Focus on watercolour illustration techniques


Often associated with Fine Art applications, Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour is also the paint of choice for many illustrators and cartoonists. We asked a diverse range of these artists to tell us about what they do and how they use Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour and Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks.

Joanna Walsh, aka ‘Badaude’, is an artist/illustrator based in London and Paris. She is published by the Tate and has drawn and written for the Guardian and the Times. Joanna has made large-scale works for the Wellcome institute and Tate Modern.

Shy of being seen to be drawing, especially as she is often recording something that's going on between people: how they look, what they're saying... Joanna makes very rough notes and scribbled drawings in little notebooks. Often no one can understand what's drawn or written except her. Always with her are notebooks and gel pens, a computer and a larger sketchbook for work in libraries and cafes. Never ‘off-duty’ as an artist, Joanna finds there’s always something to notice and note down, often friends will find themselves in her pictures.

Joanna uses Winsor & Newton black Indian Ink and occasionally coloured inks to develop work in the studio. She is looking for a clear line and, apart from the odd bit of spattering sometimes, doesn’t use any special techniques. Preferring to shade with solid blocks of black she will occasionally use watered down inks for shading and, more rarely, textures - dots, cross hatching and so on. Joanna’s experimental side is probably in writing, drawing is a pursuit of perfection of the simplest techniques - clean line (she is very influenced by the ‘ligne claire’ Franco-Belgian tradition of comics art, especially Jacques Tardi, Joost Swaarte, Jason) and blocks of black.      
  Joanna Walsh, aka ‘Badaude’

Philip Bannister
illustrates Mary Portas’s Daily Telegraph column ‘Queen of Shops,’ he is regularly commissioned by the National Trust and Country Life magazine.

A traditional figurative illustrator who uses Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour, Philip likes to work very quickly and spontaneously and finds that Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour mixes particularly well to make secondary and tertiary colours. Philip uses a very small range of colours and mixes them loosely, like an omelette, on the palette, he prefers tubes as the density of colour suits him better than from a pan.

Philip Banniste, L'Occitane

When starting a project good reference materials are essential. Philip now finds them on the internet but also has a well-loved reference library at home. Sketching onto tracing paper, he turns it over and over as a drawing develops. Once happy he traces the drawing onto Bockingford 140 weight watercolour paper. Philip stretches the paper by wetting one side, then after a while, turning it over and sticking it to the board with brown tape. Too wet and the tape won’t take. Once dry, Philip starts ‘painting’ with masking fluid and then develops the design with colour.

Almost always Philip will send his client a pencil rough so they can see what they are getting. Clients don’t give too much direction as to style but there is always a deadline to work to! Philip enjoys being spontaneous so this suits him, it’s almost always the case that the less the colours are worked, the fresher and better they appear.

Nuno DaCosta is a self-taught artist who, after university put together a portfolio, knocked on a few doors and, despite some rejections, is now established as a fashion and beauty illustrator. Nuno has an instinctual feel for the lifestyle and aspirations of the women he depicts. Nuno’s materials compliment this aspirational view; he chooses traditional Winsor & Newton materials and gives them a modern twist, just as he does with his designs which have a 50’s, ‘retro’ feel for a thoroughly modern audience.


     Nuno DaCosta

Ideas start from a specific product commissioned by fashion and beauty companies; brand history and the target audience is at the heart of the idea process. Nuno starts by creating a spider chart with a key word in the middle and playing around to find associations. He’ll also research images of the brands’ favourite models. After this initial process, Nuno makes several pencil sketches and then prints the sketch onto Winsor & Newton Bristol board which is ideal for fine detail drawings. For painting, Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache and Artists’ Water Colour are his materials of choice and recently he has been experimenting with Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks.

Michael Frith is an illustrator and painter based in West Sussex. His illustrations are re-produced in the Sunday Times and other newspapers, and he has had many solo exhibitions of his paintings.

When working to a commission Michael receives a telephone enquiry and the process is then carried out by email. Newspapers will send reference photographs for Michael to use. He creates his illustrations, scans them, and then sends them back. Usually on a tight deadline, commissions have to be turned around in 12 hours.
 Michael Frith, Martha's Vineyard,
40x60'' on Arches

Michael’s illustrations have a lively vivacity about them and he ascribes this to his academic training in drawing at Canterbury College of Art. Starting with a rough tracing of the photo, he re-traces it onto watercolour paper. Using Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour, he then paints, making sure it stays stays fresh, loose and not slavish to the original photograph. Michael always uses tubes and a dinner plate palette in the studio and small pans when he out and about.

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour have been Michael’s paint of choice for 30 or 40 years and his familiarity with the range means that he understands and trusts them.

*Lead image: Nuno DaCosta's illustrations in watercolour, courtesy the artist