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Rembrandt granulating watercolors

Exploring Rembrandt further, this time I've painted swatches from their granulating watercolors and compared them to other brands that used the same pigments. I included Daniel Smith, a comparison many people asked for. Below you can find...

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Making Rembrandt watercolor studio paint boxes

Making Rembrandt watercolor studio paint boxes

When I got the almost full new collection of Rembrandt watercolor paints, I wanted to make studio palettes to have the paint ready at hand. This video shows how I made two lovely studio paint boxes:

For a list of supplies, check out the info below the video here.

Rembrandt watercolor studio paint boxes by Mandy van Goeije

Mindless faces

Mindless faces

Mindless faces are faces I draw mindlessly and without a plan. They can be exercises to loosen up the fingers, to just relax and listen to an audiobook or to pour a surplus of emotion or thought into. Often, they come to life in wee, meaningful moments in busy times.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

In this blogpost I’m presenting a few faces I drew over the last two weeks when the summer busy-ness in the house was too busy to work on a project and these faces just kept pouring out of my journal.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

Often, I paint only part of these characters…even just part of their faces. The eye fills out the rest.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

For the next face I used my favorite stump…a black Faber Castell pencil that I can’t say goodbye to, even though I have 20 big ones in my drawer, waiting to get into action. But these tiny ones that have been in my hands for so long…I keep them all, in a jar…and yet…I won’t let go until I can no longer hold them. Literally! And look at those minuscule indentations! They are marks of my sharpener….

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

The drawing above came with a baffling and unintentional side-effect. When I posted it on social media, people thought I’d drawn the American president, which I hadn’t. In this image I think my character looks a lot less like him, but below you’ll find a work-in-progress image I posted earlier that day that I must admit could provoke some recognition… Well, it also provoked anger, for one person blocked me on facebook for being “tired of my politics”. Isn’t it odd how associations in our minds lead to reactions that seem very disproportionate when considering the intention of the initial action? It’s sad, but as a human being we have no control of the perception of the other, so unless we connect and communicate, misunderstandings are unavoidable.

Isn’t it odd how images work? How much we can put into them or read into them? I sure didn’t mean to draw a president in my mindless faces and still people recognized him. Was it MY subconsciousness drawing traits of him or is it the eye of the beholder seeing him? It’s a question without an answer, but a very interesting matter in any case.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

My daughter read Albert Camus’s The Plague and this week she’s had to wear a mask for the first time. While she was gone, wearing her mask, I drew this. It wasn’t until later that I realized my mind had woven together the information about these facts into the drawing above.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

Some people call these faces ‘quirky’. For some reason I didn’t feel that word fitted them, so I went looking for synonyms, to see if I could find a word that would fit them better. I felt that ‘quirky’ had this connotation of being funny, something odd that provokes a laugh or a smile. And I think some of these characters are highly serious, some are stern, even. And others might be a little tender. The synonyms I found were ‘odd’, ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘bizarre’, ‘peculiar’, ‘strange’, ‘unusual’ and ‘weird’. None of them sounds right either. ‘Weird’ sounds a little offensive and I can’t remember having heard ‘idiosyncratic’ used to describe a face.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

So…no, I haven’t found a word that better fits my mindless faces than ‘quirky’. Fortunately Merriam- Webster have a great definition of the word that I like and that makes me feel like the word suits my characters after all. According to them ‘quirky’ means: “unusual in especially an interesting or appealing way”. Now…THAT definition I think my characters would like. Because no matter how odd they may look, all they want, is to reach out and connect.

semi-abstract portrait by Mandy van Goeije

Before I end this post, I want to tell you’ve I’ve renewed the format of my newsletter. I send out 10 things worth sharing weekly. 10 things that have inspired me or play a rol in my process. Although, perhaps this week I won’t make it to 10. It’s a newsletter format like a menu – you can pick from it what you like and leave the rest be. If you are interested, you can sign up here for a weekly 10 that differs in content from my blog!

Rembrandt Watercolor – the Old and the New collection

Rembrandt Watercolor – the Old and the New collection

A big surprise

It felt like Christmas when a huge box full of watercolor paint tubes unexpectedly arrived at my door… Half an hour later a caterpillar of tubes containing lush watercolor paints lay on the dining table in order – screaming to be swatched and painted with.

Speechless after unpacking this gift…

Over a hundred

I bet you can imagine I was over the moon happy and before long my girls came drewling over the 108 tubes of yumminess too, choosing the colors they wanted to try themselves, hoping they could tubenap a few to their rooms for a bit of fun… The full Rembrandt collection is 120 colors, so only twelve were missing. In my old Rembrandt collection ten were missing and I’d been meaning to order those for review purposes anyway, so for this occasion I slaughtered my piggy bank completed the collection for a swatch and review.

The paints arrived quickly and I made a swatching video of it in 4 parts. Below you will find the videos and color charts of the full collection, so this is going to be lush and long post. You might like to get yourself a cuppa of whatever and make yourself comfy for some relaxing and exciting color therapy! This is going to be GOOD!!!

Make way to the oldies

For starters I want to share my old collection with you, because it was already a superb watercolor palette to work with and I think the brand deserves more love than it gets. I’d been meaning to do a full review for years because it’s in the top range right next to Horadam, Sennelier, Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton Artists’

Old collection

This is the color chart of my “old” collection. The colors that are striked through are no longer available (unless old stock) and those that have an “I” in them, have been improved and are made of the same pigments, but often from a different distributor and now look a bit different.

Color chart Rembrandt Watercolors, old collection by Mandy van Goeije
Color chart Rembrandt Watercolor by Mandy van Goeije – old collection. Click for the larger version

A belated surprise

The Rembrandt watercolor collection was renewed to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the brand a little while ago. This actually happened a little while back, but with me having lived under the pavement for a while and a local art store that probably carries a lot of old stock still, it went by me unnoticed. That is to say, I had noticed new shimmery colors, I had just never realized the entire collection had been renewed.

There’s always cause and effect

Finding out was a Yay! and a Darn! at the same time. Yay! because at first glance the new collection looked like a much improved version of the old one. And Darn! because this meant I wasn’t missing 10, but a whopping 54 colors and I would still not be able to swatch and review the entire Rembrandt collection. Here is a little vlog about that:

I contacted Talens about their new Rembrandt collection and enquired about the changes in their collection. They sent me this lovely brochure that shows the colors of their range and explains the changes in the collection, which came in really handy for me in this swatching and reviewing process. The brochure is available online in various languages if you’re interested.

Apparently, my disappointment didn’t go unnoticed and a few days later I was surprised (by a benefactor who wishes to remain undisclosed) with the delivery of the larger part of the new collection so that I could do the full review anyway. I expressed many thanks and sat down to make a plan. The best thanks is a thorough showing of this range, after all. But 120 colors is A LOT OF work and sure require a plan, all right!

For comparison

I started with a color chart + swatch video of my old collection for comparison. The color chart is at the top of this post and this is the video:


During the recording a delivery guy brought the twelve missing colors of the new collection. So once the color chart of the old collection was ready, I finished the dot cards of the new collection. I decided to chop the video up into four equal parts of 30 colors to keep the videos of a manageable duration. Below you will find the videos and the color charts. If you click on the color charts, it will take you to the larger image files. Do give them a little time loading because they are very large files.

A word on color

A little word of caution: I have done my best to match the colors of the scanned images with the colors as they are in reality. But on their way from my computer to yours, a lot of the digital informationi gets morfed and lost due to settings on each of the technical appliances have. This means the colors will probably be different for you than they are for me. Therefore they are only an indication to help you get an impression of this collection of paints, but can hopefully be helpful in determining which colors you might like. This is also why I record the process of swatching on video – to give you extra information on the colors and the results to help you get an idea of what to expect when you decide to try a color.

Rembrandt watercolor 1 of 4: white, yellow, orange and red

Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection yellow, orange and red
Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 1 of 4, the yellows, oranges and reds. Click for the large version

Rembrandt watercolor 2 of 4: red, pink, purple and blue

Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 2 of 4: red, pink, purple and blue by Mandy van Goeije
Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 2 of 4: red, pink, purple and blue. Click for larger version

Rembrandt watercolor 3 of 4: blue, green and earth tones

Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 3 of 4: blue, green and earth tones by Mandy van Goeije
Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 3 of 4: blue, green and earth tones. Click for the large version

Rembrandt watercolor 4 of 4: brown, black and sparkle

Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 4 of 4: dark brown, black and metallic by Mandy van Goeije
Talens Rembrandt watercolor new collection 1 of 4: dark brown, black and metallic. Click for the large version

NB: This is not a commercial or affiliate review. My review of the brand is a real and indpendent sharing of my personal experience with this paint. None of the links above generate an income for me.

New Work

New Work

An update

Covid-19 isolation brought new flow and I’ve been practising and working on new paintings and sketches incessantly for weeks now. I keep forgetting to update my blog and website, so I figured it was high time to show you some of my latest work, if you haven’t already seen it on social media.

watercolor sketchbook by Mandy van Goeije, night vision
Night Vision, a watercolor sketchbook page

Social media comfort versus blog effort

I don’t really want to post that much and that quickly on social media. This is my online home and I feel this is where I should be posting most and first. But the reality is that it’s too easy to photograph and post on insta and facebook and not that easy to post here. It never used to be a problem before these social media platforms existed. But now that something easy is available,.. I was glad to read I’m not the only one, but I’ve promised myself I want to make an effort to turn things around. Do you recognize this?

Light from within combats demons
From Within, a painting in my watercolor sketchbook

Deep work

Flow comes in eagerness to work, in inspiration and very literally, in watercolor. I’ve been painting so much that the muscles in my fingers sometimes hurt at the end of the day. I do take breaks, but then new ideas come up, or old ideas pop back to life in front of my mind’s eye. And slowly, but surely, I’m beginning to see that themes are returning more and more often. The paintings above and below are two good examples.

watercolor painting The Light Within by Mandy van Goeije
The Light Within – watercolor painting on 100% cotton watercolor paper

As are the two paintings below…trees. Whenever I start painting without a plan, a tree comes out. Sometimes a clean and simple tree like the Blue Tree.

watercolor blue tree in sketchbook
Blue Tree in watercolor sketchbook

The Web of Life

And sometimes an intricate Tree World like the one below. Beyond new medical developments that will undoubtedly arise from this Covid-19 crisis, the virus is showing us that everything is interconnected. Every living thing is part of the Web of Life. Every living being is a system within systems. Mankind focuses on technical progress whereas we can save ourselves and the world by learning to see the greater system and learning to approach challenges systemically. If you’re interested in the science behind this – REAL science, not fake news or clickbait “science” the social media are bombarded with – The Systems View of Life by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi might interest you. It’s an academic textbook, so it takes some hard work. But there are tons of YouTube videos that can help explain everything that is difficult for you. That’s how I worked through the book over a period of three months. Hard work. But vital if we want to make a change.

watercolor painting treeworld, web of life by Mandy van Goeije
Treeworld – watercolor painting on 100% cotton watercolor paper


So, the Covid-19 crisis hasn’t only brought bad things. I had very different things planned for this year. I was going to look for a job. But all of a sudden I find myself submersed in my art and more productive than I’ve been in years. I find it a little awkward to feel happy about this, though. Although I do. Feel happy about this. But when I see the ever rising global Covid-19 statistics and the racial hate and growing division on social media, my happiness feels decapitated. And then there’s one best thing left to do…back to the drawing table!!!

So…back to the drawing table I’m going. Straight away! I hope you’ve enjoyed my update and if you have, please feel free to leave a remark. With all that noise going on on social media at the moment I’m looking forward to a much quieter, yet lively interaction here in my online home. You are very welcome to join me and take a little moment of quiet…

Experimenting feelings onto paper

Experimenting feelings onto paper

A not-so secret hermit in isolation

Dear reader, here’s a little word from the art cocoon….a blogpost about laying down feelings through experiments on paper. About how visual journaling helps me process confusing and difficult emotions in this covid-19 crisis.

You’re probably reading and hearing covid-19 all day long any day, so I won’t spend too many sentences on it. Social isolation isn’t too much of a problem for me. As an artist I have recluse super powers, so being solo in my studio isn’t that different from my normal life. And even though I don’t see my friends IRL, I talk to them regularly in videocalls and that’s actually pretty good.

it ain't over yet - covid-19 art by Mandy van Goeije
“It ain’t over yet” – watercolor and oil paint visual journal page by Mandy van Goeije

Lonely, only in comparison

What kills me is that the world is returning to some sort of social normal and I can’t. There’s no problem in me being an involuntary hermit if “everybody else” has to be. But being in the risk group I’m beginning to feel left behind when” the whole world” seems to be getting back to their normal lives – together. So in that area I tend to feel a bit sorry for myself on off-days. Especially on days when a walk with the dog feels like running a gauntlet in trying to avoid people from getting close. Sidewalks and roads are getting significantly more crowded, you see.

A chasm

But all that is still doable. And so what if I wallow in self-pity for a quarter of an hour or so? It’s an ugly sight, but nobody sees me do it anyway 😉 No, what I find truly indigestible at the moment is my facebook timeline wearing me out with fake news, conspiracy theories and rallies and petitions against covid-19 vaccination programmes. Some people who are not at risk and don’t know anyone who’s been ill from this virus do not seem to respect the situation. And that is hard. Very. Especially when it’s people who I used to have a lot of respect for. I have snoozed so many people the past weeks, but that kind of messages keep popping up and I’m beginning to deliberate a social cleanse…but before taking a decision, visual journaling helps me get rid of excess and not very helpful emotion.

Denial - covid-19 art by Mandy van Goeije
Denial”, watercolor and oil paint visual journal page by Mandy van Goeije

Processing through visual journaling

These are many and difficult feelings that I can’t do anything with. Do you recognize any of them? And if you do, or if you have different, but equally tough and confusing feelings, how do you deal with them? Do you process them on paper? How does your process work? Supposing you already have a process for it, of course. If you don’t, you might like to read on and see if you can pick something from mine that might work for you…

What works best for me is to go visual and to throw myself at experiments. When I experiment with techniques and materials I don’t know very well, I cannot have any expectations of the final result, no standard I have to live up to. And that allows me the space I need to focus on the process of becoming aware of what goes on inside me and spilling it in on paper. It doesn’t have to be pretty, although, sometimes, in some way or another, it turns out that way because it’s raw.

temporary paralysis - covid-19 art by mandy van goeije
“Temporary Paralysis” – visual jouranl page in watercolor and oil paint by Mandy van Goeije


The three images above are examples of such a visual journaling experiment. They are journal pages that are extremely different from what I normally do. They are visual rants about situations and feelings. The backsides contain rants in words that come up while I paint and draw. It feels good to release all of that energy and literally lay it down so I don’t have to carry it. After that I can work peacefully. I will show you the illustrations I’m doing at the moment later. Or…I can draw a silly version of my husband when he scratches his head over this new technique I’m flinging myself at and explain this is a technique Paul Klee used a lot and come up with a rather Simpsonian portrait of da husband himself….meeting Klee….

explaining klee art by mandy van goeije
“Explaining Klee”, a visual journal page in watercolor and oil paint by Mandy van Goeije

Developing an imagery

There’s no sense in wallowing in any kind of emotion. But denying them or tucking them away makes no sense either. Emotions ask to be acknowledged and the energy needs to be released – preferably in a constructive or at least harmless way. I am glad that I have learned to keep a visual journal and that I’ve developed an imagery that helps me do so. No matter how tough the situation is that I journal about at any given time, by releasing the emotional load visually, there’s also always some form of joy in the process of release. And that turns all bad things into someting less bad. And regularly I find it reveals the flee behind the elephant-sized shadow that seemed to haunt me.

Making room

Sometimes I wonder if all illustrators/artists process their feelings this way. I know a few who do. And I can recommend visual journaling to anybody, but especially to people who work visually. The imagery you develop in expressing personal story this way, is a HUGE asset in the job of illustration. But even if you’re not an illustrator or artist, the process to work through emotions this way is very helpful. Visual processing works very deeply in the mind in a very safe way. It allows us to express things we couldn’t possibly give words to. This makes room for complicated stuff and then helps release them. I will write about that more soon. But you don’t have to wait for my words…you can give it a try yourself, in the safe seclusion of your privacy, and see what it does for you.

And now it’s YOUR turn

Pick a technique or material you’re not very familiar with and draw your situation. Pretty is not the object. Unfolding and releasing your story is. See what comes up. And what it does for you. And if you’d like to share, I’d love to read it in the comments below or in a private e-mail. I will respond…

Corona-times tip: inspiration hack and a Wise Tree

Corona-times tip: inspiration hack and a Wise Tree

Inspiration and hard times

We can all do with an inspiration hack at the moment, can’t we?
It’s not easy, feeling inspired with an outerworldly situation going on around you or even very close to you. And yet, worrying doesn’t solve anything. As long as you take really good care not to spread contamination and as long as it hasn’t entered your home, the best thing to do, is to get into action. Any kind of action is good. Getting creative the best 😉 At least, you’ll have something to show for the day at the end of the day. Something like this, for example:

The get-busy inspiration hack

But…HOW do you get past apathy or anxiety and feel inspired again?
Well, it’s simple: just sit your bum down at a table with some paper, pencils and some paint and draw something. Anything!

Easier said than done? Okay, then here’s an inspiration hack that works for me every time I feel stuck. I also use it as a warming-up exercise after having finished a bigger project. Then I do this “something small”.

The trick? Borrow!!!!!!!!!!!

The principle is simple. You need instagram for this.
First, seek Instaspiration. You can do that in two ways: 1) you browse your instatimeline until you see an image of a drawing or painting that appeals to you. Save it. Or 2) look at the art supplies in front of you and type the most colorful one in instasearch and then browse until one image really appeals to you. Save it.

illustration by Silvia Romeral
Illustration by Silvia Romeral, @ssarvari on Instagram

You do NOT need to feel you will be able to copy the art. This image your pick, will just serve as inspiration…as a starting point.

Point of reference

Then, take a pencil and draw a little square measuring about 6x6cm and make a super simple sketch of the image you’ve just saved. Below your sketch, try to write down what it is that appealed to you when you first saw this image. In my example I used the image above, of a painting by @ssarvari (Silvia Romeral) that appeared on my timeline. I fell for it because of the super vibrant green colors and the lady in the center of all these plants holding a book. Books and nature do it for me every time!

sketch for "Listening to the wise tree" by Mandy van Goeije plus sketch of reference photo of artwork by Silvia Romeral
thumbnail sketch of the insta original by @ssarvari and what will be my “Listening to the wise tree”

We’re not going to draw or paint exactly the same image. We’re borrowing, not copying.

So…the next step is to draw a new square of 6x6cm. And maybe you need a few of these squares to seek YOUR image.

Something borrowed, something new…

Think of which elements from the reference photo you want to transfer into your own image. What I wanted to take from Silvia’s work, was the girl being amidst plants and the super fresh green that reminds me of spring.

Detail in "Listening to the wise tree", a watercolor painting by Mandy van Goeije
Detail in “Listening to the wise tree”, a watercolor painting by Mandy van Goeije


Think of what is your style.

If you don’t know your style or if you think you don’t have one, then ask yourself in what lies the difference between a drawing or painting of yours and the image you have before you. Keep those differences. MAKE them your style! It can be the media you use that is different; the color palette; the sort of lines you like using (if you use them at all). It can be the level of realism or detail n your work. It can even be the level of skill. If you are not yet very skilled, make your work “naive”…use the “lack of” skill to your advantage.

Part of your style is also the elements you keep drawing or painting. Or, if you don’t draw or paint that much, elements you would like to paint or draw. Bring one of those into your drawing. For me, it’s the tree. With the bark. With the texture. Like I did in a New Year’s design for a card, here.

Tree bark detail in "Listening to the wise tree", a watercolor painting by Mandy van Goeije
Tree bark detail in “Listening to the wise tree”, a watercolor painting by Mandy van Goeije

And then purposefully incorporate something from the original image into your drawing/painting. In my case it’s the gouache flowers in a less textured style.

detail of shrubs and flowers on "Listening to the wise tree" by Mandy van Goeije
Shrubs and flowers detail from “Listening to the wise tree”, a watercolor illustration by Mandy van Goeije

A balanced mix

If all’s well, you end up with a balanced (or not so balanced, but what the heck! You created something artsy, right? THAT’s what matters.) spin-off from another artist’s art. And if all’s well this process has made you think about the art of another artist and about your own work. My students often asked how they could get their own style, as if it’s something you can ‘get’. It’s something that will simply happen as you go and that you will only become aware of by reflection on your work with exercises like these. So copying is not just a good inspiration starter, it’s also a great tool for getting to know your own work.

"Listening to the wise tree", watercolor illustration by Mandy van Goeije
“Listening to the wise tree”, watercolor illustration by Mandy van Goeije

“Listening to the wise tree” is available as an original. Not for prints, unfortunaitely because the background is golden and cannot be affordably reproduced. If you’re interested, you can contact me through e-mail.

Your turn to hack your inspiration

If this mini-tutorial inspires you to give this a go, I’d like to hear how it goes in the comments below. And, if you dare (and don’t be shy, there is no such thing as ‘bad art’, just budding skills) I’d love for you to share your image so that I can check out what you do.

Did you enjoy this inspiration hack / mini-tutorial? Then please consider signing up for MandyMail for future inspiration hacks.

On borrowing and crediting

If you use this hack and publish your work, it’s decent and attentive to at least credit the artist of the reference work. This is an obvious MUST if your work ends up being pretty much a copy. And should your end result be very far removed from the reference and looks nothing like it, like mine, it is not strictly necessary, but by doing this artists can support each other. Just think, if someone uses YOUR art to work from you’d like to be credited as well, right?


Many thanks to Silvia Romeral for her permission to publish her art here. Go check out her work!