Watercolors – 30 Years Old And Counting


Recently, an old watercolor palette and paintings from thirty years ago emerged from storage. This provided a good opportunity to evaluate the durability of the student grade paint I used in those days.

Watercolor box and swatches

A simple test of dabs and swatches proved the Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors still vibrant. The swatches show the original tube colors over-painted with full strength squiggles as a reminder of what each can produce with minimal dilution. The remaining swatches are mixes, each from two colors in fairly equal proportions.

These watercolors will do just fine in my doodle journal where permanence is irrelevant and exposure to light non-existent. The delight achieved from dancing a pretty color across the page counts most and for that the Cotman watercolors are well up to the task.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Swatches

The colors I prefer in a palette today are not what I used in a class long ago. So as these get used up, different colors will replace them. Winsor Red and Daniel Smith Green Gold have already won the first two slots while several others are close behind. Part of the fun is letting the color choices evolve so this kit will look quite different in a few months.

The folding palette box is plastic and shows no signs of age. It weighs next to nothing, but holds eighteen colors and has enough space to mix several more. It is offered as a Plein Air Palette from Everett’s Watercolors, but there are similar models from many sources.

watercolor travel kit

A Martha Stewart Avery elastic band from Staples binds the slim box to a Stillman & Birn Epsilon Journal for an easy travel kit. Add to that the Autopoint mechanical pencil, Noodler’s Black in the Lamy Safari EF that never dries out, an Isabey Travel Brush plus a cup of water and I can doodle anywhere.

30-year-old watercolor paintings

Fading can be an issue with watercolor, but my old paintings held up well. Good quality acid-free 140# paper plus storage in an art binder contributed to the excellent condition despite the years.

My family has teased me about the number of tubes of paint I’ve collected under the tutelage of some ace enablers. Now I feel less guilty as my stash should be viable for decades and that is very reassuring indeed.

As a side note, there are mixing trays on this page that would be a useful complement to a small box of colors. One is the Palette Paint Tray 9-Well AA15410 and the other is the 16-Well Paint Tray AA15423.

Oh, and just in case you thought I carried making swatches to an extreme, take a look at this collection.



  1. Those are your paintings?! They are gorgeous!


    • Yes, and thanks. 🙂


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