I have been a watercolorist for 40+ years.
For many of those years, I used nothing but tube watercolors, painted only in my studio, and only on 300 lb Arches watercolor paper.
Seven years ago, I began painting in art journals and everything changed. Moleskine sketchbook pages were smaller – and did not handle moisture that well. Portability became a big thing - whether I was painting in the garden or sitting on a knee wall on Canyon Road, or on a rock in some National Park.
So, I switched to half pans.
As is my wont and weakness, I collected and tested every pan watercolor known to woman, and began the quest for the perfect portable paintbox.
If you have followed this blog for a long time, you have been privy to some of that.
Like HERE: http://www.wisdomwoman.com/whatever/?p=404
So one day, while reading the Artist Journal Workshop blog (where I am a contributor), I came across a post about a wonderful little magnetic paintbox in a business card case, created by expeditionary artist, Maria Coryell-Martin . . .
These are wonderful, they cost $28 and you can buy them from Maria here:
The bottom of the case is magnetic and the pans can be rtearranged. The inside of the cover serves as a palette of sorts, and you fill the pans yourself from tubes.
I bought two and I love them for carrying along some very esoteric colors that are not part of my everyday palette.
But they are tiny (business card size), and I also have many already filled half pans that are way too expensive to abandon. There just had to be a way to apply this idea to my bigger palette.
I bought a package of those business card size adhesive magnetic sheets at an office supply store, and I cut a piece to fit the bottom of all my half pans. You can see how that looks here . . .
Winsor & Newton and some other pre-filled half pans come with the color name printed on the sides or bottom of the pan. My favorite brand, Schmincke, does not, so I wrote the color on the outside of each pan with permanent marker. Of course, any pans you fill yourself will have to be labeled as well.
Empty half pans are sold at a reasonable price at Daniel Smith.
Half pans in a metal paintbox are usually held in place with metal tabs which are a pain, in my opinion. But that insert lifted right out of the Schmincke box I was using, so I just put the half pans, now magnetic, back in the plain metal bottom of the box.
And, I did a journal page about it . . .
I was able to add more pans than the box had been holding with its tabs, and this worked fine for awhile.
Two things were bothering me, however. The colors were so crowded in the box that I kept slopping some of one onto the next, and I could rearrange the colors, but it was hard to get hold of the edge of the pans – especially when the paint was wet.
Well, three things, actually. I also wanted more room because I wanted to add more colors! There it is again – that color oinky syndrome. We all gotta have a syndrome of some kind, right?
I wanted a metal box that was not aluminum (magnets won’t stick), AND that was very thin so it would slip in my journaling bag (show you later) with my journal and iPad.
Just thick enough for the height of the half pans, but no thicker.
Off to the art supply store I went to look at colored pencil sets that come in tins.
You can get them for about $6 and the 12 pencil set is just the right size.
However, I found that if the bottom of the box had any indents, which many of them do, you can’t move the pans around as easily, nor fit as many.
This Prismacolor box was perfect . . .
It was not inexpensive (about $25), but I used a coupon, and I will put the pencils in a pencil case and sell them in my gallery as a set. So, not as wasteful as it might at first seem. If you don’t have a store and don’t need the colored pencils, they would make a great gift for an artist friend in a decorated pencil cup!
This box is the perfect size and the bottom is absolutely flat.
Here are the same pans that were jammed into that Schmincke box . . .
I can slide them around and group them into any set I might be working with at the moment.
I can get hold of them easily to lift them and read the color if need be, and I can put space between them so I don’t slop one into the other.
AND there’s lots of room to add more colors – as long as I leave plenty of sliding room.
The cover also serves as an easily washable mixing palette.
And, an extra benefit – the palette can sit in its own cover, making a neat little unit. Those hinged covers flopping around drive me nuts. (It’s not a long drive.)
I have been using this for about two weeks now, and I can’t imagine a more perfect solution.
But, who knows. There could be something better to imagine out there some day.
For the moment – I am very happy.
Have a great Sunday.