A few months ago I purchased two small 1/2 pan pallets from Greenleaf and Blueberry a maker of handmade watercolor in Colorado. As I have mentioned in my Hushwing watercolor paint review back in March I have been very interested in boutique watercolors as an alternative to mass-produced watercolor paint for a while. Don’t get me wrong mass production has in many ways change our lives for the better. Productivity is greatly improved and standardization makes some things easier to fix and implement. I am not a Luddite. I certainly don’t want to go back to producing all of my own furniture, food, or building my own home by hand. (If you are that sort of person who does then your awesome!) However, there are several drawbacks to mass production. The standardization required for mass production means we are left with what the big guys think we should have for art supplies and that limits availability of alternative formulas. Very little of what we pay for an item goes to the persons who helped create it in a factory. There are very real drawbacks to all of the cheap mass produced stuff populating our local big box store in the form of wealth disparity. For this reason, I like the idea of paying the artisan paint maker directly for their wears.
It seems that I am not the only one who feels this way as several boutique watercolor makers have come to the market in the last few years. An Etsy search for “handmade watercolor paint” will now return dozens of sellers offering this type of product with hundreds of listings. Popular makers like Greenleaf and Blueberry often sell out within hours of listing their products for sale. Companies like Natural Earth Paint, Earth Pigments, and Kremer offer those willing to make paint a wide range of available pigments.
Greenleaf and Blueberry were one of the first such companies I have heard of. Originally a few things have kept me from purchasing their paints. One if you really want them you have to watch for their newsletter and then stalk the store the day of the listing. I got lucky one day and saw the newsletter in my inbox on their listing day about 5 minutes before this listing and navigated over for a quick purchase. I am just not the sort of person who can ‘stalk’ for a purchase I just don’t get that excited about stuff. If it was going to happen it would take the magic combination of me having spare cash, time, and looking at the right computer interface at the right moment. Which is what happened. Two they are very pricey. I mentioned in my previous post on this topic why such products cost so much. It is a combination of highly pigmented paints, hand mulling, hand pouring, and hand packaging. See a theme here? Labor in the United States is expensive and the creator has to make enough to cover material costs plus their time. Finally, there are just so many other paints out there for me to try! I didn’t really feel I was missing out by not getting my hands on these products. But, in the end, I am glad I made this purchase and would be interested in owning more.
Okay, on to my thoughts on these paints. I like them. I purchased two pallets the Primary Mayan Primary Trio and the Mineral Trio. They are both highly pigmented and provided excellent coverage. They are packaged in small Altoids type tins with magnets at the base of each half pan. The packaging is well done however I neglected to take an initial photo when they arrived. So all I have to share is this shot which I took after several uses of each pallet.
The Mayan Primary Trio features Mayan Red, Mayan Yellow, and Mayan Violet. I purchased this because I find the story behind Mayan pigments interesting. The techniques of mixing organic plant pigments with clay were lost but have recently been reconstructed. The red reminds me of Madder Lake dark red with the look of fresh blood. The yellow is a bright yellow that leans toward the cooler side.
I now wish that I opted for Mayan Blue over Violet as that is the color of real historical interest to me. But, the violet is a fine shade. Mayan Blue is perhaps the best known of the Mayan colors as blue has historically been difficult to obtain and expensive pigment. Until the development of French Ultramarine, the goto mineral for blue in Europe was ground lapis lazuli. What makes Mayan blue such a stand out is there are Mayan paintings that still have a radiant blue to them.
The Mineral Trio includes Pipestone, Malachite, and Vivianite, The mineral set does handle very differently from other watercolors I have used. It does take some getting used to. Glazing techniques can be tricky as these paints lift very easily. They add a gritty texture to the surface of the paper once dry. I am still not sure how to best apply these in my paintings but it has been fun to explore their behavior and experiment with them. The Pipestone is reminiscent of clay garden pots. The Malachite is a cheery and tropical green-blue. Vivianite is a dark nearly black blue gray that reminds me of soil.
My assessment of these paints is largely the same as the Huswing watercolors I reviewed back in March. Not a necessity but a very nice luxury item to have if you can afford it.
Happy Art Journey,