Paint what you know:
I know that seems to be my common theme. However, I don’t think it can be said enough nor often enough. My point is simple. You are unique. Even if you have an identical twin no one sees like you do. No one thinks like you do. No one reacts in the same way to those things that happen around you. In short, your greatest asset is your unique individuality. To be certain all of us have shared feelings and shared viewpoints. In spite of that; your reactions are largely personal. While some may not see it our individual traits are our strongest asset. I am reminded of two very powerful events in my life that support my belief. When I was very young, about 14, I was admitted into the Famous Artist School, in Westport, Connecticut. It was my first experience with distance learning. I was absolutely amazed at the ability of the faculty. I recall submitting a project that was heavily influenced by one of my idols of the time. When my critique was delivered it was a sharp rebuke. It read something like this, ” I see you were heavily influenced by a particular artist, etc.,etc.,…in short why in the hell do you want to copy someone’s mistakes?” Mind you this piece was influenced by a very famous, extremely talented painter!
Many years later I had the privilege of training for 25 years with Saiko Shihan Oyama of World Oyama Karate. Over a period of years one fact was replayed over and over again as young and old students would be demonstrating their knowledge of kata. Students would get nervous before and during promotion and they would glance to see what movements their neighbors were making. Almost always the neighbor would be doing it wrong! What is my point? Be yourself. To quote Shihan, ” If you make a mistake make it DYNAMIC!” Have the courage to stand on your own two feet and follow your heart. Sheeple get led around and never break out of the herd.
While I stress individuality I do not stress it at the risk of producing quality. Learn the basics first. At the same time feel free to break out and explore. In the realm of exploring this small piece was produced on a French handmade paper that is well worth your time and effort. This watercolor was painted on a paper from Ruscombe Mills in France. I love the quality of the paper and the color hold out. I really have no complaints. You can find it by doing a search for Ruscombe Mills.
However, I will give you a caution. READ the instructions that come with the paper. It will tell you to soak the paper and then mount it in order for the paper to smooth out. After all, this is handmade and it comes out with some ripples. At first you may think the paper is a bit thin or at least thinner than a number of commercially produced papers. Don’t let that fool you. This paper is strong. My first attempt at stretching resulted in disaster. I drew in pencil upon the paper and put the sheet in a tub of cold water. Since the paper felt lighter than other papers I placed the staples fairly close to the edge of the paper. While the paper was still very wet I washed in some Winsor and Newton Rose Dior and some random swatches of ultramarine blue. The very wet paper allowed the color to cascade down the sheet as it sat at an angle on my board. I left the room in anticipation of painting the next morning. That would give the paper time to dry and I would resume the process again.
The next morning arrived and as I walked into the studio I could see that what I had judged to be a thinner than usual watercolor paper had the strength of a Goliath! The wire staples had pulled loose from the plywood mounting board, while some had ripped through the paper. The result was a wrinkled mess. I was fresh and relaxed and realized that I had misjudged the strength of the paper. I removed all staples and plunged the paper back into the a cold bath. After it soaked for about 10-15 minutes I placed on my mounting board. This time I positioned the staples at least 1/4″ from the edge of the paper. The sheet dried with a beautiful taut flat surface.
This paper doesn’t disappoint. I’m glad that I bought several sheets. The washes in this painting are all transparent colors. I very rarely use opaque color and when I do it is for special effects only. The glazing techniques I employ do not produce vibrant color if you use opaque paints or body color. Those approaches block the light and kill the vibrancy of the washes. The surface of the Ruscombe paper I am using produces clean sparkling color. It takes dry brushing and seems to be open to washing back or lifting color if you desire. The paper holds a wide range of values with ease. The surface is tough enough to allow for scraping. I can say that this will be one of my favorite papers. Try it . I think you will like it. As I sit here and write this I am already making plans to visit a nearby orchard. More about that later.
Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff, Bluff Park, Alabama
While this is a watercolor site I want to share a first with you. Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff, in Bluff Park, Alabama my son, David, and I will be having our first joint father and son show. The art center was once an elementary school that has been refurbished as an art center hosting individual studios as well as new class rooms for teaching artists. One of those new studios will be for my watercolor students.
Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques? You can purchase Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor , Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin at http://www.createspace.com/3657628
Learn from a DVD entitled The Antique Shop that features Don’s approach to painting on the scene at http://createspace.com/350893
Study with Don Rankin On-line. Approximately 2.5 hours of watercolor instruction that allows you to work at your own pace in the convenience of your home. https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor
Study watercolor with Don Rankin. For more information contact Ms. Linda Williams at Artists on the Bluff, Bluff Park, Alabama 205-532-2769
I want to comment on some new watercolors that I received in the mail. From the offset I want to make it clear that I have no monetary interest in promoting these colors. However, in view of the fact that I have taught watercolor for more than a quarter of a century, I owe it to my students. I want to thank Ms. Kelly Clawson, Brand Manager at Martin/F Weber Company for sending me these goodies. I was asked for comments. I think it is worth sharing with all of you. So here goes.
The brand is called Mission Gold by Mijello. If you Google the product you will see it listed at Cheap Joe’s and Dick Blick as well. No doubt other suppliers have them too. The package I received contains a few colors I don’t normally use. In fact, if I merely relied upon names, past experience with other brands would lead me to avoid the use of some of the paints. However, if you are going to try a product; you really ought to give every offering a fair shake.
First things first:
My first test was to use the colors full strength over a black India ink field. I prefer to use circles because they conform very easily to a book format. Circles can be tedious so if you want to duplicate my efforts any black line or bar on watercolor paper will do. I would suggest that you use waterproof black India ink for this test. Other paints such as acrylics may pose an absorption problem. My desire is to use the paint under the same conditions that I test all new paints I use. To do otherwise would devalue the results of the test.
Why a black field?
Beginning students will often ask me why I use a black field to test paint. In order to excel with watercolor you really need to know the relative transparency/opacity of your colors. Simple tests like this will tell you volumes. Full strength washes will give you a good idea of the nature of the paint. It will be obvious to those of you who utilize this test that some paints will be fairly opaque at full strength yet surprisingly transparent as you dilute them into washes. The only way you are going to know this is by working with your colors.
Starting with the first red, Permanent Rose, I’ll name the other colors as we work around the circle. You will note that I used a clean enameled butcher’s tray for my paints. The order of colors is as follows: Permanent Rose, Permanent Red, Rose Madder, Permanent Yellow Light, Viridian, Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Peacock Blue, Yellow Orange.
Checkout the circle:
The circle was painted on a sheet of 140lb. Lana Aquarelle cold press paper. For those who follow me or my books regarding the glazing technique you should note that some of these colors would be on my caution list. The reason is that in some brands, colors like Permanent Yellow and Yellow Orange would tend to be on the opaque side and thereby not a good choice for beginning layers of a glazing technique. If you look at the chart you will see that while there is some degree of film with these two colors and with Permanent Red; there is not as much as I have seen with other paints. Well, perhaps the Permanent Red is a bit opaque. That doesn’t mean that I would necessarily jump right in and use those colors right off the bat as beginning washes. However, take a look at the next series and lets see what happens.
Watercolor Exercise beginning wet into wet:
In this first pass I wet the sheet with clean cold water. I introduced Permanent Yellow Light with a 3″ flat brush and let it run down the sheet. I was immediately impressed with the strength of the wash and its ability to hold color while diluted. Into the sky I brushed a small portion of Yellow Orange and a bit of Peacock Blue. For years I have avoided paints with catchy names like periwinkle blue, etc. These names often suggest less than serious color. Not so with this blue . While the sky was settling I brushed in Viridian in the foreground. The photo was taken while the paper was still wet. If you look carefully at the bottom of the wash you can see the puddle. I wanted to capture the intensity of the wet color. All of us are familiar with colors “drying back”, that is, losing a bit of their intensity as they dry. Please keep your eyes on the intensity as you view the next few frames. By the way ALL frames were shot in my studio as they were produced. No shots have been manipulated.
The paper is still wet and a lovely misty quality is revealing itself. None of the first wash has been manipulated; it is drying unmolested. The only new color to be introduced is in the tree line. The paper is still rather damp. The tree line is a combination of Viridian, Van Dyke Brown, and Peacock Blue I used the side of a flat brush and took care to keep the fresh wash from mingling with the green pasture. I also left a spot for an outbuilding or two that will emerge later.
The paper is still a bit moist. I added the hint of a road with a bit of Burnt Sienna and used a small brush to work around the buildings. Note how the dark treeline accentuates the yellow of the tree. This is one of those happy accidents if you will. If you like misty watercolors this could be a good stopping place. Start to finish I would estimate that perhaps 25 minutes had elapsed allowing for some drying time. The color is still holding well.
The color speaks for itself and I could have just stopped here and concluded that I had proven the worth of the paint. Its good stuff. One of the most intriguing things for me was the fact the the color holds its intensity even as you dilute it as a wash. After I did my work I Googled the product and found a factory presentation that consists of running a wash from a full strength dab of the color. Very interesting.
I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Later in the afternoon I looked at the completely dry sketch and wondered what would happen if I glazed some new color over the tree areas and in the immediate foreground. So I got a small brush for spots of detail in the barns and fence area. I mixed up Peacock Blue and Viridian and washed over the greys of the trees. I also introduced some Rose Madder into the landscape in several areas to provide a little balance. The results of the simple glaze was striking. I really didn’t know what to expect because as a general rule the results would have been a bit muddy without additional glazing washes of the same color. As a result a little bit of almost all of the color samples found their way into this little watercolor. It may never hang in the Louvre but it gave me a great deal of encouragement for this new paint. One last thought the grey in the immediate foreground was bit of Rose Madder and Peacock Blue
I will be purchasing a number of the colors that are not in the sample pack. I can’t wait to use them in a major piece I am developing right now. I think the color results will be outstanding.
For more information about Don’s revised edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I visit:
Do the paints I choose make a difference?
Absolutely! As I begin this discussion I want to clarify that all comparisons on this page are being made with high quality watercolor paints. To clarify or to be precise; in this section I am demonstrating such brands as American Journey, Grumbacher, Holbein, Maimeri, Winsor & Newton, Sennelier and Stephen Quiller. This is not to imply that all other brands are inferior. These just happen to be the colors I use most often in my studio.
Experiment with your own colors:
You should gather your own colors and arrange them in some orderly sense that works for you. The objective will be to compare several qualities in your chosen paints. If you wish to work with glazes you will need transparent colors. How can you tell which ones are more transparent? Two choices come to mind immediately. The first one is to study the chemistry of watercolor paint ingredients. You can make it as involved as you like. Most major paint manufacturers have web-sites and they will tell you a lot about the basic ingredients in their paint. This will help you become aware of some of the most often used ingredients. There are a number of guides that have been written that will offer their opinion regarding various colors. All of this is good. You should care enough to learn as much as possible about the materials you use. The second alternative is to experiment with the colors. In reality you should combine both approaches. After all experimentation is wonderful but you do need some structure as you conduct your investigations otherwise how will you make use of what you learn?
Conduct your own tests:
To get started make use of waterproof black india ink. You want waterproof ink and you want to let it dry thoroughly before you begin to pull watercolor washes across it. You can paint a straight line or you can do circles, triangles what ever makes you happy. I use circles because they work better on a book page.
What to do:
Ok. Your ink is dry. Now it is time to apply your washes. As you look at the two charts below you will see that some colors disappear as they cross the black surface. Others do not. The ones that disappear more fully are the most transparent colors. Now if you labeled your colors then you know which ones will work best for you in the first washes you apply to produce a glaze. As you experiment with your colors you will learn several things. For example some washes will become more transparent as you dilute the strength of the wash. You do this by simply adding more water to the paint.
Two charts below:
The first chart is an excerpt from my book Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I which is a revised edition of the original publication. It is available at various outlets but you can order direct at createspace.com/36567628 or Amazon.com. By the way, the colors are labeled in the book but the copy is too small for this illustration. The second chart will be in Volume II.
Chart I contains what I call more traditional colors. Colors like some cadmium colors and ultramarine. Do note that many of these colors are no longer made with traditional substances. That is, modern chemistry has found ways to produce similar effects with either less toxic or often less expensive components. Several years ago the rule of thumb was that the traditional names were retained in order to inform the experienced artist that the paint was made to perform much like its original counterpart.
Chart II is primarily made up of Quinacridone colors that I have mentioned in earlier posts. A careful examination will reveal that the colors on Chart II are more transparent than some of the more traditional colors. You will note that the outer ring has washes that are applied pretty much full strength while the inner ring has received diluted washes.
If you go back to an earlier post you can see some of the difference in the quality of paint between the piece entitled Dragging Canoe and Young Warrior. Young Warrior was painted primarily with quinacridone colors while Dragging Canoe was painted with colors found on Chart I.