CMW Newsletter Tips

All of the CMW Newsletter Tips below are generously shared by Bonnie Schwichtenberg 

December 2015 –  Framing

I keep getting questions about framing art work.  So here is a repeat for some and new ideas for others.
Rule #1.  When you are starting out, pick paper sizes that fit common frames. 

                A 5 x 7” painting fits a hole made for an 8 x 10 frame.  The ready made mat hole is 4 ½” x 6 ½”

                An 8 x 10” painting fits a hole made for an 11 x 14 frame.  The ready made mat hole is 7 ½ x 9 ½ “.

                A 11 x 14 or 15” painting fits a hole made for a 16 x 20” frame.  The ready made mat hole is 13 ½ “ x 10 ½ “.

Rule #2.  When someone offers you a free frame with a glass check the size AND the depth of the cerf/rabbet to hold the picture.  You need it to be about 3/8 “ to ½” to hold the picture, the mat, the glass, and the backing board. 

Rule #3.   When starting out, generally the best color mat to get is white or cream.  A double mat hole is the same size hole as a single mat also.  It is the outside mat that is bigger.  The inside one is the single size.

Rule #4.    Use wire and D ring strap hangers to hang your picture.  Most galleries will not accept a sawtooth


What is a triptych, a diptych, a tetratych?  In the art world, it is the term for a way to create a picture that is divided into several parts.  This can be subjects that ate related like separate turtles or a scene that is long and cut into several parts or a subject that has a cause and effect like a person kicking a ball and another person catching it.  They can be hung vertically or horizontally.  These kinds of presentations create an especially interesting image in that they seem to go together and yet, each is a separate image that could stand alone.

A diptych is two images often stacked vertically but can be horizontal.  A triptych (3 images) is more often seen horizontally.  A tetratych (4 images) is usually either horizontally or in a group of 4 in the shape of a square or rectangle.

June 2015 – What is Kolinsky Sable?
This is a case in which you get what you pay for – which will be a lot!  the gold standard is the Winsor Newton Series 7 brush.  I have never painted with one but, I hear they are really nice, hold tons of paint and water but still spring back to a point which is the problem with most hair brushes.  This hair comes from a really cute vicious little guy, Mustela Sibirica.  It is the winter hair from the talke of the male Siberian Weasel – not even sable or marten at all.  Some brushes are a combination of 40% winter female tail hair and 60% winter male tail hair.  I have two of those.  They bend over as the moisture floats onto the page ending up looking like a sloppy J.  They are Richeson 6882 PURE KOLINSKY 14 and Cheap Joe’s Legend Sable 10 Germany.  I have learned to use them with a very light touch and I mean very light.  So that’s kind of a bummer.  I also have a couple from CJ’s Dragons’ Tongue series featuring Tajmyr region sable hair again not a weasel as they are good at springing back and holding water/paint, and one CJ Lizard’s Lick #6 round whose name conjures up a strange scene but basically the same brush with a long skinny point.  Haven’t figured out how to use it yet but it’s kind of like a rigger.  AND I just got some Creative Mark Rhapsody round Kolinsky Sable brushes that are performing really well – not again not the weasel.   but then none of them say weasel on the description so maybe they went for the cute name instead of the vicious blood thirsty little varmint it is.  In 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife declared importation of Kolinsky fur illegal which is kind of odd since it is considered a pest in all of northern Russia and China but there you go.  So brushes are hard to come by now unless the producer bought the hair from their dead little bodies before the ban.  Yes, they are killed before they are shaved.  For some this will be the end of wanting one for others not so much. Anyway, you know about the ban now.  Some manufacturers that are here in the USA that have hair are:  Escoda, Rosemary Brushes, Winsor Newton, Richeson, Isaby, Cheap Joe’s and Creative Mark.  However they can no longer import already made brushes from their international locations.

May 2015 –   Granulated Pigments
Paint that granulates is made up of binder and particles that are so heavy they sink to the bottom of fine watercolor paper adding great texture.  My favorite all around granulating color is French Ultramarine Blue.  So when you mix it with say my other favorite color, Burnt Sienna, it makes a range of blues through greys to rust.  Here are a few others you night now know of.  Sometimes granulating colors are made from ground minerals.  The tiny particles fall to the depressions in the paper.  They are really pretty.  See the May 2015 newsletter for photos of Rose of Ultramarine, Undersea green and Cascade Green.  These are made by Daniel Smith Paint Company. 

April 2015  Shadows (continued)
Shadows make your paintings have depth and more interest.  There are a couple of steps to follow if you are beginning to paint that will help you get started.  In the next couple of months I will try to make this less complex.  There rules are just starters to help you form your own habits.

Here are some you tube videos that are 3-5 minutes long from various artists on their treatment of shadows.  YouTube is a free website with many subjects.  Go to and select watercolor painting shadows for more short videos in addition to the ones listed. 

  1. Steve Rogers: The Secrets of Painting Light and Shadow in Watercolor
  2. Painting with Jan Fabian Wallake
  3. Watercolor Techniques for Colorful Shadows with Anne Abgott
  4. Painting Shadows : Cheap Joe’s Watercolor Training – Part 4
  5. Watercolor Painting Basics : Painting Shadows with Complementary Colors
  6. How to Paint Skin Shadows – Watercolor

March 2015   SHADOWS
Shadows make your paintings have depth and more interest. There are a couple of steps to follow if you are beginning to paint that will help you get started. In the next couple of months I will try to make this less complex. There rules are just starters to help you form your own habits.

1. When you make your value sketch DECIDE IMMEDIATELY where the light is coming from. Is it from the left or right, from the top, or behind, etc.? To begin with think about making paintings with either left or right light. It is a little clearer. Later you can branch out.
2. When you make your value drawing the SHADOW should be part of the object. Always draw the shadows in your value drawing.
3. Shadows DO NOT take on the color of the object. They are the absence of light usually on the ground or flat surface. So, if a lemon casts a shadow on a blue tablecloth the shadow will be darker blue NOT dark yellow.
4. Shadows that project from warm colors are often painted in cool colors like a favorite shadow color Cobalt Blue. These shadows are sometimes painted into the paper BEFORE the local color.
5. Shadows that reflect from cool colors are often painted in a warmer color like Permanent Magenta. They are also often painted onto the painting BEFORE the local color.

These ideas are very basic and work for many instances BUT not all cases. It is just a place to start understanding shadows. The more you paint the more you become more comfortable with shadows.

February 2015 – Showing your paintings – Making showing less scary and easier
It can be daunting to put your work up especially when more experienced painters are joining you at the wall.  I want to give you some ideas that can make this whole concept and experience a lot less nerve racking.  I know because almost all painters never think their work is really good and certainly has some flaws and mistakes the EVERYONE will focus on at once.
We think this is true because WE can see all these things ourselves.  WE FORGET TO LOOK FOR THE GOOD PARTS IN OUR WORK. – well darn us.
Tip #1.  Start by making your painting a common size.  Here are some – 5  x 7”, 8  x 10”, 9 x 12”, 11 x 14”.  These are common photography sizes and it is easy to find mats already cut with these sizs holes.  So a 5 x 7 picture exactly fits an 8 x 10 mat and frame; An 8 x 10 or 9 x 12 picture fits 11 x 14 frame; an 11 x 14 fits a 16 x 20 mat and frame.   So the finishing part is very simple.  To put your picture in an exhibit you need to find some D ring frame straps at a Glass shop or a hardware store and some twisted wire for the hanging.  Most shows require wire hanging.
Tip #2    Find a photo of a simple scene or objects.  Think about all the details you WILL NOT DRAW OR PAINT.  The camera sees everything.  Your eyes DO NOT.  Your eyes will focus on the best part and blur the rest.
Tip #3  Now for the actual painting.  Pick a simple subject.  You will be really surprised how good a simple picture looks in a mat/frame.  Make a detailed drawing with dark, medium,  and light pencil marks.  NO WIMPY STROKES!.  Now TURN THE PHOTO OVER.  YOU ARE DONE WITH IT.
Tip #4  Use only three colors to keep your colors fresh and alive.  Paint it several times.  You will become confident because you have already solved many problems in the drawing.  Keep the photo turned over but your drawing turned up.  Trust yourself to paint what you saw when you made the drawing.   Now put it in the frame or just use a mat.
Tip #5    Bring your picture to easel night or any safe supportive sharing group you trust.  One that is friendly and nice.  Put up your picture and don’t say too much.  Let your friends encourage you and praise you.   Smile nicely and enjoy.  You will have a good time and become proud of your work.

January 2015 – Color Triads
When you begin to paint it is tempting to buy many colors because they look so beautiful.  We have all done it and some of us end up with tubes that are seldom used as we finally work out our own own styles of painting.  I personally have a ton of green shade tubes that hardly ever get opened. They barely fit into a full quart baggie.  At the time they all looked so good I simply had to have them. So here is a suggestion that might help and at the same time improve your paintings.   TRY TRIADS!!  These are groups of three (colors) HUES that are either selected for their similar location on the Color Wheel or their distance from each other.  Here are some examples. And who uses them.
Rose Edin:  She likes several but some times uses a color harmony of colors near each other. For instance she might focus on Yellow, Green and Blue OR Blue, Violet and Red.
Robyn York is very fond of Quinacrodone Gold, Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber, and French Ultramarine Blue.  She also likes Opera,Q. gold, and Manganese Blue.
Rollie Kinney likes Antwerp, Winsor Yellow, and a Red like Scarlet Lake or Winsor Red. When painting a fall piece.
Lian Quan Zhen favors Antwerp, any Pyrrol Red, and Hansa Yellow ,or Cadmium Yellow Light for almost everything.
Jack Reid liked Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine Blue, and Aureolin or Viridian.

All of these painters use other combinations but they are known for their ability to create clean clear color by using fewer hues.   Try a few paintings with a triad and see how they work for you.
Click once on Colorwheel to enlarge Color Wheel


December 2014 – Books
There are many watercolor books for beginning painters or those who want to get back to basics.  I have an extensive library of great and not so great references I use in teaching.  Here are several great books that introduce the very basics of watercolor painting.  The first three are by Jack Reid.  Jack died in 2009 and the watercolor community in Canada and much of the United States mourned his passing.  He wrote only three books all for emerging painters.  He was a long time mentor for Linda Kemp until his death.  She helped finish his final book.
Jack’s paintings hang world wide, throughout Canada and the USA.  Queen Elizabeth also collected his work.  His method of starting with simple paintings using few colors is just right.  One clue to the brushes he uses.  He loves a ‘show card’ brush which is simply a ½” flat one stroke brush nowadays.
ALL are out of print.    You can find them very reasonably on Amazon and eBay.
Watercolor Basics – Let’s Get Started by Jack Reid.  Published by North Light Books, 1998
Watercolor Basics – Painting Snow and Water by Jack Reid.  Published by North Light Books,  2000
Easy Landscapes by Jack Reid Published by North Light Books, 2004

In addition another Watercolor Basics book is good for color.  It is Watercolor Basics – Color  by Jan Kunz also published by North Light Books, 1999, AND Gordon MacKenzie’s The Watercolorists Essential Notebook by F and W Media AKA North Light Books, 2000.  Any version of these books no matter how old is very adequate so do not hesitate to buy a used one.

November 2014 – QoR Watercolors and Lighting  
Golden Paint Company, well known for their quality artist grade acrylics, has jumped into the Artist Grade Watercolors with their new line QoR Watercolors (pronounced CORE).   Artist John Salminen, well known to CMW, has taken them on a test drive this past winter during a trip to Europe.  He has found them to be very good.
LIGHTING:  Good lighting is essential to painting well.  I have found that painting outside can be difficult if you have glare from the sun, but in the studio you really need light that does not glare and shows color correctly.  Recently I have discovered that the Kelvin temperature of a bulb can make a HUGE difference.  Whether tube fluorescents or screw in bulbs look for a k number of from 5000K to 6500K. IT IS KIND OF HARD TO FIND ON THE PACKAGE, SO ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED TO.  This will give you very bright daylight verses a warm yellow tone (K of about 2700) light like most household bulbs.  These bulbs are more costly but worth every penny and last for years literally.  I have a four banger flourescent ceiling light in my painting room.  It is like the sun is right there.

October, 2014 – Brushes (cont)
I have one correction for the very reasonable Loew Cornell ‘LaCorneille’ brushes.  They can be found on  The correct numbers are 7020 ultra rounds # 14, 10, 8 or 6, 2; # 7050 script #4, #7550 Flat wash 1”, ½” and maybe their big 1 ½”.  All good buys.
Moving on to Cheap Joe’s American Journey Interlocked brushes with a dark green short handle.  Super brush not multiple diameter filaments but split ends, which allow HUGE amounts of paint/water to be taken onto the brush.  In fact so much paint that it takes patience to clean it completely.
Then stepping up to two brands that are slightly more expensive but truly top performing and fall into the synthetic fiber type.  These have multiple diameter filaments AND up to 5 different length fibers also.  They truly mimic expensive Kolinsky Sable brushes at a fraction of the cost.  Any size you now feel comfortable with.  They are Blick Master Synthetic. ( I have a round #18 I simply love) and any Winsor Newton Scepter Gold II brush.
As for true Kolinsky Sable that I could afford, I have 2 – Cheap Joe’s Dragon’s Tongue rounds (# 8 and 10).  They have good spring and excellent paint holding.  I am very careful using them to preserve the sharp point as long as possible.  These are not digging brushes I wet paint with.  I have little personal experience with Escodaa, Isaby, or Da Vinci upper end brushes.  All have expensive Kolinsky brushes and good reputations.  But, be vigilent of any ‘sable’ lable on a brush that is not REALLY expensive.  It is likely to be too soft and will bend over while painting.  I have two such brushes that do this.  Practically useless!!  : (

The gold standard with which to compare any Kolinsky Sable brush is the Winsor Newton Series 7 brush(s).  Check out the price as a guide.  In these professional brushes you get what you pay for.  Note that most master teachers are VERY comfortable using synthetic brushes!!

September 2014  – Brushes (cont)
There are many brushes for you to purchase.  We all need at least a large and medium round, a good script or rigger, and a large and medium flat plus one wide flat.  When moving to a better brush, there are MANY choices.  Here are some things to look for.  Not all of them are expensive.  I use eBay a lot.
Brushes can have two problems:  1.  Some won’t hold water or paint.   2.  Some are too soft and bend over or too firm and won’t flex.
I use the website or catalog or sometimes to research whether or not I want to try out a new brush for my painters.  DickBlick has excellent descriptions of their artist brushes.  You can solve problem #1 and 2 by looking for a brush with multiple diameter synthetic (talcon) filaments.  This will help hold water and paint.  Add to that – acid etched filaments and/or multiple length filaments for more ability to hold paint and water.   The most reasonably priced multiple filament brushes I have found are:

Any Princeton 4050 brush – be sure to note the brush number!  Winsor Cotman 777, 666, and 111 with turquoise blue handles, and Loew Cornell 7200, 7550, and 7500.  These all are inexpensive and perform well.  Add acid etching and you get Robert Simmons Sienna brushes for excellent water and paint capability.  Robert Simmons was the first to make a good synthetic alternatives for artists.   The Simmons Sapphire brush with the dark blue handle is ½ multiple diameter synthetic filaments and ½ hair filaments.  They offer the ability of hair to grab paint with the return spring of synthetic filaments.  Next month I will discuss interlocked brushes, really good but still reasonable synthetic filament brushes, and pretty darn expensive but great natural hair brushes.

August 2014 – Brushes
When you are looking for a brush see if you can identify some of the makers qualities.  Take handles for instance.  Watercolor brushes are generally called ‘short handle’.  Most are round handles, but some wider ones are flat handles.  A flat handle might be a good choice for a wide brush because of the control you have as you paint.   There are also the same size brushes in a long handle version for when you are standing at an easel and are further away.  Just know which you are buying!  Many excellent artists actually have switched to synthetic fiber brushes because they paint so much they wear out the points of their VERY expensive Kolinsky brushes.  Next month I will share what I have learned about both kinds.

July 2014 – Pigment PV19
Here’s a little more about the popular pigment PV19.  It is formulated in two groups.  One is the rose hue that leans towards blue and the other is a violet hue that leans towards red.  Some of the rose/reds are:
WN- Perm Rose,
DaVinci-Quinacridone Red Rose Deep,
Daniel Smith-Quinacridone Rose and Quin. Red,
American Journey-Perm Rose Quin. , Rambling Rose Quin.,
MaimeriBlu Rose Lake,
Holbein-Quin. Red,
Sennelier-Rose Madder Lake,
Blick Artist-Quin. Rose, and Quin. Red.
So there are many names for similar hues depending on the maker.  When there are two choices above , the second one is the more red and the first is the more rose.

June 2014- Mask
Here is another way to reduce the cost of art supplies.  We have heard that several artists have tried TearMender from your local big box lumber store.  It is archival, very inexpensive, and works for mask.
Also ever tried to order a mask pick-up from a supply catalogue.  Well, they are often listed a rubber Cement pickups or rubber cement erasers.
Did you know if you want to use Permanent Rose but are out, you are still in luck if you have Quinacradone Red?   They are the same –  PV19


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