Another sunny day in the UK, filled with the smell of Rosa ‘Jasmina’ as she gently sways in the breeze, giving off waves of warm rose perfume. She really is a spectacular rose.
The baby sparrows have started their yearly invasion. They are so less reasonable than their parents. For a few weeks they will entertain us with their antics, flying like bricks across the garden and landing on totally inappropriate perches, not yet aware of what can or cannot support their fluffy weight. They land on slender stems and go right down to the ground, not light enough to stay up but not heavy enough to break anything. They take off again as if bouncing on a trampoline, disorientated but not scared enough to sit still for even a minute. It is unimaginable that these tiny throats only a few millimetres long can produce such a racket. The parents follow with beaks full of seeds and flappings full of disapproval.
I posted another masking fluid video on YouTube, a shorter version of the tests I filmed earlier. In this abridged version (only about 5 minutes), I focused on the results rather than the process, marking the 10 brands on a series of criteria such as fluidity, ease of application and removal, colour, damage to the paper, precision of the unmasked marks, etc. The video is not exactly what you’re expecting. It kind of turned into something else as I was filming. The masking fluid tests results are definitely in there but they’re not alone… I had a lot of fun filming this. The longer version was 36 minutes long and entirely serious. I couldn’t take any more seriousness. The baby sparrows must be rubbing off on me.
I have an article on masking fluid coming up in the summer issue of Artists & Illustrators magazine. The article is about tips for using fluid in the best ways and I made a video to go with it. I tested 10 different brands of masking fluid live, warts and all, with surprises good and bad.
This is the full version (just over 1/2 hour) but I am also preparing an abridged version. I will let you know when it’s up.
Last Bank Holiday week-end, while we were having a mini heatwave, I spent some time in the garden and mixed some colours for forget-me-nots and Violas. It was a sunny, warm and beautiful day. I sat under the birch tree in the dappled shade. It turns out I was also sitting under a pigeon, which I realised half way through the painting. It didn’t feel particularly safe after that discovery…
Here is a link to the video (including the pigeon):
This is it… we knew this moment would come but it still makes me sad. Quinacridone Gold, the real Quinacridone Gold PO49, is now completely gone…
Does it show that I would miss QuinaGold?
When the pigment manufacturer stopped production in 2001, they offered Daniel Smith (who were the first manufacturer to use Quinacridones in their paints) the opportunity to buy all their remaining stocks. Of course, Daniel Smith gleefully pounced on the barrels of powdered gold without asking too many questions. They inherited warehouses full of the valuable dust. By 2005, all the other paint manufacturers had to reformulate and find substitutes, while Daniel Smith proudly paraded their exclusive pure colour.
They had to run out eventually. Now it is their turn to reformulate and find an alternative with the same purity and glow, trying to convince frowning artists that the new formulation is just as good and probably better. Impossible task. As a single pigment, Quinacridone Gold had a level of clarity and saturation that is impossible to replicate by mixing several pigments.
Daniel Smith’s announcement of the end of the real Quinacridone Gold
Honestly, I think that they mishandled their highly advantageous position all these years ago. They could have kept the almost extinct, precious pigment exclusively for their Quinacridone Gold paint. Instead they used it in other mixes such as Sap Green, which frankly could be made of anything. What a waste of those last drops of elixir…
Physalis painted with Quinacridone Gold PO49
If you are lucky enough to have a local art shop selling DS paints, a sneaky rummage through their Quinacridone Gold tubes is worth your while. You might yet find some treasure.
And how about these rumours that a Chinese pigment manufacturer is producing PO49 again? I’ll keep an eye on that and hope for a resurrection… but so far I haven’t found any trustworthy source that this is a real thing.
Some watercolourists seem to find it hard to make the difference between neutral colours (especially browns) and muddy mixes. There is a huge variety of browns that are clean, transparent and without a hint of mud in them, not even the detoxifying cleansing spa kind.
Unlike primary and secondary colours that are found on the rim of the colour wheel, neutral colours sit in the centre. They are obtained when a primary colour is mixed with its opposite secondary colour, also called complementary colour.
Depending on the proportions used, most of these mixes are brown, while some tend towards grey. The main complementary neutral mixes are as follows:
Yellow + purple
Red + green
Blue + orange
All of these mixes are clean neutral colours with a potential to turn to mud…
So what makes the difference between a clean neutral brown and a muddy one?
Here are a few things to avoid if you have to put your wellies on every time you try to mix a neutral colour:
Poor quality paints. This first one seems obvious but low quality paints are full of fillers, which are made of various substances (mainly chalk) that affect the saturation levels, transparency and brilliance of the paint. Fillers are used to bulk out the paint, filling the tubes or pans with anything but pigments, which are the most expensive component of the paint. This way the manufacturer saves money and the paints are cheaper. Don’t be tempted by cheap paints, even if the manufacturer calls them “artist range’. If the paint is cheap, the ingredients are cheap.
Too many pigments. Try to stick to single pigment paints. Every pigment reflects different sections of the light spectrum and too many pigments will fight each other to death and leave behind a muddy battlefield. Imagine mixing a green made of 4 pigments with an orange made of 3 pigments. This gives you a mix of 7 different pigments and it is bound to turn nasty.
Opaque paints. These tend to overwhelm the transparent paints and the washes will lose their transparency and delicate finish.
Dense pigments. Some pigments (Cadmiums are a good example) are extremely dense as well as opaque. The other pigments simply cannot compete with them and as a result the mixes become heavy and have too much covering power. The transparency and freshness of the washes is lost.
Overworking the paint. It is possible to have a clean neutral mix in the palette but ruining it on the paper by overworking the paint. Browns are especially susceptible to this. If the paint is moved around too much, the layering of the pigment becomes uneven and creates unwanted texture that looks dirty and “tired”.
Mixing too much paint. Thick washes are definitely not helping when it comes to keeping colours clean. Make sure to use a small amount of paint with plenty of water. It is safer to layer several washes of thin paint than to apply the colour in one thick wash. Remember this only works with transparent paints.
Proportion is the key. Any two colours mixed together can produce an infinity of colours. Try to identify the bias of your neutral colour before you start mixing: is it a blue-biased grey, a red-biased brown, a yellow-biased grey green? This will give you an indication of the proportions. This is important because if the proportions are wrong and the colour not what you were aiming for, it is tempting to add more and more paint until the mix becomes thick and muddy and a mountain of frustration.
If you are having trouble with muddy browns, I would bet that you have been doing one or several of the things above.
Hopefully this will help clean your neutral colours!
It is the time of year to open studio doors and welcome people to see my work and have a chat!
My studio, house and garden will be open from Friday 25 to Monday 28, with a preview on the Thursday evening.
I will be painting most of the time so you can see me working but this year I am also running two workshops, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. These will be from 2 to 4pm, in the studio or in the garden depending on the weather, all materials provided, with a maximum of 4 participants so you will get lots of attention! (Even if you would rather not ;D) If you are interested in taking part, you can email me at email@example.com
I will have many paintings exhibited, from small work starting under £50 to large paintings, as well as cards and folios. A black wall and a white wall, flowers and fruit and bugs… I will also have some of my textile work on show.
Now back to painting the walls of the living room in preparation for the event… Ooohhh, new colour!
The Artists & Illustrators Magazine May issue is out!
I have another article in there, and this time it’s not about botanical art: it’s called “The Ethical Artist” and it’s about looking at where our art materials come from and what they are made off.
I did quite a bit of research and got in touch with lots of manufacturers, who were all forthcoming with their info, so there will be more blog posts about the results. For example, I tested a dozen different synthetic brushes (not being a fan of sable fur farms…) and found some treasures I need to tell you about.
In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the A&I article… Here is the first page.
I thought it was time to write an update on the Fabriano Artistico paper situation.
Unfortunately, for the moment, the report is that there is nothing much to report on the paper front. The October earthquake in Italy hit the Pioraco Mill and the roof collapsed, damaging some of the machinery. Fortunately nobody was hurt but paper production at the mill has stopped. The other Fabriano mills have to make up for the loss of production and are working extra shifts to cover. This means no time for experiments… at least for the next few months. It will still happen, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer, probably after the summer.
In the meanwhile, here is a work in progress on Fabriano Artistico.
My thanks to Chiara from Fabriano for the info. I will post more news here about Fabriano Artistico next time I have something to report…