Monday, 30 June 2014

Colour Thoughts

I know I mention colour in virtually every blog I write but thought a full blog on colour where I tie everything together would be useful. I get asked a lot about colour on all my workshops and I find as I progress I get more and more specific about what I want from a particular colour. Anyone new to my blog might be interested to read about the colour planets I do before starting a painting especially if I want to find a new interesting combination or I am looking for something specific which I feel will compliment the subject. What I am not necessarily looking for is to find exact colours to match my subject although I do that as well. I am looking for colours which may not immediately be what you might choose but because of the way I mix them will still look attractive.

I also choose a dark colour so that I have something which will give me a good deep tone... it isn't colour which defines a subject it is shape, and tonal value is what helps to give you the shape of a subject. My dark may be a blue, a purple, brown or sometimes a red but it has to be a colour which will give a full range of value so for example a palette with lemon yellow, permanent rose and cobalt blue doesn't have the very darkest values and so I would either swap a colour or add in another to give me the range.

I have spent a lot of time studying colour and am still learning and as you will have read do not keep my colours to a limited palette although for any one painting I rarely use more than 6 colours... I love having a good choice and enjoy all the different colours and particularly those which can't be mixed... W&N opera rose is a prime example... a vibrant almost fluorescent pink which is unlike any other colour and impossible to mix at least not with the colours I have. Schmincke Translucent Orange is another.... impossible to get from any red or yellow at least any that I have in my palette!!

I have listed the colours in my palette here, and I think I have only added a small number since, perylene green would be one, a lovely silver green, and interestingly I am realising that the more adventurous colour combinations come when I am painting animals....with flowers I tend to stick with matching the colour to the flower and maybe adding something a bit more adventurous for the backgrounds though invariably the bg will have some of the flower colour mixed with it. With animals I either see potential colour mixes or if  don't see them, I make them up testing them on a planet. I often work from B&W images for animals so I am not bound by the colour I see ... I find I can be a bit more inventive and creative if I'm not viewing the subject in full colour feeling freer to experiment with anything I think might look different and interesting.

Four colours I have been using a lot recently are UB, Permanent Aliz Crimson, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna... I seem to have been drawn to them for a number of paintings recently, I sometimes add in a prussian blue as well and a cad yellow for some brightness but am going to start experimenting again with some of the other colours. I really like Turquoise but don't seem to have used much of it recently so for no other reason I might introduce it into the next painting I do.... scientific eh?

One thing I do really want to emphasise is that although I really believe there are no rules for painting, there is no substitute for getting to know the colours you have in your palette, get to understand the tonal value they will give you, learn how they interact with other colours, and it can only be done with practice... it's fine to read all about them, about analagous, harmonious, complimentary colours, opaque colours, transparents, staining but reading and doing are two different things and the only thing which will give you a understanding of your colours is to use them!!

One example to illustrate the point is a colour called Winsor Red... a rich red, veering slighty more towards pink than cad red... I have used it to paint the red shoes both for the shoes and  bg. When I come to add it on the paper to mix with the prussian blue or indigo, whichever blue I am using it explodes and takes over, pushing the blue away quite significantly. For that reason I now know I have to go easy with it when mixing with other colours if I don't want it to take over, other colours do this but non as pronounced as the Winsor Red. Granulation is also another property colours may have but it is so much easier to remember it when you see it happening rather than just reading about it, easier to see how an opaque colour can both lift or dull a painting depending on how and when you use it, easier to see how much livelier colour can be when mixed and mingled on the paper rather than in the palette... seeing is believing!! So get your paints out and play!!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

She must be a Contortionist!!

I have had this photo for a while (Freda Austin Nichols on PMP) and have kept looking at it wondering how to go about it and decided to have a try this afternoon. I wanted to stick to the wet in wet process but this caused me some difficulty as there were certain things I wanted to capture in this image, mainly the light (or dark) and I found I was keeping most of the edges as they all seemed to have a purpose which in my mind enhanced the painting... it may be that in the future I will try a completely different approach, but a more literal one seemed the way forward for this particular piece...

As always I used a limited palette

Prussian blue
Aliz Crimson
Burnt sienna
Raw Sienna

This palette seems to be one I am using a lot at the moment, unless I am doing flowers,  I do like the way both blues interact with Burnt Sienna and I find the addition of Aliz Crimson and Raw Sienna make for a more colourful feel.

I did a drawing first, as you can see it is not a pose many of us could ever have struck or even contemplated so I wasn't at all convinced I would get it right without some guidelines!! I do love ballerinas and enjoy painting them and the wet in wet approach seems to really suit them.

When I thought this might be finished and I looked at it for a while, I decided maybe, wrongly that it needed some shafts of light from the left... now I am not sure about them but I still prefer with than without

When you work with the paper so wet, it is very difficult getting the timing right and I am finding I am going in too soon... the paper was still very damp after about 45 minutes this afternoon and as I wanted to add some harder edges, I eventually dried it with the hairdryer. This degree of wetness isn't like just doing a sky wet in wet and dropping some paint in, the whole paper is sopping wet and water and paint dribble from it. I wet the front, back then front again as if I was preparing the paper for stretching and then of course more water is added as I start to apply the paint. How wet the paper is, determines what concentration of paint you need to use, depending on what effect you want to achieve... if that makes sense!! Those of you who follow my blog will know that I am trying to understand how this works and put it into words so that I can eventually teach it. At the moment I rely on having a "feel" for when is the right time to go in but that isn't something I can easily convey to other people so a bit of understanding of exactly what is happening needs to crystallize in my head happen so that I can explain it... phew!!!

In the meantime here is another wet in wet I did a few days ago from  photo by Rob on PMP, another atmospheric piece with the same palette and an intent of capturing light. I went in far too much before the paper was dry enough so the paint kept bleeding into areas I wanted to keep sharp and even though at this stage lifting out is still possible it sets the painting back and of course means you are working on it unnecessarily... never a good thing!!

I think this needs a bit more blending of the bg both into the yellow area to the left and into the water as I feel there is too strong a division between the bg and the water but that is easily done and in actual fact only became clear as I viewed it here!! Amazing what becomes so obvious when you see on the screen!!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

New Challenge.....Another Black and White Image!!

I have had this image stored for a while from PMP (am afraid I can't find the photographer to credit so have asked on the site if anyone knows who it is). I saw a graphite drawing of it and thought it would translate really well to watercolour... this is the original reference. Black and white images are so good for seeing tonal value and if you have trouble in this area I would advise you all to get into the habit of transposing images to black and also helps you choose your own palette without influences from a colour image.

So, here is another example of not having to be a slave to the reference, what we need is to look at is tones.... the colours can be whatever we want so we need to choose something which will give us a really good dark and the rest depends on how colourful we want it to be.

Two of my favourite colours mixed together on the paper are Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue so a I decided on those for the coat and a mix of Cobalt Blue and Indigo for the jeans. I used a touch of Alizarin Crimson for the bag but apart from that used only the blues and brown. I could have used any colours at all, I was only looking at lights and darks not colour and maybe on a different day I would have chosen an entirely different palette.

With an image like this it is a good idea to keep the lightest lights white even though we can see there are no real white areas. Keeping a few whites really enhances a painting and lifts it so you will see there are a few whites left on his hat and jeans and odd little sparkles around the painting.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Wet Ballerina

So, still trying hard with my wet in wet and have had a desire to paint a ballerina as I feel this method really lends itself to that subject and of course there are some wonderful Chinese painters who do some superb ballerina studies and who I am guessing also use this method (not that this is remotely like theirs!!)

This image is loosely taken from a photo by Bronwyn Chelius on PMP and I loved the compostion and unusual position of the ballerina... I did try this without drawing and though it was close, the paper had had enough!! Here is the first attempt..... one or two at the all day workshop at Sunshine House preferred this to the second piece, so who knows!!! Used mainly Prussian Blue add Aliz Crimson on this


The next one had a few pencil lines to give me a bit more guidance....I wanted to use some soft colours so experimented with my planets and used

Alizarin Crimson
Raw sienna

I did add some burnt sienna at the start but didn't like how that was looking and in the end used mainly Aliz Crimson and UB adding a touch of raw sienna for the skin areas. Again this was just an experiment (all my paintings start as experiments and if they turn out great and if not it was just an experiment!!) but I like it even though that wonderful husband of mine asked the dreaded question "What is it?!?!?" Arrgghhhh. Then he said "Ahh it's a flower!" I didn't have the inclination to continue this guessing game any further so irritably pointed out the head to which he said "Oh yes can see it all now... hmm parts of it are very good!!!" What would I do without him?!?!

I think both these pieces have their good points and certainly the first has an added freedom the second doesn't have. It is difficult trying to make sure the drawing is good enough all the time making sure the paint is moving and flowing and of course this wasn't an easy angle to start with!! Obviously the second piece is a better drawing and as such is tighter, I do like the hair and the intensity of colour and darks around her head... would be interested to hear which you prefer?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Latest Commission

Have not been able to show this as it was a joint birthday gift for the grandparents of these 2 gorgeous children. I had several photos to choose from and for me this composition was the best, not only because it was a really good photo of them but more importantly from an artist's point of view, only one lot of teeth!!

But for future reference need to make sure I get the mouths done first as I had great difficulty with the little girl's mouth... I worried it to death, used my magic sponge and even tried some Daniel Smith Watercolour ground, but knew fairly early on that is was all a waste of time and I would have to do the whole thing again if I was going to ever be happy, but this time working on the mouth sooner rather than later!!

When I paint a portrait I work around the whole thing, I  know a lot of artists work on one area at a time but I like to move around so that everywhere has a chance to dry. I used a very limited palette

Burnt Sienna
Raw Sienna
Alizarin Crimson
Touch of Cob Blue

Skin tones need the three primaries and as usual I find limiting the palette makes for a good harmonious balance of colour. I think I have kept this fresh and bright and am quite happy with it.

Some of you may remember from a previous post about how tricky commissions can be and this was commissioned by a friend of the recipients, and although I knew what style the friend would like I didn't know about the recipients so have played safe with this one concentrating on the likeness and choosing fairly conservative colours.  It is certainly my aim to work more on portraits, concentrating on tone not colour and working more with shape in an effort to keep a loose spontaneity. When you are painting a portrait it is easy to be caught up in trying so hard to achieve a likeness, you lose the way you paint so I am going to work more on them in the future.... have another to be done fairly soon, so not sure I will be able to practice on that!!