Throughout the month of August we asked three artists to try out Jackson’s Professional Oil Paints, to discover the handling properties and quality of the paint. Made by skilled artisans who use only the finest grade pigments and the purest refined oils, Jackson’s Professional Oil paints are rich, vibrant, and full of character. Here Judith Booth, James Cowper, and Jen Orpin share their process and experimentations.
Above image: Judith Booth’s portrait of Matt George in progress.
Delighted to be asked by Jackson’s Art to try out their Professional Oil Paints. I was sent a range of paints to match the colours I use in my current portrait palette along with some of their Black Hog brushes and some linseed oil in return for an honest review. The colours they sent were titanium white (linseed), yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, violet dioxazine, ultramarine blue, phthalo green, burnt umber and ivory black in 40ml tubes.
Initially I did a colour chart comparing the Jackson’s Professional Oil Paints with the current brands I am using (Daler-Rowney Georgian , Michael Harding, Winsor and Newton Artist oil colour and Turner Artist’s Oil colour). I did a couple of columns applying paint straight from the tube and then a couple with an approximate 50/50 mix of colour and titanium white. The Jackson’s paints are smooth and buttery, highly pigmented and flowed beautifully. There was no discernible difference in the quality of the Jackson’s paint and other professional paint ranges that I use. The titanium white was a softer and less harsh white than the Daler Rowney titanium white that I’ve been using, ideal for portraiture and a lot smoother too. Definitely a convert. I’m curious as to what the other whites in the range will be like. The yellow ochre, cadmium orange and cadmium red were lighter in colour than my usual paints so I had to take it into account when mixing colour.
The Black Hog brushes were a pleasant surprise. Nice and springy, not too stiff and ideal for oils. Not much bristle shedding. Loved the large filbert for laying in large areas of colour and the flats gave a nice crisp edge. Just as good and possibly better than the current hog brushes that I use. I will definitely be ordering more of these!
I decided to do a head study with the materials so I prepared an MDF board with Michael Harding Non-Absorbent Acrylic Primer. I find it gives a nice tooth for the paint and helps to prevent sunken areas. I set up a monitor with my reference photo on to assess colour and I also use a photocopy of the image as I like to draw all over it in pencil to work out angles, plumb lines etc.
My model is artist Matt George who runs the non-profit Technically Brilliant Gallery in Warrington at which I also volunteer. It’s aim is to encourage and support local artists. He has great silver hair, good skin tones and a rather tricky to paint beard. I took a few reference photos whilst at the gallery.
I toned the board with burnt umber thinned with a lean medium and then did the basic construction using burnt umber and a little linseed oil. This makes it easier to move or erase lines. Once happy with this I filled in the shadow shapes with a thin layer of burnt umber.
Next step was to do a basic block in with average tones of colour. These paints are very buttery and don’t seem to need any medium. I then worked over the painting again breaking up the larger areas into smaller planes of colour, looking for geometric shapes and trying not to get distracted with too much detail. The T-shirt was black and I used a mix of phthalo green and alizarin crimson for this.
Towards the end of the first painting day, the light was fading and time to clear up. I like to paint in natural light where possible. I softened any hard edges on the painting with a fan brush, cleaned my brushes with Jackson’s ShellsolT odourless solvent followed by The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver and put my paint palette into a Masterson Palette Seal. The Jackson’s 30x40cm glass palette fits into the box nicely. I pop the box into the freezer to keep the paint wet and workable until the next painting session. It’s a good way to avoid wasting paint.
At the start of another painting day I reinstated the highlights and adjusted skin tones and values. The higher tinting power of some of the colours means that I have to careful not to overdo it when mixing subtle skin tones. I worked on the beard area adding a wider range of values.
Next step was to finish the features. I changed the position of the mouth a little. Somehow the mouth always drifts to the left when I paint! The eyes took quite some time, constantly adjusting angles and values. I love adding the highlights to the eyes as it seems to wake the portrait up. I used the titanium white straight from the tube for these instead of toning it down a little as I normally do. Lastly, I worked on the hair using a synthetic flat brush to give crisp marks which I then softened with a sable brush.
Returning to the painting after a couple of days, I lightened the cheeks and lower eyelids, adjusted the brows and beard, added more highlights to the hair and added some lighter violet tones to the back of the neck. I’m happy with the painting now and like the way the cool steely grey hair contrasts with the warm skin tones. Calling it finished, I add a signature and pop it on a shelf in my studio to dry.
In conclusion, the Jackson’s Professional Oil Paint range is very high quality, lovely to use and a very reasonable price compared to equivalent ranges by other brands. I will definitely use the range in the future. The Jackson’s Black Hog brushes were a lot better quality than I was expecting, a delight to use, just the right amount of spring for oils and didn’t shed many bristles. I will be adding more of these to my brush collection. The Jackson’s linseed oil was absolutely fine, I didn’t need to use a lot of it so the 500ml tin that I was sent should last me a lifetime!
About Judith Booth
Judith Booth is a professional portrait painter from Warrington in Cheshire. She spent nearly 30 years as a GP before starting her artistic journey. Discovering a passion for painting and a love of portraiture for which she could use her observational skills, she undertook classical training at Realist Academy Walton Hall graduating with a gold award. Judith works mainly in oils in a realist style and timeless manner using delicate brushstrokes and soft edges. She has exhibited in various galleries in the North West and her work has featured in nationwide publications. Currently represented by an international portrait agency and undertaking regular portrait commissions.
I have bought most of my art materials from Jackson’s for many years now, but have never tried their own line of oil paints. So I was thrilled and very curious when I was asked to give them a go. First, I made some swatches. I have a little book of swatches I update each time I buy a new tube of paint, which makes it easy to compare brands and keep notes on them. All of these paints felt just how I like them – none of them were overly oily and the colour came out rich and consistent. I couldn’t wait to paint with them!
I had about a week so I decided I would make a portrait mainly to test out the earth colours and a flower painting to test out the stronger brighter ones. My mum was happy to sit and so I got things started with a transparent Raw Umber sketch. Raw Umber is such a useful paint for starting a painting. This one was great. It gave me a full range of value and was all dry by the next day. Even the dark areas that the Gamsol Mineral Spirit had barely touched.
I then finished the portrait with a couple of layers of colour. I found the Titanium Buff really useful in a lot of the flesh mixes. It’s a lot less harsh than regular titanium. The Raw Sienna is a colour I look forward to using more; this was honestly my favourite version I’ve ever tried. The Cadmium Red Deep Genuine was also a beautiful and very useful red for painting flesh in natural light. The other colours I used for the face were Napthol Vermillion, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, and a regular Titanium White in a few places. I finished the painting with some quick glazes and a bit of drybrushing in the background using some of the stronger colours like Viridian and Magenta etc.
With the second painting I picked the brightest flowers that are in the garden just now! Some dahlias. I wanted to test out the strong yellows and oranges, as well as the Violets, Magentas, and Greens. I painted with a very direct approach this time starting with a full palette of colours.
I particularly loved the Indian Yellow Hue and Yellow Lake for their brightness and transparency, as well as the Viridian, Cerulean, and Cobalt Blue. Manganese Violet is a completely new colour to me and it was a very nice surprise. It has just a bit more violet punchiness to it than Dioxazine or Ultramarine Violet which lean a little more towards the blue, so it’s a really useful colour for anyone trying to paint flowers.
The more I used the colours the one paint that confused me a bit was the Phthalo Turquoise. I usually use Gamblin‘s which is quite transparent, and very useful for all sorts of things. Jackson’s version is a beautiful colour I admit, but because they mix white pigments into the tube it is pretty opaque. That, in my opinion, takes away a bit of potential versatility.
I have really enjoyed using Jackson’s paints this week. I’m pretty sure I will stick with them and would highly recommend them.
About James Cowper
James lives and works in the Scottish Borders, painting a wide variety of subjects from portraiture and animals to landscapes, still lives and florals.
For much of the last decade he lived in Sweden, first studying and then teaching at The Swedish Academy of Realist Art as part of the main faculty.
Jackson’s asked me to try their Professional Oil Paints, I hadn’t used these before so this was a perfect opportunity to try them and make a new piece of work with just their paints. I’m used to quite a wide-ranging palette in the studio so this was also a really good exercise in trying a limited palette for a change. I had to choose 8 colours from the 44 colour range so I selected colours I usually use the most, Titanium white, Cad Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Naphthol Vermillion, Prussian Blue, Sap Green and Cerulean Blue. I also tried for the first time 4 of Jacksons own brushes, they were 3 Onyx flats and a Procryl Bright. I really liked the Onyx brushes, they’re quite soft so worked really well when blending my clouds but also held up nicely for the blocking in and straight lines of the bridge. The canvas I used was a Jackson’s premium cotton stretched canvas, 19mm, 20x25cm.
I tend to mostly paint Alla Prima and also blend and mix my paint quite a bit on the canvas as well as the palette, sometimes I use some linseed oil to thin the paint a little and make it easier to move and spread. I found I needed to do this with some of the colours as they were a little dry. However, I was using the titanium white with linseed oil and I found the oil already in the paint made it easy to spread on the canvas which I really liked especially as I use quite a lot of white in my paintings for the clouds and the road. Most of the paint I’d applied on day one of making the painting had already dried when I returned to the studio on day two. I also found that the paint I had mixed on my palette had started to dry when I left the studio for a couple of hours and returned to continue painting. The white remained wet as expected though, as did colours heavily mixed with white.
Out of all the colours I chose there were only two I found the most different to my usual brand. The Sap Green was quite a bit darker, a little more opaque and more of a blue green than the more yellow green I’m used to. This was great for the metallic nature of the bridge but needed mixing with the ochre and yellow for the more natural tones of the grass and trees in the landscape. I noticed the Prussian Blue was a tiny bit little lighter and brighter than my usual brand. I mostly mix this with other darker pigments to achieve the darker values of my palette as I don’t really like to use black.
Overall, I was really happy with the paints, they seemed a little thinner than I’m used to and dried quicker too but I think that the finished piece has as really nice harmony to it and isn’t that dissimilar to previous paintings made of the same subject. Art materials can be really expensive but these are good quality, reasonably priced which is great for all levels and for those who are on a bit of a budget.
I really like what Jackson’s say about the ethical side of their Professional Oil paints. They are made in the UK using suppliers who share their ethical principles and objectives. Their manufacturing process involves no animal testing and all purchasing decisions are informed by Jackson’s commitment to anti-slavery and outright objection to any form of child labour, maintaining a process of continual review to maintain a further reduction of their environmental impact.
About Jen Orpin
Jen Orpin graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1996 with a degree in Fine Art. She lives in Manchester and joined Rogue Artists’ Studios, Manchester in 2000. As well as exhibiting UK wide, selling her paintings nationally and internationally, her work has been accepted into several Open Art exhibitions. She made the long list for the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2018, 19 and 2020 and in 2018 she appeared in Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year where the judges chose her in their top three for the heat. In February 2020 she was one of 20 shortlisted artists from a submission entry of 2,000 in the first HOME Open exhibition Manchester and was also selected for The New Light Art Prize and the ING discerning Eye Exhibition. So far in 2021 she’s had a ten week solo show at the Manchester Modernist Society, shown at Saul Hay Fine Art, The Gallery Holt in Norfolk, has been selected for the Wells Art Contemporary and The Bankley Open Call. In May her motorway paintings featured in the Guardian online and The Observer’s New Review arts and culture magazine.
Jen is a contemporary landscape painter whose work is a response to and concerned with themes around the journeys we make, the open road and their landmarks, memories, nostalgia and documenting the often overlooked dark gritty corners of the urban environment.
Use or search the Instagram tag #jacksonsmaterials to see more.