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Changing Habits

color ink and watercolor sketchbook watercolor Jan 24, 2020

Halfway through filming and editing a new course, Mixing Glorious Greens, I came to an abrupt halt. In a period of only two days I received a deluge of messages and emails from members of several Facebook watercolor/sketching learning groups to which I contribute on a regular basis, sharing tips, techniques and demo videos. 

Two questions were being asked.  Why do I use aureolin when it isn't lightfast? Why do I use squirrel hair brushes when there are excellent synthetic brushes available that don't rely on animals sacrificing their hair and their lives?  Both are very good questions.  I will add a third, one that I also hear on a regular basis.  Why do I use Cadmium Red Light and other pigments that could cause health problems?


The squirrel hair brush came up after I posted a review (see the January 13th Blog Post) of a fabulous new brush I tested.  The Da Vinci squirrel hair brush has a silver tip that enables me to sketch using the silverpoint technique on prepared paper.  I just started exploring metalpoint drawing earlier last year.  The brush is fabulous.  I wanted to share its excellence with the art community.

After being given several suggestion of synthetic squirrel brushes to try, I ordered a set of Mimik brushes. Though I can't compare the synthetic hair with my 1" squirrel hair mop brush when it comes to flinging paint, I have to say that in addition to holding a generous amount of water and pigment, the Mimik brushes hold a point beautifully.  I painted the entire entry in my Perpetual Plant Journal with the number 8 round Mimik brush. I was able to control the flow of liquid from the brush as well as maintain a very thin, delicate line.

The reason I mention the paint flinging is because that is the only time I use my 1" squirrel hair mop brush and I truly wouldn't want to live without it.  I acquired a second 1" squirrel hair mop brush that belonged to my watercolor mentor several years ago.  I definitely don't need more than two, so I won't be purchasing a synthetic mop brush just to compare them.

Color Chart i began for the Mixing Glorious Green course

Aureolin?  Okay.  I hadn't really done my research when I fell in love with Aureolin.  I discovered the beauty of Aureolin when I was testing out colors for my Color Scheme Game.  At that time, I was also concerned about the health hazards of cadmiums and the cobalts.  Several of my artist friends had to totally give them up. I've given up all but Cadmium Red Light, Cobalt Violet and Cobalt Turquoise.  Two days ago I ordered a few tubes of pigments that might replace the cobalt turquoise.  I also ordered several lightfast yellows to replace my Aureolin.

Though I do my best to avoid health problems, I still wash my brushes in the palm of my hand, without wearing plastic or rubber gloves.  I still put my brushes in my mouth as I'm painting.  I still paint without wearing gloves, except when it's cold outside.  I do continue drinking my coffee even after I've dipped my brush in it by mistake. It may be a foolish justification for my behaviour to say that I don't think changing my habits now will reverse any damage I did over the past forty-five years of painting.

Since I was switching out my cool yellow, I decided to research a few more pigments regarding both lightfastness and health hazards.  So much more information is available now than when I first started painting and developed many of my habits and favorite choices for supplies.  I currently use Permanent Alizarin Crimson for my cool red.  I'm testing out a few more options for cool reds as well as a few options to replace the cadmium red light. Currently use Joe's Blue for my cool blue.  I'm testing out a few more options for my cool blue too. 

And .... I'm playing with a variety of different color palettes

Over the last ten years, traveling so much (and loving it), I've minimized the art supplies I carry with me, as well as those I use at home. I'm able to carry everything in my pocket when I need to.  That was my goal and I've achieved it.  Now I'm ready to expand a bit again.  I'll be working with an "expanded" limited palette and working in larger sketchbooks again.  Of course, there will still be occasions when I travel super light and work small.

Since I was shaking up my routines and disturbing my habits, I decided to give my Lamy Safari fountain pens another opportunity to make me smile.  I think it was just this morning that I mentioned how much I didn't like my Lamy pens.  I filled both (one F nib and one EF nib) with Platinum Carbon ink and used them throughout the day.  I even did used the EF in my Perpetual Plant Journal to outline the lettering.  I had a knot in my stomach the whole time ... an unnecessary response to a pen that behaved rather well. I doubt it will ever become a favorite but it will no longer cause me irritation. 

This is definitely another case of the tutor growing as much, if not more, than the pupil.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to question me about my art material decisions!

I'll get back to work on the Mixing Glorious Greens course when I return from Maryland at the end of next week.


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