Product Testing: Watercolor Ground and Walnut Ink

I'm a material(s) girl. I've always liked art supplies. When I was little I imagined I would work at Aaron Bros. Art Mart surrounded by thick pads of paper, 48-color marker sets, and colored pencils. After I finished art school I got my first job at Amsterdam Art near those same materials and alongside other recent art school grads. With our 40% off employee discounts, we spent part of our paychecks on art supplies. We could afford to try new things (we said). Even though I now have a developed art practice and need specific materials, I still long for new products to try. As a teacher, I justify purchasing these new tools and materials so I can advise others of their properties.

I live within driving distance of a Utrecht, two Blicks, and an Artist and Craftsman Supply, but I'm happy to be out on the porch looking for the arrival of a box. We've had nice weather, too, so I recently ordered three new products from Daniel Smith, Inc.: watercolor ground, newly formulated walnut ink, and a set of Letraset Aqua ProMarkers.

acrylic inks on gesso
The friendly and helpful customer service person (there are many and all are nice, which is one reason I like calling) said that the markers were his "pens of choice." He also added, "I hope you won't be offended, but I take these to bars with me, and they are great with technical pens, too." I told him I thought drawing in bars sounded wonderful and was pleased to hear about the technical pen compatibility (that being my pen of choice). He also said that after painting on the watercolor ground, I would need to seal the watercolors with a spray adhesive like Krylon Crystal Clear. Since I wanted to try out my inks of choice (the acrylic ones) on the ground and knew those never need to be sealed, I did not order the (strong smelling) Crystal Clear. 

acrylic inks on watercolor ground
I got the first box the other day (the markers are backordered) and did a comparison test between regular acrylic gesso and the watercolor ground painted on muslin. The brown wash (actually walnut ink) did not adhere to the gesso and left streaks, the pencil marks pulled up and blended with the acrylic inks, and the tonal range of the colors was small. With the watercolor ground, the luminous white shines through (one of their main claims), the pencil stayed put, I got a wider tonal range, and the walnut ink blended properly in the background. The informational paper that came with it also said you could paint the ground on metal, glass, just about anything. While it says to let the ground dry 24-72 hours before painting on it, I put my piece in the sun and was able to proceed in about 30 minutes. Another interesting note is that if you have a watercolor painting you have done and dislike one area, you can paint the ground over it, let dry, then "fix" the painting, something watercolors never let you do.

The walnut ink inspired me to do a comparison with the bottle of "original" walnut ink that I still have. Here's my chart, starting upper left and going clockwise: Daniel Smith (acid free) walnut ink; Derwent Inktense ink pencil (bark); Derwent Inktense ink pencil (baked earth); FW acrylic ink (burnt umber); FW acrylic ink (sepia); Matisse acrylic ink (sepia); FW acrylic ink (antelope brown); original Tom Norton Walnut Drawing Ink. Colors are odd on the screen, I know. But antelope brown is closest to both walnut inks. The sepias are bluer, the burnt umber is a bit redder. The ink pencils don't come close in color. I think the Tom Norton walnut ink would be more fluid in a pen. The acrylic inks need to be shaken, as usual, and would require frequent dipping. The new Daniel Smith walnut ink seems a bit more fluid than the acrylic inks, but handles similarly.

Next up (whenever they get here): watercolor markers. I'll be out on the porch…


dinahmow said…
Looks like a good test swatch.
Acrylic ink is not available in my small town, but I am "playing with" distilled paints.Have yet to be brave enough to use a fountain pen!
Thankyou for the leg work.