Saturday, March 17, 2012

Naples Yellow and Permanent Magenta Color Charts

Naples Yellow
Permanent Magenta
It's been ages since I made a color chart. Two of my often used colors: Naples Yellow and Permanent Magenta are almost surreal on their own, but when mixed with the other colors on my palette, create subtle and natural mixtures that I use often when painting flesh, florals or water.

Both are Winsor & Newton Artists' oil colors, my most used brand of oil paint because it's the best, and because I've become familiar with the transparent and opaque qualities of almost all the colors. Running a close second is Royal Talens Rembrandt oil colors. They're rich and the 40 ml tubes are slightly larger than Winsor and Newton's 37 ml size.
  • Naples Yellow is the primary ingredient in my flesh mixtures. Yes, flesh has a lot of yellow in it, but Naples is subtle enough that I won't make my skin look orange.
  • Permanent Magenta is an all-purpose color I use for graying mixtures of blue and green. If you look at the color chart above, you'll see that when mixed with Viridian, it makes the most lovely, smoky violet. You can't get that color any other way!
Here are some of my other color charts, if you're interested:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Using Permanent Magenta as an Underpainting Color

Bowl of Apples - top
Two Apples - bottom
Underpaintings add depth and sparkle to paintings. When done in complimentary colors, underpaintings can add that visual push/pull that makes a painting dynamic.

I'm working on two small paintings of apples. In both, the apples are lit with a cool bluish light. Following the rule of cool light/warm shadow will make the shadows cast by the apples (or bowl) very warm.


To top it off the local color of the apples is warm (either red or a warm yellow).

So I picked my Winsor & Newton Permanent Magenta for the underpainting. It will pop underneath the green apples (because red and green are complimentary) and it will also pop under any cool colors in the painting (like the background) because it is so warm.

It was a joy to smoosh Magenta around with rags and my blender brushes. I could lift it off or add more as needed.

Now that I have a base for these two paintings I'll let them dry before proceeding to the next step.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grisaille and Initial Color Block In

Grisaille 'Girl Sleeping' - top
Initial Color Block In 'Girl Sleeping' - bottom
Finished Painting
Tis' the season to start making resolutions. Mine is to focus upon a painting strategy that will define my style.

Thus, a figure work in progress, being shared from start to finish. The success, or failure of this piece will most likely define a strategy. Figures? Florals? Classical? Modern?

My work has always been eclectic, not focused on a single style or subject but rather this-and-that as the inspiration struck me. Was Van Gogh like that? The one constant has always been my love of figures, skin, fabric and ornamentation.

What I've discovered is that in my daily life I'm very concrete, sequential and task oriented, yet in my painting life I jump and skip from one thing to another. This is not effective in producing a body of work that defines my style.

So here is a figure work, rather small, somewhat detailed, and I confess, not entirely my own composition. I'll reveal its origins later. Enough said. In the classical Old Master's style of Rembrandt using earth tones and a modern medium unheard of in his time. She intrigues me, not only because she's mysterious, but because my ability to pull off a successful painting is an unknown quantity! We shall see!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fond Brun under the Yellow Rhody

Rhody, Yellow - oil
in progress at the easel
The last time I used a fond brun underpainting was almost four years ago. I continue to be amazed by Vincent Van Gogh's seemingly effort brushstrokes using thick paint in which the underpainting shows through. The Vincent Van Gogh Painting Projects website describes his underpainting as a 'fond brun' violet, consisting of white, carmine and traces of light-yellow.

Four years ago I concocted a similar tint using acrylic gesso tinted with alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow acrylics. This time; however, my painting process took a different turn. I've been painting laboriously layered small florals for a gala art auction in December. Sometimes I just don't want to work on a painting for weeks at a time. Most of the artwork I admire is direct painted, by artists who employ luscious, painterly brushstrokes as part of the painting. Vincent did this. I can stand for hours in front of one of his paintings, just examining the brush strokes.

So I decided to give direct painting another chance. I tinted the canvas with a mixture of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Deep and Titanium White, thinned down with Liquin. I applied it thinly and smoothed with a blending brush, then let it dry overnight. The next day I started painting, and finished on one day. Ah bliss, no time to get tired of the painting!

I feel this direct painted floral is as good, or better than paintings in which I used a layered technique. I was able to capture freshness, which is what I want to capture in a floral. I also completed it faster, which suits my need for instant gratification (at least when painting!). And I didn't have to worry about my paint mixtures drying, since I used them up in one day.

So you tell me, can a direct painted floral capture the depth, essence and luminous quality of a flower?
Painted directly: Yellow Rhody
Painted in many layeres: Trillium, Rhody Glow, or Peony

I shall keep the brush happy in my hand!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Buff Titanium

Titanium Hue coated canvas and board

My next painting, Wedding Dress, will be done on this canvas primed with a coat of Titanium Hue.

To backtrack, I coated it first with five coats of Utrecht Professional Grade Gesso, which I love because I can get away with five coats, while other brands take 10, then one coat of watered down Utrecht Unbleached Titanium Hue acrylic paint.

I'm the artist who likes to get right up close to museum paintings (if museum security lets me!) to see if I can see any canvas weave, texture or initial priming showing through the painting. I've seen the canvas showing through in many Impressionist and Van Gogh paintings. It never seems to be white, alway some kind of buff, tan, brownish color. Either the artist primed the canvas with a tan or pinkish brown sienna color, or initially it was white, but over time discolored to a brown tone.

Wedding Dress has beautiful sunshine shining on some creamy Rhododendron petals. I need to be able to tell how white my whites need to be. Putting white paint on a white canvas can be confusing until you put other colors next to it. With a tan background I'll be able to judge the correctness of my whites more accurately. Plus, I like the idea of painting on a canvas the same color as the Impressionists may have used!

You can see my sophisticated setup for priming canvases above; essentially an old sheet on the floor to protect my studio rug. And in the chair beyond is the ubiquitious studio cat who watches over everything I do (mainly so she can either walk on it, or drop hairs on it later!)

Thank you for the opportunity to share my painting techniques with you!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Varnishing Some Paintings

I opened up windows downstairs this lovely spring weekend in order to do some varnishing. In the foreground is my triptych: Poppyscape, which has just been purchased. Behind it are several plein airs I'm entering into the Columbian Artists Juried Spring Show this month. Everything is laid out on the wrinkled sheet I use to protect furniture and the floor.

I've tried every type of artist varnish out there, including semi-gloss and matte versions, and have concluded that I prefer gloss. Why? It makes the painting look wet, as if I just finished it. If you've ever stood in front of a Van Gogh (and I have) you know that his paintings look like he just finished them. Example: I stood in front of a Van Gogh at SAM a couple of years ago, restraining myself from touching it (the museum guards would have put me in handcuffs), because it looked like he had just painted it, right down to a brush hair embedded in one glossy, broken brush stroke. It brought tears to my eyes and I cannot describe how I felt other than it was like Mr. Van Gogh was standing right next to me with his paintbrush in motion.

The varnish that gives me the best result in Winsor & Newton Artists' Gloss Varnish. It dries overnight leaving a glossy finish that can be removed later if needed. When my paintings finally hang, they look as if they were wet, which is exactly what I want!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Basic Flesh-Tone Palette

New flesh-tone color chart - top
Page from painting journal with notes on flesh tones - center
Pages from painting journal with recent flesh-tone mixtures - bottom
The January issue of The Artist's magazine featured artist Michael De Brito's paintings and the four-color, flesh-tone palette he uses to render his figures. I read with interest and decided to give the colors a test run. The economy of using just four colors seems to break down the process of mixing flesh tones into a basic formula. Since most artists (including myself) struggle to depict accurate flesh tones, I thought De Brito's palette was a refreshing break from all the complicated mixtures I've tried in the past.

Which basically gives me a pretty wide range of colors. Pinks, oranges and dusky flesh tones in both warm and cool variations can be mixed from Flake White mixed with Naples Yellow, Vermillion and Ivory Black. For those elusive cool green tones, a mixture of Naples Yellow and Ivory Black renders a muddy green, the addition of Vermillion warms. For darkest darks Vermillion plus black gives a warm or cool dark, depending on how much black is used.

The bottom two images show the pages from my painting journal, detailing additional mixtures from the same palette, along with notes on their use in recent paintings.

So far I've used this flesh palette in two paintings I'm working on: Blue Angel and Daydream Believer, both are detailed on my Fan page. I'm happy with the results! I think I'll stick with this palette into the New Year!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Why I love Blacks and Browns!

Detail from Blue Angel - oil on canvas - 24 x 36
Many of my art books eschew the use of black or brown, saying it makes paint mixtures muddy. I disagree. Artists such as Rembrant, Caravaggio and Titian used black and brown in abundance. My color reference book: Color: a Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finley covers blacks and browns in the second chapter. What I found particularly intriguing is her statement '...the first paint was black and the first artist female'. Like I'd want to argue with that?

Plus anyone who understands even a smidgen of art history knows that early cave painters used charcoal made from lumps of burned wood or chunks of earthy substances mixed with animal fat or water to make brown paints.

So it makes sense that early 16th and 17th century painters used colors handed down through history, and that also must have been relatively inexpensive. They probably had plenty of charcoal available due to all the fireplaces they burned just to cook and keep warm. Rembrant's rich darks made from browns and blacks have a depth that no other artist (in my opinion) has managed to capture. The realistic flesh of Caravaggio and Titian indicate they modeled figures with layers of shadowy colors. My books on how to paint in the Old Master's style say they used blacks and browns to underpaint their figures.

I'm using brown and black in my painting Blue Angel, detail above, in which I've modeled the flesh and background with only three colors (all oils), Ivory Black, Burnt Umber and Flake White. So far I like the progress. My black is a Rembrandt (brand) Ivory Black, and the Burnt Umber and Flake White are both Winsor Newton (brand). Ironically, I'm painting like Rembrandt, using Rembrandt brand oil paints!

Thus, I plan to continue using blacks and browns in my paintings, in spite of what a lot of art books say. I'll go with Rembrandt, he obviously knew what he was doing!

See the finished version of Blue Angel.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Way to go Mabef!

In late August I picked up a Mabef Lyre M11/D easel at Michaels Store for a great price. I desperately needed a second easel to support my 48" x 96" mother-of-all Rhododendron paintings. Mabef easels have never disappointed me. They're sturdy, the wood is good quality and best of all they're economical.

So I was very surprised when after spending two hours assembling my new easel (mind you, I'm artistic, not mechanical) that it was missing a crucial screw part necessary to support my painting. Darn was not the word I used! And a return to the store was out of the question. I'd already spent two hours assembling, who knows how long it would take to disassemble and re-pack.

What to do? Since I'm a blogger and a Tweeter, I snapped a photo and posted it to my Flickr site, then tweeted and dashed off an e-mail to Mabef customer support, which resulted in an automatic reply saying Mabef staff were on vacation until September 1. Double darn.

Now here it is mid September (just a couple weeks later) and this week I was pleasantly surprised to receive a small package postmarked Italia postaprioritario from Cardano al Campo Italy! Enclosed was the missing screw part, mailed to me all the way from Mabef Easels in Italy! They even printed out and enclosed a black/white copy of my Flickr photo, Italian version! Mabef Easel missing part su Flickr - Condivisione di foto! You can see it in my photo (above).

WAY TO GO MABEF! Now that is customer service! I'm blogging and tweeting, so everyone will know that Mabef supports their customers, all the way from Cardano al Campo, Italy to little ol' Kalama, Washington USA.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why Use Payne's Gray?

Payne's Gray Color Chart
Every artist struggles to mix vibrant grays, which is an oxymoron, because vibrant and gray aren't exactly sympatico. But if you've ever tried to mix them, and ended up with a pile of mud, that is, muddy gray, you know what I mean.

I decided to explore the quality of Winsor & Newton Payne's Gray oil paint. It's transparent, according to the WN color chart, with blue undertones from the copper phthalocyanine pigment it's made from, along with carbon black. (Color index: PB29, PBk7, PB15)

I made a half tone by mixing 1/2 Payne's Gray and 1/2 Titanium White, then made a similar half tone from every color on my palette, then mixed the Payne's Gray half tone with each of my color palette half tones. The result; a series of muted, yet vibrant grayed colors, as you can see in the third and sixth rows of my color chart.

I imagine that muting these grayed colors with additional white will give me a series of grays that have many uses: sky colors, white fabric colors, shadow colors, etc.

I've added Payne's Gray to my palette in place of black. I think it will be a good addition!

But I still have one question, why did Winsor & Newton name it 'Payne's Gray?'

~ I will keep the brush happy in my hand! ~