Just Starting to Paint?

So……. You’d like to have a bash at painting…..perhaps watercolour. Now what do you do?….. what equipment do you need?…..how much will it all cost?…..first, as Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army would say “don’t panic”.

What you don’t need to do is to go out to an art shop and buy £50 worth of watercolour paints, 75 brushes and half a ton of watercolour paper……..

……..and it’s surprising just how many people go and do something approaching that….. well, I did, and you end up not using what you’ve bought because you will have almost certainly bought the wrong things.

So…… what should you buy? You will get lots of different advice, but over the years I have filtered that advice down to a few simple suggested guidelines:-

1. Paper – using paper that is too thin and flimsy will just sap your enthusiasm because even if you have the best brushes and paints you will almost certainly not be able to create a satisfactory painting. You should try 140lb “Bockingford” watercolour paper. All art stores will sell it and it’s available in pads or loose. It’s available from Ken Bromely’s art supplies at £7.25 for 20 sheets approximately 15″ x 11″ in size. Quite often people cut these in two (and sometimes paint both sides too) so it’s cheaper than you might think. A way that this can be made cheaper is to buy in bulk. Again Ken Bromley sells bulk packs. At the time of writing 5 packs of this paper works out at £6.25 per pack. The art group often buys the bulk packs so individuals can benefit from the lower price.

2. Brushes – it really is false economy to buy those really cheap brushes at the £1 shops. A good watercolour brush should hold a lot of paint and ideally come to a good point when wet. You’ll see some horrendously high prices for fancy sable brushes……… you don’t need those either. An artist once recommended some brushes to me and I’ve found them to be very good and, if you take care of them, they’ll outlast you! Those brushes are “ProArte Series 100 Connoisseur” and you should consider buying perhaps 3 brushes…..sizes 4, 8 and 12 which would cost approx £28 from Ken Bromley Art Supplies . See http://www.artsupplies.co.uk/brushes-series-100-connoisseur-brush-round.htm You will also need one large brush to apply lots of water in preparation, for example, for wet-in-wet skies. You should pay just a couple of pounds for that. Note that these brushes should only be used for watercolour painting. Other mediums will require different brushes.

Note that I have been given alternatives to the above brushes by Rosemary & Co Brushes. Clicking this link will take you to a page of Series 401 brushes. These are a Sable/Nylon mix and as of December 2011 the cost of sizes 4,8 & 12 brushes would be £19.30 total. I haven’t tested them myself but I’m sure that they will be very good value and last for years, and I know that the service is excellent.

3. Paint – as a matter of interest, all colours can be mixed starting with just the 3 primary colours, yellow, red and blue. (colour mixing will be the topic of another “Art Tip”) In practice people will buy boxes of solid paints (or “pans”) and these can be very good. Others buy tubes of paint and these can also be very good. It is also a fact that buying cheap paint is a false economy as you need to use much more of them to get the density of colour that you require. It reminds me of the TV adverts for washing up liquid……. Paying a little more really does work out cheaper…….and I’m Scottish so I should know. Consider buying some “Winsor & Newton” paints. At the time of writing there is a small set on “Amazon” (which would be perfectly fine) for less than £9

In the end, don’t be tempted to spend lots of money on all kinds of stuff…… just the equipment above will get you started at a price of approx £50 and it will last for ages….. years in fact (ok……you got me….you may have to buy more paper) Along with this stuff make sure that you have a receptacle for water. Something the size of a large yoghurt pot  is good so that the water doesn’t get too dirty too fast……… clean water is essential when painting watercolours. Have a few pieces of kitchen roll, a pencil, an eraser and some masking tape. Other things will occur to you as you get into the hobby.

Consider this…. This hobby will likely cost you less than £1 per week in materials when you first start……. There are few hobbies that cost so little and people will always let you have what you don’t already have until you can buy it yourself.

As for how to paint…….well, you will find some guides on this website and you’ll also find all kinds of tutorials on “Google” and “YouTube”. Happy painting!!

Dave Hendry