The New A. Gallo Handmade Watercolours: Naturale 24 set explores their range of hand-crafted earth, mineral, and plant-based paints, created from traditional recipes. Here, Lois Davidson reviews the new range, taking a closer look at her favourite colours.
Inspired by a deep passion for historical pigments and traditional painting techniques, A. Gallo handmade watercolours aim to connect their users to the origins and history of artistic materials. Handmade in Assisi (the birthplace of Giotto), colours such as genuine Lapis Lazuli Extra Fine, Jarosite and Indigo Genuine evoke images of ancient frescoes and Renaissance paintings. The entire A. Gallo watercolour collection is made from earth, mineral, and plant-based pigments and are crafted according to traditional recipes from the raw pigments, gum Arabic, local honey, rosemary essential oil, and a wetting agent. All are mercury, lead, arsenic, cobalt and cadmium free, thus demonstrating a contemporary approach to historical colour.
Exquisitely packaged in an elegant gift box, wrapped in artisan Florentine marbled paper and individually hand-swatched wrappers, A. Gallo’s Naturale 24 handmade watercolour set are a joy to open. The packaging is clearly that of a high-end, luxury brand, making the Naturale 24 set perfect for gifting, either for a fellow artist or as a special treat for yourself. The metal tin contains two mixing surfaces and a thumb ring, making it ideal for watercolour painting en plein air or in the studio. The Naturale 24 set also comes with a complimentary synthetic Tintoretto mop brush, size 0. The pans wet up quickly and have a wonderful buttery texture, and as you would expect, are smooth to swatch and richly pigmented. The range of colours in the set is unique and interesting, with plenty of subtle earthy hues and deep rich darks, with some wonderful pops of colour such as Copper Blue and Green Gold, making it perfect for most genres of watercolour painting, and in my opinion, particularly suited to landscape painting.
Trying out a few colours from the New A. Gallo Watercolours: Naturale 24 set
After swatching out all 24 pans, I selected a few of my favourites to try further. This was difficult with so many beautiful colours to choose from, but I eventually decided on the following: Indigo Genuine, Morellone, Copper Blue, Castile Orange, and Potter’s Pink. I experimented with them by painting a couple of spontaneous semi abstract landscapes to see what the colours look like together, and to test how they interact with each other on the paper wet in wet, and wet on dry.
Potter’s Pink (PR233, with excellent lightfastness and semi-opaque)
A soft, dusky pink, subtly granulating, this colour pairs perfectly with the Indigo Genuine to create a wonderful limited palette. It creates delicate washes of pale, coolish pink when mixed with plenty of water, but in my opinion its true beauty is revealed with less water, yielding a cool natural pink with a slightly blueish hue that works well when combined with earth colours and warm darks. Another colour that will happily become a part of my regular watercolour palette.
Indigo, Genuine (PB 1 with good lightfastness, and semi-transparent)
Cotman’s indigo substitute is one of my favourite colours, so I was eager to try the genuine pigment despite its reputation as a non-lightfast colour. A. Gallo’s Indigo Genuine has a ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent’ lightfastness rating, but it more than makes up for that with its intense midnight blue hue that thins out with plenty of water to the prettiest transparent blue-grey. It’s a great mixing colour with the Morellone, making an intense dark blackish aubergine, and then with a touch of Castile orange added, a good greenish neutral brown. A super colour for any artist who is curious about this traditional, genuine plant-based pigment. A. Gallo helpfully suggest substituting their Payne’s grey if excellent lightfastness is required.
Copper Blue (PW4, PG7, PB15:3, PY3 with excellent lightfastness and semi-transparent)
An exquisite greenish-blue hue created by A. Gallo as a non-hazardous alternative to the corrosive and toxic colour made from metallic copper, this jewel-like colour would be perfect for adding colour accents to a finished painting. It contains a touch of zinc white (PW4) and works to create subtle highlights on darker colours as well as creating stunning greenish blue washes when mixed with varying amounts of water. Pale but intense, and incredibly delicate and pretty.
Castile Orange (PR101, PY43 with excellent lightfastness and semi-transparent)
A beautiful reddish orange Bauxite ochre from Spain, I was drawn to this colour as its hue sits nicely somewhere between burnt sienna and the more vibrant traditional oranges like cadmium orange: rich and intense but wonderfully earthy. Another good pigment for creating subtle pops of colour, it works well as a mixing colour to warm up or neutralise other colours and mixes, especially greens; which is a real plus for landscape painting.
Morellone (PR101 with excellent lightfastness and semi-opaque)
A powerful opaque iron oxide pigment that packs a real punch at full strength, the smallest amount of paint delivers the richest dark aubergine I’ve come across so far in a watercolour paint. I love deep dark red/blue hues that favour the red side of the colour wheel; it works very well with most of the colours in the Naturale 24 set, and counter-changes especially well with the earthy yellows and vibrant blues because of its reddish hue. I think this is my favourite colour from the set, one that I will most certainly be adding to my regular palette as it is such a pleasing and versatile colour.
In conclusion, it was a real pleasure to try out the A. Gallo Naturale 24 handmade watercolour set. My expectations were high, as I’d heard many good things about this high-end artisan brand: and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The colour selection is varied, versatile, and very different from most large watercolour sets. The half-pans wet up quickly and richly, and the tin provides plenty of space to mix; and, with the thumb ring, a convenient set up for both en plein air and studio painting. The complimentary Tintoretto synthetic mop brush is a good all-rounder with its fine point and excellent water/paint holding properties. Lastly, I thought the printed DIY swatch card on Arches watercolour paper was a wonderful and thoughtful touch that saves a lot of work and allows the artist to see how well the paints behave on quality watercolour paper with a minimum of fuss.
Further Reading on the Jackson’s Art Blog