The last half-decade has seen the launch of several boutique watercolor paint business run by artisans. Some of these boutique watercolor paint makers utilize hand mulling, high pigment ratios, and ‘natural’ ingredients to differentiate themselves from the big paint makers. As a result, many are offering unique, handmade, and exceptionally high-quality watercolor paints. I have been following some of these watercolor paint artisans via social media over the last year Hushwing, Greenleaf and Blueberry, Letter Sparrow, and Pfeiffer Art Supply to name a few. Many of these businesses carry hard to find pigments or have a unique focus to their paints. For example, Hushwing has a focus on North American earth pigments, Greenleaf and Blue Berry features Gemstone and Aztec pigments, Pfeiffer Art supply offers a bird themed collection with non-toxic pigments.
Last month I ordered a dot card from Hushwing’s Etsy Store to give their paints a try. Overall it was really a lovely watercolor experience. The dot card arrived carefully and elegantly packaged in nested envelopes. The inner envelope was a striking dark blue color sealed with wax. Everything about the presentation says ‘slow and careful preparation’. The dot card its self is a nonabsorbent type paper possibly YuPo rather than traditional watercolor paper. I appreciate this as it enables the customer to use the dot card more like a mini paint palette mixing the different pigments without the paint seeping into the paper. I was able to paint a small trial painting which I think gives me a better idea of the paints’ features and quality.
I picked up the Hushwing Collection which is a mix of earth and one modern pigment including Colonial Yellow Ocher, Colonial Raw Sienna, Colonial Burnt Sienna, Colonial Red, Colonial Violet, Colonial Raw Umber, Colonial Burnt Umber, Cyprus Green Earth, Cyprus Jarosite, Prussian Blue. The earth tones and muted colors of this pallet lead themselves well to forests, mountains, and fields. Making the collection an excellent en plein air (out in the open painting) set. I would like to pick up this set in the near future for summer travel. Each pigment is hand muled and bound with gum arabic and honey. The Colonial paints are earth pigments from North America. Cyprus Jarosite is an earth pigment that originates naturally from Cyprus. While Prussian Blue is a modern pigment although it dates to 1700s dye makers. Full pigment descriptions are available on the Hushwing Website. This dot card contains my favorite Yellow Ocher and Raw Siena I have used so far and I would buy a set for just them. The Prussian Blue is also exquisite, deep, dark, and intense. The Colonial Violet is a lovely earthy muted purple. Each paint has a very high pigment to binder ratio. I found myself needing more water than expected to dilute the paints to make gradients. The website states Hushwing has a 50/50 ratio which I believe. Each dot rewetted readably. Paints lifted off the paper well when I wanted to add highlights. Overall it was a very enjoyable set of paints on the card.
Hushwing paint is not low cost which is why I started with a dot card. However, this is to be expected as the artisan Kirsten Cooner needs to recoup the cost of supplies and her time while making a profit that one could live on. Becuase, of the high quality of the paints her production cost is likely high in both money and time. She is clearly not skimping by using more binder, cheaper pigments, or any of the other tricks watercolor producers use to lower production costs. Additionally, the website describes a laborious process of hand mulling and hand poring in thin layers. A set of ten half pans currently costs $110 and the seven half pan Colonial set is $70. However, at about $10 per a half pan, this is similar to pricing for Schmincke ($7 to $13) the best-known mass-produced premium watercolor paint. Keep in mind I am not a pigment expert and I am an amateur artist. That said I did like using Hushwing paints more than the ones in my Schmincke set. Hushwing is by no means a necessity but would be a very nice luxury item to have.