Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Colour Casting Couch

"Well, it's lovely to see you, thank you for coming and do take a seat while I take a look at your resume".

Ha ha ha, I often see the selection of paints for a new piece as something of an interview. Which ones will make the final shortlist and which ones will face disappointment this time around. Of course I haven't gone quite round the bend and look at my paints as little actors all waiting eagerly to be taken out of the box, but it's a fun way to look at it. Well, for me it is anyway.

'Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple'.

Regina Brett

For my latest piece, 'Fade to Grey' I had so many lovely comments it was quite overwhelming. Many of the comments focused on the colour, and quite a few were asking specifically which particular brands and colours I used for it. For this post, I decided to go down this road a little further and give you a flavour of how I choose my colours.

My current favourite watercolour brands are

Daniel Smith
Winsor and Newton
Schmincke - Transparent Yellow and Transparent Orange

A selection of my M.Graham paints.

Of these I love the Azo Yellow, Anthraquinone Blue (Indanthrene),
Quinacridone Violet and Maroon Perylene

Although there is a wealth of variety for the artist to choose from out there, I generally stick with these, as not only do I find the pigments really pure, but the texture, layering quality, transparency and general handling all superb.

Other brands I have in the box

Sennelier, but only Lemon Yellow and Sennelier Yellow Light
Holbein Ultramarine Light

For me, I like to keep a relatively spartan palette when I begin a piece and try not to introduce too many as I go along. In mixes, I try not to add too many colours together, and generally only add three. If I need to darken or make a shadow tone, I'll use some of the mix and add something to it, but that's about it.

Generally these are my starting colours, using only six on the palette, and I mix everything from them.  

Warm Yellow - Sennelier Yellow Light or DS Hansa Yellow or DS Quinacridone Gold
Warm Red - Perylene Maroon
Warm Blue - French Ultramarine or Ultramarine Light

Cool Yellow - Azo Yellow or Lemon Yellow
Cool Red - DS Anthraquinoid Red or Permanent Rose or both
Cool Blue - Indanthrene Blue

All the colours used in the painting.

The odd one in the pan is the Quinacridone Purple.

Here is everything used on, 'Fade to Grey'

Indanthrene Blue
Ultramarine Light
Quinacridone Magenta
Quinacridone Rose
Quinacridone Purple
Anthraquinoid Red
Perylene Maroon
Permanent Rose
Transparent Yellow
Lemon Yellow
Sennelier Yellow Light

No 3, No 2 and No 0 brushes

Sticking with six doesn't always suit the painting and you have to have more or specific colours, (especially primary colours) on the palette. Here I have used two or three more reds as I am working mostly in purples or pinks at the moment. For this I will also include my favourite Quinacridone Magenta, Anthraquinoid Red and Quinacridone Purple as well.

The ones here from Daniel Smith are fabulous.
My current favourites and the ones I turn to for a lot of purple subjects are
Imperial Purple and Quinacridone Purple.

Ultramarine Violet has a lovely, soft granulating quality and Cobalt Violet Deep is very potent.  

When I need to mix greens, I don't really use pre-mixed greens, (but did weaken to M.Graham Azo Green) but mix all my own from the palette. For me I find I can get a more accurate 'family of greens' from a custom built job.

Just now I have branched into some specific purple mixes by Daniel Snith. Shared via a fellow artist friend, I have used these colours several times on recent pieces, and find them superb both on their own, and in mixes. If I have a new purchase I tend to head towards the sketchbook for a trial run, mixing with my stable favourites and playing with techniques to see how they perform. if they pass the test, they get in the box, and then onto the shortlist. "Next Please!"

'I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere

 and don't notice it'.

Alice Walker

Strong words there Alice, but I think I know what you mean. Who can't be struck by a field of lavender in full bloom?

Fade to Grey
The finished piece

For this one I made sure there were plenty of warm and cool areas to keep the interest.
To the left is warmer, as is the stem and stamens.

Bluer areas and the cooler greys recede the painting to the centre and to the far right where
the light picked up the folds and wrinkled bits.

The area of palest shine against darkest shadow on the central petal throws this area forward somewhat more
and I have been really practising this technique.

'The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed.
The lily I condemned for thy hand, 
And buds of marjoram had stol'n thy hair:
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand, 
One blushing shame, another white despair; 
A third, nor red nor white, had stol'n of both 
And to his robbery had annex'd thy breath; 
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth 
A vengeful canker eat him up to death. 
   More flowers I noted, yet I none could see
   But sweet or colour it had stol'n from thee'. 

Sonnet 99 by W. Shakespeare

For this very pink and purple rich subject I seriously 'upped' the amount of reds in the palette to five, including a couple of purple and pink mixes. The main mixes for the pinks and purples were:

Quinacridone Purple + Quinacridone Magenta

Above mix + Indanthrene Blue

Permanent Rose + Quinacridone Purple

Quinacridone Purple + Quinacridone Magenta + Anthraquinoid Red

Anthraquinoid Red + Quinacridone Purple

Above mix + Permanent Rose

Adding a bit of this and a little bit of that alters the temperature and depth of each mix, so it's hard to be exact, but these were the main mixes.

Yellow / Stamens

Sennelier Yellow Light + Perylene Maroon

Lemon Yellow

Sennelier Yellow Light + Permanent Rose + Indanthrrene Blue

Green / Stem

Ultramarine Light + Lemon Yellow + Perylene Maroon

Lemon Yellow + Indanthrene Blue

Shadow tones and deepest darks were all mixed using the colours in the palette by adding just a touch more of  Lemon Yellow and Indanthrene Blue to the deepest purple mixes and to the green to get colour-rich greys and blacks.

A very purple palette
The cerulean and cobalt had been for a previous painting, so were not actually used here.
If there is paint left on the palette, I just wipe off the mixes from the middle and reuse

The main colours are squidged around the edge of the plate with the other colours in little half pans, ready to add a bit here and there should the mix need it.

And here's the latest little sketch for the sketchbook exchange. A small study of a Dahlia started as a demonstration in my last workshop and finished in the studio

Dates for the spring series of the new sketchbook study workshops, 'The Botanical Year' are now available on the tuition page of the website. x

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