Strathmore Softcover Mixed Media Journal – Art Journal Reviews

Strathmore Softcover  Mixed Media Journal

It is not a secret that I love art journals and can never have enough. So in this series I am reviewing all the art journals that I have used over the years. Some are firm favourites that I buy again and again, some have their quirks and some are straight up don’t-buys. Keep reading to find out more about:

Strathmore Softcover Mixed Media Journal

I heard about Strathmore journals a lot in the mixed media scene (I think I first heard Donna Downey mention it in one of her videos), but they’re not available in the UK. Then I realised that I could easily order one from amazon.com and the shipping wasn’t too bad! I’ve only had this one a few weeks but it’s already become my absolute favourite journal I own! Keep reading to find out why.

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Look & Feel

It has a soft floppy cover that feels very nice to touch. It got a bit damaged in transport; it has some grooves pressed into the cover material. I’ve heard other people mention something similar happened to theirs but it doesn’t affect its use at all. It’s 7.75×9.75″ and it feels like an ideal size to me (not so small to be fiddly, but not so big to be intimidating).

Binding

The binding is sewn and then glued. This means the pages don’t lie flat when you open it. That’s not ideal, but it’s something I’ve been able to learn to work with. One of the major advantages of this type of binding is that there is no bleeding! So to me it’s pretty much a direct tradeoff (lie flat vs no bleeding).

Strathmore Mixed Media Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Paper Quality

The paper is only 90lb/190gsm which sounds ridiculously thin. I normally wouldn’t touch anything that thin, thinking it would definitely not stand up to heavy and wet mixed media use. Surprisingly.. this is some of the best paper I’ve used. It can take quite a bit of abuse before it starts pilling and the pages don’t show any sign of buckling or rolling when you use wet media. The paper feels quite porous and velvety (when you use watercolours they feel like they kind of soak in and fan out a bit) which is a quality I really like.

Strathmore Mixed Media Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Availability

This is a US journal and easily available over there both online and in stores. I don’t know any shops that stock it in the UK, but as mentioned the international shipping on amazon is very reasonably priced (just select the slowest shipping option & have patience!).

Price

This journal costs around $16. Including shipping to the UK it cost me around £16. Not exactly a bargain, but absolutely worth it for the quality. There are no other journals that I’ve used at this price point that tick so many boxes.

The Verdict

Strathmore do a specific line of paper for mixed media, which is what is used in these mixed media journals. It’s absolutely spot on and this journal is a joy to work in. I’ve dubbed it The Magical Journal! Everything I do in it I enjoy and I love all the paintings I’ve made in it! My only criticism is that the pages don’t lie flat. Next time I will try the hard cover version in the mixed media journal range, as that one does lie flat.

Strathmore Mixed Media Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have reviewed.

If you’ve used Strathmore mixed media journals yourself and would like to share your opinion please do leave a comment below!

Stillman & Birn Zeta Series – Art Journal Reviews

Stillman Birn Zeta Sketchbook & Art Journal Review

It is not a secret that I love art journals and can never have enough. So in this series I am reviewing all the art journals that I have used over the years. Some are firm favourites that I buy again and again, some have their quirks and some are straight up don’t-buys. Keep reading to find out more about:

Stillman & Birn Premium Sketchbooks & Journals – Zeta Series

A while back in my search for ‘the perfect art journal’ I was asking around online for recommendations. The Stillman & Birn range was mentioned several times. I ordered one from the US and I couldn’t wait to try it out! I’ve been using it for about 5 months now (and it’s nearly full), so keep reading to find out what I think of it.

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Look & Feel

It feels quite premium with a hard black cover that is slightly textured. It’s about A5 size (I have the 5.5×8.5″ one). Because of the size & sturdy cover it feels like something you could easily chuck in your handbag without the pages getting damaged.

Binding

This has a sewn binding of several signatures. Between signatures there is sometimes quite a big gap. This can be annoying if you’re using those pages as a spread, as there will be a big gap between the left and the right page.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Paper Quality

The paper is heavyweight 270gsm hot pressed (smooth) watercolour paper. The website describes it as being suitable for Dry & Wet Media, Watercolor, Ink. To me, the paper is the singlemost important thing when buying (and rebuying) a journal. This paper really disappoints. The paper is very smooth but extremely weak. It pills easily when you go over it more than once or with a brush that is any firmer than a watercolour brush. This could be fixed by gessoing the pages first, but for me the whole reason for buying something with heavyweight HP paper is to not have to use gesso. Due to the problem with the paper the only thing I can use this journal for is watercolour, not mixed media as I intended.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Availability

This is a US journal and easily available over there. In the UK it is stocked by some suppliers (try Jackson’s Art Supplies), but sometimes they are out of stock awaiting an overseas order. I had to wait about 1 month for mine.

Price

I paid £12 for this journal, which makes it comparable to the small Dylusions journal. It’s not super expensive but not cheap either. For this price I expect a good quality journal, but due to the problem with the paper I find this to be too expensive for what it is. It might be better value if you’re in the US.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

The Verdict

These journals are specifically marketed for mixed media, but I wasn’t able to make it work. Customer service from Stillman & Birn got in touch with me to give me some tips and help out, but I still wasn’t able to work in it in my own natural style. If you are looking for a watercolour-only journal then this might become your favourite journal. I personally hate being restricted to one medium, so I will not be buying this journal again. I might consider trying the Beta or Delta series instead (same paper weight, but cold press finish) to see if the paper stands up any better.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook Journal Review | iris-impressions.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have reviewed.

If you’ve used Stillman & Birn journals yourself and would like to share your opinion please do leave a comment below!

Seawhite of Brighton Journals – Art Journal Reviews

Seawhite-of-Brighton

It is not a secret that I love art journals and can never have enough. So in this series I am reviewing all the art journals that I have used over the years. Some are firm favourites that I buy again and again, some have their quirks and some are straight up don’t-buys. Keep reading to find out more about:

Seawhite of Brighton Sketchbooks & Journals

Seawhite of Brighton is a brand that encapsulates a range of art supplies. They are most well known for being super affordable and creating paper that stands up to wet media. In this review I’m focusing on the ‘Starter Stapled Sketchbooks’, although as far as I know the paper used across the range of sketchbooks is the same, it’s just the binding & format that differs.

Into The Woods | mixed media in art journal | iris-impressions.com

Look & Feel

It looks cheap & cheerful. Very simple, kind of like a school notebook but unruled. The cover comes in several different colour options.

Binding

As the name suggests, the binding is created with staples. Two staples hold one signature of paper together. Using staples for binding feels cheap, and yet I can’t fault it. While working in this journal I’ve never wished for different binding or found it was lacking in some way. There is some bleeding due to the binding, but it’s not much different from journals that are bound differently or more expensively (I have yet to find a journal that doesn’t bleed through the spine).

Seawhite of Brighton Art Journal | iris-impressions.com

Paper Quality

The website describes the paper as ‘140gsm all-media cartridge paper, extra wet strength’. It’s the extra wet strength that is important. The paper definitely stands up better than other paper with a similar weight. I’d usually recommend going to at least 200gsm for heavy or wet mixed media use, but this journal can take it up to a point. The paper quality is surprising for the price point and the weight, but it does have a tipping point.

Seawhite of Brighton Art Journal | iris-impressions.com

Availability

This is a UK made journal and is widely available in the UK and as far as I know they are also well stocked in mainland Europe.

Price

The first time I saw the price on this journal my eyed about popped out of their sockets, it was £1.25 (about $1.90) for the A5 size. What??? It makes this journal incredibly affordable, a no brainer.

Seawhite of Brighton Art Journal | iris-impressions.com

The Verdict

The price is the biggest deciding factor in my love for this journal. It’s so ridiculously cheap, it makes me much more forgiving than I would be of a more expensive journal. I can get loads of these, experimenting with sizes, without feeling guilty. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the decent quality. Having said that, the paper does pill if you keep going at it and there is a fair amount of buckling (which I personally don’t mind because I just flatten the pages afterwards). Due to its size it’s a great journal to take with you and because it has a low number of pages (40) it’s satisfying to be able to fill up a journal quickly!

Overall it is not ‘the best’ journal for me, but because of price in relation to quality it’s one I buy again and again, definitely a staple (har har, see what I did there?).

Seawhite of Brighton Art Journal | Mixed Media Art | iris-impressions.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have reviewed.

If you’ve used Seawhite of Brighton journals yourself and would like to share your opinion please do leave a comment below!

The Dylusions Journal By Ranger – Art Journal Reviews

dylusions-journal-review

It is not a secret that I love art journals and can never have enough. So in this series I am reviewing all the art journals that I have used over the years. Some are firm favourites that I buy again and again, some have their quirks and some are straight up don’t-buys. Keep reading to find out more about:

The Dylusions Journal by Ranger

This is the journal developed by Dyan Reaveley from Dylusions and is said to be specifically suitable for using the Dylusions spray inks with. I bought the large size a while back to do some Life Book lessons in, and more recently bought the smaller one as it fits nicely in my handbag and was also on the supply list for Art Journal Summer School.

Dylusions Journals http://iris-impressions.com/2015/09/the-dylusions-journal-by-art-journal-reviews/

Look & Feel

This is a very pretty art journal. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design. I love the brown cover and the way it has an elastic strap to keep it closed. It also has an envelope inside to keep small bits in.

Binding

The cover is separate from the ‘notebook’ that is actually glued inside. This means that you can open the journal flat rather than having to bend the spine. In the big version of the art journal I’ve had some issues with the binding with the area of paper near the spine getting quite weak (& tearing) when the paper is wet. There is bleeding through to other pages if you use wet media near the spine.

Dylusions Journals http://iris-impressions.com/2015/09/the-dylusions-journal-by-art-journal-reviews/

Paper Quality

The large version comes with two types of paper (the signatures alternate between the different paper types): manila cardstock and matte white heavy cardstock. The smaller journal has the white cardstock throughout. The paper is nice and smooth. When turning the pages you get a feeling they are quite thin. I like to work with a lot of wet & heavy media and I don’t feel the paper is quite a match for that. Especially in the bigger journal the pages are prone to tearing near the spine if you use wet media. The paper is also prone to pilling if you don’t use a layer of gesso or acrylics beforehand.

Availability

This journal is fairly unique in that it has good availability both in the US and the UK. Hurrah!

Dylusions Journals http://iris-impressions.com/2015/09/the-dylusions-journal-by-art-journal-reviews/

Price

The price is reasonable but not cheap. I feel like you’re paying over the odds to get a nice design and the Ranger/Dylusions brand name, but the overall quality could be better. The smaller journal feels worth it to me, but the bigger journal is expensive. If you’re in the UK and looking for an A4 journal I’d spend the extra £8 to get a Roberson’s Sketchbook instead.

The Verdict

The elastic band is prone to snapping. This has happened to my big journal and I’ve heard a lot of people mention the same thing. It’s not a big deal, but it does feel like a design flaw seeing as it seems to happen to a high percentage of journals. If you’re a very heavy mixed/wet media user then this might not be the journal for you due to the paper not really holding up to it. For more light mixed media use this is a good journal, and the paper does make the Dylusions inks look nice and bright. I’d rate the big journal slightly lower (more like a 6.5/10) and I won’t be getting another one of those. I will most likely get the small journal again.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have reviewed. This post contains affiliate links to art courses that I recommend.

If you’ve used the journals yourself and would like to share your opinion please do leave a comment below!

Roberson Watercolour Sketch Books – Art Journal Reviews

Roberson

It is not a secret that I love art journals and can never have enough. So in this series I am reviewing all the art journals that I have used over the years. Some are firm favourites that I buy again and again, some have their quirks and some are straight up don’t-buys. Keep reading to find out more about:

Roberson Watercolour Sketch Books

This is currently my go-to art journal when I want to work big (A4 or A3). You may have heard of this journal via Tamara Laporte from Willowing.org who also recommends this as one of her favourite art journals.

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Look & Feel

This feels like a serious art journal and is quite heavy. It’s quite no-frills with no indication anywhere on it what brand it is or what it is made of! For a few years I didn’t even know the name of this elusive journal. The colour of the covers and spine indicates what type and weight the paper is. This journal comes in A5 (landscape), A4 & A3 (portrait).

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Binding

It has a robust thick cardboard cover with a linen strip on the spine. The binding is really solid: I am a heavy mixed media user in my journals and it stays together really nicely. When you open it the pages don’t quite lie flat and once you get to the final pages there can be a bit of a ‘drop’ between the left and the right page. There is some bleeding through the binding from one page to the other corresponding page in the same signature if you use very wet media.

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Paper Quality

This journal comes in different paper types and weights. I really like hot pressed (smooth) watercolour paper so I have used the 300gsm (black cover with green spine) and 190gsm (green cover with black spine). The thicker paper is excellent for heavy mixed media use, but it is very rigid. The thinner paper also stands up extremely well to mixed media and lends itself a bit more to leafing through the book. The 190gsm version has more pages than the 300gsm (54 vs 34) so by the time the journal is full the one with more pages will probably ‘fan out’ quite a bit wider.

I have been told that these journals are made from Saunders Waterford paper. This paper is quite smooth (not as smooth as some other HP watercolour paper I’ve used) and extremely robust. It takes all sorts of media very well, there is some curling while working wet but it can be straightened/pressed when dry. It also stands up to more abrasive application of paint: brayering, scrubbing etc. The paper stays put and doesn’t rub off.

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Availability

So far I have only heard of this this journal being sold in the UK and it’s a bit hit & miss with regards to where you will find it locally. Smaller (fine) art shops are more likely to stock it than bigger stores. In London you can buy it at Cornelissen (Bloomsbury) and Shepherds (Victoria), they also sell them online. You can do a Google search for ‘Roberson Watercolour Book‘ to find more options to buy.

Price

In terms of absolute cost this is an extremely expensive art journal. Prices range from approx £22 ($34) for the A5 book to nearly £50 ($78) for the A3. However, they are definitely worth that money due to the good binding and absolutely superb paper quality.

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The Verdict

I love this art journal. It is probably one of my favourites ever. The fact that I have filled one and have bought the same one again should be a testament to that. For me the only places it is not ideal is in terms of format (I’d love an A5 portrait orientation one – unfortunately the A5 only comes in landscape) and price. If you can/want to afford this journal you will not be disappointed.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

My 10 Favourite Art Supplies

10-favourite-art-supplies

I looove art supplies (and have spent way too much money on them over the years, probably a lot on useless stuff) so I thought you might like to know my favourite supplies. As a consequence these are supplies I use all the time and in almost all my work. This top 10 is in no particular order because it’s never just one thing that is the greatest, with mixed media it’s all about the effect things produce in combination.

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Watersoluble

10-fav-neocolorI looooooooove these babies! They come in so many different colours. I like that you can buy tins as well as single ones. I’ve got the tin of 15 and have got about 20 more loose ones of various shades for faces and vibrant backgrounds. I especially like their versatility, you can use them as a wash for backgrounds or use less water to make them more opaque; you can use them to paint faces and figures and other more detailed things; you can use them undiluted as a regular crayon. Almost every single piece of art I create, whether it’s an art journal page or a full blown painting on wood or canvas, has me using at least one of these.

10-fav-gessoWhite Acrylic Paint / Gesso

So simple but absolutely essential. I remember being so disappointed when I was a child when I was told white was not a colour! Nevertheless I love using it. Acrylic paint is especially nice to create texture with by building it up really thick (heavy body acrylic paint is good for this). Gesso is lovely for brayering onto the page and create texture that way. Acrylic paint has more of a plastic-y sheen to it, whereas gesso is more matte.

Gel Medium

10-fav-gelmediumI use Golden which I love, it’s expensive so other brands might work as well, I haven’t tried any others. Gel medium has many uses I’m sure, but I use it mainly as either a glue for three dimensional objects or to create raised texture. It is great for gluing because it dries clear AND remains flexible. That means things are less likely to fall off over time which is always a plus. It’s nice for texture because it retains its shape when it dries (if you layer it on thick it needs quite a long time to dry though!) and you can mix it with paint for colour or you could even add other fun things like glitter or coloured sand. You can pretty much go wild and gel medium will stand up to it!

10-fav-heattoolHeat/Embossing Tool

Also called a heat gun or embossing gun this one isn’t very exciting but it’s so so nice to have. I dislike having to wait for things to dry, it interrupts my creative flow. Having a tool to speed up the drying of your paint so you can continue your work is easily overlooked but to me it really makes the process much more enjoyable. The one I have has two settings, a ‘low heat’ one (still very hot though, like a hair-dryer on the hottest setting) for speeding up drying times and a ‘high heat’ one (incredibly hot, handle with lots of care!) for embossing.

I don’t do much embossing but I have noticed some areas to take care: one, if you point it at any acrylics for too long, they start bubbling which may spoil your work (or on the other hand you can use this effect to your advantage and create awesome texture!) Two, it will melt beeswax in a heartbeat (and may also ‘blow’ it into a different direction from where it was), which is great if that’s what you’re after but if it’s not just make sure to apply your beeswax only after you’re finished with any embossing.

Beeswax

10-fav-beeswaxIt smells GORGEOUS! I find working with beeswax very soothing. It smells so nice and adds a dreamy look and texture to any piece. You can add little elements inside it like glitter or other small objects. Do be aware that if you layer it on very thick it becomes opaque. I use a quilting iron to melt the wax and smooth it over my work. Then afterwards I either leave it like that or sometimes I scratch into the surface (you can use an empty ballpoint, the end of a paperclip or anything else that creates interesting texture). Sometimes I cover a whole piece with beeswax as a final unifying step, and other times I just put it in select areas. Another fun way to use it is to create a ‘resist’: beeswax will resist most products you put on it, so you can drip some beeswax on your piece and then spray walnut ink on top, the ink will stay on the wax-free bits but rub off the parts where the wax is (as long as it’s smooth, if you created texture into the wax the ink will settle in the crevices which creates a more grungy look).

10-fav-stampsStamps

I know that’s quite a broad category there but there are so many out there that are wonderful! I love using floral or grungy stamps as an element in creating a complex layered backgrounds. At least one set of alphabet stamps are integral to art journalling, they really add to that recognisable art journal aesthetic.

I love acrylic stamps, they are unmounted stamps made of acrylic (they are seethrough) and you use an acrylic block to mount them (they stick to it automatically and come off easily, no glue needed). The fact that the stamps & block are seethrough helps with placement and you can also mount more than one stamp on a block at a time which is handy for lettering or adding a group of elements in one go. You can wash them in soapy water to clean them (they won’t lose their stickiness!) which is another plus.

Uni Posca Markers

10-fav-poscapensThere are a lot of markers that promise to write on anything, but few actually deliver. These are the best I’ve tried! They even write over (watersoluble) oil pastels, as long as you are careful and don’t press too hard. When you write with them the flow is quite ‘inky’ (so be careful because they will smudge before they’re dry!) unlike felt tip pens or some other markers which can be really dry, and thus don’t write on textured or more complex surfaces.

They are quite expensive but investing in at least the black and white is well worth it. Even the lighter colours go on opaque. They are great for adding text to pages (the thinnest size is nice for writing and doodles), adding accents around elements or filling areas in with colour. They are waterproof when dry, which is great because they won’t smudge.

10-fav-bookpagesBook Pages

I use a cheap paperback I knew I wouldn’t read again, but you can also use newspaper, phonebook pages etc. The small dense lettering can really add interest to a page, either as part of a complex layered background or perhaps as a shape cut out from the paper. Printed papers tend to absorb paint very easily which makes it very easy to integrate them into a background and give them colour. Book pages tend to already be slightly brown/yellowish which is much nicer on the eye than black text on a white background.

Wood

10-fav-woodI love working on wood as a surface. It can be a bit challenging due to the texture, but at the same time that is exactly what is so great about it. The wood grain and imperfections add to the overall look of the painting. It’s a very forgiving surface for using a lot of materials on, especially when you’re working with wet paint and mediums. It’s also very solid so you can attach 3d or heavier objects more easily. And you can drill into it either for artistic purposes or to attach ribbon/twine to hang it with.

10-fav-embellishmentsEmbellishments

A broad category but they are so much fun! Embellishments can really add something to a piece, either used sparingly as a focus point or used in abundance to add complexity and texture. Because there are so many of them it’s a lot of fun shopping for them as well (or finding them in your house, like bottle caps or dice!) and then integrating them into your pieces. I’m not into scrapbooking but I always find scrapbooking embellishments can work well in mixed media art: brads, eyelets, glitter, confetti, rub ons, raised stickers, ribbon etc

Art Supply Shops in London

art-supply-shops-london

I love going into art shops and nosing around for new supplies (or stocking up on basics). I can’t imagine how they must struggle against competitive online suppliers. Nothing beats actually going into an art shop though, I’m addicted! So I thought I would compile a list of shops I frequent that sell art supplies in London. Most of these ones are in Central London. I hope you find this helpful!

AtlantisAldgate, E1
http://www.atlantisart.co.uk
A huge shop (biggest in the UK according to their website) with pretty much any art supplies you can think of. Lots of supplies for fine art, but also things for kids, plenty of materials for mixed media artists (they do both natural and bleached beeswax). Huge range of Golden & Liquitex products. Best thing about Atlantis is that their prices are very very good.

Blade RubberBloomsbury, WC1
http://www.bladerubberstamps.co.uk
This shop is a must for art journalers. They don’t just do rubber stamps but a ton of papercrafting accessories and more. They do a lot of mixed media & art journaling essentials. It’s the only shop I’ve found that actually stocks things like Stewart Gill paints, mica flakes and specialist magazines. They are unfortunately quite expensive but you do have the advantage of seeing the supplies in the flesh rather than guessing what something is like when you buy online. They also do classes.

Cass ArtCharing Cross, WC2 – Soho, W1 – Hampstead, NW3 – Kensington, W8
http://www.cassart.co.uk
They have a few branches and do great deals on quite a lot of their stock. Paper, sketchbooks, Promarkers (sets) and Caran d’Ache watersolubles (sets) are really competitively priced. I haven’t been to their flagship store, but their smaller store on Charing Cross road is great for picking up a few essentials.

CornelissenBloomsbury, WC1
http://www.cornelissen.com
Quite fine art focussed, but I would recommend going in here even if you’re not interested in what they sell: the inside of the shop is amazing! It’s what you’d imagine stepping into a 19th century art shop would be like. Apart from the obvious they sell some interesting stuff (I found some type of gold coloured powder in there, never seen that anywhere else) and tucked away at the back you can find discounted supplies.

Cowling & Wilcox LtdSoho, W1 – Shoreditch, E1 – Camberwell, SE5
http://www.cowlingandwilcox.com
It’s been a few years since I went into this shop but I think they’re quite similar in terms of stock to Cass Art.

HobbycraftCroydon, CR0 – Greenford, UB6 – Romford, RM1 – Watford, WD17
http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk
You have to travel a bit further out of town, but the size of the store makes up for it. Prices aren’t as low as you might expect, but the shop is great for browsing because they have so much. They cover almost every area of art and craft. I especially like going into the aisle with art supplies for kids, you can pick up some nice things for mixed media projects for a lot less money than the stuff that’s specifically targetted at art journaling.

John LewisOxford Street, W1
http://www.johnlewis.com
The haberdashery department in John Lewis has some nice bits & bobs. I’ve only been there for my knitting/crocheting needs, but they also do lots of little accessories (embellishments, ribbons etc) and I think they’re picking up on crafters’ needs a bit more over the past couple of years.

London Graphic CentreCovent Garden, WC2
http://www.londongraphics.co.uk
I love this shop because it’s got a lot and is so central. They are a bit pricey though. In the ranges of drawing/watercolour pencils, (watersoluble) oil pastels, conte crayons etc they sell single colours of almost everything which can be very handy. They sell an adequate range of paints & mediums although if you really want to go to town on those I’d still recommend Atlantis.