Last week, I won a really cool holiday tin full of goodies from Margaret Zaleski at Xanadu Art Studios. As you can see in the photo, it had some fantastic stuff in it - the tin, two colored pencils made from branches, foil tape, a Fantastix blending tool, a mister, a small jar with a magnet for water, a Royal Langnickel eraser, 4 bookmarks to color, a sponge, and last, but not least ...
...six handmade watercolors in seashells!
Today, I'm going to review these watercolors for you. I took a photo when these first arrived, but didn't check it until I'd done a painting or two. It had a weird glare (I still can't figure out where it came from), so you get to see how these look after they've been used.
Look and Feel
Before I get into this review, I want to explain that neither these paints nor the kit is for sale yet. Margaret is still getting feedback and what I'm telling you here, is pretty much what I've already discussed with her. I think she's close enough for these paints to be of interest to you, so you can keep an eye out for them to go on sale.
These Xanadu handmade watercolors came in sea shells that have a magnet glued to the bottom, so you can attach them to a tin.
I found the shells to be a mixed blessing - I really like the look. However, the irregular shapes and sizes mean you'll need a larger tin than you normally would. If the paints were totally dry. you could stack these, but wet you can't. I think this will be one of those things that some people love and others not so much.
There was a hand-painted chart included. The colors are rich and intense. As you can see, at full strength the green is opaque; the yellow, orange and blue are semi-opaque; the violet is semi-transparent and the red is transparent. I actually found them all to be more transparent than I expected, but I do tend to work in thin glazes and that always helps with transparency.
The colors aren't named on the chart, but you have the primaries and secondaries of a color wheel - yellow, orange, red, violet, blue, and green. The warm and cool properties of a color are a bit subjective, but to my eye they're all sort of in the middle of the warm/cool spectrum. The yellow, orange and green tend more to the warm and the red, blue and violet toward the cool.
I found the colors to work very well with each other allowing for some beautiful mixes.
The paint re-wets easily and a little goes a long way. I know that is true of most watercolors, but I found it to be moreso with these colors. Even though the color moves well in a wet-to-wet wash, none of them were explosive, so they give you a lot of control. On the other hand, you won't be able achieve those loose, bold explosions of abstract color.
All the colors are very staining, so you can lift a little while they are wet, but it's difficult to lighten once they've dried unless you have very forgiving paper. This didn't surprise me. The colors are bright. Usually intense color and staining go hand in hand.
The consistency of the paint isn't the same for all six colors, and the blue and green are too runny for this to be a travel set.
The paints are made with honey and clove. I'm allergic to clove so I find myself sneezing, but not enough to keep me from using these paints or from agreeing to test more of them.
I used a Cheap Joes' Golden Fleece Size 6 round for all of these paintings, except for the lifting which I did with a cheap thing whose name has long since worn off and that I use only for lifting color.
I decided to do my first painting on a paper that I consider student-grade. You can't really destroy paint like you can paper, so I used the cheapest watercolor paper I had. That way, anything good would be the quality of the paint, not of the paper.
I wanted to concentrate on just the paint, so I didn't plan, I just started painting and let it lead me where it wanted to. I sort of thought it would end up an abstract, but this owl-like thing showed up. And I think those are yum-yum trees.
I was pleased with how well washes spread without exploding. That did mean I couldn't use effects that rely on blossoms, back-runs or explosions of dripping color. I also found myself using more hard edges than I usually do.
As mentioned above, the color doesn't lift well, and once my owl thingy made itself known, I had gone too dark in some areas. I kind of liked him, so I used white opaque ink to give him lighter feathers and feet. I added highlights in my tendril thingys too. Then I quit, because I'd learned what I needed to.
For my second painitng, I decided to try doing a better owl painting, though it still came from my imagination. I used a better quality watercolor paper, Kilimanjaro, which is a professional brand of paper. It still isn't the best paper so the paint still needs to do some of the work.
As you may know, I like to lift color to soften edges and give a glow. On this paper, I didn't have to use the white opaque ink. There is no way I could get to white with any of these colors, but I was able to lift some color. I still found myself using more hard edges than usual, but the head and lighter feathers on the owl came from lifting as did the halo around the moon, the fuzzy leaves and softer colors on the mountains.
The colors were built up with thin glazes, so the lighter areas not mentioned above show the tinting strength of the paints.
I needed to do a postcard painting for my hubby's lunch bag and I thought that would give me a good feel for what the paint can do, since I use these Hahnemühle Watercolor Postcards on a daily basis.
I had already started this drawing as a line and wash, so the darkest areas around the eyes, ears, chest and in the background were done in black technical pen.
Color usually lifts very easily on these postcards, even staining ones. I knew these paints wouldn't but decided to go ahead and paint exactly as I'm used to so I could see the difference. As I expected, lifting color was easier than it had been on both of the other papers, but not as easy as usual.
I ended up using the white opaque ink to lighten a couple of areas. When I use these paints and this paper again (and I will), I'll know to use the technique of reserving white areas or using masking fluid as I would with most other papers.
Aside from that, I love the way the painting came out. The color flowed beautifully, and I loved the mixes of color that I was able to get. The Xanadu watercolors gave me a brighter look than usual, and on this paper I wasn't as tempted to go with hard edges.
Adapted from a photo on Pixabay.
The Xanadu Art Studio kit that I won is fantastic, and I love everything in it - the bright holiday tin, two colored pencils, foil tape, a Fantastix blending tool, a mister, a small jar with a magnet for water, a Royal Langnickel eraser, 4 bookmarks to color, a sponge, and six Xanadu handmade watercolors in seashells with magnets.
The Xanadu watercolors are handmade using honey and cloves. The six colors I received are beautiful and intense and create beautiful mixes. Because the colors are intense they are all staining colors. None of the colors are transparent at full-strength.
The consistency differed among the colors. This will probably change as Margaret refines her process.
I believe these watercolors would be great for most artists because they flow and rewet so easily, providing such lush, beautiful color. Someone who uses very drippy paint and explosive blossoms for special effects might not enjoy them as much.
Both the paints and the set-up of the kit are a work in progress, and may go through changes as Margaret discovers the perfect balance between the best paint and affordability. I'll let you know when they come up for sale at Margaret's Etsy shop.
Disclaimer: I received these Xanadu Art Studio Handmade Watercolors, the tin and other contents as the prize from an Instagram Giveaway. I was asked for feedback and to review them, but not as a requirement to receive them. I was very thrilled to win, but have kept this review as honest as I can.