Charles Williams puts Jackson’s Watercolours to the test

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Charles Williams puts Jackson’s Watercolours to the test

Artist Charles Williams tests out Jackson's Watercolours.

'At a Royal Watercolour Society Summer School I had just got through my detailed introduction to materials, when Iain Nicholls ARWS, who was sharing the teaching, said ‘the thing to remember is, when you’re into the painting you’ve got to forget all that stuff.’'

'He had a good point,' says Charles Williams. 'It is easy to get over concerned about materials, as it is by technique, and if the primacy of the image is not foremost in your mind, your technical knowledge or expensive kit will not save you'.

Artists' quality

'My advice about paint is usually to buy the most expensive, don’t worry about the manufacturer and buy whatever is on offer as long as it is artists’ quality because some of the cheaper brands seem to blend their colours.

'Something called a ‘hue’, for example, will be a mixture of several different pigments to make, say, a cerulean. When you mix the cerulean with a cadmium yellow, to get a particular green, you will not be mixing two colours, but the two or three that were mixed to make the cerulean with the two or three that have been mixed to get the cadmium yellow, with the result that you will get to brown or grey quite quickly.

'Another reason to go for expensive paint is that cheaper paints may not be properly ground with their binder, which in watercolour is gum arabic and a little honey, so that it is not properly consistent – too grainy, perhaps. The binder may also be much more dextrose than gum Arabic or honey, and either of these factors will mean the wash will not hold together or sit on the surface of the paper properly'.

First impressions

'My first impression of Jackson’s professional watercolours is that they have done a very good marketing job. The new design looks very ‘artisan’, with its label showing not only colour but also transparency, but the main thing is the pack sizes of the product'.

Size matters

'Watercolour painting has long had a terrible reputation as a ‘precious’ medium. It just doesn’t look serious, with its tiny half pans and 16, 10 or even 5ml tubes. Except it does, with these generous whole pans and 21ml tubes.'

'You could paint for days without ordering more. I think that’s a very good thing, because I believe in teaching the need to express, to push the medium, to slosh it on, to enjoy the activity, and the promise of these paints is that you can do that in a way you would find difficult with the traditional half pan and tiny tube'.

First painting

'My next question is the quality of the paint itself.

'My first go at it was to apply a wash of lamp black to the background of a tiny painting called Little Japanese Woman (see below), and I used the background to define the form of the figure.

'I put on a layer and went for lunch to let it dry. When I came back I found it extraordinarily grainy. Lamp black does that sometimes though. I put another layer on and it was fine.

Jackson’s lamp black washes: there is a bit of graininess, but that is often a characteristic of the pigment.

'I then went through various mixing, darkening and lightening exercises with all the colours. I was keen to see whether or not the tubes were weaker in pigment than the pans. I am pleased to report that they are, generally, not'.

Little Japanese Woman 2015, Jackson’s professional watercolour, (8x5cm)

Value for money

I did feel a certain ‘dryness’ or graininess in the handling, but this may be because I am used to a different feel to watercolour paints. I made several comparisons with other brands, some Schminke and Winsor & Newton and, while they both ‘felt’ better going on the page, the results were the same, both in pigment quality and in the quality of the paint film. I tried layering the paint, and found no difficulty.

Thin washes and wet-in-wet seem perfectly feasible. The colour trials in the illustrations were done on Saunders Waterford smooth surface, which has a slight warmth in the white.

At half the price or less of many well-known manufacturers, these are astonishingly good value and that, coupled with the ‘professional’ size of the tubes and pans, makes this Jackson’s range an excellent thing all round.


Colour tests

Jackson’s French ultramarine (above left) compared to Schminke (above right) – both artists’ quality.

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Jackson’s lemon yellow to French ultramarine.

The lemon yellow is suitably powerful!

A light wash of Jackson’s warm sepia.

The colour is consistent, even and of good quality.

Couple Waiting for a Taxi 2015, Jackson’s professional watercolour, (29x20cm)

My usual practice is to start with very light washes, often randomly sloshing the paint around. I let it dry, and then see if it suggests anything.

In the case of the painting above, the two figures seemed to emerge, and I developed the image with washes, making a background which defines the figures further. The paint seems to respond well to this methodology.

The two figures were resolved into a finished image. I layered the paint with wash after wash, which requires a high quality. Jackson’s watercolours work very well.

A light wash of Jackson’s aureolin

Excellent colour value.

Jackson’s alizarin to viridian

My favourite grey! I love mixing this – there’s something magical about the moment when the colours are balanced so perfectly that the grey is neither red nor green.

Isadora Font 2015, Jackson’s professional watercolour and gouache, (29x30cm)

I started the painting above painting as a portrait demonstration on Two Rivers ‘Denim’ paper, a light blue-green, quite heavily textured surface, very nicely sized and great to work on.

It was a very lightly washed work from observation, and I used a mixture of Jackson’s watercolour and Lascaux gouache to develop it further.

I found the paints worked very well together.

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