I have previous suggested that the wooden pochade boxes that are for sale, while beautiful, are not useful for watercolor artists although they are often supplied with a plastic watercolor palette insert with the suggestion that they are useful and that the watercolor artist should pay about $300 for the box. See here for an example of the highest quality (but for oil/acrylic).
Furthermore, I have argued that we watercolor artists have a much longer history of painting out of doors with our own paraphernalia. Watercolor was the medium of choice for explorers, naturalists, botanical artists, military intelligence and map making. They thought long and hard about what and how to take things into the field.
Now, in addition, to all the old stuff that shows up now and then as antiques, there are four craftsmen now making beautiful, entirely brass watercolor palettes with a wide choice of colors that are about the same price as the wooden pochade boxes. (I am not endorsing any of them, by the way, since I do not have enough experience.) The reason for brass is that, the other metal palettes eventually rust.
Most of the original designs being made in brass stem from a period of time when there were a lot of skilled tinsmiths in London and a lot of watercolor artists. Several very inventive designs were developed. For some reason the designs were not duplicated by the big art supply companies, probably because they appeared too expensive to them. The only design that remained was the metal box with which most of us are familiar. Since it is made out of ferrous mental, it tends to rust.
Here are the four people making all brass palettes in a variety of designs.
This is Craig Young’s website here. He was the first to starting making the good palettes again, and, when he started, he made them in brass. The price is the highest, the wait is well over a year, and there is no correspondence from him. He is in Great Britain.
After over a year and a half wait with no response to my e-mails about whether they had lost my address, I cancelled my order. Only then did I hear from Craig Young’s son, Robert. By then I had one made by John Hurtley, see below.
This is John Hurtley’s website here. The wait is a couple of months (and he tells you when to expect it) and the price is less than Craig Young, and he is forthcoming regarding communication. He, too, is in Great Britain. This is one of his designs which he offers in a variety of colors.
Here are some views of one he made for me in “Ultramarine Blue” which, by the way, he sent to me just before he mailed the package off. Ultramarine is one of many colors you can choose from for a small fee. He very thoughtfully included a cloth bag to keep it in and little stick on “feet” which allowed it to sit flat even ‘though it has a thumb hold on the bottom.
EPHRAIM (I’m sorry I don’t know his last name)
This is Ephrain’s website here. The wait is a couple of weeks, presumably because he has just started out. The prices are about the same as John Hurtley, which means much less that Craig Young, and he is making them in Oakland, California.
I have one of his red “cigar boxes” pictured at the bottom of the above photo and I like it. It is much thinner than a real wooden cigar box. It took less than a month to get it. I use it in the studio. You can see to the right at 3 o’clock, the same design that I have shown above for Craig Young and John Hurtley.
I believe it was David, himself, who let me know about his work. See here for his website. At this moment there is a ten week delay. His photos do not show the oval wells as well as some do, but he does feature them. Below is a photo of his original designs.
Here is the fifth guy making brass palettes
I don’t know much about his palettes and I cannot find out his prices, but on his website here there a really good self-portrait in watercolor! It looks to me like he is just starting out with his own designs like David Cooper (above). Below is a picture of his large palette. He plans to make a smaller one as well. I personally prefer the older designs which have to tried and proved successful. He has an interesting idea about thumb holders for the palettes and is beginning to work in “German Silver”, an alloy of brass and nickel which is a white color not yellow like brass.
If you happen to have some experience with these palettes please leave a comment. This is now one of the most popular pages on this blog, so a lot of people would appreciate it. Of course, Steve, if you’re reading this, please add anything you want in the comments.
A plastic palette that is similar to the brass ones
There is a plastic palette now being made that is similar to the most popular brass one here. It cost about $70
If you happen to buy one of these, please leave a comment about it. Thanks.
There is another version at Ken Bromley at approximately the same price. See here
DO YOU REALLY NEED A $300 PALETTE?
Here is my post on the “poor person’s palette” which will work as well as any of the above to make a really good watercolor. You should take a look at it before you decide. I know these are very beautiful and seductive, but beware of buyer’s remorse and becoming a “palette addict” which, I know sounds odd, but it’s an accepted problem of watercolor artists (See the wetcanvas site, if you don’t believe me. )