Monday, 16 January 2012

To use White, or Not to use White?

Whenever someone in my family looks at something I have painted that has a dull or chalky look, I can see the question begin to form in their head, and then out it comes, "have you used white on that?" Ah, using white, the controversial question in watercolour painting. Watercolour paints are admired for their layering, transparent quality and do not contain any white in the manufacturing process.

White paints are based with Titanium Dioxide, are opaque when used and are unsuitable for certain applications in watercolour. The use of White in a mix is a watercolour 'faux pas', and would receive some very disapproving remarks from the purist camp, as well as ruining any transparency from the glazes and washes of other colours. The use of 'body colour' or white Gouache on top of a finished wash to create hairs, a bloom or other effect is considered acceptable and was used in this way by many of the 'old masters'. However, the traditional English School style of pure watercolour with no white used at all is still considered to be the best way to go. This is the rule I try to follow as I cannot trust myself to use white with any subtlety, therefore I have to use other techniques such as using resists, the white of the paper and washes including blues such as Cobalt and Cerulean to help achieve a similar effect.      

For the Snowdrop leaves I am working on, I have used a range of greens on the blue spectrum to try to capture the chalky look that is so reminiscent of Spring flowering bulb varieties. Looking back over some of my previous assignments and sketches I have attempted to capture this effect before with varying success.        

Spring Onions have squeaky, dull, blue-green leaves 

No, I didn't use white on these Blueberries. It's all smoke and mirrors and
well placed Cerulean / Cobalt Blue 

Cobalt in the mix and a light touch help add the chalky look
to this Aquilegia


Hedera said...

Your spring onions are wonderful - I love the composition!! Some great colour tips too. :)

Claire said...

I use white for painting lichens,blooms and for hairs & bits.I say bah hum-bug to the purists and paint how ever you like!! :)

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Aha, I love creating debate. I am getting better with the use of white but still overdo it so tend to keep clear. More trial and error needed methinks.