Using Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oils

Clove Lakes Park II, 5x7"

Clove Lakes Park II, 5×7″

My Winsor & Newton Artisan water-mixable oils were in a box in the closet, unused, for months. I decided to break them out today and use them to paint this small 5 x 7” painting of a scene from Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island, New York City. In addition to giving unused tubes of paint some love, it gives me a good reason to write a blog post!

I used the following colors and mediums to do this painting:

Titanium White
Lamp Black
French Ultramarine Blue
Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
Cadmium Yellow Light
Yellow Ochre
Indian Red

Artisan Safflower Oil

I’d recommend this as a basic landscape palette if you are using these paints. Except maybe Cobalt Blue Hue would be a more useful blue because it should be slightly greener than French Ultramarine Blue and make a perfect sky blue just mixed with white, while with the French Ultramarine Blue you need to add a slight bit of green to make a correct sky blue. However, I don’t have a tube of the Cobalt Blue Hue so can’t say for sure. I am pretty sure Cobalt Blue (not the hue) would be great for skies, but for the target audience for these paints (beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of money), it’s not worth more than twice the price of the less expensive Series 1 blues.

Who are these paints for? I’d say two groups of customers:

(1) Beginners or other artists who want to limit how much money they spend on paint. The Artisan paints are less expensive than Winsor & Newton’s Arists’ Oil Colours, and furthermore you don’t have to spend any money on buying mineral spirits (such as Gamsol or Turpenoid). And knowing what do with the mineral spirits is one less thing that the absolute beginner has to worry about.

(2) Artists who are paranoid about using mineral spirits. High quality odorless mineral spirits are actually very safe and non-toxic as long as you don’t get the liquid directly into your lungs (so don’t spray it at your face or drink it and then that can’t possibly happen). But some people just can’t be convinced that they are safe.

The main downside of these paints is that they are only student quality. They have noticeably less pigment load than artist quality paint. This is especially a problem with normally weak colors like Ivory Black or the various cadmium hues. Don’t use the Artisan cadmium hues, you will be very disappointed with them. Even though they are less expensive than the genuine cadmium colors, it’s a false economy because they are so useless you will throw them out and replace them with genuine cadmiums.

This is not blanket statement covering all organic yellows and reds, just the Artisan cadmium hues. For example, in the Winsor & Newton Artists’ line, I find Winsor Yellow to be an acceptable substitute for Cadmium Yellow Pale.

The Lamp Black is the only color that seems as potent as artist-quality paint. The titanium white seems a little less potent, and most of the other colors have only half the covering power and tinting strength of artist-quality paint. If you are looking for artist-quality water-mixable oil paints, then I recommend the more expensive Holbein Duo Aqua Oils.

Some key tips on how to use Artisan paints

(1) A common complaint is that they are kind of stiff and sticky compared to regular oil paints out of the tube. Add some safflower oil to make the paints softer and easier to spread. I recommend safflower oil over linseed oil because safflower oil is a thinner oil and does a better job of thinning the paints.

(2) Don’t add water to the paints to thin them. This has the opposite effect and makes them stickier, and it also causes the paint to lighten slightly which will confuse you and cause you to put down the wrong color. Just say no to water. Use the safflower oil. (Except it’s OK to use a lot of water to make a wash that you let dry and then paint over).

(3) They say that if you dip a hog bristle brush in water, the bristles then become less stiff until they fully dry. So you should use synthetic brushes with water-mixable paints. The most bristle-like synthetic brushes that I’ve used are Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brushes, and they are also quite inexpensive. I highly recommend them.

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