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Loads ‘o Lillies and Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor review

"Lily White on White," oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"
“Lily White on White,” oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″
(AVAILABLE on DailyPaintworks Auction: CLICK IMAGE to visit auction)

I spent some time sketching and painting a calla lily that sprouted in my garden and while I was at it, tested a palette of Winsor Newton Cotman paints. Several of my friends have this clever, inexpensive Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Palette and I thought it was worth a try so I ordered one.

I started by testing the colors, listing the pigments to match them to artists’ quality pigments I normally use (click to see larger with pigment numbers) and making notes about which ones to swap out (at that point assuming I’d continue using the others).

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)
Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

I was very frustrated with the results I was getting when painting and in the end, took ALL the Cotman pans out of the palette and replaced them with pans filled with artist quality paints from tubes. I put the Cotman pans in a large jar of water to soak so that I could empty and reuse the empty pans. After dumping and refilling the jar many times I ended up with a jar of tinted water with a lot of white sandy junk at the bottom: the nasty fillers and binders added to the pigments to make it cheap.

I know that for the same $17 that this palette AND crappy paint costs, you can only buy one or two tubes of full strength, high quality paint. But I’d rather have only a few colors than use junk. Most of the following sketches lack vibrancy, richness in color, and paint application was difficult and unattractive. Here they are in reverse order of completion:

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8x10"
Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the drawing above, but not the grayed colors.

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8x10"
Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the shape of the leaf above.

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8x10"
Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8×10″

I painted over an awful sketch with gouache (above), just loosely trying to get the shape of the flower.

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8x10"
Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8×10″

Two previous attempts at the leaf, on 2 other kinds of paper I taped into the 8×10″ Moleskine.

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8x10"
Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8×10″

The first sketch. I like the composition but the colors and application were yuck.

I’m still using the Cotman Palette. I think it’s a great for sketching because it’s light,  compact and holds enough colors (12). And at $17 I don’t mind the price, even after throwing away the colors it cane with. It’s handy to have the now-empty, extra half-pans which usually cost about 50 cents each. So really, I got the palette for $11, and 12 empty pans for $6. Not too bad.

Animals Emeryville Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Painting Sketchbook Pages

Ground Squirrel and Mysterious Hole

Emeryville Marina Ground Squirrel, ink & watercolor
Emeryville Marina Ground Squirrel, ink & watercolor

After a delicious breakfast on the patio at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Diner in Emeryville last Sunday, my friend Michael and I walked around the Emeryville Marine. He’s very patient with my need to stop and pet dogs and to take photos of things when I can’t sketch (can’t because he doesn’t have that much patience). I loved this cute little guy’s Joe Casual pose. When I got home I sketched him and his portrait now has the place of honor as the first page in my new journal.

Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, Emeryville, color photo
Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, Emeryville, color photo (I so wanted to sketch the scene when I was there, but also wanted to socialize so I took a photo and made a note to come sketch at Rudy's on a Tuesday night with my sketch buddies.)

Mysterious Hole

Meanwhile something dug a 6″ wide hole and tunnel under the grass in my backyard. I searched online, trying to find out what kind of animal dug the hole. I found this website that tells you, based on the diameter of the hole and the mounding of the dirt around it. According to that site and this one, the most likely options were armadillo, fox or badger.

Except I live in urban northern California where we definitely don’t have armadillos, badgers or foxes. We do have opossums and raccoons, but possums live in trees, not burrows, and both raccoons and possums have soft hands so their only digging is for grubs just under the sod.

Worried that it could be some huge kind of rat, I called the county’s Vector Control Department (love the euphemism “vector” for nasty critters that spread disease). A very nice gentleman came out this morning but he couldn’t figure it out either, although he mumbled something about skunks but then said not.

I followed his instructions to dig up and fill in the hole, lay a board next to it, sprinkle the board with baby powder and check it mornings looking for footprints in the powder. If the critter comes back he’ll leave his footprint and then we’ll know what it was. Maybe it’s a very small heffalump.