Product Review: Prima Complexions Palette and Jane Davenport Pastel Palettes

Yesterday I posted photos of two mixed media paintings I did in Andrea Gomoll’s Faceinating Girls Around the World class. It was a great class, and I took it for several reasons.

First, I like Andrea’s style of teaching. She’s perky and explains what and how she is doing what she is doing with detail and enthusiasm. You can tell she loves what she does.

Irish girl watercolor Hollifield

Irish mixed media girl by Suzanne Hollifield created in class Faceinating Girls Around the World

Second, I wanted to practice using watercolor on portraits, and this class focused on skin tones for different races. I’ve done a class like this in acrylic, but watercolor seemed really interesting. Andrea was using Prima Watercolor Confections, of which I have several as well as all of the Jane Davenport watercolors. I printed the pigment sheets for both brands and substituted or mixed for the complexion colors if I needed to. I ended up ordering the Prima Complexions palette as it was easier to have it than to keep mixing.

It turned out that I was really glad I made the purchase. While more experienced watercolorists can create flesh tones by mixing primaries and/or complimentary colors, I enjoyed having the premixed palette. Of course, these watercolors are not Daniel Smith quality. Neither are they Daniel Smith prices. They are around $24 for the palette of twelve half-pans. I thought they were good quality at a reasonable price. They had enough pigment to cover smoothly and were not overly grainy for portraits. They both blended and layered easily.

Third, Andrea is really a mixed media artist. Although watercolor is her primary medium, she uses other media, too. She’s fond of stamping and has her own line of clear stamps that feature her signature cute girls. She uses stencils with both acrylic paint and modeling paste or gesso in her backgrounds. She is fond of bling in the form of glitter and sparkle gel. She always adds pen in the end. In this class, she used Pan Pastels to enhance the complexions of the girls.

Light skinned African American girl by Hollifield

Light-skinned African-American girls by Suzanne Hollifield created for Faceinating Girls Around the World

I didn’t want to shell out the bucks for Pan Pastels. I’ve lusted for them, but I don’t do enough pastel work to justify the expense. Fortunately, Jane Davenport has just introduced a Pastel Palette line, and I was lucky enough to find them on sale at Michaels for 60% off. Needless to say, I bought all four palettes, and since each has eighteen colors, I ended up with fifty-four pans of color.

The JD Pastel Palette worked great. I don’t know how it compares to Pan Pastels, but for my purposes, I was quite pleased. They didn’t seem a creamy as Andrea’s Pan Pastels, but after I got the “new” off the top, they spread well. On the page, they added the color lightly enough that I could layer and not worry about ruining the piece with a streak of color that was too intense. Once I applied fixative, they stayed put.

If you are on a budget like I am, I recommend you check the JD Pastel Palettes out. Michaels has frequent sales on them. You might get a deal like I did. You might want to go the Jane’s website as well. She has some great videos on how to use these and other of her products.

Chinese girl by Hollifield

Chinese girls by Suzanne Hollifield created for Faceinating Girls Around the World

Finally, I took the class because I wanted to work on my own style of faces. Andrea paints girls you recognize when you see them. I could name a hundred other artists whose portraits are immediately identifiable as their work. Some are whimsical; some are realistic; some are illustrative.

I think I’m more illustrative, or at least that’s what I aspire to be. I don’t have the patience for purely realistic works, and I like cute girls. Real people are rarely cute. I love those old forties and fifties posters and ads when artists drew the models and actresses instead of photographing them. I wish I could paint like that. The books I go back to over and over are by Andrew Loomis and Jack Hamm. The hair is wrong, but I love their faces. I have real trouble with wonky-ness though. One side is always a bit off.

Nevertheless, using the Prima Watercolor Confections Complexions palette and the Jane Davenport Pastel Palettes have helped me achieve my goal of creating my own style a little more I think. I recommend both products to you.

Claiming the Name “Artist”

Yesterday I wrote about getting ready for my first art exhibition and thinking about how to price my pieces. Our group, Uni4Artists, can submit thirty pieces, which means each of the members can submit two or perhaps three, depending on how many of us submit. This is an annual event at the Morganton Jailhouse Gallery and includes a reception and citywide art crawl. Last year, I was impressed by the turnout and by the art submitted by our members. In fact, I was humbled.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started painting in 2016, after I moved my massage practice and needed something to put on the walls. My point is that I am a less experienced artist than many of the others in the Uni4Artists. While I know it is death to artistic expression to compare myself to others, I’m also aware that I need to be careful to neither overprice nor underprice myself. Likewise, I have very few pieces that are truly original. I am sure I suffer at least a little from being overly attached to the pieces I think are worth submitting, and I’m trying to be mindful that I may not able to evaluate their value accurately. To my credit, I’ve asked for help.

The show last year got me thinking about originality and the point at which you stop feeling like a student and start feeling like an artist. All my classes have been online, and except for a few dud teachers in some collaboratives, I’ve learned a great deal from all of them. In the beginning especially, I did a lot of copying, which is an excellent way to learn, but you can’t sell paintings you’ve copied from a teacher, no matter how good they are. While I was copying for the most part, I felt like a student, and I resisted venturing out on my own. Some of my excuses were valid; some were born of fear of failure.

Portraits from watercolor class

Dark-skinned African-American girl and Native American girl for Faceinating Girls Around the World, a class taught by Andrea Gomoll. I copied her techniques for skin colors and layering of watercolors and some of her mark making and background design techniques. I tried to make the look of the girls my own. However. I would not feel comfortable selling either of these pieces, but I do feel like I got good practice.

For the last year, I’ve been trying, more and more, to do my own thing. That means I’ve got more than a few pieces that just aren’t very good and lots and lots of practice pages and canvases that are just meant to be practice and were never intended to be sold. I’m okay with that. Somewhere along the line, I decided I had to let myself make a mess. “It’s only paint and paper” someone said. I still copy, by the way, but I do it when I’m intent on learning a technique or on imitating a style before adapting it and making it my own. The best of both worlds occurs when I can learn the techniques but put my own spin on the lesson, like in the portraits above. I think anyone who sees them would recognize those as my girls and not mistake them for Andrea’s. (The teacher was Andrea Gomoll.)

Toward the end of last year, I decided not to sign up for so many classes and to really work on developing my own skills and style. This year, I’ve spent a lot of time with watercolors, a medium that until now I haven’t really enjoyed. I’ve also spent more time painting flowers and animals. I learned last year that I like story art, and I like combining nature and people. Although I miss some of the teachers and fellow students with whom I’ve traveled these last few years, setting my intention to develop myself as an independent artist and working toward that end feels right. I’m dreaming of the day when I will have trouble deciding which of my many originals I might want to submit for exhibition. I already feel like an artist.

Beginning Again

It’s been over a year since I first started this blog, and although I intended to use it to document my learning journey in painting, I never really got it off the ground. As a result, I ignored my own advice to “just begin”.

Over the last year, I have continued taking online art classses, and I’ve continued to draw or paint nearly every day. It really has become an important part of my life. I am finally at the place where I feel like I am developing my own style, and I want to do my own thing more than I want to copy my teachers.

One of my favorite and most respected teachers is Effy Wild. She recently challenged her students and her blog followers to blog every day in September. In a way, she is responsible for my being back here blogging. I need to give her credit for that; otherwise, I’d still be procrastinating. Thanks, Effy. BTW, Effy teaches some really dynamic classes on art journaling. You should check her out.

Underpainting of portraitToday begins the Labor Day weekend, and I decided to paint a canvas since I have the time. I chose a reference photo from a copyright free site named pixabay.com.  While the photographer didn’t ask to be credited, his named is Jerzy Gorecki. I used a technique I learned from online teacher Kara Bullock, in which I first placed a grid on both the photo and the canvas and then did the sketch. Afterwards, I completed the underpainting. One of the things I’ve learned from Kara is to spend time on the underpainting, and like her, I use an app called PosterShine to break down the reference photo into the darkest darks, the midtones, and the highlights. Once the grid and the values are in place, it is easier to start adding layers and details.

PreliminaryAfter I started adding other colors, I changed the skin tone to a pinker shade. I spent most of today  just doing layer upon layer of skin tone, then the eyes, lips, hair, clothing, and background, and even now, I am aware that I still don’t have the dimensional quality that makes a painting come alive. Still, it was a good day, and the painting is my own. It was as good and satisfying day, Tomorrow, I will have time to work on it some more. I am excited and looking forward to it.