As 2018 ends, I am beginning a new series for 2019 called Materials Monday, where I discuss a different material each Monday, and I’m kicking it off today, the last day of the year.
It seems like one of the biggest questions that I get all the time is, “What do you use?” It might be about my materials in general, or it might be specifically about the watercolors, the pens, the markers, the whatever that I use when I work in my journals or to make my art. The choice of materials, however, is a highly personal decision, but despite that, I think that people just like to know what materials and media other artists like to use, especially when first getting into an art form. I think we look to others with more experience as more of the expert. Now, I’m not claiming to be any type of expert, but I do have quite a bit of experience. Just don’t feel like you need to go out and buy more stuff. We don’t need more stuff! Besides it’s not so much about having the “right” stuff, it’s about what we do with the stuff that we already have.
So that you know up front, I am not getting paid anything from anyone for sharing about these materials, and all of the things that I’ll share in the upcoming weeks are materials that I actually use, like, and recommend. As with everything that I do, I hope that you get some value out of the things that I share.
I’ll talk about the journals and the paper that I use later in the series, but first, I wanted to start out with one of the most basic materials that I use — watercolor paint. It’s easy to drop a good chunk of change on a brand new set of watercolor paint, and like most things, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to art materials. So, yes, good quality art materials tend to be on the expensive side, but you don’t need to have most expensive materials to get amazing results, and if you’re just starting out, I always recommend going with the more inexpensive options as a way to try it out, experiment, and learn.
A perfect example of this is Prang Semi-Moist Watercolor paint. Prang may be more known as a kids’ material, and you can find it in many schools. In fact, I first started using it because it was what I had in my classroom, since I ordered it all the time when I was a public school art teacher, and I used it with both the elementary and high school levels. It may be inexpensive, but it’s a very nice paint. Also, I have always been much more open to experimenting with these paints knowing the they’re not super expensive, and I’m much less concerned with wasting paint or messing up. It takes the pressure off of being too precious with the material.
There’s nothing fancy about the colors, no cadmium red, phthalo blue, or quinacridone magenta, and I like to get the sixteen color set, because along with your eight standard colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and black, you get red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, turquoise, blue-violet, red-violet, and white — though I never use the white. You end up with a nice range of colors, and they are quite vibrant.
They come in a sturdy plastic case which is perfect for travel, and I like the oval pans since they have more paint than your standard half-pans. The sets are a bit bulky compared to some of the more compact travel sets that are out there, and the tend to be longer and sometimes a bit thicker. But you do get 16 colors and more paint. I usually have a set stuffed in my backpack anywhere that I go. I don’t like the brush that comes with the set at all, and I like to use a stiff, nylon bristle brush with the watercolor. Sorry if I just made all of the watercolor artists cringe! But I’ll talk about brushes at a later point.
I use these paints all the time in my journal, and they are great for building layers on the pages because they have a nice transparency, except the white. They do hold up well in the journal, and I have some journals that are nearly 20 years old where the pigment is still bright and vibrant. But I have to say that these paints are not very lightfast, and they are far from professional quality. Because of this they can fade and break down when exposed to light, and I don’t use them for work that I intend to hang on the wall. I want something that has better lightfastness and that will last, but in the journal where it’s closed off from the light, it lasts.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive watercolor paint that has bright, vivid color, that is portable, and that is good to use in a journal or for experimenting, I highly recommend the Prang Semi-Moist Watercolors.