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.


Lullwater at Prospect Park, with a primaries palette

5x7" oil on acid-free canvas paper

5×7″ oil on acid-free canvas paper

For amusement, I thought I’d try painting something using only three primary colors plus black and white. The five tubes of paint that I used are:

Titanium white
Mars black
Winsor & Newton Winsor Yellow
Winsor & Newton Winsor Blue (Red Shade)
Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose

Did it turn out to be fun? Not really. It’s too hard to mix a pale bluish-gray sky with phthalo blue, and the various shades of brown that you need in a landscape painting are a lot easier to mix from earth colors. I normally used W&N Gold Ochre and W&N Light Red. Plus I miss the convenience of using Gamblin Portland Greys.

I think that a limited palette is like veganism. It’s no fun to live without eating delicious foods like cheese and meat, but vegans walk around thinking they are morally superior to everyone else. And yes, the limited palette people on the internet act like that.

I’m going to go back to using a lazy man’s expanded palette.

Review: Mighty Mite Jr Brush Washer

Mighty Mite Jr. jar, insert and cap inside a Guerrilla Painter 8x10 Cigar Box V 2.0.

Mighty Mite Jr jar, insert and cap inside a Guerrilla Painter 8×10 Cigar Box V 2.0

This small brush washing jar is made by the same company that makes the Guerrilla Painter pochade boxes.

Despite the marketing claiming that this jar is something special, it’s nothing but a plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) jar with a cap with a standard cardboard cap liner coated with foil on the side that faces away from the cap.

Your standard bottled-water bottle is made from PET, so it’s pretty common and pretty cheap. You can buy PET jars with caps on the internet for only about fifty cents each. What is special about this jar is that it’s slightly taller than 1 3/8″ which is exactly the amount of space in an 8 x 10″ Guerrilla Painter box, and I presume that all of the company’s other boxes have at least the same amount of space so that this jar fits in all of their boxes.

The cap liner separated from the cap after only one day of using the jar. Whatever glue was used was really soft and not very sticky and just scraped right off. I needed to use some epoxy to glue the cap liner back onto the cap. Very disappointing quality in a jar that costs $15 (what I paid for it online at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff).

The jar also comes with a stainless steel insert that’s designed so that you can rub the bristles of the brush against something which isn’t the bottom of the jar. Now this is a really great feature in a studio brush cleaning jar. I have one of those Silicoil jars in which I’ve been using the same mineral spirits (I recommend Gamsol) for a year. The pigments settle to the bottom but your brush never goes down to the bottom because of the coil, so you can keep using the same mineral spirits for a really long time and never have to clean your jar. But this is not going to work for a travel jar, because when you turn your pochade box sideways and carry it around, the mineral spirits will get all shaken up and the pigments won’t stay at the bottom of the jar. In order to make this jar work, after you finish using it you need to pour the mineral spirits into another container where the pigments can settle to the bottom.

This jar’s wide mouth makes it very difficult to pour the mineral spirits out without it dribbling down the sides of the jar and making a mess. You definitely need a funnel.

You definitely don’t need to buy this jar if you already have a jar with a cap liner that fits in your pochade box. But I doubt you have a jar this size. It’s a pretty unusual size. I was unable to find anything at Amazon. It’s lot easier to spend $15 to buy this jar than to try to find another jar that works.

By the way, mineral spirits are a very weak solvent and can be safely stored in any plastic container except for those made from LDPE (low-density polyethylene). Make sure the recycling symbol on the plastic container doesn’t have a #4 which means it’s made from LDPE.

Midwood in Prospect Park with Forsythia

Midwood in Prospect Park with Forsythia

5×7″ oil on Canson Canva-Paper

This painting is based on a reference photo I took last year on April 18th. Everything is blooming earlier this year and in fact I already see a lot of forsythia in Central Park and magnolia trees are starting to bloom. This April I hope to be able to do some plein air paintings in the parks.

First post and picture of 57th Street

57th Street

57th Street

I haven’t played around with my various cameras for a while. Today I took a few pictures with my Olympus E-PM2, the Lumix 14mm “pancake” lens, and a Tiffen Haze 2A filter, a combination which hasn’t gotten much love from me in the past year. (And the reason it hasn’t gotten much love is that my newer Olympus E-P5, although quite a bit larger and heavier, has some features lacking on the E-PM2 which I find compelling.)

In this picture, we can see the construction site for the Nordstrom Tower, now officially called the “Central Park Tower,” which will be the tallest building in the United States. That is if you don’t count the antenna on top of the Freedom Tower. But I don’t know why an antenna should count as building height. As typical for these super-tall residential buildings along 57th streets, only the richest of the rich will be able to afford to live there.

One of the advantages of living in the Nordstrom Tower is that you can walk right across the street to Lee’s Art Shop to buy art supplies! Although most everything at Lee’s is full list price, I assume that if you can afford to live in the Nordstrom Tower you can afford to pay list price.