Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review: Baker & Cook's Fruit Tart

Baker & Cook Fruit Tart
Daniel Smith Watercolour on Bynd Artisan Artist Sketchbook
Most fruit tarts I’ve tasted live up to their name; and it’s not a good thing. The ‘tart’ is supposed to be a noun, not an adjective describing the taste of the open-faced pie. Unfortunately, over on this side of the equator, it means we can never really enjoy summer berries in their full glorious sweetness. Almost all of the fruit tarts I’ve tasted have toppings that can pickle your mouth almost immediately.

So when I was looking for a nice after-dinner dessert for an upcoming gathering and fruit tart was suggested, I was sceptical. Nevertheless, I went down to Baker & Cook for a tasting. Tropical dragonfruit was used as one of the toppings, as well as the perennially available currants. They are safe bets – typically sweet fruits and suitably so. When it was time to take a bite of the berries: strawberry, blackberry and raspberry, I prepared myself for the teeth-tingling sour tang. I was pleasantly surprised by lack of the sensation. Although what greeted my palate was not a summer-berry sweetness, I welcome the subtle zest of the berries which balanced off the sweeter selections on the same tart. I also enjoyed the buttery crumbly crust holding a deliciously creamy custard.

Yes, I this is the selected dessert for the upcoming dinner and if I ever feel like a fruit tart again, Baker & Cook’s will be a go-to choice.

Review: Bynd Artisan Artist Watercolour Sketchbook.

The Bynd Artisan Artist
Watercolour Sketchbook
New Product
I attended a workshop on leather crafting conducted by an instructor at Bynd Artisan over one September weekend. It was an enjoyable workshop: a casual affair without pretences, which is always welcomed and expected when the instructor is an experienced craftsperson of the trade. However, this entry is not to expound the details of the class. It is the new item on their catalogue that I was intrigued enough to try: the Bynd Artisan’s Artist watercolour sketchbook.

Physical Appeal
From sight to touch, the item screams quality. What impressed me from the get-go was the quality of the paper used: real artist-grade cold-press 200gsm watercolour paper. According to the staff, the paper is made of 100% cotton. However, upon further clarifications, it was verified as 20% cotton, which is still awesome for painters who are serious about their watercolours. Cotton has the ability to hold water – the primary carrier for the media – copiously and steadily: a plus point for those who enjoying splashing and washing their drawings. Secondly, and a sought after quality for outdoor sketchers, is the binding technique used on the pages and signatures on the book, allows the book to fall completely flat. Finally, in terms of tangible tactility, excellence extends to the materials used to make the cover: a warm leatherette surface on a softbound cover complete with a linen enclosed spine. In short, you would not be ashamed to be seen in public with this artefact.

Click to enlarge
 Superior Paper
As mentioned earlier, 200gsm cold-press watercolour paper is used to create the sketchbook. Unfortunately, the staff members at Bynd were unable to clarify which brand of watercolour paper was used to make the book (house brand, Arches, Fabriano, St Cuthbert?). That may be a blessing in disguise, because it meant I get to try the paper without any preconceived ideas and/or assumptions.

The first noticeable quality is the paper’s ability to hold water without twisting or warping, which makes painting outdoors that much more convenient and comfortable. In addition, colours stay where you put them. It does not run amok and risk ruining the whole picture, in other words, it allows for better control.

Since it is a cotton-blend paper, regular characteristics are expected. I was able to lift pigments off the paper very easily. In some cases, corrections were still possible after the paint has dried. That was particularly impressive.

If you like to paint wet-on-wet or love to show the pigment’s granulation and texture, you would not be disappointed with this sketchbook. Colours blend and bleed into each other beautifully and the granulating quality of the watercolour shows up very nicely on the drawing when it is dry.

Click to enlarge
Final Thoughts

The Bynd Artisan’s Artist watercolour sketchbook (SGD30) is an excellent sketchbook for the travelling artist. It comes in a lightweight and conveniently portable A5 size. It falls flat for those who like or need to sketch across pages. The watercolour paper shows off watercolours beautifully, whichever is your preferred technique. And for those who like to add a touch of lux, there is a complementary leather cover (SGD85) especially for the sketchbook, with the option to personalise the item with your name on it (SGD30/line). In short, it is an absolute gem of an item at a very reasonable price.

Wet-on-wet techniques work very well with the paper.

Granulation shows off well on the paper and glazing techniques.