Watercolourist and art tutor, Anna Zadorozhnaya decided she’d like to try out our Jackson’s own brand range. Looking at a selection of Jackson’s brushes, Two Rivers watercolour paper and our own brand artist watercolour paint tubes, she explains in detail what she likes, and dislikes, about each material and why.
Review of Jackson’s Artist Watercolours, Two Rivers Watercolour Paper and a Selection of Jackson’s Watercolour Brushes
My name is Anna Zadorozhnaya, I’m a watercolour artist from Russia. Jackson’s Art Supplies kindly sent me some of their own brand Jackson’s materials for testing. And I decided I wanted to write my opinion of all three of the main categories of watercolour materials – brushes, paper and paints.
First of all, a few words about my technique: I mainly paint with pure watercolour, rarely using mixed media, and I prefer traditional methods of painting (mostly with large amounts of water). I also want to point out that above all the category that is most important to me is paper, then paint, and after that brushes.
Jackson’s own brand is widely known, especially due to their brushes – they are not so expensive and of a high quality. I can confirm that – in my opinion, it’s true: they really are very good.
The Jackson’s sable round brush with the short handle (I have a #6, series S.920, hair width 4 mm) seemed to me to be a typical representative of sable brushes: it holds a relatively large amount of water inside the bundle and differs from other hairs as it is softer than synthetics and harder than, for example, squirrel or goat. Concerning the sharpness of the tip, it worked most of the time: sometimes it was very sharp, but if there was not enough water inside the bundle, the tip turned into a kind of broom. The hair itself is very soft, it allows the ability to make a controlled line of different thickness. The quality of the brush is good: the ferrule is tight and seems it will remain tight for ages, the handle is varnished, the signatures don’t tend to rub off, and the brush lays comfortably in your hand.
Jackson’s Icon brush set (B700-8,702-1/2,777-2) appear to have become firmly my everyday work brushes. Usually I’m cautious about sets, but here is a very well-turned kit, which you can use to paint practically all paintings upto A3 – it includes a round, sable and synthetic mixed hair brush, a flat brush with the same hair and a large synthetic quill brush. On the first look, the brushes look like entirely synthetic, and you expect a certain level of hardness, but they are really soft and the same time really elastic. They are perfectly controlled and are obedient – all the brushes have a well thought out balance of keeping water and they are comfortable to hold. The round brushes have a sharp tip, the flat gives the opportunity to do straight washes and lifting out. The only thing that I didn’t like in them, doesn’t apply to the quality of the brushes: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to lift off the sticky layer from the barcode, which is glued straight on to the handles. Anyway, they’re cool brushes, and I love them a lot.
For me paper is the priority material for watercolour painting, and I had high hopes for the handmade paper Two Rivers (140lb, NOT, 16X20 in). These hopes did not materialize, and I have good reasons for why I did not like this paper.
It is described as conservation quality, made with 100% cotton and linen rag and as being very hard sized. As it said, the surface is incredibly tough and allows the artist to work the surface for much longer than with more absorbent artists papers, also the paint is not drawn into the paper, so the colours don’t fade as on classic cotton papers.
It’s hard not to agree with this description: it’s clearly visible that the texture is very unusual, tough and rough, and that the colours tend to stay as they would on the palette. But, the behaviour of the paper is more common for cellulose papers, and you definitely don’t expect it from cotton. There are also cons about the paint, not being drawn into the paper – for example, the fact that everything stays on the surface, including water, and, accordingly, you cannot apply most of the common watercolour techniques.
When applying plenty of water the surface, despite its thickness and GSM of 140lb, it begins to wave rather badly.
The paper allows for scrubbing and lifting out multiple times, but you must be careful of having too much water inside the brush – or you’ll have smudges. Also a few places, that were evenly washed, had strange white dots on surface.
I tried to find out the technique suitable for this paper, but I equally didn’t like working wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry or gluing the paper to a drawing board on water…
In summary – I think of Two Rivers as not as good paper for watercolour painting, but, maybe, it would work well for other techniques – for example pastel or acrylic.
Jacksons’s Artist Watercolours are, from my point of view, perfect working everyday paints: they are professional quality, have plenty of colours in palette, they are available in different forms, including large 21ml tubes, and they cost a lot less than paints of this quality normally do. The tubes have a retro-design and minimalistic approach to package: there is only the name and number of the colour, signature “The finest pigments. Luminous colour. Professional quality”, information about the pigments, opacity, and mysteriously for me a flower, which, apparently, represents lightfastness. As a binder gum arabic is used, and undoubtedly honey – this can be seen in the consistency and speed of drying on the palette: for six days while on the palette the paints were soft inside. All the paints are positioned as lightfast.
Two particular qualities, which should be noted, are a gouache smell from the paints that is manifested more than with other watercolour brands, and the binder, that comes from the tube while opening them is similar to other watercolour brands that use honey as a binder.
Jackson’s sent me six colours in tubes, and below is the brief opinion of each of them.
The 249 French Ultramarine (PB29) is great! It had a very beautiful hue, fine grinding, very clear colour – transparent, lightening. There is also one interesting characteristic – unlike most ultramarines in other brands, it has a relatively low granulation.
The 264 Сerulean Blue (PB35) is pleasant in hue, it is a reference gentle blue. There is the marking “opaque” on the tube, but in fact it is transparent, and it granulates very much. At the same time, like most ceruleans, it will be consumed faster than other paints – compared with other colours, according to subjective sensations, it is not so intensely saturated with pigment.
The 151 Cadmium Red Orange (PR108) has a visible red undertone, it is also declared as a opaque and is also, in my opinion, transparent.
The 356 Raw Umber (PBr7) gives mixtures a strange yellowness, although the shade itself is not bad.
The 362 Burnt Sienna is a lovely colour, and I liked it a lot: the paint has very fine grinding, is transparent and has a beautiful, clean and deep colour.
The 417 Warm Sepia is a typical representative of its family: a pleasant colour, opaque and gives a good grey in mixes with blue.
In general, I liked watercolours – I would say, they are worth their money and I can recommend them as a good paints.
About Anna Zadorozhnaya
Anna Zadorozhnaya was born and lives in Moscow, Russia. Anna has an MA in Art from Oxford Brookes University and is a member of the International Federation of Aquarellists. She shares her watercolour paintings on her popular Instagram site @draw_better and has written on Schmincke Horadam Watercolours for us before, which you can read here.