Sunday, 2 February 2014

The price of paint

Jackson's Art Pricewatch Scheme is the sort of marketing effort by art supplies companies which impresses me. 

Jackson's Art website page for the Pricewatch Scheme

Pricewatch Scheme

Our dedicated team of price watchers will constantly check our online competitor’s prices for the most popular branded art materials so that we can guarantee that the lowest prices can always be found at Jacksonsart.com
I'm a committed buyer of goods from John Lewis and one of the reasons I do is because they promise to match the price of the same goods on sale somewhere else so that they always offer the lowest price on normal (ie not clearance) stock.

A commitment from art supplies companies to introduce a price watch comparison service has been long overdue.

The Jacksons scheme is not perfect.  They've picked popular products and very reasonably have matched it against "competitor websites chosen on the first search results for the term ‘art supplies’ on Google.co.uk"

Which means it doesn't cover every product and it doesn't cover every competitor - but it's a start.

It could also mean that art supplies companies start to look very carefully at the price they're charging and introduce a bit more competition into the marketplace.

However, one might be forgiven for not being aware that the system actually exists.  They don't exactly shout about it on the front page of their website!

In fact, it's new and if I hadn't read their 24th January blog post Price Watch scheme I wouldn't have known anything about it.

To my mind, the quality of this scheme will depend on reliable reporting and updating of prices across the board. I could imagine other art suppliers becoming very annoyed and even litigious if their prices are misrepresented in anyway - that's if the Trading Standards people don't get there first!

My conclusion is that it's good to see somebody trying this approach - let's see how it works in practice before arriving at any conclusions about the scheme as a whole.

Cost of shipping


My normal caution to individual artists when comparing prices for art materials is 'ALWAYS look at the cost of shipping' because of the scope for suppliers to balance losses on cutprice goods with premiums on shipping costs.  I've certainly spotted suppliers in the past who have operated according to this strategy.

In this instance I note Jackson's Shipping Information indicates all shipping - at UK standard postage rates - is free once you've topped £39.  The usual sort of premiums apply to the Islands and Ireland.


Friday, 31 January 2014

Arches Huile Oil Paper, Paper Rolls and Paper Pads - reviews and prices

Arches Oil Paper Pad (140 lb x 12 sheets)

Below you can find
  • a video by Professor Steve Levin and Canson about the Arches® Oil paper: A new paper for oil painting
  • links to reviews of the Oil Paper and Oil Paper Pads introduced by Arches.
  • details of suppliers and the prices they've got for the different types of Arches oil paper on their websites as of today's post. It includes both UK (£sterling) and USA ($American) so be careful which one you're looking at



Noted characteristics of the paper are:
  • 100% cotton paper - thus much lighter than all normal supports for plein air painting
  • paper is deckle edged 
  • NOT-type surface 
  • range of alternative sizes - from pads to paper to rolls
  • ready to use
Comments about performance include
  • eliminates the need for preparation
  • easy to cut to different sizes
  • easily rolled for transport
  • strong paper - does not degrade when scrubbed
  • capable of taking oil paint without medium or thinners; paint and pigment stay on the surface of the paper and do not sink into the paper - hence no need to prime with gesso
  • can take a lot of solvent - which doesn't leak through paper or under tape - plus paper does not buckle when wet
  • absorbent - but views as to how absorbent it is very much depend on what people usually paint on; experience seems to be generally similar to painting on primed canvas
  • paint takes the same time to dry as other surfaces
  • possible to combine oil paint with other drawing media
  • oil paper pads provide a backing which means no need for a board to paint on 'en plein air'
  • great for oil sketches
  • needs to be framed under glass (that's because framing relates to the nature of the support as much as the media used)

Reviews of Arches Huile Oil Painting Pads

Suppliers

These are the art supplies people who have it in stock - and the prices they're charging


PADS
9 inches x 12inches
PADS
12 inches x 16 inches
PAPER
22 inches x
30 inches
1.3 x 9.15 metres
PAPER
51 inches x
10 yards
No. of reviews
on site
UK





£11.05
£17.45


4 reviews
£13.50
£20.50



£11.10
£17.50
£5.10
£111.00
4 reviews
USA








$156.65
rated 4.7
(3 reviews)
$9.77
$17.19


rated 5.0
(3 reviews)
$12.31
$21.58
(pack of 10 sheets)
$74.06
$201.35

$19.16
$23.96




Remember to check out the cost of shipping goods to you. (Not included above as it depends where you live and how big your order is)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014 POLL: Which is your favourite make of artist grade soft pastels?

The new 2014 POLL: Which is your favourite make of artist grade soft pastels? is now open to voting - by pastel artists - on my website Pastels - Resources for Artists.

It will run for the whole of 2014 and I'll do a report on the results at the end of the year (eg see
The Top Five Soft Pastels in 2013)

You can also vote in the polls on:
Do please also leave any comments as to why you like what you like best.

Below is a photograph of two sets of Henri Roche pastels which somebody won at the last annual exhibition of The Pastel Society which I was reviewing.
The Discovery and Earth set of Henri Roche soft pastels
possibly the most expensive pastels in the world



Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Top Five Soft Pastels in 2013

This post reviews my poll Which is your favourite make of artist grade soft pastels? which ran on my website Pastels - Resources for Artists during 2013.

Here's the chart of the results for 2013


It's the same Top 5 Pastels again - plus a tweak!

The top Five Soft Pastels, according to people who responded to the poll, were as follows.  Links to more information about the pastels are embedded in the name

  1. Unison Soft Pastels (British) - repeating the pattern of all previous polls - Unison consistently come top.  At the end of the day, pastel artists recognise very high quality products and vote with their wallets!
  2. Sennelier Extra Soft Pastels (French) One of the oldest and possibly the smallest pastels with one of the largest chromatic range of pastels - now offered in 525 shades
  3. Schminke Soft Pastels (German) - Some of the smoothest pastels in existence. As I indicate on my website I've bought this very popular pastel in four different countries on three different continents!
  4. Talens Rembrandt (Dutch) A very popular range which comes midway between soft and hard and one which many people start with - I know I did!
  5. Joint 5th place
    • Terry Ludwig (American) I always think of Terry Ludwig as being very like Unison in the sense of being an independent artisan supplier of soft pastels - who started small and has got bigger through the patronage of very many pastel artists.
    • Girault (French) 
  6. Girault got into the "top five" by virtue of Terry Ludwig having slipped slightly. 
Here you can see a table which gives the relative percentage share over the last few years - according to the poll.


BRAND OF PASTEL
2013
2011-2013

2011
2010
2006-2009
Unison
23%
18%
22.1%
21.9%
19.6%
Sennelier
17%
13%
14.7%
13.3%
15.9%
Schminke
13%
9%
6.6%
15.2%
11.7%
Talens Rembrandt
10%
8%
11.2%
9.4%
9.4%
Terry Ludwig
5%
6%
6.6%
6.1%
11.7%
Winsor & Newton
-
6%

4.7%
6%
Girault
5%
5%

5%
3.1%

As you can see the top four brands are now beginning to pull away from the rest of the pastel brands. I'm guessing this in part relates to the demise of the Winsor & Newton Pastel which can now only be obtained as discounted pastel sets.

Unison has had its best ever year and Schminke is regaining some of the ground it lost in 2011 and 2012.

Of the remainder PanPastels is growing a loyal band of followers and is doing well to achieve 3% of the vote.

Girault crept into Joint 5th place as a result of a slightly worse result by Terry Ludwig.

I've now posted a new Poll for 2014 - but will also be announcing it in a separate post tomorrow.

Past Polls about Soft Pastels


Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Top Five Artists' Watercolour Paints in 2013

Personal preferences were expressed in the product review poll "Which are the best artist-quality watercolour paints? (2012 / 13)" on my website Which is the best brand of watercolour paint for artists?

The chart below records the results of 360 responses.

Derived from
Which are the best artist-quality
watercolour paints? (2012 / 13)

The TOP FIVE WATERCOLOUR PAINTS IN 2013 are:

  1. Winsor & Newton - 27%
  2. M. Graham Watercolour Paints - 11%
  3. Daniel Smith Watercolor Paints - 10%
  4. Fine Schminke Horadam Aquarell - 9%
  5. Sennelier Aquarelle Extra - 8%
It's basically Winsor & Newton way out in front and then four brands - two American and two European - bringing in the next significant group of artist grade paints.

Those who are unfamiliar with M. Graham Watercolor Paints may be surprised they came second. However you should note:
  • Reviews of these paints generally provide high praise for the quality, saturation and lightfastness
  • 95% of those buying this paint from Dick Blicks would recommend them to a friend.
  • The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolours gave high ratings to these paints across the watercolour range.
Below that most paints got little or no support of significance - although there is a good spread of those that did get votes

The chart below reflects the paints in the poll in alphabetical order - and indicates the percentage of the vote each attracted.

The ranking of different brands of paint - in percentage order - follows the chart


Ranking of Watercolour Paints


This is the final ranking for the 2012-13 Poll to identify
  • 27% - Winsor and Newton Artists Watercolours 
  • 11% - M. Graham Watercolor Paints
  • 10% - Daniel Smith Watercolor Paints 
  • 9% - Fine Schminke Horadam Aquarell
  • 8% - Sennelier Aquarelle Extra
  • 6% - Holbein Artists Watercolor
  • 3% - Royal Talens
    • Rembrandt
    • St. Petersburg Watercolors
  • 2%
    • Daler Rowney Artists Watercolours 
    • Kremer Pigmente Watercolors
  • 1% 
    • Da Vinci
    • Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor Paints
    • Grumbacher Watercolor - Finest
    • Lukas Aquarell
    • Maimeri Blu
    • Mijello Mission Gold Watercolors
    • Royal Talens - Van Gogh
    • Shin Han Premium Watercolors
The following paints failed to get a vote:
  • Art Spectrum Artists Watercolours
  • Blockx Extra Fine Watercolors
  • Holbein Irodori Antique Watercolor
  • Old Holland Classic Watercolours
  • Pebeo Fragonard Extra-Fine Artists' Watercolors
  • Robert Doak's Concentrated Watercolors
  • Stephen Quiller Watercolors
  • Utrecht Artists' Watercolors

I'll be posting a new Poll for 2014 in the next few days.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Review: The Vanity of Small Differences

Grayson Perry's exhibition of the tapestries which make up The Vanity of Small Differences continues its travels around the UK .  This work is so good it gets its own tour of the UK! It's now reached Manchester City Art Gallery where it will be on display until 2 February 2014. Well worth visiting if you can get to Manchester! (More details at the end of future tour dates!)

The tour prompts me to review the Catalogue of the tapestry project of the television programme. I'm really pleased to have been sent a copy of the book of The Vanity of Small Differences for review.

Front Cover of the book of the exhibition of the tapestries arising out of the television series!
by Grayson Perry
Published by Haward Publishing

Background: A brief synopsis of the artwork and how it came about

The Vanity of Small Difference is a very important piece of contemporary art - which was conceived as a public work of art. It comprises six Tapestries listed below together with links to Grayson Perry's explanation of what the tapestries are about.
The piece explores British taste. It's a contemporary version of Hogarth's 'Rake's Progress' and also reprises classic artworks (puns in the titles of tapestries provide clues!) in contemporary form. It all started with a safari around UK. Grayson Perry visited different groups of people - in Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotswolds - which resulted in a BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’ (2012). His visits to places strongly identified with social classes investigated the taste of the different tribes of people in terms of class and social mobility and unearthed more than a few surrprises.  

The other thing you need to know is that Grayson Perry is very intelligent, acutely observant of contemporary mores - and finally, he's truly astonishing in the way in which he manages to be both very articulate with very accessible.  I'm a  huge fan!

Synopsis:  This book is the catalogue of the exhibition of The Vanity of Small Differences - an iconic piece of contemporary art based on research by Grayson Perry into contemporary taste, social class and class mobility. It tells the story - and shows us the processes - of how he developed tapestries telling the story of Tim Rakewell and his progress through life to his death. The name is a link to the Tom Rakewell of the Rake's Progress. The book explains how the tapestries came about and provides a commentary on what they reveal.
Summary review:  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: This is an essential guide to a multi-layered, culturally rich and very important set of tapestries. A contemporary tale, an iconic artwork - and an interesting story about how the tapestries were produced plus excellent publication values all combine to make this both a very interesting and a very high quality publication. 
Average customer review
Highlights
  • a visual narrative of what it is to be English today - in terms of taste and associated visual aesthetics 
  • a great read - in terms of the essays. A stronger sense of the morality tale which underpins some of the narrative of the tapestries. 
  • the research is represented by a portfolio of annotated photographs - with some surprising captions
  • Perry's sketchbooks are a delight. In these he developed the themes, the storyline and finally the sketches for the tapestries. Plus added annotations about the artwork and notes of key themes for individual tapestries.
  • Superb illustrations of both tapestries and details. each individual tapestry enjoys a folded panoramic pullout - which means we get to see them very much bigger than the size possible on a conventional page. Plus details enable one to see the way the tapestries are woven and how the colour transitions work - which is an aspect I found particularly interesting - scumbling on a loom! Plus who knew that looms are now digital and can produce a large tapestry in about 5 hours?
Think Again?
  • Those who have no connection with figurative artwork or social commentary 
  • Those who have no interest in the fascinating process which generated the tapestries
Who should buy this?:
  • Fans of Grayson Perry - whose fan base seems to be increasingly exponentially. He's on his way to becoming a "national treasure" if not there already! 
  • people who want an example of how to be unique; how to make art which is different
Who should not buy this?
  • Those not interested in tapestries, contemporary art or social comment
Author: Grayson Perry
Publisher: Hayward Publishing (UK 10 June 2013 | USA 31 October 2013)
Technical data: Hardcover| 128 pages | 21.5 x 25 cm | 120 colour and black and white illustrations
  • ISBN-10: 1853323152
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853323157
Paperback: No
Available as an ebook? No - however an app about the Tapestries is available 


Digital guide


The Arts Council Collection have created an app for iPad and iPhone. This gives you commentary on Perry's perspective, details art historical references and provides a guide to the making of the works. You can see the tapestries up close with detailed zoom facility and have Grayson's own audio guide. Reproductions of the classical referenced artwork are disappointly tiny. They work better when accessed via the interactive aspect of the app.  The bonus is Grayson Perry reading the words associated with each tapestry and highlighting the similarities between classical painting and his tapestry.

The digital guide,Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences, is available only on the App Store (£1.99).

The Vanity of Small Differences - The Tour

Exhibitions to date


These include the following. The link in the title is to the exhibition page at that location.
  • Gallery I Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW (7 Jun - 11 Aug 2012)
  • Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden - the location for two of the patesries  on 28 June, as part of the Festival of the North East which celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham Cathedral. It is of particular significance that the works begin their public tour in Sunderland as this is where Grayson sets two of the tapestries, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park. 
  • Perry’s own edition of The Vanity of Small Differences was displayed as part of the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013 (June - August 2013) - see my review 10 reasons to visit the RA Summer Exhibition 2013 - my #1 reason was the set of tapestries which got a room to themselves.
  • Manchester Art Gallery (24 October – 21 January 2014)

Future Tour Dates:

  • Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (14 February – 11 May 2014), 
  • Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (May – August 2014) and 
  • Leeds City Art Gallery (1 August – 1 October 2014). 
  • An international tour will follow. 
The Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation are supporting the UK tour of the tapestries, as well as education and interpretation materials for the UK tour

Friday, 4 October 2013

Book review: One Drawing a Day

This review kicks off the The Big Drawing Book Review 2013 - which I introduced on my main blog Making A Mark.  

It follows on from The Big Drawing Book Review in 2007.  There have been so many new books in the intervening years I thought it was time for another one! You can find out how you too can participate by reading my introduction blog post (see first link above).

It seemed appropriate to start with a book which encourages people to draw.

This then is a review of One Drawing a Day: A 6-Week Course Exploring Creativity with Illustration and Mixed Media by Veronica Lawlor.

The key distinction of this book is that it grew out of a blog created by professional illustrators and art educators which has been more or less posting one drawing a day each month since June 2009.



Synopsis:  This is a structured daily drawing course exploring creativity with illustration and mixed media which allows you to pick and choose the order that you complete the work. The author proposes readers should do 42 daily exercises - one drawing a day - over a period of 6 weeks. Drawing is a euphemism insomuch as in this book it also involves sketching with paint. The focus is on expressionism rather than realism.
Summary review:  This is a book to stimulate those who’d like to improve their drawing and sketching - and to reinvigorate those who know how to draw but need to stay fresh and inspired by what they see and how they draw/sketch/paint. In my opinion, it’s too challenging for beginners but would suit those who like experimenting and want to widen their repertoire of skills and improve their drawing in terms of interpretation and impact. It's both
  • A handy book to have around when your drawing goes stale. 
  • A good book to consult if you want to make progress with your drawing without going to class.
Average customer review
Highlights
  • the structure of the exercises is flexible - it provides a framework but you can choose what you want to do
  • The Exercises:
    • Push the boundaries of conventional art-making for novice artists and those with no formal education in art and illustration
    • Recommend subject matter to focus on and media to use
    • Focus on observation from the real and not drawing from photos
    • Provide quick tips for those skim reading! They contain some very useful information - I learned a few new things!
  • the book advocates a wide range of materials to use for drawing and sketching - including ink and paint washes which both need brushes. Excellent demonstration of different ways you can use a range of art materials - stimulating for those who like mixed media
  • Very nice production values - design and format are contemporary and easy on the eye; quality of reproduction of images is good
  • There are two social media sites associated with this book where you can see the artwork triggered by use of the book
    • this is the blog One Drawing a Day written by the members of an illustration collective called Studio 1482. There are blog posts most days.
    • There is an a Flickr group - One Drawing a Day. Note that some of the people who participate are adult professional artists.
Think Again?
  • Exercises may feel routine to some with a formal art education - on the other hand it’s nice to have a reminder! 
  • If you are apt to take words very literally, you may feel some of the exercises are a major challenge. Try thinking how you can use the intent and vary the subject matter 
  • The sketches are very “sketchy”. The style is fine by me but some people who like drawings to be “realistic” might not like it. I say “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!” (NB It took me 10 years to loosen up the way I drew!) 
  • The book lacks variety in terms of different styles of drawing and sketching compared to the variety of sketches seen elsewhere in other books and other projects. Probably connected to the content having been produced by an artists’ collective (Studio 1482). 
  • Those who want to stay home and draw might not like the fact that the book includes exercises which involve getting out and about to draw and sketch 
  • Those who want to stick to one medium which makes them feel comfortable may not appreciate the challenges to their skills and techniques 
Who should buy this?:
  • Artists and illustrators who’d like to keep their drawing regular, fresh and creative 
  • People who like structured exercises to complete to create a discipline of habit 
  • People who like experimentation 
  • People who like trying and using different media and mixing media 
  • People who want to devote more time to sketching and need some ideas to get them going 
  • People who like engaging with related social media sites 
Who should not buy this?
  • Those wanting to learn how to draw - from the very beginning. I don’t think this is a beginners’ book. it assumes a lot of prior knowledge of art materials and that you will “get on and do” on your own. 
  • Those who want to take their time and draw very precisely 
  • People who like to draw using photographs - unless they want to break away from this limited approach to making art
Author: Veronica Lawlor + others (all are professional illustrators and/or art educators)
Publisher: Quarry Books (1 October 2011)
(Note: Studio 1482 artists Greg Betza, Margaret Hurst, and Veronica Lawlor are also featured in the Quarry Books release “The Art of Urban Sketching“) 
Technical data: Publication Date: 2011
Paperback - 128 pages
Available as an ebook? Yes - Kindle version available on Amazon
Also available as an ebook via iTunes for reading on an iPad 

This book will feature on a new website I'm creating.  

This is my main website about drawing books (which is currently being redesigned) The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching 


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