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A guide to the 100 day project: paints, paper and brushes.

Fiona Leighton on
A guide to the 100 day project: paints, paper and brushes.

Painting hasn't always been my number one medium of choice, and as a printmaker, I always chose a much more graphic way of working. Since taking part in Instagrams 100 day project last year, I have fallen in love with this quick, colourful, detailed way of creating, and my passion for it is growing!
Having completed a consecutive year in this crazy project I thought I'd offer you some of the tips that I have picked up on the way.

Last year I used the 100 day project as a way to get back in to working. I had a 13 month old at the time, and a 3 year old, and I hadn't found much time to be creative, so this project seemed perfect. I never had any plans for the outcome, and just creating every day made me feel very inspired and motivated.

 So I set about painting 100 birds for 100 days.  We live in the countryside, surrounded by fields, streams and forest for miles. It seemed like a perfect idea to start with the birds that we see around our Cornish countryside. After 70 or so, it started to get a little stretched, but I stuck with British birds. The momentum for this project grew, and I started to think how I could use all this work, and the possibilities for these little birds. It turned out that I used them for a whole new body of work, which was overwhelmingly successful. I think the reason it was successful was the fact that there was no pressure on the work that I was creating. It was relaxing, unperturbed, creative and very satisfying!

I found that being organised with what I was painting really helped, as some days I felt very creative, and other days, it didn’t flow so well. It almost always came down to whether my little boy had a nap or not! I generally used to work a day ahead of myself, so that I could take photos of the painting in daylight the next day. Im not going to lie, once the children were up, even trying to take a photo sometimes seemed like a challenge, so for me, organisation was key!

 

This year, I wanted to be extremely organised with my posts, and I had a list of what I wanted to paint before the project started. Unfortunately I actually found it much harder this time. There were a couple of reasons, and the first one was that PP has been going so well this year, that any spare time I had, I was running off to the studio to wrap, pack and make. The other was, that I felt more pressure this year. The compulsion to create something beautiful and finished caused a bit more strain than last year, and I did find it hard. I have a lot to thank this lovely project for though, saying that you are taking part publicly seems to tie you in to some kind of contract with your followers, and my stubbornness meant that I wasn’t going to quit!

So determination, organisation and a tiny bit of creative drive and you’ll be all set to win it next year! I do really recommend it. It can be anything! There were some fantastic projects this year, 100 days of pattern, 100 days of embroidery and 100 days of cakes!

When I paint, I mainly use gouache, although recently I bought a palette of watercolours too. For those of you new to painting, heres a little low down on my materials:


Paints

I mainly use Winsor and Newtons Gouache, along with a few interjections of Schmincke Horadam Gouache and Holbein Designers Gouache. All of these brands are extremely high quality, highly concentrated, with the high lightfastness ratings. My lovely husband bought me the starter set from Windsor and Newton, which has a good selection of base colours, which in theory allows you to mix a huge spectrum of colours. Holbein and Schminke have a huge range of colours to add to a basic range, including silver, gold and copper! What more could you possibly want in your palette! Mixing colours is an absolute love of mine, I’d mix it all day if it was a real job!

If you are new to gouache, and wonder why you might choose it over mediums, then here is why it is my paint of choice!

They are extremely opaque, They dry faster than watercolours, are water based and it is possible to layer one colour over another because of the opacity. I like to paint flat colours behind my images, and even painting white paint over the top of navy will show up. They have excellent flow and levelling properties and once dried they can be reactivated again and again. This works for me, as I quite often get disturbed half way though a painting by my babies, and also it means you can really explore the same colours over and over. It also makes them very economical.



The other satisfying thing about gouache is that it can be used almost like watercolour paints. It can be watered down to a watercolour consistency, and you can build up light washes of colours. Another valuable thing about gouache is, that it dries extremely quick, and that is good news for busy people, who sometimes only have 20 minutes to create something.

Paper

The minefield of paper! I used to work in a printmaking suppliers in London, and I learnt probably all there is to know about paper. I find it very fascinating, and loved to talk to customers about all the different types! I use a range of papers, but I mainly use thick watercolour paper as they are designed to absorb
water and give you a beautifully flat finish. I use brands such as The Langton and Arches Aquarelle. I also really highly rate Cass Arts  own brand of watercolour paper too.  Paper comes in different finishes, and more recently I have become a big fan of rough or textured paper. This is classed at ‘Not’. This may seem confusing, but basically paper is finished in different ways. There is ‘Hot pressed’,  which means that when the paper is made, it is pressed using heat, and the paper is generally very smooth. Then there is Cold Pressed blocks (also known as "Not" – in the sense of "not hot pressed") which have a slightly textured surface, halfway between the smoothness of Hot Pressed paper and the roughness of the Rough paper. Confusing?! Yep!

These papers are also made from 100% cotton fibre and are acid-free so, as long as you store them properly, your artworks will last the test of time.

I tend to favour papers that are around 200 gsm, (which denotes the weight of thae paper). I wouldn't use anything less than 150gsm.... the thicker the better, otherwise the paper will buckle. I am a big fan of the Daler Rowney ebony hard back sketchbooks, and they seem to withstand the amount of paint that I brush on, and are great for travelling with!

Brushes


Brushes are actually more important than I once thought…as long as they are well looked after! A good brush will pay dividends!
You can begin with something easily available, and affordable like Windsor and Newton synthetic brushes. They are cheap and great to start with. All kinds of brushes work well with gouache paints depending on the kind of artwork you are working on. My go to brush sizes are a 1 for filling in small flat areas, and a 00/000 for details. You can even chop off some bristles to get a finer brush for super detailed artworks. For backgrounds, I use a thick flat brush to avoid patchiness. I have lots of brushes, but my favourites have to be Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes, which are beautiful to hold, and the brush quality is unparalleled. They are made from the hair of the kolinsky, which is a species of weasel found in the Siberian wilderness.

I also use the amazingly crafted Cran D'ache luminance Pencils  for details on top!

Anyone else sit down with a cup of tea, and dip your brush in there instead of your water jar?! Yep, that is me EVERY day!Anyone else sit down with a cup of tea, and dip your brush in there instead of your water jar?! Yep, that is me EVERY day!

I hope this inspires you to pick up a brush and start creating! Gouache is super lovely and fun to use, and I really believe in investing in good quality materials, as they do really affect the final outcome. I know that it is not always possible or affordable, but I started out with a small rage and I am slowly building on it. As for the 100 day project, it will start around the beginning of April 2019!

Go for it!

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