Sunday 29 December 2013

Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens

While there are many artists who do not have a green in their palette, I am not one of them! I paint too many botanicals to keep away from greens.

Here I will cover a range of single pigment greens, convenience green mixtures and wonderful special effect greens. You can also see them all, and more, on my website here. You can also see a long paintout of 12 of the most interesting on YouTube here

Single Pigment Greens

There are many single pigment greens. Some are transparent and/or staining. Others are granulating. The advantage of using single pigment greens is that you don't have a multitude of pigments in the mix if you then mix them with other colours.

Below are 3 examples of Viridian on the left. I prefer the DaVinci or W&N. The Daniel Smith version is a disappointment and doesn't rewet well - best used fresh or add some glycerin to the paint well and stir if setting up in a palette. Viridian is a softer, granulating and liftable version of Phthalo Green. It is lovely for florals but doesn't have the power of phthalo green PG7, which is a very staining pigment. 

Phthalo Green Yellow Shade is a more neutral green. Made with PG36 it is very popular but not a colour I choose to use. None of these greens is really useful alone - they are generally best mixed with a yellow or a yellow ochre/earth to create realistic greens. (For more on mixing greens see my website here.)

Single Pigment Greens - Viridian PB18 by Da Vinci, Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton;
Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) PG7 by W&N, Da Vinci, W&N and Daniel Smith;
Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) by Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton.

Below are a number of other single pigment greens. Some are useful alone, some are wonderful in mixes. I particularly like Perylene Green PBk31 for deep passages in florals or landscapes, Green Gold PY129 for florals, Green Apatite Genuine for wonderful granulation in landscapes and Jadeite for landscapes and as an alternative to phthalo green BS.

Top from left: Rare Green Earth DS, Perylene Green DS, Perylene Green W&N, Cobalt Green DS,
Verona Green Earth Liquitex, Green Gold OH, Green Gold DR, 
Green Gold W&N and Rick Green Gold DS .
Bottom from left: Ziosite Genuine DS, Malachite Genuine DS, Bohemian Green Earth DS, Jadeite Genuine DS,
Diopside Genuine DS, Green Apatite Genuine DS, Serpentine Genuine DS, Oxide of Chromium W&N and
Chromium Green Oxide DS.


Green mixtures may include two, three or even four pigments. These may well misbehave if mixed with other colours - it just gets to be too many pigments - but they can be popular and convenient.

Top from left: Sap Green Lake OH, Permanent Green DS, Permanent Green Pale MG, Spring Green DS,
Permanent Green Light DS, Phthalo Yellow Green DS, Green Gold DS, Leaf Green Holbein
Bottom from left: Olive Green W&N, Olive Green DS ( PB29+PY97+PBr7), Sap Green Deep DS,
Cadmium Green Light OH, Undersea Green DS, Hooker's Green DS, Sap Green AS, Hookers Green W&N.

From left: Prussian Green DS, Sap Green DV, Terre Verte Hue DR, Hooker's Green Light Lake OH,
Australian Leaf Green Dark AS, Cascade Green DS, Terre Verte DS, Permanent Sap Green W&N

So why include greens in a palette? They are easy to mix, but that takes additional time and space in your mixing palette. You could mix your own from tube colours and have your favourites ready to go, or buy one that you like, or just mix as you need them. As a painter of botanical themes I like to have some premixed but realistic greens so my leaves all look as though they belong to the same plant when I paint them and I am not constantly mixing more and more of the same colour.

How else are they useful?

If you only have one green in your palette, make it phthalo green BS (or Jadeite if you want a granulating alternative). This will neutralise your crimson to make deep shadow and aubergine tones and can be neutralised with crimson to make deep Prussian green and Perylene green hues. It will mix with a warm yellow or and earth yellow to make a nice version of sap green. It will mix with phthalo blue or ultramarine to make turquoise. It will mix with a cool yellow to make very bright greens, should you want them.

If you have two greens, make one warm and one cool so add a yellow-green such as green gold (PY129) or Sap Green or even the gorgeous granulating Green Apatite Genuine for some lovely effects in your painting. Another interesting option that I use a lot in Australia is Undersea Green by Daniel Smith - Ultramarine and Quinacridone Gold. This dark olive green is perfect for so many of the dull greens of Australia, especially gum leaves.

I have 4 or 5 greens in my 24 colour plein air palette, which is a lot - Phthalo green BS, Undersea Green (convenience mixture), Sap Green (convenience mixture), Perylene Green and sometimes Rich Green Gold PY129. (All Daniel Smith, though for the single pigment colours other brands would do.)

I also have Jadeite, Green Apatite Genuine, Ziosite Genuine and Serpentine Genuine and in an extra's palette for granulation  These first two are also wonderful in a limited palette for their multiple uses - Jadeite washes down to a very soft green or makes a deep green comparable with Perylene green. As a 'blue' green it also doubles for phthalo green as stated above and neutralises a crimson. Green apatite genuine is equally versatile - a green gold really watered down, a sap green in a medium wash but in mass-tone it is a wonderful deep olive green with amazing granulation. So why not just use these two for everything? Sometimes I don't want the granulation, simple as that. But in a limited palette of 12 or even 16 they are wonderful.

Enjoy your greens!

Watercolour Comparisons 1 - Ultramarine Blue here
Watercolour Comparisons 2 - mid yellows here
Watercolour Comparisons 3 - Primary Red here
Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna here
Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens (Single Pigment, convenience mixes and special effect) here
Watercolour Comparisons 6 - Reds (Cool, mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 7 - Yellows (cool mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues here
Mixing with Phthalo Green here
Mixing with single pigment greens here

Just 5 colours? why it's not really for me...

I am often a little envious of the artists who decide to use only 5 colours. It is so simple to arrange and work with 5 colours and you can achieve wonderful colour harmony without even thinking about it if the colours are chosen carefully. Consider:
  1. Quinacridone Gold PO49 (Daniel Smith) or Raw Sienna PBr7
  2. Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith)
  3. Burnt Sienna PBr7 (Daniel Smith or Da Vinci)
  4. Carmine (Daniel Smith) or Magenta PR122 (Schmincke or W&N)
  5. Ultramarine PB29

You can make a huge range of oranges, reds, yellows, greens and purples, browns and greys, but not quite the exact hue you may be looking at. You would need a cool blue or a phthalo or viridian green as well to create brighter greens, and I'd add Buff Titanium to be able to create cerulean, and a deep cool brown would take over three colours to mix...and so on.

My smallest palette, a tiny keyring sized one I made from a lip balm container, has 7 colours, one of them a mixture. Hansa Yellow Medium, Carmine, Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Goethite, Jane's Grey and Buff Titanium. I can do a lot with it but feel as though I waste a lot of time mixing. I prefer my 16 colour travel palette!

Why? I am a realist. I want my colours to match what I see as precisely as possible. I am also a passionate water colourist and one of the joys of watercolour is that you can see the pigment and its characteristics - they are not hidden in an acrylic or oil binder. I don't want to be limited to the characteristics of just 5 pigments.

Furthermore, I enjoy studying pigments and seeing how they react with each other, which means trying many colours!

In all, I am not committed to a minimal palette for my own watercolour work, though I admire it in others and continue to explore options :-)

2014 update
Here is a lovely bright triad 
Here is an amazing bright quartet
Here is a lovely 6 colour set 

Happy Painting!

Thursday 14 November 2013

Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna

Burnt Sienna is one of the most useful colours in the palette. Whether you are using a limited palette with one of each of the primaries or a split palette with a warm and a cool of each of the primaries, Burnt Sienna is fabulous addition. You can see all these swatches, along with other earth colours, on my website here.

It is possible to mix a burnt sienna hue using a yellow and a red to make an orange, then adding ultramarine to create a neutralised warm brown. But it is much quicker to use a single pigment paint.

There are a number of options. Burnt Sienna should be made from PBr7 - a natural earth pigment that is also used to make Burnt Umber, Raw Umber and Raw Sienna. Heating the Raw Sienna pigment creates the burnt Sienna. Some companies use PR101, (which is also used to make Indian and Venetian reds) to make a Burnt Sienna Hue.

My preference is for the earthy look of PBr7. Mixed with Ultramarine it creates a warm Indigo, burnt umber hues, lovely greys, stormy sky colours, shadow colours and so on. With a yellow it creates raw sienna hues. With a phthalo blue it creates cool greys and browns. With a crimson it creates earthy indian reds and burnt reds...and so on. Alone, just mixed with water, it creates a perfect skin tone.

So which is the best? That depends what you like to paint, whether you like granulation or not, whether you want a more orange colour or a more neutral burnt orange colour.
 Burnt Sienna Options - Top line: Burnt Sienna M.Graham PBr7, Burnt Sienna Old Holland PBr7, Burnt Sienna Rembrandt PBr7, Burnt Sienna Hue Art Spectrum PR101, Transparent Mars Brown Mameri Blu PR101, Burnt Sienna Winsor & Newton PR101, Quinacridone Burnt Orange Daniel Smith PO48
Bottom line: Hemetite Burnt Scarlet Daniel Smith Genuine Hematite, Transparent Red Oxide Daniel Smith PR101, Enviro-Friendly Red Iron Oxide Daniel Smith PBr6, Burnt Sienna Daniel Smith PBr7, Burnt Sienna DaVinci PBr7, Italian Burnt Sienna Daniel Smith PBr7.

It is clear the options range from an orange through to more red-based browns with more or less granulation. Transparent Red Oxide provides a wonderfully granulating version with a definite orange hue, Hematite Burnt Scarlet is also highly granulating with wonderful colour range. Quinacridone Burnt Orange goes all the way to the orange side so will not neutralise so well, but is quite a popular option for those who don't like granulation, as is the W&N Burnt Sienna (hue).

One of the best tests though is how the colour works with Ultramarine and other blues. Here is a range of colours possible with Burnt Sienna mixed with Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue and Cerulean - classic blues in the palette. It is the deep greys and browns and blues that I am looking for with Burnt Sienna. Notice how lovely and granulating the Art Spectrum Burnt Sienna Genuine is. I loved this colour but it didn't re-wet as well in the palette as the Daniel Smith and Da Vinci so was superseded. Also notice that Burnt Umber (hue) is readily mixed by adding Ultramarine to Burnt Sienna so is not necessary in a limited palette.
Burnt Sienna mixed with blues - Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue, Cerulean.

 Here is Burnt Sienna with Cerulean. Note that Burnt Sienna creates wonderful greys with Cerulean but with that with Quinacridone Burnt Orange it makes greens rather than greys.
Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Burnt Orange + Cerulean. 

You can see Burnt Sienna and Phthalo blue on the second line below. Since Phthalo blue is cooler than Ultramarine it will create cooler blues and greys, including creating a raw umber hue.
Phthalo Blue mixed with a range of brown pigments - Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Indian Red, Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber.

My favourite is Daniel Smith for a rich earthy version, or Da Vinci for an equally rich earthy but slightly more orange version. Both of these are PBr7. I also love Transparent Red Oxide for special effects so have that as an extra when painting, as well as the DS Burnt Sienna that is always in my palette.

Happy painting!

Watercolour Comparisons 1 - Ultramarine Blue here
Watercolour Comparisons 2 - mid yellows here
Watercolour Comparisons 3 - Primary Red here
Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna here
Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens (Single Pigment, convenience mixes and special effect) here
Watercolour Comparisons 6 - Reds (Cool, mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 7 - Yellows (cool mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues here

Thursday 7 November 2013

Aquarelle palette - my pigments sorted! Updated.

I have a lot of paints that I only use occasionally, and had been trying to work out a way to store them that is neat and functional for occasional use at home, but that also allows me to take them to my classes or workshops when I am teaching. These didn't need to be in a palette, but some sort of good storage system. I am very grateful that Malcolm Carver, a fellow member of the AWI,
presented me with the answer with the flower shaped Aquarelle palette he designed.

This palette is intended to encourage his students to work with a limited palette of 12 colours and to mix them on the paper rather than in the palette, so there is no 'mixing' space.

They hold up to approximately 2 full pans of paint, can keep paint moist, keep paints covered when not in use and are neat and portable. Perfect!

I don't use them for doing a regular painting. I have set up many of them with my extra pigments - colours that are perfect for a particular painting for me or for my students; pigments that are really granulating; primatek colours etc. It may be possible to mix the colour, but the properties make them useful and can't be created by mixing others. They contain many cadmium colours that I use to demonstrate opacity or for special effects in a painting.

I set them up using one for yellows, another with yellow earths. A third has oranges, another has reds, purples, blues, greens and so on. It makes it much easier to find a pigment or colour in a demonstration or while painting.

Happy painting!

Sketching in a Glass exhibition

I have been busy working on a number of paintings for upcoming exhibitions, but in between I have continued to enjoy sketching with the Sydney Sketch Club. These were painted at an exhibition of Art Glass at Angel Place in the centre of Sydney.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Lightfast tests - 5 months and updated June 2016 - that's 3 years of sunlight!

I tried  another method for this series of tests. Rather than painting all the swatches and cutting them up to expose half and protect the other half, I tried very hard to paint two swatches the same. (Nothing like a challenge!) They were pretty close but it is a less exact way of testing. However, it is much easier to manipulate these A4 300gsm watercolour pages than dealing with all the strips I had cut out of the last one.

In this test I just used the colours I most like. I painted all the ones in my palette or that I was considering using in my palette, and the 'extras' that I use occasionally...and a couple that hadn't made it into the previous tests that I was interested in trying. So you will notice there are a few versions of Quin Rose, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, a few different crimsons and a few different Ultramarines etc as I tried one brand against another. I can't make the page any larger so if you are interested in a particular colour and can't read where it is, just ask me. Carmine, which wasn't in my other tests, is top left next to Buff Titanium. It is very similar in hue to W&N Permanent Alizarin which is third from the bottom on the right.

I really wanted to test the primateks too. Jadeite, Green Apatite and Piemontite are three that I love to use in my paintings that are framed and sold and of course I don't want them to fade. Since there isn't much research on these colours I wanted to do some more of my own.

The unlabelled swatches have been in a north facing window in my studio for 5 months so far. The labelled page has been in a dark drawer. Hopefully they will stay there for 2 years. So far I can see no change in any of them.

June 2016 update.
I had a good look at the pages today. They have now been in a north facing window in the harsh Australian sun for over three years. That's a pretty tough call for watercolour. I think a couple of the quinacridone colours have deepened slightly, but or lost some brightness, but I see no fading.
This is a photo since I don't have a large enough scanner. The exposed sheet is on the right.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Lightfast tests - seven months

I painted a number of swatches of as many colours as I could find back in January, cut half away to store in a dark drawer, and placed them in a north facing window for the last 7 months. For the first two months they were inside the window, for the next 5 they were stuck on the outside protected only by the plastic sleeve they were in. There was almost no change at all after the first two months, but a bit more now.

First are photographs of each full sheet. They are too large to fit the whole sheet in the scanner, which was not very thoughtful. Next time - A4 sheets!

Then I will go through each scanned section so you can see what colours faded and which have remained - so far.

Lightfast tests page two seven months
Lightfast tests page one seven months

All Daniel Smith colours. The only change is Aureolin,  6th on the top line. PY40 is known to go grey and you can see this very clearly in the diluted wash on the left. Please don't buy or use this colour.

All Daniel Smith colours. No fading evident after 7 months. Note that Quinacridone coral looks different in the scan, but not in real life. One to watch. 

All Daniel Smith colours. It is difficult to see on this scan, but Rhodonite, second on the top line, has lost some of the rose and greyed slightly. Not recommended. All others are fine so far.
All Daniel Smith colours. Prussian Blue 2nd on the bottom line has changed slightly, and was the first to change when I checked last time. Vivianite Genuine has lost some of the blue hue, so is not recommended. Turquoise Genuine and Sleeping Beauty Turquoise have also changed - the Sleeping Beauty has noticeably greyed. All others seem stable to far.
All Daniel Smith colours. I couldn't see any changes in any of these colours.
All Daniel Smith except the final Old Holland Emerald Green. I couldn't see any changes in any of these.
Most of the top row are Daniel Smith, but you may notice Old Holland Manganese Blue with it's genuine granulating pigment, Art Spectrum Sap Green and Old Holland Flesh tint, which has lost it's red tones so is not stable.
On the bottom row are a set of traditional Japanese pigments. Not that the yellow pigment used in traditional Chinese and Japanese colours is not lightfast so has faded out of the greenm the yellow and even the colour that looks like burnt sienna. The Blue on the right has also changed. 
This final image shows traditional Chinese pigments and the faded yellow is even more obvious. The crimson is probably Alizarin PR83 but I don't know for sure - it has obviously faded.
On the bottom row is a Liquitex Hooker's free, some Art Spectrum colours and some Daler Rowney and lefranc et bourgeois colours that have survived fine so far.

So the main problem colours are PY40 Aureolin, Chinese and Japanese yellow, Prussian Blue, a number of Primatek colours (though MANY are fine) and some crimson reds. Surprisingly, the Opera Rose has not faded as expected...yet. I'll put them back in the window and report back in a few months.

September 2014 update here.

Thursday 26 September 2013

New small works

I have been working on some small still life studies this year. Here are a few of them. I am quite enjoying the Arches smooth paper for these, in a wide landscape format.
Jacaranda Pods II


Still Life

Sunday 8 September 2013

Sketching from Georges Head Arts Precinct with the Sydney Sketch Club.

Another cliff view, quite different from the Blue Mountains, but the rain came in so I moved under cover to paint some leaves and an empty coffee cup!

North Head, in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook
Another leaf, in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook
Leaf, in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.
An empty coffee cup, in Stillman & Birn Beta book.

Painting in the Blue Mountains for a weekend.

I had a lovely weekend away in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. It's very challenging trying to capture these massive cliffs but a lot of fun. In the evenings I painted flowers from the garden.
View from Govott's Lookout, first afternoon, in Stillman & Birn Beta square sketchbook.

View from Evan's Lookout, in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook
Painting in the evening - a Rhododendron we found on the way home.

View from Govott's Leap, Moleskine watercolour sketchbook

Some stones laying around at Govott's leaf lookout, Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.
Another flower painted in the evening, Moleskine watercolour sketchbook

Another evening study - Waratah leaf, in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook

Sunday 18 August 2013

More leaves

I have always enjoyed painting leaves. Whether large or small, colourful or rather dull, they provide an excellent subject to paint.
Painted in a beautiful bound leather sketch book.

Painted in Vanuatu in an A5 landscape Moelskine watercolour sketchbook.
Painted in  Moleskine pocket sektchbook.

A leave in Indonesia.
Some local leaves.
Gum leaf study
Gum leaf study