Art Tools of Paul Jackson

For this series of Art Tools and Gears, we have invited guest artist Paul Jackson to share with us the art tools that he uses, as well as offer some insightful advice for budding artists.

Paul Jackson is a renowned watercolor painter from the USA who is versatile with landscape, cityscape, portrait, architecture, still life and abstract paintings. Paul teaches art and conducts workshops on watercolor painting on a regular basis. He is also the artist-author behind Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor and The Wandering Watercolorist.

Originally from Starkville Mississippi, Paul discovered his passion for watercolor at Mississippi State University in 1985. Paul later graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Missouri in 1992, and has since been pursuing his creative dreams with much passion and success. Some of Paul's paintings are on display in The Missouri State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and Supreme Court.

We have also featured several of Paul's paintings below.

Qn: Would you be able to give our readers an introduction to what you do for a living?
Artist is such a broad term. I have always considered myself first a watercolorist...I paint. I am also a filmmaker, writer, teacher and judge.

Qn: Can you tell us more about your series of 'Paul Jackson' watercolors?
I worked with the major watercolor brands for 2 decades before I realized that better paint was available and could be made lightfast, permanent, smoother and in the perfect colors that mix best for a full spectrum.

Qn: What do/will you do to prevent your watercolor paintings from running color if anything liquid were to spill onto your painting?

On larger paintings I frequently cover portions of the painting that I'm not working on with scraps of foam-core to prevent splashes and spills.

Qn: What type/s of paper do you use for your watercolor paintings?
I prefer Arches 260lb cold press. I like the size and the surface is durable and versatile. The paint does not soak through the paper, but sits beautifully on the surface. I also use Fabriano papers for much larger work.

Qn: What is the difference in the painting experience and/or picture quality between using a cold-pressed paper and hot-pressed paper?

Hot press paper is slick, and doesn't absorb water much. It has no texture and takes paint completely different. Personally I find it better suited to pen and ink drawing. Cold press has a pebble texture and is wonderful to paint on.

Qn: What watercolor palette are you using?

Stephen quiller's round plastic watercolor palette suits my needs perfectly. I have a dozen of them in my studio at any given time.

Qn: Will you be able to share with us more about the qualities of your series of 'Kolinsky Kayak' Brushes and what are they suitable to be used for?

My Kayak brushes are my work horses. I use them for everything. They move an enormous amount of paint, are beautifully pointed, springy, responsive and absorbent. These brushes are made from the very best materials available to my exact specifications.

Qn: If you don't mind sharing, what is the secret weapon behind this brush below?

This synthetic flat will wet the surface of your paper quickly, but its secret is that it can rescue problematic washes with ease. It is very good at smoothing out blooms, lifting color and making smooth, flat areas quickly.

Qn: I see you painting with a dual-end watercolor brush below? Where did you get that from? Is it good?

The double-ended brushes are my Kayaks. We make them. They are the best! ;)

Qn: What defines Paul Jackson's 'Traveler' brushes and sets them apart from others?

My Traveler brushes don't sacrifice brush quality for portability. They are the same Kolinsky brushes, made portable with collapsible handles that also protect the brush. I have painted all over the world carrying a set of these. I never leave home without them. :)

Qn: Other than your own brand of watercolors and brushes, do you use any other brand/s and/or types of paints and brushes? If yes, what are your experiences using them?

I've painted with Winsor & Newton, Escoda and some incredible brushes made in China. My Kolinsky Kayak brushes are made for the watercolorist that knows the difference in a good brush and a great brush. Professional watercolor paints are all now mostly lightfast and permanent. Each brand has some unique color surprises. I have worked with them all. I will continue to try them all as new colors are available. I really like working with my own small line of 19 colors though. :)

Qn: Can you share with us more about the items within your arsenal of art-tools below? (What do you use them for?)

I use an atomizer for texture and even coverage. Latex rubber masking fluid for resist. A ruling pen for straight lines, a plastic spoon for tiny curving lines. Blade brushes for long lines. Mr Clean Magic eraser for lifting color. A straw for blowing paint.

Click for a larger view

Qn: Tell us more about your art-books - Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor and The Wandering Watercolorist?

I wrote Light Effects in my late 20's. It is a great primer on watercolor, although it is out of print and difficult to obtain anymore.

The Wandering Watercolorist is a large-scale portfolio of almost 300 of the best my watercolors over thirty years of painting. It is filled with ideas and examples to inspire. Only 1000 of this very special, large-scale book were printed.

Qn: Have you read any other art-book/s by other artist/s?
The Artists Way by Frederick Franck, Principles of 2-Dimensional design by Wucius Wong and Bridges of New York by Antonio Masi.

Qn: Can you offer any tips on watercolor techniques for budding artists?

Paint all the time. That is how you will grow and improve as an artist. Painting takes lots of time. Test all of your brushes to see what marks can be made with them. Always use good paper. The paper is the most important part. Learn to stretch paper. Your paintings will be flat and your work made easier.

Qn: Which other watercolor artist/s or any other artists do you think we should interview next?
Jansen Chow - Malaysia
John Salminen - US
Liu Yi - China

We thank Paul Jackson for sharing his experiences and knowledge in this very insightful interview. For more of Paul's works or supplies, you may visit his website.

Paul also has a Facebook Page and Twitter Account that are dedicated for art-lovers at

Check out other artist interviewees at


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