Practice: Motive 2 of Ranson’s 7 Vignettes for brush practice

In my quest to learn to paint with watercolours I am currently practicing according to the instructions in Ranson’s book Watercolour.

Below is my first attempt at the the second motive for practicing to use the three main brushes Ransons recommends (the hake, the flat, and the rigger).

Motive 2, first attempt
My first attempt at motive 2 for brush practice
watercolour paper hahnemuhle, rough, 220g, 24x32cm
The rough paper

While painting, I realised it would have been so much easier if i didn’t have to stop and mix up new colours as went along. The hake sucks up all color it can. I am using my old set of student quality half pans. Afterwards I also realised that I had used cadmium yellow instead of lemon yellow as Ranson had instructed. That doesn’t matter at all though, it just created a scene that was slightly warmer in colour.
It was difficult to do this one, and I thought that perhaps it would have been easier if the paper I am using isn’t so rough. Ranson recommends the NOT paper, which is just a little bit rough. I don’t have that at home, but for my next attempt I switched to hot pressed, completely smooth paper. This is a pad that I found in one of my old boxes, the paper is more than 20 years old.

Mixing colours before painting

In my next attempt I premixed the colours, (Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber) and laid out the hot pressed pad of paper on the desk. This time I started with the flat, and ended up using that one mostly, not using the hake at all. In the end, when I was filling in details with the rigger I couldn’t help myself from doing a little rigging on the boats. Oh well. It was fun!
It was much easier to paint when the colours where already mixed. I made another change too, that was to go get a plate from the kitchen and use that as a mixing space. It was much easier like that, and while I only used the flat this time, a big mixing space will be better for the hake-blob, the big colour gobbler.
It was also easier to paint on the hot pressed paper, but the down-side was that without the structure of the paper, i didn’t get the effect where fast brushstrokes create little spots of white, where the colour doesn’t reach.

Motive 2, second attempt
My second attempt with Motive 2 of the 7 brush practice vignettes

After having done these two practice paintings I went on a shopping spree online; ordered a

  • 1 inch W&N golden sceptre flat. The one I have is a synthetic Pro Arte 1/2 inch flat, and that is too small (otherwise its a nice brush though). The golden sceptre series is a mix of natural and synthetic hair. It will be interesting to try it when i get it.
  • a W&N Sable size 2 rigger. The italian one I have is full length – great for superfine long lines, but hard to work thicker lines with. For figure details I need a half long rigger, so that’s what I ordered.
  • a tube of professional quality French Ultramarine – my old half pan is now empty, so i could order it with a good conscience
  • Bockingford NOT – i.e. the paper that Ranson recommends that is between Rough and the very smooth hot pressed paper. I also had a look at the other paper he recommends, Archers, but that was very expensive. Perhaps I can use that a few years down the line, in case it won’t feel wasteful by then.
What I learned this time around was mostly about preparation:
  • pre-mix the colours into a palette
  • use a large mixing space when using the hake, such as a plate

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