Watercolour Galaxy Painting Supplies
Thank you for coming to my workshop! It really is an honour to have people spend their precious time with me, listening and learning something I love so much. I want everyone to enjoy the workshop while they're taking it...but if you want to continue painting and experimenting at home, all the better! Below are some of my recommendations for supplies that I love for the galaxy paintings and for watercolour painting in general. I'd like to preface my list with some advice: in the world of art supplies, you get what you pay for. The most expensive supplies will be great. The not-quite-as-expensive supplies will also be good. They might only be noticeably less good to an expert, so they're still a safe choice. The absolute cheapest will, more often than not, be complete garbage. If you get the cheapest paint, paper, and brushes you can find, you will struggle, think you're a bad painter, and not even know why. Please don't do that to yourself.
The technique used in the workshop works with any kind of watercolour paint. We used liquids because they have brilliant colours, mix especially easily, and are the most convenient for large groups, but you can also use watercolours from a tube or in a pan.
My general rule of thumb for art supplies is to buy the highest quality you can afford, in the smallest quantities necessary. For example, I would much rather have three primary colours from a really nice brand than a dozen colours in something cheap. You can always mix more colours! Please never buy the cheapest watercolours in the store. They are just pretty-coloured garbage.
The Ecoline liquid watercolours are my favourite liquid watercolours. They have tons of gorgeous colours, but a good starting point from which you can mix almost anything is: yellow, magenta/red, cyan/blue, and black.
Usually in watercolour painting, anything white is actually just the white of the paper showing through, not actual white paint. If, however, you want to add white on top of your paint like when we flick the white paint as stars on top of the galaxy, you’ll need to get a different kind of paint, like guache or acrylic.
I have tried to use other (less expensive) whites for the stars, but I've been disappointed with everything else. Dr. Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White is just perfect. Everything else I've tried has been at least slightly translucent, which is not a quality I want in my stars. I want completely opaque, crisp white stars. This ink/paint is water-soluble, which is also handy. It's very thick straight out of the bottle. To make it flickable for the stars, mix a little water with it until the consistency is similar to cream.
We used Legion Stonehenge watercolour paper in class. It is a very nice paper and one I often use professionally. You could also get away with a paper that is a step or two down from this brand. However, please do not get the cheapest paper. That thin stuff on the bottom shelf will not absorb the water or paint—it just sits on the top and makes a puddle. Ideally, get a paper that is 100% cotton. It absorbs and holds the paint beautifully. It is also helpful to know that watercolour paper tends to come in 2 varieties: cold-press (textured) and hot-press (smooth). We used cold-pressed in the workshop, but it's mostly a matter of personal taste. Textured paper just delights me more than smooth paper.
As long as you don't get those really terrible brushes that people give to kids (you know the ones with the coloured plastic handles and black bristles that are shaped like a triangle instead of a point), you'll be okay. Get a "round" brush. Those are what they call the average kind that come to a nice point. There are super expensive brushes out there, but you'll get good results from anything at around the $3.00+ mark.
Where to Buy
In Toronto, my favourite art supply shop is Above Ground. I go to the downtown location, next to OCAD. Curry's and DeSerres are also good. All three stores generally have enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who can help you with your selections and are often eager to hear about your projects and give advice and ideas. Michael's is okay for some things, but their selection is not great when it comes to fine art supplies..