As promised here is my review of the lovely set of 12 Aquarius watercolour paints that Roman Szmal kindly sent me to review. I had already bought quite a few colours last year from the full range of 140 colours. Within that range there are 117 single pigment colours, meaning that you can create nice clean mixes with predictable results. As I mentioned in a previous post there are also quite a lot of beautiful granulating pigments. I absolutely love these paints, so when I got the chance to try some more colours I jumped at it.
I always find using a more limited palette very interesting and I think that this set, which contains colours that were chosen by the artist Artur Przybysz is a very useful group of colours. Ideal as a sketching palette.
The set comprises of full pans of the following colours: 206 Hansa Yellow Medium Py74, 308 Nickel Azo Yellow Py150, 320 Cadmium Vermilion Pr108, 323 Aquarius Red Pr214, 225 Phthalo Blue (Rs) Pb15: 6, 405 Cobalt Blue Pb28, 401 Przybysz’s Gray Pb29 / Pr177 / Pg26, 230 Phthalo Green ( Ys) Pg36, 108 Natural Sienna Light Py43, 115 Red Ochre Pr102, 239 Caput Mortuum Pr102, 131 Van Dyck Brown Nbr8
I like the fact that all the information about which pigments are used in each colour is clearly visible on the box. The paint is heavily pigmented and lifts readily out of the pans. Because they are full pans it is much easier to get your brush into them, especially if, like me, you use quite large brushes a lot of the time.
They come in a plastic and cardboard tray with a cardboard sleeve, perfectly serviceable as it is, or it is easy to transfer pans to a different tin if you wanted to. I am quite happy with them in their original box. It is nice and light to carry around. I can see me using this box quite a lot for sketching when I am out walking.
As is usual for me when trying out new paints, I proceeded to see what sort of dark mixes that I could create. I find that I often need greys or “blacks” that are nuanced towards certain colours, so for example a greenish grey or one with a slightly pink undertone maybe, depending on the subject that I am painting.
My examples below look a bit untidy but it is how I always do it, by mixing colours on the paper, rather than on the palette. As you can see there are some fabulous mixes that you can get from this set. Either of the reds mixed with Phthalo blue and green give a very deep colour. The other sheet is mainly green mixtures with a couple of other colour mixes thrown in for good luck! By the way the paper that I use for trying out paints is from a Clairefontaine Goldline Watercolour Studio Glued Pad, 24 x 32 cm, 200 g, 100 Sheets.
The only colour that I initially had my doubts about was the Van Dyck Brown. It is quite a neutral sort of brown, granular but also with a strange translucency to it. This pigment has the same characteristics regardless of brand, so I am not implying that there is any kind of deficiency in it in this set.
However, when I actually came to paint for real with the Aquarius paints I found it very useful for areas where I wanted a dark brownish black. The painting of a fox at the start of this post is an example where I used it on the ears and round the eyes. A true black would have been much too harsh and whilst I could have mixed up a colour it was handy to have it ready to use. The other colour that was very handy in this painting was the Red Ochre.
Also if you wanted a bright violet you won’t get it from the colours in this set of 12 but to be honest it is very rare that I need a bright violet and I can mix some lovely subdued violets from this set. There are quite a lot of violets, and colours that will mix violet, in the rest of the full range of 140 colours of Aquarius paints though, so you could always get a couple of those if you needed them.
What you do get with the Artur Przybysz’s set is the ability to mix a wide range of realistic greens and lots of beautiful dark colours, along with the colours that you will need for sketching out in the countryside or town, such as gentle cobalt blue for skies and plenty of ways to create mixes for stones and bricks.
In conclusion this little set is wonderful value for money, in the UK it can be bought from Jackson’s Art for £39, or from Szal Art in Poland for 28.43 Euros. There are other European suppliers but I have bought from these two before so feel happy to recommend them.
I hope that you feel encouraged to try some of Roman Szmal’s paints, I don’t think that you will regret it!