Learning how to draw presented an opportunity to do another equipment test.

One of the assignments in Keys to Drawing, the book that I'm using to learn to draw better (see my previous post for a review), was to draw a green pepper. I actually went to the store to buy one -- I even chose the one with the most lumps and bumps, to increase the challenge.

The darn object was so interesting that after completing the assignment -- which consisted of two drawings in pencil -- I was  itching to do a watercolour version.

My experimental palette was short on green pigments.
It just so happened that I had just received three tubes of green M. Graham pigments -- a sap green, a hooker's green and an olive green, and that I was also wanting to get some practice in using waterbrushes. I own two of those brushes of different brands (a waterbrush is a brush with a water reservoir in the shaft, like a fountain pen  -- see photo, left), and up until then I had not been satisfied with either, except when painting very small subjects or creating washes when sketching with water-soluble pens.

Watercolor on Moleskine 5" x 9" Sketchbook

This is how my experiment came out.

I drew the outline with my olive green Staedtler Triplus Fineliner water-soluble pen, and for the pepper I used the sap green and a bit of hooker's green in the darker parts. I used the olive green for the shadow.

You can readily see that I was unable to obtain a smooth effect with those waterbrushes, and that's the reason I don't like them.

As for the pigments, for being half the price of the Winsor & Newton ones (unless you buy the huge 37-ml tubes when they're on sale), I'm no expert but I can't find any difference in quality between the two brands. I've never used W&N's greens, but I notice they use the same formulation.


I'm not in the habit of using convenience colors, but having decided that it was probably a good idea, I'm disappointed in at least one aspect of both the sap green and the hooker's green: they are staining colours. They remind me of some chromium oxide green that I used to have, and that I threw away when I was "pruning" my paint drawer last year. I found the olive green a bit dull, but maybe it's supposed to be like that. I can see using it in a landscape, though if I just add a bit of brown madder to the sap green, I get the exact same colour.

I read somewhere that all "good" greens require three basic colours, and these greens already contain two, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with sap green and hooker's green when I add other pigments to them.

On the other hand, I suppose I could premix some non-staining greens and have them there, ready to go. I'm trying to find a Canadian supplier for empty pans and half-pans; that would be a good way of making up a supply. I could then follow Cathy Johnson's advice and stick them to my palette with some rubber cement, or make up some little cups out of sugru. Food for thought...

As for the waterbrushes, even though a certain online watercolour instructor seems to make it look really easy to work with them -- maybe they're good for the kind of fiddly work that she specializes in -- I will continue to carry one for sketching in the field, and I think they're fabulous for creating washes with water-soluble pens, but for working in the studio I'll stick to my regular brushes, thank you very much.

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