Steve Whitney's Palette Set includes 37ml each:
Trying Out DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors
by Steve Whitney
When I agreed to demonstrate DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors, it was with some misgivings. Though I was excited to try out the new paints, my experience with several existing brands of water soluble oils had been disappointing. None had the smooth, luscious feel or strength of traditional oils, and one was like painting with bubblegum. What if I didn’t like the new DANIEL SMITH paints either?
That would be awkward.
I needn’t have worried.
As soon as I got my hands on a set of the new paints, I squeezed all ten colors on my palette and blocked in a landscape, my usual subject, on a gessoed panel, my favorite ground. For the block-in, I diluted some Burnt Umber with just enough water to dilute the color yet keep the paint from running. Using a small flat brush, I did a quick, minimal sketch of my subject—a setting sun shining through a large old tree—illuminating the sky and background with golden light yet leaving the foreground field in deep shadow.
With the rough sketch in place, I scrubbed the panel with a loose diluted mixture of Quinacridone Orange and Quinacridone Gold (Step 1). I then wiped off excess paint, leaving a glowing “imprimatura” that would set the tone for the entire painting. With traditional oil paint, I would have used odorless mineral spirits for this entire process, but with DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors I simply added enough water for the paint to move easily. Comparing them to traditional oils, I detected no difference in either ease of application or the final appearance of the tinted panel.
So far, so good.
Working wet into wet, I finished the entire 16- by 20-inch painting in a single session. I tried all my usual procedures and techniques to see if DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors would perform the same as traditional oils. I used broken color to paint the sky and a palette knife to lay in the brightly lit clouds. I used hog bristle brushes both to scrub in shadow passages and lay on thick impastos for the lightest lights. Switching to sable brushes, I gradually blended the glowing background hills from a dark reddish-purple to a vibrant orange. In the foreground, I used a sort of wet scumble to add variation to the thinly painted field and farm buildings. Just about the only technique I didn’t try was glazing, which is not an option when painting wet into wet.
DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors behaved almost identically to traditional oils, and the finished painting looks as if I had painted it using traditional oils. In fact, the painting is truly an oil painting in every sense of the word. Whether using water soluble or traditional oil paints, the solvent—water or “turps”—evaporates rapidly, leaving the surface of the painting dry to the touch. But in both cases the oil paints themselves dry over weeks or month through oxidation rather than evaporation. The resulting paintings in either medium are virtually identical in appearance, chemical composition, and structure.
According to Daniel Smith’s paint wizards, the new water soluble oil paints take an extra day to dry to the touch. That makes sense because mineral spirits and other “turps” are more volatile than water.
Since that first painting, I have completed several others, including a demonstration painting I did at Daniel Smith’s Seattle store, all with the same results. If I weren’t the proud owner of several hundred dollars of traditional oils, I might switch to DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oils immediately. Even so, I plan to use them exclusively during the winter, when like all Northwesterners I keep my studio tightly shut against the elements. I also will use them for plein air painting because water is easier to carry around than mineral spirits (the only exception would be drizzly days, which are more common than we would like in this part of the world).
The paints are of uniform consistency and buttery in texture, though slightly on the “short” side, meaning that they have a high pigment load. Daniel Smith says that the quality and pigment load of the water-soluble oils is identical to that of DANIEL SMITH Original Oil Colors, and my personal experience certainly bears that out.
Some painters may find the DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors a little too “short,” but this is also true among different brands of traditional oils. This is not an issue for me, but in any event, adding a drop of DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Modified Linseed Oil, with or without a drop or two of water, pretty much eliminates the problem. Such adjustments are necessary whenever switching mediums, even in traditional oils.
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