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Painting Portraits from Photographs 2: More than Head and Shoulders

April 6, 2021

Week 1:The Whole figure

Picture taken by Alisha when working as a doctor in Afghanistan

Over the next four weeks we’ll consider painting rather more of the clothed figure than just the head and shoulders.  Choosing reference photo is the first challenge.  You may have one of a complete stranger or you may have or can take a picture of a family member reading a book or even asleep. At least they won’t be giving you a great big beaming smile.  For this week include the whole figure either seated or standing in your reference.  The aim will be to get really used to looking at the various elements of the figure because understanding figure itself will help us understand how clothing drapes across the body.  Usually there are a lot of clues especially with more tailored and tight fitting garments but the particular pose that presents itself can also give invaluable clues that will help you make a believable portrait.

In subsequent weeks we’ll look at suitable cropping points so that successful compositions can be made of to the waist and also three quarter length studies.  We’ll also consider figures wearing uniform, formal regalia or traditional costume less familiar to us, but for all of these a general understanding of the figure, its proportions and the way it moves will inform all the work done.

Chris and Toby

Look at the standing reference first; in an adult the head is about one seventh of the total height but in a child this ratio is considerably more. In the photo above it is between one sixth and one fifth. 

Follow an imaginary line from the top of the head down the spine to the pelvis and think about what happens when you get to the legs.  With a standing figure the neck will be directly above the foot bearing most of the weight and if the weight is being evenly shared between both feet will be directly above a point between the feet.  If your figure is leaning against a wall notice if this changes anything. 

Neck above weight bearing foot
Load more evenly shared by each foot

Look at how far the arms extend down the body if they are down and how far again if they are folded or the angles made if they are on the hips or if one arm is on the hip what is happening with the other arm. 

In the sheep market: Tafraoute, Morocco

Look at the tilt of the shoulders and the hips if these can be identified.  Thinking about how the body moves will help.  Look at the knee in relation to the direction in which the foot points.   If you stand fairly upright with your feet together and then turn one foot out a bit the knee follows it and so the knee points in the same direction as the foot.  When sitting this is also the most relaxed position for the foot, but of course if you cross your legs you will find the foot has far more freedom but still feels more comfortable when pointing the same way as the knee.

Try to find out how your own joints limbs and back behave, then look at your reference again and think through what is going on.

Harriet sketching; here the body is changing the shape of the chair back and seat, and because we have a side view the upper leg is not fore-shortened. Note how the foot is pointing in the same direction as the knee.

With the sitting reference, look at the relation of the sitter’s form to the form of what they are sitting on whether it’s flat ground, a grassy slope as for the Afhan girl heading this post, or some kind of seat.  It can be useful to make a sketch of the chair, bench or stool, but remembering that the soft parts of some chairs will be altered by the sitter as above.  The appearance of the figure, especially the fore-shortening of the upper leg will be very different depending on whether you are viewing the person from the side or the front.  The height of the chair in relation to the person’s leg length will also result in a very different posture for the sitter.  If a tall person sits on a low bench they will either stretch their legs out or bend their knees up bringing the feet closer to the chair.  Just think about things like this when looking.

You may like to look at how other artists have portrayed standing and sitting figures so do have a look at the following Pinterest boards.

For the seated figure:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/the-whole-figure-seated/

and for the standing figure:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/the-whole-figure-standing/

Then it’s high time to have a go!

Choose to work either from a standing or a seated figure and make a few thumbnail sketches first, before launching into your first painting.  Work so that you make note of the tones in the composition as well as the shapes of the forms.  Try to imagine you are in the presence of the sitter and that the figure actually exists in three dimensions rather than the two dimensional image you are referring to.

Composition

After that decide how much space your figure will occupy in your painting. Look at the overall height and width of the figure and how much of the background and what of its features you wish to include or exclude.  Sometimes an indication of the space around the figure and the objects within that space helps the composition while at other times there are things in the background which are irrelevant and may detract from the main focus: the figure being portrayed.

Although not a whole figure this shows how clutter removal can calm the whole composition. The choice is entirely the artist’s, so if I were portraying an electronics wizz in his shack rather more chaos might add to the viewer’s understanding of the character I am painting.

The medium is up to you; pastel and acrylic are possibly more forgiving than watercolour but whichever medium you choose once you have established the main shapes, take note of the tonal balance as well as the colour. If you choose to work in watercolour you may like to Google the portrait watercolours of Charles Reid, and Hans Schwarz, and of course Singer Sargent also produced some wonderful watercolour portraits.

Your paintings:

Rosie by Sarah
Rosie
Watercolour by Sarah
Hugo
Acrylic by Ann
Anika
Soft pastel by Elizabeth
Roger
Watercolour by Elizabeth
Sketches from Photos by Liz
Amy takes a Selfie in the Mirror
Mixed media by Liz
Deborah
Acrylic by Malcolm
Heather
Acrylic by Heather

Painting portraits from Photographs: Week 4

March 17, 2021

Charlotte
Pastel

This is the last of the head and shoulders portrait challenges and this week it would be great to try a portrait that is different from any attempted so far. If you haven’t yet tried to paint a very elderly person or a hatted person perhaps try that. Alternatively you could try a profile or near profile view or someone with amazing hair.

If possible choose a reference where the subject is not smiling. No one could possibly sit and keep up a broad grin for forty minutes and portrait studies from photographic reference look far more natural if the subject has a pose that could realistically kept for a long period.

If you decide on using a grid make sure that you take only the information that is really necessary to get the large shapes right. If you draw freehand in charcoal either as an under drawing for pastel or acrylic try to work tonally just indicating all the main forms and observing closely how the light reveals their form. Observe whether the head is tilting back or forward Remember to measure the total width and height of the head and to position the eyes and ears correctly.

Looking up, looking down

If painting someone in a hat look at how the hat shades the face and how soft edges are under the hat.

All of the upper part of the face is in shadow.
This one imagined the light was directly from above. Observe shadows carefully, not only of the hat itself but of the shadow of the head falling on to the shoulders and chest when the light is from the side or from above and from one side of the subject.

If you are going to attempt a profile you may like to look at a few examples on the Profile section of my Portraits Pinterest Board, link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/profile/

There was also interest in attempting a portrait where colours represent tones. You can find several Fauve portraits and the work of the contemporary artist Jessica Miller who works in this way in the Fauve portrait section of my portraits Pinterest board, link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/fauve-portraits-and-revealing-the-head-in-unnatura/

Have fun!

Your Paintings:

Tonal Drawing by Maryon
Portrait by Maryon
Pastel and pastel pencil
Jess by Pam
Joanna Lumley
Pastel by Shane
Tonal study from a Photo of Picasso
Pastel by John
Lily
Charcoal by Elizabeth
Vanessa and Nick
Acrylic by Elizabeth
Elderly Man
Charcoal by Liz
Virginia Wolfe
Acrylic by Liz
George
Drawing by Sarah
George is watching his Beach Ball float out to Sea!
Watercolour by Sarah
Rosie
Drawing by Sarah
Rosie
Pastel by Sarah
Margot
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Chloe
Acrylic by Malcolm
Pastel by Heather
Heather has used a sienna coloured paper.
Pastel by Barbara

Painting Portraits from Photographs: Week 3 Charcoal and Pastel

March 10, 2021

The White Fascinator
Charcoal and Pastel

This week’s portrait challenge is to paint someone wearing a hat or headdress. All the illustrations for this have been made in pastel or by making a tonal under drawing in charcoal, fixing it really well then adding layers of colour.

For an adult face quite dense layers of charcoal may be laid down to describe the forms of the face and mass of hair. For a child’s face a more delicate approach may be needed and it would be better to start with a drawing in pastel or pastel pencil using similar colours to those that will be used to finish the work.

Some examples of portrait paintings where the model is wearing a hat, hood or other and fascinators definitely come into the class of other! can be found on the Pinterest board that can be accessed by the link below:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/hats-on/

Eva in Tuscany
Pastel on Khadi paper
Charlotte
Charcoal and white pastel pencil
This is on Murano paper which is slightly darker and greener than this scan. Charcoal and white pastel pencil was used and the mass of hair indicated by a dense well rubbed in layer of charcoal. A heavy application of fixative was made which both sealed the charcoal and restored the tooth of the paper for subsequent pastel layers.

When making a tonal study it is essential that the drawing is accurate. If the photograph is a front view or slightly three quarter view try to observe the following. Not quite so possible if the model is wearing a wide brimmed hat or in profile!

Look at the general shape of the head. Note whether it is tilted sideways and how this affects the axis of symmetry. Perhaps drop a vertical down so that it crosses the head between the eyes. Then drop a line from the highest point of the head to the tip of the chin, you will be then be able to see how much the head is tilted and you will be able to either make the eyes level if the head is perfectly straight, or at the correct slant if not.

Although if someone is looking straight at you the middle of the eyes appear about half way between the tip of the chin and the top of the skull, this alters when the head is tilted upwards or downwards. When looking up there will be considerable foreshortening so the eyes will appear nearer the top of the head but the ears will appear lower and you will be able to see under the chin and up the nostrils.

When the head is looking down with the chin tucked in, obviously you will see more of the top of the head and all the facial features will be rather differently foreshortened. The eyes will appear lower, the ears higher and the nose may overhang the mouth. The lower lip may disappear and only a little of the chin may be visible.

Usually a photographic reference will not be as extreme as this but do note the position of the head in relation to the head and shoulders.

Also note the width of the head in relation to it’s height and the position of the ears in relation to the point where the lower jaw articulates with the rest of the skull. It’s a good idea to feel this on your own head and also to examine the rather fundamental fact that a head, although roughly rounded has a curved frontal plane and curved sides. It is possible to think of the sides starting where the temples and cheek bones make a rounded corner. Again feel your own head and it will be easier to think about the structure of the head when you are drawing.

Charlotte
First applications of colour; pastel pencil and soft pastel. This was started by very lightly scribbling or hatching pastel pencil of different browns reds and purple greys over the face and then using softer pastel quite lightly to establish the first areas of colour.
Charlotte
Further layers of pastel and beginning to paint the background.
Mainly soft pastel sticks were used adding more colour and tone to the face and also to the hair and background which will be kept fairly simple and darker on the left. There are a couple of things not quite right with the drawing which I hope to correct for the finished portrait. Next week you can tell me what they are.
Charlotte
Think it’s finished now but I’ll leave it around for a while!
May ad to the background and work on the lower neck and collar bones.

Leaving you with a final thought; remember that the hair is on the head so be generous with it! And if the model has very little hair you have the perfect chance to get the head shape spot on!

Your paintings;

Pastel by Maricarmen
Charcoal by Barbara
Happiness in a Hat
Acrylic by Malcolm
Ian Wright
Charcoal by Elizabeth
Felix
Pastel by Elizabeth
Pastel by John
Archie
Acrylic by Heather
Amy and that Ascot Hat
Pastel by Liz
Jayden
Pastel by Liz
Acrylic by Pam
Prince Charles
Pastel by Shane
My Sister
Pastel by Sarah
Pastel by Maryon
Chris
Charcoal under drawing by Heather
Chris
Acrylic by Heather

Painting Portraits from Photographs Week 2: Colours

March 3, 2021

Hilary 1
Charcoal, on on canvas board 10 x 14 inches,
heavily fixed with pastel fixative spray
Hilary 2
Thin layer of transparent acrylic paint applied.
This fixes the charcoal completely.
Hilary 3
More thin layers of paint added.
Background mix: Permanent Alizarin crimson and Burnt Umber
Hair: Burnt Umber
Shawl: Alizarin with a little Burnt Umber and Ultramarine
Hilary 4
Starting to key in the darkest tones, positioning the palest tones and finding colour mixes to suit Hilary’s complexion.
Darkest areas of hair; Burnt Umber and Ultramarine

During the next few days the portrait will be completed and published. A lot more work is needed to resolve the features and soften and blend the skin tones. Some information on working in pastel will also be published.

Palette of colours used was: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Crimson Alizarin, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Progressive mixes 1; reading from right to left;
White added to each, Yellow added to each mix, Burnt Sienna added to each mix
Progressive mixes 2: reading from right to left
Ultramarine added to each, White added to each mix,
Burnt Sienna added to each mix, White added to each mix

Both cool and warm skin tones can be made with this very basic palette. It will also provide for some near blacks by mixing Ultramarine with Burnt Umber. Try adjusting Burnt Sienna with the other colours to provide for a very pale complexion, a mid toned complexion and a dark complexion.

Although the addition of a few more pigments would be useful for example a warmer red like Cadmium Red Pale, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Raw Sienna and perhaps Viridian, a remarkable variety of complexions and cool and warm shadow areas can be made from this basic palette.

Your Portraits:

John by Maricarmen
Pastel
Pastel Pencil Portrait
by Maryon
Stephanie
Acrylic by Heather
Lizzie
Acrylic by Pam
Jean
Acrylic by Malcolm, unfinished
John by John
Watercolour
Charles
Pastel by Barbara
Margaret Attwood
Pastel by Liz
Hope
Pastel by Shane
Millie
Watercolour by Sarah

Painting Portraits from Photographs:1 Starting Points

February 23, 2021

Hilary
Pencil

Portrait painting is challenging because we are so familiar with faces that we can spot inaccuracies easily, and perfecting a likeness both of the physical features and the character of the model requires a lot of precise observation.  This does not mean that we need to paint every detail but does mean understanding of how the various forms of the head and shoulders present themselves.  A glance back to the portrait drawing Blog posts of May 5 Full Face, May 18 Profile and June 1 Three Quarter View will give you some useful reminders.  Choose the appropriate month of the Blog archive to find them.

No excuses for the length of this post but the information should be useful for all of the next four weeks. I’ve put together a very eclectic mix of portraits on my Pinterest Board at

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/portraits/head-and-shoulders/

Making studies from photographs makes some things easier; the subject is already translated into two dimensions; it’s the easiest way to attempt wriggling children, and also to maintain consistent lighting etc.  The down side is that many photographs tend to flatten the image so that we lose the sense of three dimensions and it is all too easy to copy slavishly instead of using the reference as a starting point.  

Choosing a reference photograph

For the next four weeks we will consider working from photos of the head and shoulders and I suggest starting with a front or three quarter view. Reference photos with directional lighting from either side or above are more useful in revealing the form of the head and its features than those in which the head is evenly lit.  Even lighting makes it very difficult to make the nose appear three dimensional and in painting as in a tonal drawing colour and tone will be more important than line to depict forms that are in reality three dimensional. Shadows on the face become even more interesting if the subject is wearing a hat but I suggest for this week it’s hats off and your first task is to find a suitable reference.

To Crop or not to Crop?

Once you have selected a suitable image you may find more content is more included than you wish to use for your portrait. It may be that more of the figure is included or that the surround is too large. Try using two L shaped pieces of card arranging them like a view finder so you can decide on an attractive crop for the image. Once found it’s a good idea to attach them so that you always return to work from the same part of the reference.

Composition

Now that a reference has been selected and cropped it could be imagined that all that remains is to go ahead and paint, and that’s possible but it may be better to think a few things through first, especially with regard to;

position of the head and its size in relation to the support, size of the finished work, background, tonal balance, colour composition

This is the stage where it would be useful to make a few thumbnail sketches. These should be no more than 3 x 4 inches and all on the same sheet of paper. Explore some of the following using a rectangle of the same proportions as the support to be used for the finished work.;

a) The position of the head on the paper e.g. as in the reference or to right or left, further up or down

b) Size of the head compared to the support, and size of finished work. Very often a photo reference contains the face but not absolutely all of the head. This can look charming at a small scale but presents considerable problems at a much larger scale. Very often head and shoulder portraits are made at three quarter life size so for an adult’s head and shoulders with some background 12 x 16 inches or about A3 would be fine and still allow the head to “breathe”. If only a child’s head/face fills the image so that there is virtually no background you may consider working much smaller at say 8 x 10 inches. Those working on paper can always cut paper accordingly but if you are using board or canvas you should work out the size you wish to work at carefully beforehand.

c) Background or vignette: Photographs of head and shoulders will have a background. It is a valid choice to paint without a background if that would suit the subject.

d) Does the background in the reference detract from or is it important to the way in which you wish to paint the portrait.  Backgrounds may need simplifying, even to the extent of making them fairly uniformly  dark or pale.  Try both in separate sketches to see what would suit the subject best. 

e) The main tonal areas of the head, neck and shoulders, and the hair. A small thumbnail sketch should really help you sort out the large areas and perhaps pinpoint the real highlights in the reference. It will also help you sort out the fact that the eyes are always in shade.

This is the point when you should also start to think about colour;

e) Complexion: Is the subject pale or dark skinned?  Although we are only looking at the head and shoulders are clothes important and colourful and are some of those colours reflected in the face, especially neck, chin and sometimes the cheeks. See colour notes below for fair and dark skins.

f) Clothes and jewellery: Is the sitter wearing a hat or jewellery and how important are these to the composition? If a brimmed hat you should have already looked at the shadows this may cast across the face.

g) Background colours: do these enhance or detract from the portrait reference? These may be simplified and/or changed.

You may like to make a thumbnail colour sketch and work out some suitable flesh colours and see how these would work alongside colour swatches for background and clothes.

A mid toned paper would be suitable for working with pastel. If using acrylic or you may like to lay down a layer of white or tinted gesso, or thinned paint. At this stage you may decide whether to draw the image on to the support or whether as many painters do, or to start by blocking in the main shapes and tones and gradually refining these till your portrait is finished.

However you start it is important to reduce distortions when transferring the main shapes to the support by always working at the same ratio of dimensions on the support as in the reference.  If working on canvas choose a size with the dimensions in the nearest ratio to the reference.

For example if your reference is 5 x 7 inches and you wish to scale up to twice the size a 12 x 16 inch canvas would be suitable but remember to lightly mark a rectangle of 10 x 14 inches ready to scale up the reference. When painting begins the paint can be extended to cover the margins but at the initial stages this will ensure that you should be able to get the proportions correct.

Draw the image on the support; either freehand or by using a grid.

Freehand: Personally I prefer to do most of the drawing freehand but often make a feint line across both my reference and support, dividing them both into quarters. This is helpful in checking whether the subject’s head is slightly tilted and gives a rough guide where to place the main shapes and to check the proportions and angles.

Grid: Many find a more exacting grid method useful. Stanley Spencer used grids extensively. If you wish to try this find a piece of acetate and make a grid of 1 inch squares. Lay this across your reference and make a corresponding grid of larger squares on the support (two inch squares for two times reference dimensions), remembering to work out the margins if the proportions of the support are not exactly the same as the reference. You can then transfer the drawing square by square from the reference. While accurate, this can result in a stiffer drawing so ensure you preserve the flow of the forms as they relate to each other.

Just draw the main lines and shapes including eyes, mouth, nostrils, nose and ear positions as well as the main head and shoulders shapes.  At this point you can decide whether to start your painting by blocking in the main shapes or by making a tonal under drawing or painting.  I may decide to start an acrylic painting by making a tonal drawing in charcoal, fixing this and laying a thin layer of transparent paint, perhaps burnt sienna or a more neutral colour thinned with water and a little slow drying medium and wiping out the highlights with a rag. 

Blocking in:

In Pastel: A good way to start is to draw the main shapes and then to start lightly blocking in tones and colour with broad side strokes, broadly working from dark to light but often also marking the lightest and brightest areas early on.

In Acrylic Paint: Perhaps tint the surface as described earlier and mark out the main shapes of the composition broadly with a brush. Then start to paint in the main areas of tone.  I like to build up fairly tonally. This is a personal preference but within that I may like to indicate cooler and warmer areas, so it will not be a totally monochrome under painting.  No detail will be painted but I will establish the darkest, palest, and then with colour perhaps some of the most colourful areas and the background so that I have some key areas established. 

Flesh colours

Most flesh colour mixes have a brown as their base which is modified with other primary colours. other colours.  For fair skin this is often a burnt Sienna.  For middle complexions this may be a burnt umber and for dark complexions raw umber.  All of these can be modified with reds, yellows and for shadow areas blue. Some of you will have already experimented with the Zorn palette which makes successful flesh colours mainly because black and red will produce good browns.  A reminder of some of the colours possible with this palette is below. 

Try mixing your brown pigments with reds, yellows, white to make flesh colours and see what happens when you add a little blue or a little viridian.

Also note the difference between using a cool red like carmine or crimson alizarin or a more orange red such as vermilion or cadmium red pale in the mixes.

The flesh tones can be built up with opaque or transparent paint using darker and cooler shades for the shadow areas and pale opaque paint for the palest areas.  See if any areas are picking up colours reflected from clothes or from the background and include these. 

Practical

1.Thumbnail sketches  as indicated earlier; exploring composition, tone and colour.

2. Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting it would be good to have the composition worked out on the support; as a drawing for watercolour; or a charcoal under-drawing for pastel quite heavily fixed so that the colour can be worked over the drawing.  In the case of a young person the pastel drawing should not be too dark.

If working in acrylic you may prefer to make a tonal under-painting or block in the main areas of colour, or make a tonal under-drawing, fix it and wash with a thin layer of very transparent paint. The paint layer will seal the charcoal and prevent it from lifting.

I hope to demonstrate some colour mixes and applying the first layers of paint. So the review session will be short. 

Illustrations will be added to this post during the week.

Your work:

This week is a mix of finished and preparatory work;

Jean
Tonal acrylic under painting (unfinished) by Malcolm
Exploratory Drawings by Ann
Watercolour by Ann
Drawing and watercolour studies by Heather
Tone and colour studies by Liz
Thumbnail drawings by John
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Thumbnails by Elizabeth
Tonal study by Maryon
Drawing transferred from preparatory drawing by gridding
by Maryon
Drawing ready for colour by Shane
Watercolour by Sarah

The Power of Colour 6: Red and Green

February 9, 2021

Hard and soft edges; colours allowed to mix on the paper; Vermilion, Alizarin Crimson, Sap Green, Phthalocyanine Green

This week I just took a little time exploring how two reds, one closely related to orange, Vermilion and the other Alizarin Crimson, closer to purple, mixed and related to two very different greens, Sap Green which is much more yellow that Phthalocyanine Green which leans toward blue.

This is the same watercolour with swatches of the four different pigments superimposed.
Middle has Sap green and Crimson Alizarin squares.
Right has Phthalo Green and Vermilion squares.
Look at how differences in tone and differences in hue determine how bright or dull each square appears in its surroundings. See how the top left red square in the middle image almost disappears and how bright the pure vermilion in the image looks against a complementary dark green and also against a very dark tone in the image on the right. Even the top left Vermilion square looks subdued against reds that are more like it with regard to hue and tone.
The Scarf Mix 1
Sadly where the spots were painted against their complementary colour, even though these were very de-saturated (impure), a black line appeared where some of the paint mixed. However this dark line does make the spots glow!
The Scarf Mix 2 with Collaged Spots
The dark line of the first scarf image was eliminated by digitally collaging spots of the same pure colour with no outline. There is still a slight optical illusion of a dark edge, especially on the Phthalo Green spot on the impure Crimson Alizarin mix, due to after images making the edge “vibrate”.
Look at how all these spots glow from their de-saturated surroundings and
how much brighter they appear than the same dots of colour on the white ground to the left.
Each Quadrant of the scarf was painted with only two colours.
The left pair share Vermilion
The right pair share Crimson Alizarin
I was not surprised by the darks or brownish colours but really enjoyed the near purple colours achieved with Phthalo Green and Crimson Alizarin

You may have different greens and reds in your paint box. Take some time to discover how near to orange or purple s each red is and how near to yellow or blue each green is.

Viridian, Phthalocyanine Green, Cobalt green and Prussian Green are all examples of greens nearer to blue. Sap Green is a more yellow green and Hooker’s Green is much bluer than Sap Green but more yellow than Phthalo Green.

Vermilion, and Cadmium Red Pale are much nearer to orange than Crimson Alizarin, Quinacridone Rose and Magenta and you may have other reds which are somewhere between the two.

Before homing in on the green and red pigments you choose for your painting subjects this week find which combinations will be best suited by experimenting a little.

Have a look at this week’s Pinterest board at

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/red-and-green/

In each example make a note of how the red and green pigments are being employed and how they interact. Observe how red looks when surrounded by dark, pale tones, by similar hues and by complementary colours both pale greens, dark greens, yellow greens and bluer greens.

Practical

Choose only two from the following list and make two paintings incorporating one in each. That doesn’t mean to say the other items won’t be present but I would like you to have one main theme for each painting, just as a story may involve one main character and a couple of supporting roles. Don’t feel you have to do two paintings. One well thought out composition is really worthwhile.

  1. A bright red line winding a bright way through a green and a very close blue green of similar tone
  2. A painting with very equal amounts of red and green
  3. A painting that is almost all green with a tiny flash of red or a painting with a large area of red with a little green.
  4. A painting where the colours adjacent to each other are just slightly different but span the range between red and green. This should involve a lot of mixing either wet in wet or on the palette/overlaying colours.
  5. A painting with huge tonal differences.

You may use white pure in areas and in mixes, and your paintings may be representational or abstract. The medium is up to you. Try to make dark tones by mixing the appropriate reds and greens and use black only if essential.

Think very carefully about how many greens you wish/need to work with and how many reds. The illustrations will give you some idea of the scope of using only four pigments but you may wish to explore lots of greens in a painting and only one red for instance. Try to have a reason for your choices.

After a while it becomes intuitive to just go for the “right” colour knowing how it will appear on its own and in mixes, and you will definitely begin to enjoy using some pigments more than others. I firmly believe that individual colour choices and combinations form as much of the identity of an artist as the shapes and lines he produces. (“he” being used in the universal mankind sense here.) Think this has already been born out in the last few weeks by those who prefer orange and blue to yellow and violet and vice versa!

Your paintings;

Inspired by a Chihuly installation at Kew Gardens
Watercolour and oil pastel by Liz
Red and Green
Watercolour by Liz
Brilliant Red, Alizarin, Sap Green, Winsor Green
Grand- daughter
Oil pastel and watercolour by Maricarmen
Red Line
Watercolour and collage by Maryon
The colours used throughout Maryon’s works are;
Sap Green, Phthalo Green, Viridian, Madder Red Deep
and oil pastel in green and white.
Lady in a Turban
Collage and watercolour by Maryon
Watermelon
Watercolour and oil pastel by Maryon
Inspired by Cathelin Poster for EXPO 90
Heather exchanged black areas for red
Acrylic
Viridian, Sap and Light green plus Deep Red and Vermilion.
Watercolour by Heather
Greens used are;
Viridian, Sap Green and Hookers Green
Red Dragonfly by Heather
Watercolour and pastel
Alizarin crimson, Scarlet and Vermilion on the dragon fly. Pencil for the wings.
Red Line
Collage and watercolour by Shirley
Reflections
Collage and watercolour by Shirley
Dahlia
Watercolour by Jan
Permanent Red, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose
Sap Green, Hookers Green, Perylene Green
Red Tree
Watercolour by Jan
Permanent Red, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose
Sap Green, Hookers Green, Perylene Green
Red and Green
Watercolour by Ann
After Alexej von Jawlensky; Schokko in a Red Hat
Acrylic by Barbara
Scarlet, Cadmium Red
Viridian, Leaf Green, Medium Green
Snowdonia
Watercolour by Sarah
Hookers Green, Sap Green, Crimson, Vermilion
Hydrangeas
Watercolour by Sarah
Crimson, Vermilion, Hookers Green, Sap Green, Viridian, White
After Kees van Dongen
by John
Viridian, Sap Green, Cadmium Red
Snake in the Grass
Acrylic by Malcolm
The light background is a total undercoat of clear varnish with a touch of Phthalo Green in producing a nice turquoise.
Colours used were;
Phthalo Green (G7) and Sap Green (B15.3, Y74),
Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Scarlet, Magenta

The Power of Colour 5: Red

February 3, 2021

Red Spot
Watercolour

Red demands our attention even in the smallest quantities. The tiniest area of pure red can form a focal point as in the painting of the blue rug above. It’s like an itch that cannot be ignored.

I will Protect You!
Oil pastel
This work references a medieval sgraffito wedding plate found in Cyprus and now in the Ashmolean Museum.
Only one dark red pastel is used over a base of well rubbed in pale orange-yellow which was revealed when the red was drawn into.

Where blue may be sad or holy, red is fiery, passionate, romantic, celebratory. Blue is recession or depression, red leads the cavalry to advance. We need both the calm of blue and the jollity of red for a balanced colour diet.

Look at the way red is used in the works on this week’s Pinterest board at:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/red/

Look at the red dot in Matisse’s cut out “Icarus”. See how different reds interact in the abstracts by Rothko and Patrick Heron. Explore how Bernard Cathelin manipulates red in still life, portrait and studies of groups of figures.

This week for all the studies you may use any red pigment alone or in combination with other reds. You may use Magenta, Quinacridone Rose, Alizarin as well as the warmer reds cadmium Red Pale, Scarlet and Vermilion. It would be useful for these studies to have one cool red(nearer to purple) and one warm red(nearer to orange).

One way to understand your reds is to test each one by discovering how it appears surrounded by black , white or a different red. Make a note of which appear to advance or whether the same red appears different against different surrounding hues. After that try at least one of the following red/reds to make a composition. You may use back and white, mixed with the reds or as areas of white and black. These paintings may be abstract or representational, hard or soft edged.

1. Make a painting using one or more red pigments, black and white. This may be hard or soft edged, abstract or representational.

2. Make a painting with red as in 1. but a small amount of a related hue may be used, but only one; either a reddish orange or a reddish mauve but not both.

3. Make a painting with any colour but include one small area of red as a focus.

Trophies
This painting references a composite wooden statue from Nigeria drawn at the British Museum. The red background is a monoprint of black and red mixes drawn over the top with acrylic inks. Only black, red and white is used.

Your paintings;


Lady in Red by Barbara
Inspired by the portrait of Anita Berber by Otto Dix
Anemones in a Jug
Watercolour by Maricarmen
After a painting by Jill Leman RAWCA
Flowers in a Dark Pot
Oil pastel my Maricarmen
Exploring Red with Miro
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Exploring Reds with other Colours with help from Terry Frost
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Exploring Red Black and White
watercolour by Maryon
Honesty and Hawthorn
India Ink and watercolour by Maryon
The red is Madder Lake
Variation on a 60’s Textile Design
Watercolour by Maryon
Quinacridone rose, Vermillion, Black
White mixed with the reds
The Red Earring
Watercolour by Maryon
The earring is Vermillion and the skin tones
are mixes of black and vermillion.
Still Life after Bernard Cathelin
Watercolour by John
Mainly cadmium Red and Black
Bowl of Cherries
Watercolour by John
Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Black, little Ultramarine
Geisha
Acrylic by Heather
Scarlet, Deep Red, Rose, Black and White.
Cape Verde Memory
Heather’s watercolour version of an African print
Vermillion, Alizarin Crimson, Black and Orange plus Black oil pastel and a touch of Yellow oil pastel
Red mixes; reds with black and white; black and red resist with oil pastel and watercolour
by Shirley
Attic Window Design
Watercolour and Oil Pastel by Shirley
Welsh National Costume
A red for every cloak
Watercolour by Shirley
Same Red different Blues
Watercolour by Shirley
Red Desert
Watercolour and oil pastel by Jan
Poinsettia
Watercolour by Jan
Dahlia
Watercolour and oil pastel by Jan
Four Reds: after a collage by Geoffrey Pimlott
Acrylic by Malcolm
My reds are Naphthol R9 (lightest); Cad Red Medium R108 (middling); Permanent Alizarin R175+R122 (darkest, used mass tone only); Quin Magenta R122. Black is Carbon Bk7.
Fishing Boats at Hastings after John Blockley
Acrylic by Malcolm
Transparent Perinone Orange O73, a reddish orange tints the pink undercoat visible in places. Reds are Naphthol and Cadmium Red Medium; both mixed with black for the browns.
Red Flowers
Watercolour by Liz
Abstract after Wharhol
Red and black watercolour with
red oil pastel resist by Liz
After Liotard’s Pastel of the Maid serving Chocolate
Watercolour and pastel by Liz
Ballet Shoes
Watercolour by Ann
Bowie
Watercolour by Ann
Rose
Watercolour by sarah
Crimson, Vermillion, Black
and a little oil pastel resist
Red Trees
Watercolour by Sarah
Crimson, Vermillion, Rose Madder, Black
Chrysanthemums
Watercolour by Sarah
Crimson, Vermillion, White, Black
with Cerulean, Ultramarine and Sap Green
This painting will lead us very nicely into thinking about the project for next week.

The Power of Colour 4: Yellow and Purple

January 26, 2021

Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Dioxazine Purple

This week we have high drama purple and yellow.  It’s in some ways very like the blue orange challenge, although to my mind not as easy.  Yellow and purple together always brings to mind mauve and yellow crocuses and Iris.  I didn’t find quite so many references so perhaps I’m not the only one to find this challenging.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/yellow-and-purple/

All the same principles apply as for the orange blue complementary pair, and it’s worth trying to mix a few yellows with one purple colour to find out what you can make with this limited palette.  Again purple will very quickly denature any yellow much in the same way that blue does the same with orange, so always add a small amount of purple to the yellow to make your mixes, unless you just want to add a small amount of yellow to a very strong pigment like Dioxazine Purple, just to take the edge off its rather harsh colour. 

Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Dioxazine Purple

A few notes on other pigments and the use of pastel are included in the Challenges for this week: section nearer the end.

Unlike red and blue and especially when working with oil or acrylic, yellow can be used to make a deep colour paler while at the same time lessening its saturation (purity). That is why a little yellow with Dioxazine will lessen its vivid colour. This does not work where reds and blues are opaque paints that already contain a lot of white; especially gouache and acrylic paints (some pink and pale bluecolours).

Charging

A useful watercolour technique is charging.  Make a small square of yellow wash, about 3inches square and drop a strong purple into it while it is wet.  This technique is called charging.  Very often the colours mingle rather than mix, but the results can be stunning.  Then try dropping yellow into a purple wash.

Cadmium Yellow Pale charged with Dioxazine Purple
Dioxazine Purple charged with Cadmium Yellow Pale

I repeated this with a stronger purple wash; the results are subtle but would be wonderful for a ceramic vase.

Stronger wash of Dioxazine Purple charged with Cadmium Yellow Pale
Sunflowers
Yellow with analogous colours and Black
Study from previous post with black added
Colours: Cadmium Yellow pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Orange, touch of Cerulean Blue for yellow green leaves, Ivory Black
Sunflowers
Colours as previous image plus Dioxazine Purple
Used at full strength Dioxazine purple is extremely dark.

Challenges for this week:

Spend most of the time on 3. and/or 4.

1. Yellow and Purple mixes;

I suggest you stick to one purple, Dioxazine (also called Winsor Violet) would be a good choice being a strong pigment that will give you plenty of tonal contrast and see how it mixes with the yellows in your box. Just remember it is very strong, transparent and staining.

A gentler option would be any other mauve or violet.

If you have a pale opaque violet like the rather expensive Cobalt Violet your yellow mixes will be much more subtle but you will not be able to make dark tones with yellow. It is certainly worth experimenting with as it is a beautiful pigment for delicate colour washes but will not give you any strong tones.

Purple is one of the more difficult colours to mix but a magenta added to an ultramarine should give a good purple. Mix a large amount if you wish to have a consistent colour mix for a painting.

You may also wish to use either pastel or oil pastel which would be great as a wax resist with watercolour.

If you are using acrylic Dioxazine Purple is the strongest. There are other purple pigments which are often mixed with white so you would automatically reduce the transparency of your colour by mixing with transparent yellows. All are useful but please be aware that the results will be different.

2. Charging

If working with watercolour try the charging technique as outlined above. Note any difference in the behaviour of your pigments. Try charging purple into yellow and yellow into purple.

3.  Make a composition using only yellows, one purple and white if required. 

4. Make a second painting using yellows, one purple, white, black and a small amount of colour analogous to purple e.g. a purplish blue like ultramarine. 

The painting should appear mainly yellow purple and mixes of these two.  Use black with caution but do try using a pure black and very strong purple beside each other or for a very rich dark area try laying strokes of purple over a dry black wash.  A strong transparent purple like Dioxazine is necessary for this.

If you use Payne’s Grey instead of black also be aware that this paint is a mixed pigment that contains black so will tend to desaturate/muddy colours in the same way that black does. Very often the added hues are blue and/or purple pigments. My personal choice is to use a Payne’s Grey Blue Shade as the alternatives are generally very dull.

If time is limited, choose to do either 3. or 4.

Do first look at the Matisse painting of a woman in a purple and yellow jacket and the Dufy work of a view through a window in Nice.  It would also be well worth looking at the contemporary artist David Tress who works mainly with land and city scapes. If you can, choose to work from your imagination or your own reference, otherwise make your version of one of the paintings referenced.

Your Paintings:

The Scream in Yellow and Purple after Munch
by Barbara
Colour mixes and Charging
by Maryon
Stain Glass Window Design inspired by Art Nouveau
Watercolour by Maryon
Iris
Watercolour by Maryon
White and Purple Flowers
Watercolour by Maryon
Detail of a Watercolour by Heather
Yellow flowers charged with Quinacridone Purple
Muffins by Heather
Watercolour: Yellow and Quinacridone Purple
After Matisse: Exchanging Yellow for Purple
by Heather
Colour Mixing Cups by Ann
Violet, Cobalt Violet, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
Free Flowers
watercolour by Ann
Violet, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
Changing Colours: after Kees van Dongen
Watercolour by Ann
Yellow, purple, black, white, with touches of analogous colours
The reference is van Dongen’s portrait of Alicia Alanova which along with works of Chagall and other famous artists was stolen from the collection of an elderly couple in Los Angeles and reported in the Telegraph Newspaper 10th September 2008
Woodland Path by Ann
Violet, Lemon Yellow Cadmium Yellow
Yellow and Purple Landscape 1
Acrylic with glazing by Malcolm
Several yellows: Diarylamide Y83 (Rowney Cad deep hue), Cad Medium Y37, Arylide Y73 (Galeria Cad med hue), Arylide Y74 (Transparent) and a Lemon.
The glaze is Ultramarine Violet V15, which gives a greenish result on Lemon but on others brown. The shade depends on the strength of glaze.
Yellow and Purple Landscape 2
Acrylic by Malcolm
Accomplished with direct brush strokes and no glazing.
Dioxazine purple, White and Yellows: Diarylamide Y83 (Rowney Cad deep hue), Cad Medium Y37, Arylide Y73 (Galeria Cad med hue), Arylide Y74 (Transparent) and a Lemon.
Kimmeridge Sunset
Acrylic by Malcolm
Colour mixes by Shirley
Includes a Chrome Yellow which Turner included in his palette almost as soon as it was in production
Flowers of different purple mixes
Watercolor by Shirley
A Cornish Seascape
Watercolour by Shirley
Mixes of yellows and purple to make muted colours
Abstract in Yellow, Purple and Black
Watercolour by Shirley
On white paper (white in the image) and no colour mixing
Wet in Wet Colour mixes
by Jan
Top; Cadmium Yellow and Dioxazine Purple
Lower: Lemon Yellow and Dioxazine Purple
Watercolour Mixes by Jan
Cadmium Yellow, lemon yellow,
Dioxazine Purple plus Ultramarine
Daffodils and Anemones 1
Watercolour by Jan
Daffodils and Anemones 2
Oil pastel and Watercolour by Jan
Inspired by Batik Fabric
Watercolour by Liz
New York after Colin Rufell
Watercolour by liz
Pastel after Hopper
By Liz
The Mask
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Irises
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Irises (detail)
Watercolour by Maricarmen
After Turner
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Wisteria Gate
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Y,ellow, Violet and White
Irises
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Violet,
plus Ultramarine, Cerulean, Sap Green and White
After Penelope Crowley
Watercolour by John
SAA intense violet, cadmium yellow, Indian yellow and a touch of ultramarine

Plums in a Basket
Watercolour by John
Cobalt Yellow, Indian Yellow, Intense Violet, Cobalt Violet, touch of White

The power of colour 3: Yellow

January 19, 2021

Yellows only Watercolour
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow deep and Indian Yellow

Yellow, the sunshine colour; just what we could do with today!  Opposite purple on the simple colour wheel this is the colour intrinsically pale in tone, even the yellows that are nearer to orange are pale in their most saturated form.

Yellow paints in your box may range from the very pale lemony yellows nearest to green;

Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light

To the middle yellows;

Cadmium Yellow Medium, Chromium Yellow Light

And yellows that are almost orange;

Turner’s Yellow, Chromium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow

You can do any of the suggested projects below with one pale or lemony yellow and one that is nearer to orange or at least in the middle range of yellows.

Have a look at the Pinterest board to see how other artists have worked with yellow as the principal colour in a composition. 

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/yellow/

Then try any two of the following (more if it’s pouring with rain outside).

1. Try making an abstract or representational painting, using any pure yellows.  If you need to because you are using an opaque medium like pastel or gouache you may use white. 

Do not use earth yellows such as the ochres.  These are already de-saturated colours.  By mixing yellow with black, or as we shall see next week with purple, you should be able to mix your own approximations to these.

2. Find how the yellows in your box mix with black and make a hard edged composition with at least some pure black areas, some pure white/white of the paper areas, and blocks of pure yellow and yellow mixed with black or white.  This may be representational or abstract.

Hard Edged Shapes in Watercolour
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow, Black
Note how the deep orange mixes, two middle columns make warm brown mixes with black but the pale lemony yellows make greenish mixes.
Hard Edged Shapes in Watercolour as above with Black background
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow, Black
Note how the deep orange mixes, two middle columns make warm brown mixes with black but the pale lemony yellows make greenish mixes.
Watercolour with Soft and hard edges
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow deep and Indian Yellow and Black
Yellows were dropped on to the paper wet in wet. A swirl of black was run through the still wet wash with a rigger brush. The handle end of the brush was use to make curved lines into the wash while it was still damp and paint settled into the indented grooves and allowed to dry. Guided by some of these lines, opaque white, yellow and mixes of black and yellow were applied in a rather decorative manner. If you enjoy doodling and working intuitively, this is the exercise for you!

3.Make a painting with hard and soft edges with any mixes of yellow, black and white, abstract or representational.  For textures as in the Sargent portrait you may consider using pastel instead of a wet medium.

Yellow Watercolour with Analogous Colours (unfinished)
The same pigments were used for the yellows, plus black and a hint of vermilion was added to some of the yellow for the orange vase and a hint of cerulean was added to lemon yello for the yellow green colour.

4. Make a painting using the same colours as in 3 but you may add touches of closely related colours like a reddish orange or a yellowy green.

With your paintings try to find ways of sorting out major tonal areas. The dark and unsaturated colours will be the perfect foil to pure or almost pure colours.  Be very aware of when you are using pure colour and when you are using de-saturated colour.  Look at how pure colours seem to stand out from duller unsaturated colours demanding attention.

Your paintings;

The Laburnham Arch, Bodnant Gardens
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Indian yellow, Black, White
Winter Hellebore
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, Indian Yellow, Black
Touch of Ultramarine for yellow green colours
After Turner
Watercolour by Maricarmen 15 x 12 cm
Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium yellow, Indian Yellow, Payne’s Grey
After Gwen John
Watercolour by Maricarmen 10 x 15cm
Cadmium lemon, Indian Yellow, Payne’s Grey
(and a touch of violet in the shadows)
After Craigie Aitchison
Gouache by Maricarmen 19 x 26cm
Two Yellows, Payne’s Grey and White
Yellow and Black
Study in watercolour by Maryon
Yellow Pepper
Watercolour by Maryon
Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Naples Yellow
Gouache by Maryon
Yellow and Black
Yellow Study
Watercolour by Ann
Canadian Birches by Ann
Waterolour in Yellows and Black
Tulips
Watercolour by Ann
Analogous colours plus Black
Yellow Still Life
Watercolour by Heather
Study in Yellow and Black
Watercolour by Heather
After Diane Leonard
Watercolour and gouache by Heather
Colour mixes by Shirley
Yellows and Black
Watercolour by Shirley
Luminous Abstract
Watercolour by Shirley
Watercolour mixes by Jan
Tree inspired by Mondrian
Watercolour by Jan
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Indian Yellow, Black
After Goya; Black Painting
Watercolour by Jan
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Indian Yellow, Black
Still Life
Watercolour by Jan
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Hue, indian Yellow, Black
and a little red
Watercolour by Liz
Yellow Medium, Yellow Deep, Indian yellow and Black
After Hopper: Empty Room
watercolour by Liz
Yellow Poppies
Watercolour and Gouache by Liz
Pattern
Digital image by Malcolm
Background deep yellow, fill medium yellow
Disconnection
Digital image by Malcolm
As previous image but with white line
Shape
Digital image by Malcolm
As previous image but with black line
Blur
Digital image by Malcolm
As previous image but with Lemon Yellow line
Just another Stone in the Wall
Acrylic by Malcolm
Arylide yellow and Carbon Black
Please note; yellow and black make green
Colour mixes yellow and black watercolour
by John
Note the lemon yellows make green with black and the deeper yellows that are nearer to orange make brown.
Tea Ceremony, Kyoto
Watercolour by John
Note the attention demanding power of the small areas of red in this mainly yellow and black painting
Yellows
Watercolour by Barbara
Pale lemon Yellow wash with more Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Hue
Yellow and Black
by Barbara
Previous image was photocopied and black watercolour and marker pen lines added.
Tulips in Black and Yellow
Watercolour by Barbara

The Power of Colour 2: Blue and Orange

January 12, 2021

Alien: Gouache and Watercolour

Orange and Blue is a very versatile colour combination producing vivid contrasts and yet in mixes some lovely muted colours and greys can be made. In theory you should be able to mix a neutral grey if the orange and blue are mixed in the right proportions. Try this with an ultramarine and a cadmium orange. The exercise below used gouache pigments but could be done with watercolour or acrylic.

Somewhere in the middle is a neutral grey but so dark it is difficult to distinguish the colour.

Try adding a titanium white to one of the darkest mixes. That will soon reveal whether the mix has a blue or an orange bias. See below.

In this case the dark mix selected clearly had a blue bias.

Last week we saw how different hues looked when the same hue was surrounded by hues that were different in tone and saturation. This week we are throwing a much greater colour difference into the mix and the effects of pale and dark borders. The following were constructed digitally but the same principles apply when you are painting.

All the blue circles here and in the illustration below are the same in hue and tone. There are no outlines to any of the above circles but you may see the illusion of one in three of the circles. The blue on black appears to glow and the circle on white appears smaller.
When black was added to the green so that it was a little darker in tone than the blue the blue began to glow/float in the square, just as it does on the black square. Again there is an illusion of the outer edges of the circles appearing darker except on the black square.

Outlines matter: the arrangement of colour is identical in the three illustrations below, they differ only in that the first group have no outline, the second group a black outline and the third group a white otline to the cross shapes.

No outline: top row all blue is the same hue and tone
Lower row middle two blues are the same hue and tone
Think about how the difference in appearance of the top two left squares has been achieved.
Black outline;top row all blue is the same hue and tone
Lower row middle two blues are the same hue and tone
Generally the black outline prevents colour from appearing to spread. Think about why some of the black boundaries seem to disappear and why the colours of stained glass appear so rich.
White outline;top row all blue is the same hue and tone
Lower row middle two blues are the same hue and tone
Think about why a white outline can almost always be noticed.

References for this week can be found on the Power of Colour Pinterest board at:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/blue-and-orange/

The first challenge is to create two or three small studies that show how blue and orange can relate to each other, much as we did for the different blue hues. This time I would like to see both studies use similar shapes; these can be organic or more geometric. The colours should be distinct and either have no border, a black border or a white border. Use only one blue and a premixed orange e.g. cadmium orange or a similar bright orange.

Some people really enjoy making these studies/little abstract paintings. If you do, you may like to spend all your time on this. If not just spend a short time mixing colours; especially noticing any differences between mixing the complementary colours together, and mixing each complementary with white or black before spending most of your time on a painting; see notes below the study notes..

First Study; work with your chosen blue and orange as the brightest blocks of colour you can make. Include white as pure white and black as pure black and include shapes with and without outlines.

Second Study: In the second study try including some desaturated colour by mixing your blue with the orange. You may use white but not black.

(if time)Third Study: This time you may still use only one orange and one blue but do not mix them with each other, just use white or black to de-saturate the colours. You may choose whether to include any areas of pure blue and pure orange or you may choose to work with either very pale or very dark colour mixes.

Medium: You may use any medium for this; collage would work brilliantly perhaps inspired by works by Patrick Heron or Josef Albers. An opaque medium like gouache would also work well. This can also be done with watercolour, pastel or acrylic. These studies can be quite small and contain only about eight shapes, certainly not more than about twelve. If you decide to work in collage; paint some pieces of cartridge paper and cut or tare them to make your shapes. White paper can be your pure white and if you have any black paper that can be your black.

Painting; after the studies spend some time looking at the Pinterest Board again and make your own composition using any of your blue pigments, black and white but use only one premixed orange. Mix these however you like. An opaque orange like Cadmium Orange would be ideal but any bright orange will do.

Note how black lines can separate areas of colour, containing them as in a stained glass window. We often prepare to paint by drawing with lines that separate areas we may later choose to fill with colour. These lines usually represent edges of what we can see. Very often we obliterate these lines during the course of painting so that one colour lies directly against its neighbouring colour with no dividing line. See how in some works the artist uses line, sometimes to separate blocks of colour and/or to define the edges of objects within an area of colour as in the blue and gold interior painted by Matisse referenced on the Pinterest board for this week.

When looking at paintings look for works that use line and those that represent forms with no line which is much more as we see them.

Look at how Modigliani sometimes used a pale blue for eyes in a rather orange face. You might consider working from a black and white portrait photo. In landscape paintings blues tend to recede and the orange and red colours seem to advance. Whether you produce an abstract or a representational piece think about edges and enjoy the colour!

Your Paintings;

Collage by Maryon
Still Life after Mondrian
Pastel and Collage by Maryon
Flowers 1
Gouache by Maricarmen
Flowers 2
Gouache by Maricarmen
Studies in Blue and Orange by Heather
Seascape in Blue and Orange
Watercolour by Heather
Oranges by Heather
After Modigliani by Heather
After Modigliani by Ann
After Modigliani by Ann
After Matisse by Ann
Studies in Blue and Orange by Liz
Gouache and collage
Gnarled Trunk by Liz
Gouache and Ink
Tree at Pinkneys Green by Jan
Ultramarine and Orange watercolour with Titanium White
Liverpool by Jan
Ultramarine Blue and Orange watercolour
Orange added to last week’s Blue study
Watercolour by Barbara
Collage by Barbara
Orange Nude, inspired by Matisse
Acrylic by Barbara
Orange and Cerulean
Colour mixes with Blue and Orange by Shirley
Canyon
Watercolour by Shirley
Shirley added to last week’s study; watercolour and collage
After Matisse by John
Loggos at Night, Paxos
Watercolour by Sarah
Indigo, Ultramarine, Orange, Black, White
Oranges by Sarah: mixed media
Watercolour, India Ink, Pastel
Blue and Orange Fort, Temple, Palace?: Imagined
Watercolour by Sarah
Montagues and Capulets
or Floating Cerulean Rectangle
Just for once the reds lose out!
Acrylic by Malcolm

The Power of Colour: 1. Blue

January 5, 2021

Enigma: Gouache on blue paper

For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at primary colours used on their own and their use with each of their complementary colours. Primary colours will also be used with closely related hues to make harmonious compositions.

We’ll also explore some of the effects of colours on each other, after all colour can seriously affect your eyes or at the least deceive them a little!

Images and after images

Look at the appearance of the four blue squares on the right and middle columns above. Do they look different? What happens at their edges?
Then: stare at each of the squares in turn for about a minute then look at the blank space below before going on to the next one. What do you see?

For even more spectacular after images stare at the colour wheel below and then at a white space. these after images and illusions are with us all the time we are seeing.

To start with, here are a few basic definitions that are relevant to the course.: please skip if you are already up to speed with this!

Hue: a pure colour of a certain wavelength in the visible light spectrum.

Colour wheel; this should be a circle with a continuum of all the different hues in the visible spectrum.  In practical terms this has been reduced to a beach ball of just six colours which represent six major groups of colour as used for painting; firstly, the three primary colours; red, yellow, and blue called primaries because they cannot be mixed from other colours; secondly, the three secondary colours orange, green and purple which can be mixed from the primary colours and which lie in between the colours they are mixed from on the colour wheel. Scientists and artists have invented a huge number of colour wheels, some of which include many more colours and also tints and shades at different levels within the circle.

Analogous colours; colours close in hue and next to each other on the colour wheel. the colour wheel. e.g. red and a reddish purple

Saturation : the purity of the colour, which is occasionally and I think confusingly, called intensity.  To de-saturate a colour mix the pure hue (fully saturated colour), with its complementary colour, or black or white.  The saturation of some colours is altered radically by even the smallest amounts of these; for example yellow is very rapidly changed by the addition of the smallest amounts of purple or black.

Tone: how light or dark a colour appears.  Every pure hue has an intrinsic tone.  A pure yellow for instance is always paler than a pure red.  The additionof black, both de-saturates a hue and lowers or darkens its tone.  Colours darkened in this way are usually called shades. The addition of a complementary colour also lowers its tone.

The addition of white to a hue lightens it and is said to raise its tone to make tints.

The definition of tints and shades is not always consistent as pastels are often labelled as e.g. tints 1 to 6 where usually a stick labelled tint 1 or 0 is the palest and is the pure colour plus white, and a stick labelled tint 6 is the darkest of that colour made up of the pure hue plus black.

Polyphony the Cat:
Black ink and watercolour

This week’s colour is blue. Often the colour of melancholy and depression as in Picasso’s blue period portraits, I didn’t choose blue first because of Covid creating so much depression this New Year. No, I chose it first because it’s also the colour of sunny skies and Mediterranean waters, and because as you will see next week blue is great to combine with its complementary orange.

  The blue pigments I have used for the exercises are

French Ultramarine (warm),

Cobalt Blue (warm)

Phthalo Blue, green shade or Prussian blue (cold)

Cerulean Blue(cold)

It’s useful to have at least one warm and one cool blue to work with.  If I had only two I would probably favour Ultramarine and Cerulean, but the richness of cobalt and the dark tones that can be produced with Phthalo or Prussian Blues are very useful additions.

For this week you will also need a black and white, and perhaps a couple of analogous colours a blueish purple and a blueish green or turquoise.

Used at full strength pure cobalt and pure cerulean are not as dark in tone as Ultramarine or Phthalo Blue and the darkest is Prussian blue.  Phthalo Blue, Prussian blue and Ultramarine are generally more transparent than Cerulean and cobalt blue.

What does this mean in practice?

Transparency only applies to watercolour, oil and acrylic paints as if you are using gouache or pastel you are effectively working with an inherently opaque medium.  Transparent colours deepen the more layers of colour that are added.  Opaque colours laid down at full strength do not become darker when further layers are added.  Very often it is difficult unless you know their position to identify the transparent colours of watercolour pans in a box because they all appear so dark whereas the more opaque colours give away their identity on sight; e.g, cadmium red, cadmium orange etc.

Exercises; I have chosen watercolour for this week but most could be done with pastel, acrylic or gouache.  I hope to provide some pastel examples later in the week. The illustrations are only to give you ideas of ways to explore the blue pigments in your own boxes,

1. Tone and saturation

Take a blue pigment and try 1. diluting with water, 2. mixing with increasing amounts of white, 3. mixing with black and adding increasing amounts of white, and 4. compare with black to which increasing amounts of white are added.

Try this for a warm blue like Ultramarine and a cool blue like Cerulean or Phthalo Blue. Adding water or white will make tints and adding black will darken the colour and de-saturate the blue. Adding white to this mix will produce blueish greys.

Ultramarine
Column 1: diluted with water to give tints
Column 2: permanent white added to give opaque tints
Column 3: mixed with black then white added to give blueish greys
Column 4: black with white added for comparison
Phthalo Blue Green Shade
Column 1: diluted with water to give tints
Column 2: permanent white added to give opaque tints
Column 3: mixed with black then white added to give blueish greys
Column 4: black with white added for comparison

2. Optical properties

Dark and light surrounds, disappearing boundaries; very closely related hues of the same tone.

Make a study where similar shapes of one hue are surrounded by white, a much darker hue or by a closely related hue of the same tone. An example is given below.

The same but appearing different, floating colours and subdued boundaries: describe what you see not what you think you should be seeing!

You may choose to do 3 or 4 below;

3. Make a painting/study using just blue pigments

White Boat: watercolour on white paper with lifting out
Colours used; Ultramarine, Cerulean, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue Green Shade
Blue and Analogous colours: Watercolour
Cerulean, Cobalt, Ultramarine and Prussian Blue with
Winsor Green Blue Shade and Winsor Violet

4. Make a painting or study using blue pigments, and black. You may also use white and a couple of analogous colours like a blueish green and/or a blueish purple. The general effect should be that you are making a predominantly blue and harmonious painting.

3 and 4 may be your own composition or your version of a famous painting where the predominant colour is blue.

Think about;

What conditions make a blue advance, float, or recede?

With regard to tone and hue how does a background colour affect how a blue hue appears?

Pinterest board for reference.

The link for this week’s board is:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/blue/

which includes abstract works by Patrick Heron, Marc Rothko, Josef Albers, Kandinsky and Matisse alongside works from Picasso’s blue period.

Your paintings:

Watercolour by Sarah
Using only blue pigments
Blue Hyacinths by Sarah
Watercolour: Blue pigments only
Blue Hyacinths: Watercolour by Sarah
Blue with a little Violet
Martinshaven, Pembrokeshire
Watercolour by Shirley
Optical Puzzle
Watercolour by Shirley
Moonlight in Cerulean and Black
Watercolour by Barbara
Snowy Night
Watercolour by Barbara
Pigments; Ultramarine Blue, Black, Permanent White
After a painting by Taiche
Blue watercolour by Ann
Balance by Ann
Watercolour: blue pigments only
Petunia, after O’Keefe
Watercolour by Liz
Imagined Landscape
Watercolour by Liz
After Nicolas de Stael, “Parc des Sceaux” 1952
Watercolour and acrylic by John
Blue Nude after Picasso
Watercolour by John
Blue Nude after Picasso
Watercolour by Heather
Floating Colours Exercise
Watercolour by Heather
Blue Still Life
Watercolour by Heather
Fish: inspired by Patrick Heron
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Pigments; French Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue, Cerulean, Cobalt Turquoise, Violet and Cadmium Yellow
After Matisse
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Pigments; Cerulean Blue and Prussian blue
Cobalt Sky
Acrylic by Malcolm
Pigments; Cobalt Blue with a little Phthalo Blue Red Shade and Cerulean

Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land: Fire

November 17, 2020

Flame
Watercolour and gouache on burgundy pastel paper

Fire is natural light. We can cause fire to happen but it is a natural phenomenon and unpredictable in its shape and form which is as flickering and fluid as water. There are some similarities with the way fire and water behave visually; the explosive bursts of fire from natural causes or rockets exploding in the sky are not so different from fountains spraying water as pressure is released by a valve; fire can also pour down volcanic mountains. A difference is that we see water because it reflects light but fire is the light source. Visually it is the difference between the sun and the moon. In our thought processes when we depict fire we depict power and potential danger, even when this is in the form of a humble candle.

Burning off the Stubble
Watercolour; flames masked and rest worked wet in wet

Perhaps the disconnect between the power of fire which we harness domestically and its destructive nature, whether natural or harnessed for war is why we find the flickering flame so exciting.

Twin Vulcanism
Gouache

That’s the philosophy bit done! Now for a look at the candle;

Candle
Photograph:

The “halo” is not necessarily the sphere as seen in so many Christmas greetings cards. Note the blue at the base of the flame and bands of orange and yellow. Look at the soft glow of the top of the candle itself and tiny subdued highlights in the molten wax. The wick is barely discernible against the dark background here.

Lastly note how the reddish halo gradually merges with the dark ground; colours from dark orange to deep red before becoming indistinguishable from the red/black darks.

If you wish to make a candle study you may like to light a candle, taking sensible safety precautions and observe the colours you see. Your colours and tones may be very different from those in the photograph above so observation is the key to developing a realistic painting.

In 1982 to 1983 Gerhardt Richter made some very beautiful and photo-realistic oil paintings of candles, closely observed against different backgrounds. These look deceptively simple but are carefully painted with huge skill in handling the paint where gradual transitions from light to dark occur. References to these can be found on this week’s Pinterest board at:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/fires-candles-fireworks-bonfires/

Alongside works by;

Georges de la Tour: more candles and candle light; look at how faces reflect the candle light in his works

Joseph Wright of Derby: volcanic eruptions and a fire burning a cottage down at night

And Bonfires by the contemporary artist Brent Cotton.

This should supply you with plenty of ideas for next week’s painting. I would like to see work either from your imagination or a fire situation you have experienced; from an erupting volcano to a child’s birthday celebration or Christmas candle.

Looking forward to seeing

Your paintings;

Candle
Pastel by Heather
Match
Pastel by Heather
Fire: after Brent Cotton
Pastel by Shane
A Fire in the Forest: inspired by Brent Cotton
Pastel by Barbara
Candle in Cupped Hands by Jane
Pastel pencil on pastel paper
Christmas Candles by Ann
Watercolour
Candle by Ann
Charcoal and coloured pencil
Bonfire Night
Watercolour by Sarah
Bonfire from Imagination: Watercolour
Painted with brush and finger by Sarah
Candle in a Glass
Watercolour and pastel by Sarah
Candle and Reflection
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Toasting Marshmallows at Night
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Dwali Light
Pastel by John
Remembering the Fire at Windsor
pastel by Shirley
In Case the Power Fails
Watercolour by Shirley
Bonfire on the Beach
Watercolour by Liz
Forge
Pastel by Liz
Silver Cow
Pastel by Jan
Candle
Acrylic by Malcolm
Candle: see how a closer crop evokes a different response
Acrylic by Malcolm

Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land: Harbour and River Lights

November 10, 2020

Little Yellow Boat
Pastel on blue paper

This week we are moving toward the coast, rivers and canals for inspiration and your challenge will be to produce paintings including a light source and its reflection in water.  The reflection will not only be affected by the position of the light source to its reflection but also the prevailing light conditions; mist or the darkness of night and whether the water is calm, rippling or rough.

Little Yellow Boat with Lights
Pastel on blue paper
This has been developed from the first picture and has a completely different atmosphere.

Look at photos of rivers and the sea where any light is reflected and look at how reflections are interrupted and sometimes scattered by waves.

Apart from the vertical positioning of any reflection take special care that each reflection is directly below the light source being reflected. This is seen very clearly both in works by Whistler and Andrew Gifford. better still take a walk along the Thames in the early evening.

The medium is very much your choice and as last week you may work from your imagination or from a reference, preferably of a place you know.   James McNiell Whistler is famed for his series of “nocturne” paintings of the Thames. The darkest of these are full of drama and the most subtle have that beauty of early morning stillness. Examples of Whistler’s nocturnes alongside works by Andrew Gifford and the Canadian artist David Haughton can be seen on this week’s Pinterest board at:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/harbour-lights-lighthouses-and-docks/

Also included are some imaginative works by Charles Philippe Jacquet. The artist’s rather surreal compositions combine his ideas with an almost believable reality.  In reviewing some of your own photographs you may be inspired to adapt them to an imaginative approach or to paint a more representational painting.  If your reference is complicated, consider making a study of part of it and experiment with little sketches before homing in on a final composition. 

Leaving Funchal: Photo

Lastly I couldn’t resist including this photo of a cruise ship leaving Funchal; the antithesis of the little yellow boat that carries commuters and tourists alike from Leeds Dock.

If you have very little in the way of references for lights reflected in water at night or evening from boats or buildings on the shore, make a sketch or photo of one of the bridges or part of the Thames shoreline at dusk. Maidenhead Bridge has plenty of lights. Alternatively, if you would like to try a more surreal approach why not choose a building you know and perch it with fully lit windows on a rock in the middle of a lake and imagine your own private lighthouse!

Your paintings:

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Pastel on black paper by Barbara
Christchurch Bridge, Reading
Acrylic by Malcolm
After Ravillious
Watercolour by Shane
Lighthouse
Watercolour by Sarah
Gaios Harbour, Paxos at Night
Watercolour by Sarah
Moon over Kings Lynn
Pastel by Jane
Bull Seal and Harbour Lights, Shetlands
Pastel by Jane
Light in Rough Seas
Watercolour and Pastel by Heather
Imagined Light
Pastel on terracotta paper by Shirley
Hong Kong
Pastel on dark paper by Shirley
Guilin, China
Pastel by John
Early Evening in Venice Harbour
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Lighthouse at Dusk by Maricarmen
New York 1
Watercolour by Ann
New York 2
Watercolour by Ann
Night Yacht
Pastel by Liz
Moon over Tenby Harbour
Watercolour, highlighted with pastel by Liz
Chatham Shipyard
Pastel on dark blue paper by Jan
Chatham Shipyard
Pastel on grey paper by Jan
Marlow Church Reflections
Pastel on blue grey paper by Jan

Lights in the Sky; Lights from the Land; Street and City

November 3, 2020

Bradford: photo

This week we’ll consider street lights and other urban lights.  The principles are exactly the same as last week; huge tonal differences between the light source and its surroundings.

Last week you were invited to make a very representational painting or to use your imagination to invent a moonlit scene. This week you may consider a representational approach or look at the abstract patterns made by traffic and street lighting which would work very well in pastel on dark papers. A few ideas for working in pastel or watercolour are outlined below.

If working in pastel or opaque watercolour you may like to consider working on a dark or mid toned paper.  Often street lights are on well before the light fails completely and in this case a mid toned paper may be useful enabling you to easily make some areas lighter and others darker, perhaps using the paper as one of the tones/colours in your painting.

Bradford: photo
This photo could be interpreted as an abstract pattern of lights and dark.

When using pastel and a very dark blue paper, like midnight blue or even indigo, black will make that even darker for the very deepest tones but use it sparingly.  As last week you may need to place your shapes by working with a mid-toned pastel pencil before blocking them in and reserve your palest pastels for the light sources; light from windows, street lamps etc.

London, near Vauxhall Bridge: photo

If you are working in watercolour plan out your composition so that you can either reserve the lightest and white areas by painting around them or by using masking fluid.  Remember not to apply your washes till the masking is absolutely dry.  Then work as you would usually working first the pale areas, then the middle and lastly the darkest washes.  Your palest washes may be washed over pretty much the whole of your paper, lending unity to subsequent washes and you may like to drop in mid tone colours in some areas at this stage. 

London: Going over Vauxhall Bridge from the South

Do look at your reference carefully as there may be areas of reflected light and sharp edged shadows.

The photographic references include a dark night time scene from Bradford and some in London at twilight where the shadows are diffuse and there is less glare from each light source.

Try to avoid reflections in water this week as that will be the subject of the following week’s challenge.  Stick to street lighting, traffic and car lights, shops and window lights and even cafe lighting.  If you are feeling more ambitious try a floodlit building, sports stadium or building site. 

Albert Bridge: photo
Street Lamp: photo

Look at how the light is emitted from the light source.  It may appear as a round dazzle of light as round the sun or from a torch.  It may be directed as the floodlights illuminating a building or stadium.  You may even see “pools” of light on the ground. 

Torch: watercolour, something you may like to try just for fun!
Concentric rings of wet in wet colour were lifted while wet with a small piece of dry paper towel twisted to form a point. This was dragged from the centre outwards, making creative backruns.

Hope this gives you some ideas and there are examples of how several artists have tackled this subject on the Pinterest Board link below.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/street-and-city-lights/

Works by John Atkinson Grimshaw, Frederick Childe -Hassam and Whistler are featured and also works by the Czech artist Jacob Schikaneder. I especially like his tramway scenes. These artists all worked over a similar period about 1890 to 1920.

Have fun and don’t forget to photograph/sketch some fireworks ready for the week 5 challenge.

Your paintings;

Front Porches
Acrylic by Malcolm
Bradford at Night
Pastel by Jane
After Childe-Hassam
Pastel by Jane
The Embankment at Night
Watercolour by Heather
City Lights
Pastel by Liz
Lamp Light
Pastel by Barbara
High Street Lights
Watercolour and Pastel by Maricarmen
Watercolour and Pastel
by Maricarmen
Rain, Lexington Avenue
Watercolour after Chin H Shin by sarah
Evening Lights, Lexington Avenue
Watercolour after Chi H Shin by Sarah
Night Lights
Pastel by Ann
Lamps at Sunset
Watercolour by Ann
Seoul at Night
Pastel by Shirley
Shanghai Lights
Pastel by John
Old High Street, Folkestone 1
Pastel by Jan
Old High Street, Folkestone 2
Watercolour by Jan

Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land: Moonlight

October 27, 2020

Watching the Landscape, near Malham, North Yorkshire: watercolour
These fields seemed like a magic staircase in the landscape so I transformed this very green daytime scene into the pale yellows and dark blue of moonlight

This week’s challenge is the moon and its effects on the landscape.  You may paint an observed scene or introduce something more imaginative. The works of Turner and Samuel Palmer combine large elements of observation with imagination. Much smaller than the sun its size is often exaggerated in paintings; look at Turner’s watercolour sketch of Shields Lighthouse, 1823-26.

Several of Turner’s works together with works by Samuel Palmer and the contemporary artists John Caple and Richard Cartwright and others feature on the Pinterest Board titled Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land, section: Moon and Stars, Link below;

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/moon-and-stars/

Another featured artist is the Victorian artist, John Atkinson Grimshaw of whom Whistler famously remarked “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures.” This is unbelievably arrogant in the face of moonlit paintings by Turner, Palmer etc. years earlier. However it is really worth studying Whistler’s nocturnes of the Thames which we’ll look at in a couple of weeks time.

The moon’s light being a mere reflection of the sun’s light is less bright, but is most often depicted during the hours of darkness, so affords huge contrasts with the darkened skies. Because of the darkness the palette used for painting moonlit scenes is generally less colourful and may be depicted in near monochrome.

This week you may work in pastel which will work very well on a dark paper, perhaps a very dark blue or even a dark burgundy colour as in the demonstration piece below. If you are working in watercolour you may choose a white paper as in the illustration above, or if you consider working in gouache, or white added to your watercolours, again you may like to choose a dark paper. Pastel papers can be stretched in the same way as watercolour paper, or you could work in gouache on an off cut of mount board.

The images below show stages in creating a moonlit landscape based loosely on the Eden valley in Northumberland.

First light applications of pastel on burgundy coloured paper. Note how small the moon is, how in this case it is surrounded by a ring of crimson and a pale halo of a very pale blueish green. The main areas of light and dark are established
The sky is darkened with blue and shapes in the landscape more clearly defined.
Finally much more blue was added and rubbed into in the sky area. The halo round the moon was lightened and rubbed in. Areas of the landscape were then darkened with black/ultramarine and more pale highlights added to the vegetation. Finally the stars were added with a soft pastel with a fine point tapping it against the paper..

Below are a few suggestions for painting the moon in watercolour.

Lifting out: here a small circle was drawn feintly, to indicate the moon and the first light wash applied to the whole paper. When completely dry a small moist brush was used to dampen the moon area and the paint lifted out by pressing a dry tissue into it. This leaves a lovely soft edge to the moon. If wished in the painting’s final stages a little white gouache can be applied if a punchier effect is needed.
Masking: stage 1: here the moon was masked with blue masking fluid using a small very old worn out brush. Clean the brush with soapy water ASAP afterwards. I usually prefer white but it wouldn’t show for the demonstration. You get a better feel for the end result if white ( looks very pale cream) masking fluid is used. Allow the masking fluid to dry completely before applying the first washes.
Masking: stage 2: Apply most of the washes, allow to dry completely before removing the masking with a very soft eraser or finger. You may then wish to soften the edges of the moon with a small moist brush and lift with a dry tissue. You may then wish to paint a feint cloud back over the moon as above.
Reserving the White: here the crescent moon has been painted around, leaving the gleaming white paper. A feint halo has been lifted out with a moistened brush and dry tissue paper.

Whatever your medium, compared with the sun the moon is a tiny object though it appears a good size from earth because of its proximity.  It sheds a much paler silvery light on the landscape which is very different from the vast range of hues revealed by direct sunlight.

Your challenge for this week is to paint a picture of a moonlit landscape with the moon visible in the night sky. This may take the form of a very imaginative scene as in the works of John Caple or Richard Cartwight or something more literal. Have fun!

Your paintings:   

Moonlight
Pastel by Barbara
Winter Moon by Liz
Soft pastel and oil pastel on dark blue pastel paper
Oil pastel touches were added for the snow in the foreground.
Full moon by Liz
Pastel on dark grey Pastelmat
After Grimshaw by Shane
Pastel
Moonlight over Water
Pastel by Heather
After John Caple
Watercolour by Heather
After Grimshaw by Ann
Watercolour
After Turner
Watercolour by Jan
Two Fir Trees and a Lake
Watercolour by Jan
Moonlight over Water
Pastel by Jan
St, David’s Head
Pastel on buff paper by Shirley
Snake Pass, Derbyshire
Pastel on print making paper by Shirley
Moonlight over the Sea
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Moon over the Valley
Gouache on black paper by Maricarmen
Moonlight over Freshwater Bay by Malcolm
Acrylic and pastel
After Samuel Palmer by Jane
Pastel pencil and pastel
Trees and Moon by Sarah
Watercolour and pastel
Moonlight over Water by Sarah
Watercolour and pastel

Lights from the Sky, Lights from the Land: The Sun

October 20, 2020

The Stour in Winter; Pastel and graphite pencil

This week’s project is to depict the sun and effects of its luminosity on the landscape.  As light sources, natural and manufactured are the topics for the next few weeks, I thought it would be useful to consider some general aspects of depicting luminosity.

Light sources vary in the colours they emit; some have haloes of different colours surrounding a white or paler coloured centre and others are single hued with a near white highlight at the centre. During the next few weeks we will discover some of these differences in more detail.

Sunset in Madeira; photograph

Guidelines for creating luminosity in a composition

(Some of this is rather obvious but here goes!)

1. The luminous area should be smaller than its surroundings.

2. The luminous area should be painted in paler tones than its surroundings and the highlight will be the palest tone.

3. Within the brightest part of the luminous area none of the tonal values should contrast with each other greatly.  Deeper values should be painted outside this area although there may be different colours of medium tonal value outside the brightest part of the luminous area.

4.  A sheen of the colours within and just outside the luminous area often pervades the entire composition.   The Impressionists made great use of these effects.   This can be seen in Monet’s paintings of the Houses of Parliament and the Waterloo Bridge series. The hues just outside the main illuminated feature and to a lesser extent those within the illuminated area are seen as echoes in streaks and dashes of paint, the colours that create a sheen over the surroundings area, giving the work colour unity as in the rather rough illustration below.

A link to the Pinterest board “Lights in Art” is below and you will find images of the works referenced as well as several other examples of how artists have depicted the sun and sunlight.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/sun/

Illusion of Light: pastel demonstration
White surrounded by yellow, orange, red and purple rings; the blue surround has been streaked with mixes of the purplish red. Compare with how Monet used orange/red/purple hues in his Houses of Parliament paintings of around 1904.
Sun on a cloudy Day; photograph
Note: white centre surrounded by less saturated (less pure) yellows and oranges than in the sunset photograph.
This sun is more like the sun in Martin Johnson Heade’s painting of “Sun over York Harbour, Maine USA”.

Colours

Luminosity may be achieved with neutral greys simply by surrounding a small white circle with rings of increasingly darker pale greys on a background of a much darker grey, or with single hue by doing the same but with a colour instead of grey.

Luminosity can also be achieved by using several hues e.g. white surrounded by yellow, then red and other colours but again choosing a darker hue for the wider area surrounding the light source.

Inspired by Josef Albers: watercolour
Even a white square can appear luminous!
Look at the other colours and whether they appear more or less luminous against each other.

Another way of using colour is to surround a saturated colour (pure hue) with less saturated colours or the complement of the pure hue at the centre.  Again it usually works best if the surrounding hues are similar tonally or darker than the luminous area.

A good example of a pure colour being surrounded by a less saturated near complementary colour is afforded by “Impression Sunrise”, 1872 by Monet. The sun is painted as a small disc of a rather pure orange against a rather desaturated(less pure) purple cloud. The reflection of the sun is painted clearly in the water and throughout the work echoes of the orange can be seen among the purples and chromatic(coloured) grays of the rest of the composition giving the impression of the sun’s light giving a sheen over the whole work.

Time to go Home: photograph before the storm Madeira
Note rather monochrome sparkle
Sun on a dull day: photograph
Storm in the Valley: pastel
Sunlight bursting through a gap in the cloud cover and illuminating the river below.

It is of course almost impossible to depict the sun on a bright day with hardly a cloud in the sky.  This is probably why most paintings of the sun involve sunsets and sunrises, or the sun in overcast conditions; its light pouring through the gaps between the clouds.  Another way in which the brightness of the sun is depicted is it’s reflection in water; either as a sparkle or as a reflection of the whole sun.

Water sparkle: photograph
Each sparkle appears as a miniature reflection of the sun
Winter Coming: Pastel and white gouache

Even on the dullest day the sun appears white at the centre surrounded by a ring of pale yellow. At sunset the sun may appear white or yellow at the centre and surrounded by red orange colours or the whole sun may appear bright orange/red.  The duller the day the more monochrome it appears and the sun’s reflection in water behaves in the same way.

For more ideas do visit the Pinterest Board link below.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/sun/

Practical

1. Experiment with making a small area look luminous using one hue and then with several hues.

2. Using pastel or watercolour or a watercolour/pastel combination make a painting where the sun is evident in the sky and may also include a reflection of the sun. The reflection may appear as the reflection of the whole sun or as a sparkle on the water. 

The weather is up to you! 

You may like to work your own version of one of the images on the Pinterest board, or use your own reference/imagination.

Have fun!

Your paintings:

Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall by Malcolm
Pastel and pastel pencils on black emery paper P800 grit
Sunrise by Ann
Sunset by Ann
Sunset at Prinsted, Chichester Harbour
Pastel by Barbara
Glow by Shirley
Pastel
Etna Erupting seen from Taormina
Pastel by Shirley
Watery Sun by Heather
Watercolour, Sharpie Pen and Pastel
After van Gogh by Heather
Pastel and a little Coloured Pencil
After Gifford by Heather
Watercolour
Sunset at Hell Bay, Bryer by John
Watercolour
Mogonissi Sunset on Paxos, Greece
Watercolour by Sarah
Early Evening, the Isle of Wight from Milford
Watercolour by Sarah
Inspired by Gifford
Pastel by Liz
Sun through Durdle Dor by Liz
Watercolour, Pastel and Pastel Pencil
Sky Study by Jan
Watercolour
Hoylake by Jan
Watercolour
Hoylake by Jan
Watercolour
The Long Walk by Maricarmen
Watercolour
Sun over Windsor Great Park by Shane
Watercolour

Limited Palettes 4: warm and cool primaries together

October 2, 2020

The Ceno at Ponte Lecca
Painted with; Lemon yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue

This week we will still be working with just three primary colours but you may choose to use any two warm primaries with one cool primary or any two cool primaries with any one warm primary.

Palettes with a cool bias;

One that gives good mixing opportunities is;

Alizarin Crimson: cool red

Ultramarine: warm blue

Lemon yellow or Cadmium lemon: cool yellows

Reasonable green colours can be mixed and purple and orange hues, as well as near black neutral greys using the red plus blue plus a tiny amount of yellow.  By substituting Alizarin with Permanent Rose or Magenta some great violet /purple colours can be made but cooler orange hues.

Another interesting choice with a cool bias would be

Cadmium Red Pale: warm red

Cerulean Blue or Phthalocyanine Blue: cool blues

Lemon Yellow or  Cadmium Lemon: cool yellows

This will give very fresh and may give rather acid looking greens which can always be knocked down by adding the tiniest amount of red (more if you need a rather olive green/brown).  You will not be able to mix a good purple. 

Two Palettes with a warm bias would be;

Cadmium Red Pale: warm red

Ultramarine: warm blue

Lemon yellow or Cadmium lemon: cool yellows

and

Alizarin crimson or permanent rose: cool reds

Ultramarine Blue blue: warm blue

Indian Yellow: warm yellow

Remember that the overall look, cool or warm, will depend not only on the pigments used but the proportions in which they are used. If blue is predominant the whole may have a cooler appearance than if red dominates. Also where colours are diluted or made paler in tone by mixing with white this also has a ‘cooling’ effect, as does working with muted colours and coloured grays mixed from the primaries.

The Pinterest link below references a variety of works that could be interpreted with a limited mix of primary colours. There are a handful of still lives, some Impressionist and American landscapes including a couple by Thomas Moran, whose paintings I have seen at first hand with other amazing landscapes painted in America over the same period around 1870 to 1900. There are also a couple of delightful posies by Fred Cuming. Other artists represented are even better known, and a few sunsets and sunrises that I am sure you will know.

Hope you enjoy them!

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/limited-palettes/warm-and-cool-together/

Practical

1. The only rule this week is that your three primaries should include at least one cool and one warm primary colour, so investigate what you have in the paint box, and try some mixes out.  If working in any opaque way you may use white but not black!

2. Paint a picture, perhaps a still life with flowers or a landscape with an architectural feature or a dramatic sky.  The ‘architectural feature could be anything from a garden shed to a distant ruin. The palette used is more important than the subject but try to choose the combination of primaries that best suit the mood of your painting, and please list the pigments used when you send an image.

Your paintings:

May in George’s Garden by Sarah
Cool bias: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Rose, Ultramarine Blue
Red flowers by Sarah
Warm bias: Lemon Yellow, Scarlet Red Ultramarine Blue
Sunset by Maricarmen inspired by Fred Cuming
Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Chinese White
Sunburst by Maricarmen
Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Chinese White
Zinc White Gouache
Figs by Ann
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Prussian Blue
Castiglione del Lago by Ann
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Avenue by Ann
One that escaped last week’s post!
Heather’s palettes:
Left warm bias: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Right cool bias: Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow, Cerulean Blue
Crab Apples by Heather
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Pyracantha by Heather
Cadmium Red, Lemon yellow, Cerulean Blue
Freston Tower by Jane
Lemon Yellow, Permanent Rose, French Ultramarine
and Grey pen
Toward Lundy Light by Jane
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine
Balcombe Viaduct by Angela
Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine dark, Titanium White
Ligurian Bridge by Malcolm
Painted in acrylic with Cadmium Yellow Medium,
Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine Blue and White

Malcolm used a palette of warm blue, cool red, warm yellow: Ultramarine B29, Quinacridone Magenta R122, Cadmium Yellow Medium Y37. Plus white.
The reference was a black and white photo b&w photo of a vintage original which took his eye on a hotel staircase in the Cinque Terre; something about the light and dark composition. So Malcolm gave himself the challenge of relating the original tones to the colours achievable with the palette.
Starting with a reddish-purple monochrome underpainting of the darks only, everything except the sky was covered with a with a transparent glaze of the opaque yellow, using glazing medium. This turned the grisaille brown as in the basic building shadows. Malcolm deliberately left some yellow imperfectly covered to get a warm afternoon feel to the painting.

Corfe castle by John
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Traditional Dress from Mongolia by Barbara
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale, Cerulean Blue
Plums by Barbara
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Mixes by Shirley
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue
The Hut by Shirley
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue
Sandhills of Lake Amadeus, Central Australia by Elizabeth
Cool bias: Lemon yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Dahlia by Elizabeth
Warm bias: Permanent Yellow Deep,
Permanent Rose, Ultramarine Blue
Sweet Peas by Jan
Cool bias: Lemon Yellow, Magenta, Ultramarine Blue
After Lunch with Klee by Roger
Warm bias: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Red Light, Ultramarine Blue
The Uphill Run; acrylic by Vivienne
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, White
Yellow Dahlias by Vivienne
Acrylic: Cadmium Yellow Hue, Cadmium Red Light,
Phthalo Blue Green Shade and White
A Memory of Scotland by Chris
Hansa Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
On the Lizard looking West by Sandra
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury by Liz
Deep Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue

Limited palettes 3: Cool or Warm

September 26, 2020

Cool and Fresh or Warm and Rich?

The challenge this week is to work with either a cool palette or a warm palette, still using only three colours. 

Bardi Castle in Autumn
Warm palette: Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine Blue

Most people are aware of what constitutes a cool or a warm primary colour but for reference a basic colour wheel is shown below, which used primaries that are neither cool nor warm. These are colours designed to emulate printing colours and in theory you should be able to mix any hue from them.  

Basic colour wheel

However in practise, a much wider and richer range of colours can be mixed if you have the following;

A cool red; one that is nearer to purple

e.g.  Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose

A warm red: one that is nearer to orange

e.g. Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion, Scarlet Vermilion

A cool yellow; one that is nearer to green

e.g. cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow pale, lemon yellow

A warm yellow; one that is nearer to orange

e.g. cadmium Yellow Deep, Chrome Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow

A warm blue; one that is nearer to purple

e.g. French Ultramarine, Ultramarine red shade, Cobalt blue

A cool blue; one that is nearer to green

e.g. Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Blue Green Shade

The cool palette will consist of a cool red, a cool yellow and a cool blue

The warm palette will consist of a warm red, a warm yellow and a warm blue

Working with only three primaries is still a restricted palette and some colours are difficult to mix with exclusively warm or cool palettes.  Purple and violet shades are difficult with both but easier with some cool palettes.  The freshest greens can be made with the cool palette and the hottest oranges with the warm palette as you can see from the chart below.

This chart was made with gouache but the result would be very similar for watercolour or acrylic.

Gouache: Secondary Colour Mixes
Left: Warm palette; Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red
Right: Cool palette; Cerulean Blue, Cadmium lemon, Permanent Alizarin

Next week we will still work with just three primary pigments but with a mixed palette that includes at least one cool and one warm primary.

Practical

1. Identify which cool and warm primary colours you have and make colour swatches to check them out.  The pigments may be different to those I have suggested.

2a. Choose a set of three cool primaries and find what colours you can make with them either by mixing or overlaying them or letting them mingle wet in wet.

2b. Do the same with a set of three warm primaries.

3. Paint a picture, representational or more abstract using only three cool primary colours or three warm primaries.  Still life subjects or landscape would be suitable.  Hopefully you can find a reference which is a place you have visited or set up your own still life. 

Think very carefully whether a warm or cool palette would suit your subject best.  Remember that you may use white which will always “cool” all colours. Because it is possible to mix to mix greys and muted colours using both palettes you will be able to make very subtle colours from mixes of even the brightest of pigments. These can be incredibly beautiful.

Try making muted colours and chromatic greys by adding a little of a primary colour to its complementary colour. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the basic colour wheel.

e.g. Mix an orange and add a little of its complementary, blue.

The more blue that is added the duller the orange will become till a grey is achieved. From that point if more blue is added the grey will become a muted blue.

Mixing muted colours and chromatic greys;

Small increments of blue are added to the orange on the right. About midway between orange and blue a neutral grey can be mixed and on either side hues that are slightly more blue or more orange. These are known as chromatic greys. Toward each end are muted colours which are still recognisably blue or orange but not as pure. These colours are often referred to as desaturated in various degrees. All pure hues can be desaturated by adding their complementary colour.

If, as above the mixes are very dark and it is difficult to see whether they (in this case) are slightly more orange or slightly more blue this will become evident by diluting the mix with water or by adding white.

I have tried to illustrate the differences in using a cool and warm palette in the choice of works for reference on this week’s Pinterest Board.  The link is below and the sections called Cool Palettes and Warm Palettes are the ones to look at.  The paintings all have either a cool palette or a warm palette feel to them and could be interpreted in that way.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/limited-palettes/

4. If you have time it would be a real challenge to make a similar painting to your first using the alternative palette that you chose for your colour mixing at 2.

Your Paintings:   

Lemons by Maricarmen
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still life by Maricarmen on hot pressed paper
Warm palette: Cadmium yellow, Vermilion, Ultramarine blue
Flower: cool palette painting by Liz
Lemon Yellow, Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue
Warm and Cool Palettes by Heather
Left warm: Cadmium yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Right cool: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life by Heather
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Still Life by Heather
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Conkers by Sarah
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life by Sarah
Warm palette: Medium Yellow, Scarlet, Ultramarine Blue
Cool Pots by Roger
Cadmium lemon, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue Hue
Warm Pots by Roger
Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine blue
On the Tissington Trail by John
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Composition with Warm Primaries by Barbara
Design inspired by a woodcut.
White of the paper is reserved and the grays are the only mixed colours.
America 2020 by Malcolm, Acrylic
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Napthol Red light, French Ultramarine Blue

America 2020 notes from Malcolm

The composition was fun, based on the Golden Ratio and “no two intervals the same”. So too was the physicality – “mad artist attacks easel”.
I first laid down a complete underpainting of yellow-orange. All of the darks are simply red dulled by blue, avoiding the purple side to preserve the sense of heat. There are a few dark greens and a few darker triple mixes. I couldn’t resist some tongues of pure red, and got the toothbrush out for  yellow and orange sparks. It was all incredibly quick and hugely enjoyable.

Stripes by Shirley
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Flowers in a Crystal vase by Liz
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Flowers by Sandra
Cool palette: Yellow Light (Sennelier),Phthalo Turquoise (Sennelier)
Permanent Rose (Winsor and Newton)
Still Life by Jane
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life with Toys by Jane
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Cool and Warm Palettes by Angela


Note on Angela’s palettes;

Lemon yellow and Winsor yellow are not sufficiently different to cause much shift in the temperature of these palettes, however the Cobalt blue used in the left palette is significantly cooler than the ultramarine used on the left. Usually cobalt blue is a warm blue but does vary.
Here fresher green mixes are produced on the left in addition to good purple mixes which should definitely be possible with cobalt and permanent rose and is why in flower painting if a pan of purple or violet is not available, cobalt blue and permanent rose or ultramarine and permanent rose can make successful mixes.

The difficulties of mixing fairly pure purple or violet hues from the warm primaries cadmium red and Ultramarine blue can be clearly seen, in the palette on the right above and in Angela’s abstract studies below.

In the warmer study on the on the right below some fairly fresh looking greens have been mixed. This would not have been possible with a warm yellow like; Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow or Gamboge which are much nearer to orange in hue and would have only allowed rather duller greens.

Cool and Warm Abstract Studies by Angela
Cool design by Ann
Warm design by Ann
Branscombe Beach by Chris
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium red pale, Cobalt blue
Branscombe Beach by Chris
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Blue
Patio 1 by Vivienne, Acrylic
Almost cool palette: Cadmium Yellow Medium,
Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue Green Shade
Patio 2 by Vivienne, Acrylic
Almost warm palette: Cadmium Yellow Light,
Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine Blue
Red Apples by Jan
Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue
Green Apples by Jan
Lemon Yellow, Permanent Red Medium, Ultramarine blue

Limited Palettes 2: Earth Pigments, a Link with Ancient Times

September 18, 2020

Watercolour with Payne’s Grey, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre

The purest definition of an earth pigment is that it derives from a naturally occurring mineral source.  However the term seems to be more loosely applied today to include some pigments derived from plant extracts such as Indigo, and even a few synthetically produced pigments some of which now replace their less stable naturally occurring counterparts.  For our purposes earth pigments will include most of the less saturated pigments i.e. the ochres and reddish browns etc.

The first pigments were discovered and extracted from minerals over forty thousand years ago and very soon Palaeolithic artists not only ground existing ochres from rocks but fired them to make other colours.  They made crayons using ground pigment and spittle or vegetable gum binders and had a great variety of ochres from yellow to dark reds and browns at their disposal, together with carbon black from charcoal.  If you are interested in how they made pigments and the chemical constituents of earth colours try the link below:

https://edu.rsc.org/resources/prehistoric-pigments/1540.article

It is a sobering thought that we still use pigments from the same mineral sources today although some have been superseded by synthetic equivalents.

Since the  time of ancient Egypt many blue colours were obtained from azurite a copper carbonate mineral, which is unstable and becomes greener as it weathers.  It was widely used in Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and was used by Holbein to paint the background of Lady with a Squirrel.  Less expensive than lapis, azurite was a precursor to cerulean blue and is the only reason I can think that cerulean is included in some earth triads.

The Pinterest board for this week’s challenge is a collection of art works that are either painted or made with earth pigments or could easily be interpreted in those colours.   There is rather a large content from the Palaeolithic ages which may fire your imagination and other art forms including mosaics and frescoes, finishing with several landscapes.  This week the challenge will be to choose an earth palette and make a painting of a landscape, natural form or inspired by rock art, just with three earth pigments that approximate a yellow, a red and a blue.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/limited-palettes/earth-palettes/

Practical

1. Collect the earth colours in your box and make swatches of each labelling them as you go.

2. Select an earth triad you would like to work with plus white This should contain one yellow, one red, and one blue equivalent plus white if wished.

Below are a few suggestions of earth triads you may experiment with.  If you don’t have the exact pigment use the closest you have and you are quite free to make your own combinations of earth pigments.  The following are triads ancient and modern!

a) Raw Sienna (or Transparent Yellow  Ochre), Burnt Sienna, Paynes Grey

Top row full strength
Second row pale
Secondary colour mixes from Transparent Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Payne’s Grey

This is sometimes called the old masters earth triad and was a very useful combination of inexpensive pigments both for portrait and landscape studies.  I prefer if possible to use the blue shade of Payne’s grey just because it allows mixing more definite green secondaries, albeit very desaturated greens.  For this post I used a transparent Yellow Ochre.  Raw Sienna is usually transparent and yellow ochre often opaque but is very slightly brighter than Raw Sienna.

b) Transparent Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Indigo

Top row full strength
Second row pale
Secondary colour mixes from Yellow Ochre, light Red and Indigo

Red Oxide is a very opaque pigment and slightly redder but cooler than burnt Sienna.  Indigo is usually semi-opaque and most often a mixture of pigments of including black, blue and sometimes violet or red constituents.  Because of the greater blue content than Payne’s Grey a greater variety of greens can be mixed and because of the redness of the light red rather purplish browns can be achieved. 

Watercolour with yellow Ochre, Light Red and Indigo

c) Quinacridone Gold, Brown madder, Indigo (bright earth, transparent)

I don’t have the first two pigments so would substitute a transparent Raw Sienna and a Permanent Madder Brownish.  This should be an approximation as all the pigments are transparent and the brownish madder should allow some interesting  shades. 

Some of the colours I have in my box that could be used in an earth triad shown at full strength and diluted to make tints

Some of the triads below have some pigments you may not have and are listed for interest but if you do have a tube or pan of for example Perylene Maroon and haven’t used it perhaps now is the time to try.

d) Raw Sienna, Transparent Red oxide, Cerulean: you won’t be able to make real darks with this triad but you could try substituting Indigo or Indanthrone Blue for the Cerulean.  Red oxide is similar in appearance to Light Red and is available in opaque and transparent forms.

e) Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Cerulean: another opaque and pale combination

f) Yellow Ochre, Red Ochre, Mayan Blue

g) Quinacridone Gold, Perylene Maroon, Indanthrone Blue: modern transparent

h) Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Indigo

Stormy Weather
Painted with Indigo, Light Red and Transparent Yellow Ochre

3. Paint your picture: landscape, natural form or inspired by ancient art

Having selected your colours and experimented with a few mixes, paint either a landscape or natural form or be inspired by a more ancient art form using some of the motifs from mosaics or even Palaeolithic cave paintings.

Your Paintings;

Autumn Leaves by Angela: painted with
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey and Chinese White
Kilchurn Castle by Angela: painted with
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey and Titanium White
First Palette from Heather
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey
Second Palette from Heather
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Inspired by Australian Cave Painting: by Heather
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Hunting Man by Barbara
Inspired by art in Kakadu National Park
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Paynes Gray
Memories of Australian Paintings by Barbara
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Palette from Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
The Gan, inspired by Railroads of Australia: by Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
Coast: inspired by a lino print by Colin Moore: by Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
Red Rocks 1 by Jan
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo, White
Red Rocks by Jan
Yellow Ochre, Light Red,Indigo, Black Ink line
Palette from Ann de Wolfe
Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Intense Blue (Phthalocyanine Blue)
Left: colours mixed on a palette
Right: colours and secondary mixes mingling on the paper
Inspired by the Minoans: by Ann
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Intense Blue (Phthalocyanine Blue)
Sunset with Trees: by Ann
Yellow Ochre, Rose Madder Hue, Prussian Blue
Stag in the Deer Park, Windsor: by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Lion: by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Landscape 1 by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Landscape 2 by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Burano by John
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Venice Canal by Chris
Quinacridone gold, Rose Madder, Indigo
Sedum with Houtina by Chris
Quinacridone Gold, Rose Madder, Indigo
The Cut at Ockwell’s Park by Roger
Quinacridone Gold, Indian Red, Indigo
Herd of Cattle by Vivienne
after a cave painting in the Tassili n’Ajjer mountains on the border of the Sahara
Quinacridone Gold, Titian Red, Indigo
To the water’s Edge by Vivienne
Quinacridone Gold, Titian Red, Indigo
Elves’ Chasm, Grand Canyon by Elizabeth
Inspired by Rock Art from Central Australia by Elizabeth
Dartmoor Landscape by Shirley
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Abstract by Shirley
adapted from one of her silk scarf designs
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
In the Park by Sarah
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Sunset by Sarah
Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Indigo
Sizzling by Sandra
Gold Ochre, Madder Red Lake, Indigo
Landscape with Water by Sandra
Gold Ochre, Madder Red Lake, Indigo
Another Earth by Malcolm: acrylic
Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray, White

Limited Palettes 1: the Zorn Palette

September 9, 2020

Pomegranate and Pear; Zorn palette watercolour and white gouache

Working with just a triad of colours (plus white if not working in pure watercolour) may be a challenge, but also gives unity to a painting.  The first triad we will try is known today as the Zorn palette.

Anders Leonard Zorn (1860 to 1920) a Swedish artist greatly acclaimed internationally for his portraits, including those of several American presidents, was also famous for frequently using a limited palette of just four pigments: Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Ivory Black and Flake White.  Now we may prefer to use Yellow Ochre, Cadmium red Pale, Ivory Black and Titanium White.  Flake white is warmer than Titanium White but is made from lead oxide, so rather a health and safety hazard.

Wet in wet and wet on dry, Zorn palette: watercolour

Many old masters including Rembrandt, frequently used a similar limited palette partly due to the expense of blue pigments and also due to the fact that many of the pigments we use today were not known or manufactured then.  Zorn used this limited palette when working in oil but it is perfectly feasible to use the same palette when working in acrylic, gouache, watercolour or even pastel.

It is a very suitable palette for mixing skin tones, hence the many Zorn portraits using this limited palette, but can also be successfully used for other subjects; still life studies, some natural forms and city-scapes.  It is more of a challenge for landscapes but could work for Autumn trees against a leaden sky.  The black becomes a substitute for blue and both black and white (or water if using watercolour) contribute to the tonal and saturation range in the composition.

My “Pomegranate and Pear” study uses watercolour and titanium white gouache, but I could have used just watercolour without the white pigment or all gouache or acrylic.  I decided to find what mixing the pigments would look like before starting to paint the still life.  This was a chart of mixing the pairs of colours to make secondary colours.  This could have been extended by mixing any of the squares with the missing pigment e.g. mixing a little black into the orange mix. I could have also extended the tonal range by diluting with water or adding titanium white.

Zorn palette two hue mixes; always add a little of the darker pigment to the paler one till you achieve the colour and tone you require

First row: Yellow Ochre with increasing amounts of Cadmium Red Pale
Second row: Ivory Black with increasing amounts of Yellow Ochre
Third row: Cadmium Red Pale with increasing amounts of Ivory Black

You will see that some rather olive green colours were created when Yellow Ochre was mixed with Ivory Black.  This is because Ivory Black is very slightly blue and will make very cool (tending toward blue) greys when mixed with Titanium White or water.  It is often difficult to see exactly what hues are in very dark colours but by diluting the colour with white or water the inherent colour can be more easily seen.

Zorn Palette: more mixes

Added a few more rows, first three as previous colour chart. Row 4 added black to water, should have added less initially to make a smoother transition through loads of grey shades! Rows 5,6,7, various pale mixes; some with red, yellow and black; no system to them! Row 8 Permanent White (Titanium Oxide White) with increasing additions of Ivory Black.

On a general note when colours are mixed it is always best to add a little of the darker pigment to the paler one, as much more pigment is needed to change the appearance of a dark colour by adding a paler one, so you risk wasting paint.

A summary of stages in painting this still life is outlined below:
  1. Indicated where cloth meets wall and shapes of fruit in pencil
  2. Made sure I had some strong washes of all colours except the white ready for mixing.
  3. Mixed and applied washes wet in wet on the fruit, reserving highlight on the pomegranate and lifting out the highlight on the pear. Dropped in some reddish yellow mix on the pear as it reflected some colour from the pomegranate. Adjusted washes when dry especially with regard to tone. Left to dry again then painted some of the markings on the pear and pomegranate wet on dry.
  4. Turned the paper upside down and applied a wash of black with a little red all over the background, dropping in a more reddish back mix wet in wet and left to dry.
  5. Decided the table needed to look as though it had more substance/texture to balance the dark background so used white mixed with the colours; mixes for shadows were of all three pigments and mixes made with varying amounts of red and yellow were used to suggest colour reflected on to the table from the fruit.
  6. Finally the highlights, markings and colour on the fruit were adjusted; in places just with watercolour and in other areas using watercolour mixed with white.

Practical

Have at the ready;

Yellow Ochre

Cadmium Red Pale (or any other bright warm red like Vermilion)

Ivory Black

Titanium White gouache if not using pure watercolour. This is usually labelled Permanent White. Zinc white is more transparent.

You will also need watercolour paper, a deep welled palette for making washes and your usual brushes and equipment. I would experiment a bit with mixing but if time is limited don’t be too precise just make sure you understand the possibilities.

1.  Make a colour chart of mixes of each colour

2. Try extending the black with water and with white. You will notice a difference.

3. Try mixing the secondary colours with the missing (complementary) colour e.g. add a little black into a mixed orange.

4. Allow your colours to mingle wet in wet on the paper.  Allow to dry then add other colours over them.

5. Make an abstract or a representational painting; a simple still life, natural form or a portrait study either from your own reference or referencing one of Zorn’s paintings.

Ensure you understand the tonal composition of your reference.  If working in watercolour start with the palest tones and colour and build up to the darker washes.  In acrylic and gouache the darks may be established earlier on and over painted with paler tones mixed with white where appropriate.

Reference Pinterest Board “Limited Palettes”

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/limited-palettes/

Some of Anders Zorn’s works are referenced on my Limited Palette Pinterest board together with a gouache demonstration of the Zorn palette used with gouache by James Gurney.  It has an unusual setting but is very useful. He does talk about using additional browns but you should be able to mix all of these from your red, yellow and black.  He also used a paper primed with an Ochre or Raw Sienna casein paint; you could always apply a dilute acrylic wash of a similar hue.  At one stage he removes paint to let the background casein colour show through.  That should also work with an acrylic wash. However as you can see from the still life at the beginning of the post you can see that it is perfectly possible just to paint on white watercolour paper.

Alvaro Castagnet

Castagnet works in watercolour and I have included one of his cityscape works which could be reinterpreted using the pigments of the Zorn palette.

Your Zorn Palette Paintings:

Sunflower by Jan
Sunflowers by Jan
Red Rocks Hoylake by Jan
Faded Roses by Jane
Man by Jane
After Marinetti: watercolour with wax resist by Barbara
After Ingres: watercolour by Barbara
Hydrangea: watercolour by Sarah
Oak Leaves : watercolour by Sarah
Still Life by Elizabeth
Megan by John
Still Life with Olives and Chillies by Heather
Abstract by Heather
Apples by Ann
Abstract by Ann
Pumpkin by Shirley
Stubble Burning by Shirley
Zorn Abstract by Angela
After a painting by the 17th Century Artist, Rachel Ruysch by Liz
Aubergine by Sandra

Both of Sandra’s works were painted with Cadmium Red Deep instead of a brighter red like Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion or Scarlet Lake.

Autumn leaves by Sandra
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Landscape by Maricarmen
Zorn Spirals by Maricarmen
In the Desert by Maricarmen
Potato and three Onions by Vivienne
Cellist by Vivienne
Sheku Kanneh-Mason by Roger
A new Light on Caversham Bridge by Malcolm
Nectarine and Pear by Chris
Still Life by Sarah