Monday, 28 March 2011

Derwent Inktense put through it's paces

I feel a real empathy with Derwent.

You see Derwent are based in the wettest place in England; Cumbria, and I am based in the second wettest place in England; West Cornwall.

So I should have known really that testing a water based product outside, even on a bright, warm spring day would be a mistake.

Trouble is when I see a bright blue sky, I somehow deep down feel that it isn’t going to rain for ages.

Instead I manage a mere 25 minutes painting time before the rain starts to fall and I abandon ship to the comfort of my studio.

But 25 minutes is enough when using one of the fastest mediums that I have ever come across.

Derwent Inktense blocks are amazing, no word of a lie.

A block of intense ink, (hence the clever little name,) a block that is so adaptable to water based techniques that I feel instantly at home using them, having never used one before.

I begin by loosely sketching on my still life composition using a block of red completely dry. The block marks the surface in a way very similar to pastel but without the annoying chalky dust stuff, and the pigment is incredibly vibrant.

The magic begins though when I add a touch of water to my sketched lines.

Suddenly the ink spreads in a way akin to good quality watercolour, it’s richness unfolding into the clear water leaving a beautiful translucent wash.

Of course you may well ask, “Why not simply use watercolour?”

Well; and here is just one of the advantages of Inktense; the washes dry permanent, yes, permanent.

This in turn means that when dry I can work over the top of washes without moving or damaging the work underneath, this also means that it is easy to glaze the jewel like colours without creating the common ‘pool of mud’ problem.

How cool is that?

I also get very excited when I work back into the wash with the dry block. I can create all sorts of textures and varying degrees of saturation simply by dipping, drawing, brushing, washing and smearing with my fingers.

But you know me, brushes alone simply are not enough, so I fetch my box of rummaged paraphernalia.

This little treasure box of mine contains sponges, knives, sticks, bits of rope, stamps, old toothbrushes…basically anything that I can make a mark with.

The blocks sponge on exactly as I expected, flicked on perfectly and dripped and ran just as I demanded.

And all with a positive, bright, flamboyant intensity.

None of this wishy-washy malarkey.

If you are of a delicate nature and prefer not to cover your fingers in sticky ink, Derwent dutifully supply a nifty little rubbery holder thingy.

I must admit that I prefer the control of the ‘finger to block’ contact and choose to dispense with the services of the Gripper block.

Being able to draw with dry colour into wet washes is a real treat, you can of course use water-soluble pencils for similar effects but the similarity ends there.

These Inktense blocks are fifty times larger than a coloured pencil lead and a whole lot more intense.

This in turn means that you can work big, quickly and spontaneously.

And of course the twin attributes of Mr Quick and Mrs Spontaneous really come into its own when the sweet Cornish mizzle appears.

All in all, Derwent have really nailed it with these little blocks, and if they ever manage to make an Inktense block version of opaque white (there you go Derwent, there is your challenge!) this product really will have it all.

I’m heading to Lands End this evening with these new little Inktense friends of mine to capture the sunset over the Scillies.

I’m in good company as Turner painted that very same view and Turner would have loved this stuff, I just know it.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Oilbars and parrots

Using an Oilbar reminds me of being a child and scribbling on the wallpaper with my grannies lipstick.

The same luscious colour exudes and the velvety texture just begs to be smeared.

In fact opening a packet of Winsor & Newton Oilbars is like gazing into Fanny Cradocks make up box.

All those mad, beautiful, seductive colours; and all in stick form.

I am currently working on a fund raising project for my friends at the World Parrot Trust and can think of no better subject than a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw to try out my sticky, glorious Oilbars.

I quickly arrange my favourite oil painting acquaintances next to my easel, Liquin, White Spirit, rags, stubbly old brushes and palette knives.

The Oilbars can in fact be used with any oil medium and are so tactile that you don’t really need any brushes at all.

I carefully study my small collection of Macaw feathers and realise that the intense, iridescent colours are tailor made for Oilbars (or should that be the other way around?).

Anyway, after squaring up my sketch onto a piece of 24” x 24” MDF which has had a few coats of gesso, I get caught up in applying the paint and begin working in a bit of a frenzy.

The Oilbars send out the same gorgeous studio scent of linseed that is so identifiable with oil paint and so inductive to creativity.

In fact Oilbars are just that; oil paint in the shape of a bar, well, with just a little top-secret waxy stuff added to help them hold their lipstick form.

Oilbars also come complete with their own little plastic sleeve to enable you to keep your fingers all nice and clean.

Unless you are a messy kind of creative, in which case you get to squish, squash and smear the pigment anywhere and everywhere.

Just remember though that as with conventional oils, these Oilbars don’t wash off easily, so before you start to paint in your best dinner suit or Fanny Craddock outfit, I’d recommend that you change into something a little more suitable.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, back to the painting.

After scribbling on some Cadmium yellow, Ultramarine and Sienna I begin laying on some heavier paint.

The Oilbars are able to give such a great buttery texture that I can work into them to help form the parrot’s feathers.

Mixing conventional oils and Oilbars together with Liquin means that I am able to drip, flick and spatter the paint to help me to achieve the interesting textures that I am after.

I also apply a few of the Macaw feathers themselves to the painting to give another layer of interest. I should say at this stage that the feathers are naturally moulted!

The Oilbars work so well with tube oil paint that they are truly a match made in heaven, the major advantage being that you can draw with the Oilbars in the way that you can with pastels.

This major advantage makes me wonder what Degas would have made of Oilbars?

After all Degas only abandoned working in oils after his eyesight started to fail, finding that pastels were easier to ‘paint’ with and ultimately more suited to his work.

I’m sure that Degas would have loved to have access to his beloved oil paints in a stick form, to enable his sweeping pastel strokes that are difficult to achieve with a loaded brush.

A really useful Oilbar item is the colourless medium stick, which can be used to easily blend the colours, and there are 50 new colours to choose from in 50ml (good handful size) sticks.

The Oilbars dry a little faster than normal oils and one of the many amazing feats that they perform is that they don’t mix in when you over paint, even when using white, I know, I know how can that be?

All in all, these juicy sticks of pure dynamite are an absolute joy to use; a joy to hold, to draw with, paint with and smear with.

Just don’t try using them as make up.