Monday, August 21, 2006

Gillot’s Watercolor Medium

Carnet de voyage, I found these while cleaning out my closet. Before there were Moleskine notebooks in my life, I used to paint in travel sketchbooks. Like anything I tackle, I go overboard. I went to The Center For Book Arts on 28 West 27th Street to learn how to make these books myself and I made tons of them.
Google carnet de voyage and you get 38,200 images to pour over. But wait till after you read this post PULEEZE! Maybe I'll become the 38,201 image...qui sait?

I was already making my own watercolor paints so it was a natural. I work part-time at a pigment shop, but it took a while to get down to producing the first pans.
To make paint you need a binder - basically a glue that will make the dry pigment stick to your surface. The then-manager nudged me on, saying, "It's just like making pound cake - a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, a pound of butter etc and mix.."

Making oil paints is pretty straightforward, like pound cake, you add dry pigment (your flour) + Linseed oil (your wet ingredients) and mix. Watercolors are another matter. Most art technique books tell you to just go out to the art store and forgeddaboutit 

After Corot in Italy, watercolor, 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 "

BTW most of my hand-made sketchbooks are filled with Tuscan landscapes - an obsession at that time. I worked really small for years - 4 1/2" x 6 1/2" and smaller. Moving up to 6" x 8 1/2" was a BIG step. I even convinced Travel Roads to give me a 3-week artist residency in Poppi (not far from Arezzo) with these little watercolors.

Owl's Head, Maine, watercolor, 4 1/2 x 6 1/2"
Back to making paint - I took myself off to London to an instructor from the Prince Charles' Drawing School and we spent a morning testing different formulas and making test pans. 5 days later the pans were still wet = NOT GOOD.

At home I played around with glycerine + honey + Ox Gall...yes you can almost eat your paints, BUT DON'T! Ralph Mayer say's in a pinch you can use GUM DROPS if you have no glycerine around. Finally I got it right and began to "cook up" pans and pans of lovely, rich, granular paint and it's been nonstop ever since.

Et voila! 

Eurostar Window Scene, watercolor, 4 1/2 x 6 1/2"
The French (see this IS a French-related post after all) have been way ahead of us in the travel sketchbook arena, publishing piles of facsimile carnet de voyage books. I was going to do a MACARON post today, but I was not happy with my mac watercolor, so it will just have to wait. Hang in there macaron fans !


  1. Beautiful sketch paintings. You do amazing work. I'm putting your link on my blog today!

  2. wow! making your own, I am impressed, I used to do egg tempra and loved the ritual. am going to check out those paints to your formula, I love the richness of your colours.

  3. What's up Gillot! I must say this is my favorite post so far. I love the images of your first travel book....they remind me of the kinds of notebooks one finds in Peru. My grandfather used have a few for book keeping. I love the landscapes. You should show more of your work. And Kremer will be happy to know you're advertising the product. Maybe I can get him to come up with Colan's Oil Paint Medium :)

  4. Anonymous6:13 PM

    I love your 'After Corot in Italy' watercolor. And the sensuality of making your own colors sounds very appealing. well done

  5. Anonymous8:54 PM

    Carol; can I brag on your blog? 'Cause as you may or may not recall, back when I knew you when, you gave me one of those 1/2 filled vineyard sketchbooks. I LOVE LOOKING THROUGH IT! And CANNOT have it back.
    I will finish the other 1/2 of it with my WCs...and perhaps post it when I do my blog. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I love your paintings!!! They are gorgeous. You know there are pastries in France called "gateaux de voyage" - little pastries for teatime, to transport you away into happiness - that is what your carnets de voyage are like:)

  7. owns me. English books at half the price of WH Smith on Rivoli, just so you know.

    Can I worship you? You make your paints and your carnets? My god, woman... what is your secret?

  8. Carol, each time i visit you i walk away smiling, and want to run back and listen to you again and again!

  9. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I just returned from Cape Cod with a completed watercolor Moleskine. I was going to spend the day unpacking and getting organized, but after these posts, I'm headed to the art store for another one and then into the city to find a suitable cafe for chocolat chaud and painting!

  10. Well, Laura sent me, and I must say I am in awe.

    Making one's own paints...and doing beautiful luscious work with just stunned by the limpid, lively, punchy watercolors I see here.

    Ahhhhhhhh, just what I needed this morning.

  11. Love them! love them! inspiring!


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