry nicely if I squeeze it in in a few layers and put it somewhere warm. In fact, I use a bread oven that my husband and I built into our chimney when we were building our house. You’d get the same result putting the paintbox into an oven at its lowest setting for an hour or so.

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