Today’s review is on artist quality Greenleaf & Blueberry Handmade Watercolors. Hold onto your eyeballs, I took a lot of photos for this post!
Jess and Matt, owners of Greenleaf & Blueberry are all-around awesome sounding people. They are rock climbers, she carves one of kind watercolor paint brush handles, and they use a muller and slab to make handmade watercolors. They are passionate about life, creativity and the products that they make and sell. I highly recommend checking out their website. She also writes a blog. Lots of photos on her Instagram- @greenleafblue.
The packaging of the watercolor pans is beautiful. They hand paint the color on each one of the wrappers. The photos of their swatches and paints in their Etsy shop are beautifully done. Full and half pans come in 24 colors, and limited editions.
The 24 regular colors:
Red Ochre, Mayan Red, Orange Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Mayan Yellow, Green Earth, Celadonite, Malachite, Mayan Green, Viviante, Mayan Blue, Mayan Blue #2, Purple Ochre, Violet Hematite, Mayan Violet, Pipestone, Brown Ochre, Cassel Earth, Slate, Graphite, Shungite, Magnetite, Eggshell, Barite White.
They are all single pigment paints, many are ground minerals, with a gum arabic binder, honey to prevent cracking and a small amount of preservative to prevent mold- no fillers, no dyes. These are beautiful, natural looking watercolors. More information on the watercolors and the ingredients can be found here.
Worth a mention- the pans are fat, as in filled to over the brim. They have a muffin top. Not some shrunken square rattling around in the pan, like I’ve received from some commercial brands. I consider Greenleaf & Blueberry paints to be a treat for any watercolor enthusiast.
Filled Half Pans
“Greenleaf & Blueberry is about providing you high-end portable tools for living creatively. We create handmade watercolor paints, hand-bound sketchbooks, hand-carved paintbrushes, thoughtfully selected color palettes, and a few other carefully constructed items.”
“Made traditionally in small batches with muller and slab, and only using natural pigments that can be traced to geographical areas and geological sources.”
The blog is super helpful. Checkout her Watercolor Characteristics post.
Their Etsy shop also features printable charts- a Color Chart, Coloring Mixing, and Color Characteristics. The charts are beautifully done. Last year their shop always had paints in stock. Due to recent growth and popularity, you’ll probably have to pay attention to when their updates take place to purchase pans or sets. They have been selling out quickly.
When I purchased my half pans, most were selling for $7 to $8.50. More expensive pigments cost more- I splurged on the Malachite- $17. They also sell portable watercolor pan sets, with more colors, or small sets with primaries, Wild Bird’s Egg set, The Sketch Kit, and other small sets. I have read threads on various forums and social media where people remark about the price. Yes, these can be more expensive than some commercial brands. I consider this a creative investment that will last a long time. I would rather buy paints than Starbucks, cable TV, or a movie on weekends. We all have our recreational and/or creative priorities. I also like supporting a small business. As always, the spirit of my reviews is to help you make an informed decision about a medium or supply.
I collected these individual pans over time, so there are a few that might seem out of ordinary order, but my palette contains:
Yellow Ochre, Orange Ochre, Red Ochre, Purple Ochre, Mayan Yellow, Mayan Green, Mayan Blue, Mayan Blue #2, Mayan Violet, Malachite, Green Earth, Celadonite, Pipestone, Violet Hematite, Cassel Earth, Slate, Graphite, Shungite, Zinc White, Brown Ochre, Mayan Red, Côte d’Azur Violet.
Swatch- Fabriano Studio Watercolor paper, 140lb hot press.
“Our line of watercolors is a professional grade, lightfast, quality artists’ material. For a variety of reasons, we have made a point of only using natural Earth, Ochre, Mayan, and Mineral artist’s pigments. One of these reasons is the proven lightfastness. These are the same pigments that were used in cave paintings tens of thousands of years ago and throughout Art History. They have stood the test of time. We believe that artists deserve to have complete confidence in their materials.”
I take them at their word about lightfastness, I figure they know their product. Since I’ve seen people question the lightfastness on different forums, and a friend asked me about it, I did a 20 day test. The swatch was taped to a window- in always sunny Southern Arizona. No change in color, not even a little.
Two of the grays they offer are my favorites- Slate and Graphite. The Graphite has a sheen to it.
Here are a couple of other close-ups on the swatches:
I also did a second lighter swatch sheet on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper.
Painting with these feels slightly different than with commercial watercolors. As you can see from the swatches, many of them have granulating quality. Celadonite is very granulating. They rewet well. It’s been my experience that they all lift very easily from the page, sometimes I’ve had mild frustration with this. I like to put drops of water on them prior to painting, although it is not necessary. Some of the colors remind me of the Daniel Smith PrimaTek line.
This sample was done in a Pentalic Watercolor Journal, love the paper. See this post for more info on the Pentalic. The fountain pen pictured is a Platinum Carbon, the ink is waterproof. I really like this pen, writes on the first try every time. The brush is a Raphael SoftAqua 3/0. Colors used in this sample painting: Yellow Ochre, Mayan Green, Mayan Blue, Mayan Blue #2, Malachite, Cassel Earth, Brown Ochre.
If the photo is enlarged, you might see some gold flecks in the pan of Brown Ochre, these are NOT part of this paint. That is leftover from using Holbein Brilliant Gold Gouache on other paintings.
The example below is in a 4 x 6 inch Stillman & Birn Alpha Series journal. Alpha Series is my favorite, although the Gamma has been growing on me. Since this Stonehenge-esque painting was done before I knew I would be doing a review, I’m not sure of all of the colors used other than: Slate, Graphite and Violet Hematite, some of the ochres and blues & greens.
There are not a ton of photos floating around out there of paintings using these paints. I ended up doing one more quick example with the watercolors. Below I used- Mayan Blue, Mayan Violet, Mayan Green, Mayan Yellow, Purple Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Malachite, Green Earth, Celadonite, Violet Hematite, and Slate. Granulating qualities are visible in the foliage and cacti.
This is in a Stillman & Birn 4 x 6 Gamma Series. It gives you a little comparison between the two Stillman & Birn papers. They are the same 150 gsm./100 lb. weight paper. Alpha is white, Gamma is Ivory. The brush in the photo is a 1/4″ Series 770 Sable Blend Sword Liner made by Rosemary & Co.
Here is a 10:00 minute video review by a woman from the unboxing, to painting with her set of Greenleaf & Blueberry paints.
The Postman’s Knock blog features Greenleaf & Blueberry paints on many calligraphy tutorials.
If you are on Instagam, check out the #greenleafblueberry tag.
This is an ongoing series of watercolor and art supply reviews. Your comments are appreciated.