Santa Claus was good to me and left a box of shiny new paint from Japan. These trays of  watercolor are handmade  by the Ueba company in Kyoto. They were established in 1751 and still operate out of the same premises, so they must be doing something right. The main ingredient of the paint is finely ground scallop shells. The process they use to create these paints can be seen on their website (click on Factory Tour)

To experiment with these new paints I painted this Barramundi.

Starting with a loose charcoal line drawing, I then washed in some shadows with a mixture of the rich purple color and the yellow ochre. The pigments are very intense and more transparent than I expected, considering the high ground shell content.

After the first washes dried, more detail was built up with Indigo and the pale Turquoise. Scale shapes were painted on and some fine detail marks were applied with a rigger brush. A patchy wash of the orange/red was worked through the upper half of the fish before some spots of the white pigment were applied. I expected the white to be similar to white gouache, but it is more transparent  and dries to a beautiful, pearl like sheen. When the white is used to tint other colors the resulting mixture also dries with this unusual sheen.

Finally, because the Barramundi is an elusive, almost mythical fish, I decided he shouldn’t be presented so blatantly. A big rough brush full of gesso and some scribbly white charcoal marks pushed him back into murky water. A green/grey wash around the head suggests the milky green of a tropical waterhole.

I love these new paints and look forward to playing with them some more. My only fear is that I’ll become hooked on them and then they will run out!

19 thoughts on “NEW CHRISTMAS TOYS

    • Hi Betsi,
      As far as I know the Ueba paints are only available in Japan.
      Not sure if Ueba ships internationally, but the email address on the box is and this is their website. There is no shopping cart on the website and navigation is a bit confusing ( they also make nail polish!) You may be able to have them sent out.

  1. Hi John & Di
    I love following your adventures and hope to see more of you this year in person. As I have a Japanese daughter in law and extended family visiting in June for my grandson’s first birthday I may have a small link in the Japanese shopping chain in Kyoto. Wonderful that you received such a lovely gift John – and a fresh Barramundi on the canvas – and also on the plate is always wonderful.
    Have a fantastic 2012.

    Jo K.

    • Hi Jo,
      Happy New Year.
      Barra on the plate would have been nice – I was getting hungry painting him!
      All the best to you and Martin for 2012

  2. Lucky you – I like the sound of the pearlescent sheen. It was interesting to trawl through their website – maybe a diversion into nail polish painting is called for (on paper or canvas?). Delightful study, as usual.

    • Hi Sonia,
      I’ll pass on the nail polish painting – anything smaller than a quarter sheet is too hard to see!

  3. Beautiful glowing colors on your barramundi! I wish I known about Ueba paints and could have asked Santa for them……… did they come in set?

    Happy New Year!


    • Hi Cathy,
      They come in a set of 12 or 24. They are available online in Germany (Link in Julie’s comment above) so I imagine they would be available elsewhere too.

  4. the paints and the pans look like the “gansai” brand (sold in germany by online retailer gerstaecker for a really fair price — link to the product page)

    I for myself never got used to them, but the pans are incredibly big, great for bigger brushes.

    John, it is nice to see that you like them so much!

  5. Hi John… one of my students gave me a set of those colors from her trip to Japan… now you’ve really tweaked my curiosity to try them out with a more serious bent. We just moved to San Diego, CA. I’ve got to run them down in a box and give them a better go!
    As always, your demos are terrific and I really appreciate your posting them! Your technique has given the barramundi an iridescent glow and really told the story!!

    Happy New Year,

    • Hi Bill,
      Thats what I like to hear – just moved to a new city and the first thing you search for in all the packed boxes is a box of paints!
      Glad you enjoyed the demo, and good luck in the new location

  6. How tempting you’ve made these paints look, John. Wonderful demonstration of the barramundi. As always your generosity is greatly appreciated. Happy New Year.

  7. Hi John, I loved the last bit of this demo where you used the rough brush and charcoal marks to push the barra back into the murky water. Now that’s what I call confidence!

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