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watercolour painting

(19 Posts)
rockgran Thu 02-Jan-14 16:38:43

Hi all, I've just been looking back and I see there was a thread by lucyjordan about this hobby. I have just taken it up again (using an internet tutor) and have really enjoyed myself over this Christmas holiday. I'm not brilliant but I love to do it - it is really absorbing. Any other "artists" out there. I'm putting a few paintings on my gallery - it's the only place they will hang!

yogagran Thu 02-Jan-14 17:42:31

rockgran could you let me have the details of the Internet tutor as I'd love to try this please

rockgran Thu 02-Jan-14 18:38:13

Hi yogagran - I'm using this one by Matthew Palmer. There are a few free videos available then you can pay for membership if you like it. I find him very easy to follow and quite amusing too. Good luck!

Dragonfly1 Tue 07-Jan-14 21:34:52

There are some interesting video tutorials by Steve Cronin on YouTube.

Granart Wed 08-Jan-14 12:42:04

There is a fantastic site called Wet Canvas which has lots of advice about painting - watercolour included. Also you tube has many demonstrations.

wingnut Thu 09-Jan-14 19:00:37

Somehow I've always been a bit scared of watercolours, to be honest. I have some, and some paper, just willing myself to go and play with them.

Now oils are a completely different matter. Oils are incredibly versatile, you can go from thick impasto to thin glazes; from drying overnight to having an open time of five days or so. If you don't like a bit, just wipe it off with an oily rag, scrape it off with a palette knife, or paint over it. You can paint alls prima or build up in thin glazes. Oils are comfortable and forgiving.

I have thought about using the dry brush technique for watercolours, e.g. like Ottorino De Lucchi, or like McCormack, but what attracts me to them is actually the very speed at which they can be done (it takes me weeks to complete an oil painting), so maybe I should look more a Paul Jackson or Alvaro Castagnet

But then, I do have some lovely amber medium that I haven't tried yet...

NfkDumpling Thu 09-Jan-14 19:06:45

Thank you everyone. I'd got my name down for classes this term, but the class was full. The she'll keep me going for a bit. Just need to stay away from GN to give me a bit more time!

wingnut Thu 09-Jan-14 20:06:24

APV films do a lot of DVDs about watercolour painting. I have the one by Greg Allen, which is excellent, and Alvaro Castagnet and Robert Wade also have several DVDs on their lists. Many videos by other production companies can be watched online (for a fee) at

Most of my sources are for oils, but the above may be of interest to watercolourists.

wingnut Thu 09-Jan-14 20:09:54

Oh, I forgot to mention. Can I recommend Rosemary and Co for brushes? I have a number of hers, and they have been first class. Beautiful sables, but a number of innovative synthetics too, if that is your wont. They work out very good value because you are buying directly from the brush maker, so no shop markup.

NfkDumpling Thu 09-Jan-14 22:27:51

Thank you. Feeling inspired!

wingnut Thu 09-Jan-14 22:53:04

I've been having a look at and for what it's worth I have a few comments.

First, the price is extremely reasonable, I'm very tempted to sign up for a few to get me going in watercolour. There is also a reasonable variety of scenes in the landscape/seascape area.

On the negative side, his paintings do nothing for me, too kitschy. In trying to analyse why that might be, I think it comes down a good deal to: composition, value range, and lack of edge awareness. Compare with someone like Nita Engle, for example. However, that is purely a personal taste matter. It doesn't mean I couldn't learn a great deal of useful technique in the early stages.

I have spent a good deal of time, over many years, looking at properties of pigments and media, and the physiology of vision. Here is his list of recommended paints, to which I attach the pigment number of the content of the paint. I do this because manufacturers paint names don't mean very much. For example, Sap Green by one manufacturer may be a different colour and have different properties from Sap Green by another manufacturer. They all list the pigments on the tube, though, so you can tell what you are getting. Pigments start with 'P' (for pigment), then the colour ('R' for red, 'B' for blue, 'Y' for yellow, 'Bk' for black, 'G' for green, 'Br' for brown), and a number.

OK, here is his suggested palette

Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
Yellow Ochre (PY43)
Alizarin Crimson (PR83)
Burnt Sienna (usually PBr7, but Lukas is PY42)
Opague white (presumably zinc white) (PW4)
Lemon Yellow (could be many things: Sennelier and Schmincke use Hansa Yellow Light PY3; W&N use Nickel Titanium Oxide PY53 but W&N 'winsor lemon' is PY154 Benzimadazolone yellow, as does MaimeriBlu; Rembrandt is Bismuth vanadate PY184 - you see why the pigment should be specified!)
Aureolin (PY43)

First point: two of these pigments are a serious defect in a professional palette. Alizarin Crimson and Aureolin are both fugitive colours, they will fade, badly. In 20 years, under normal lighting conditions, Alizarin Crimson will have lost a lot of its red and become a brown. This is surprisingly common amongst watercolourists and very irksome, because this depresses the value of watercolour paintings generally. Buyers pay less than for oils in good part because they perceive that the painting will not last. This doesn't have to be the case, but using fugitive colours feeds this idea.

Next, the choice of palette. It's ok, but not brilliant. It is basically an 18th C 'primary' palette (red/yellow/blue) with the addition of two earth colours, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, and a dull yellow, Aureolin. These are convenient to dull the chroma of a number of colours, and Burnt Sienna is a mixing complement of Ultramarine Blue, giving a range of greys and a reasonable black.

There is no such thing as a perfect palette. Every choice of colours is a compromise between value and chroma range (i.e. gamut), mixing convenience, and pigment monotony. I'll do a follow up post analysing this palette in those terms, and suggest some improvements, tomorrow.

rockgran Fri 10-Jan-14 13:20:26

Thankyou for all that info Wingnut. You are obviously very well informed and passionate about your art. How inspired you sound! I agree that the Matthew Palmer course is a bit simplistic but that's actually what I was looking for. I find all the science stuff the reason I never feel like painting. With his course I felt able to just "do it!" I just used the colours I already had as I wanted to start using my paints before they dried up completely! I'm sure you're right about the colours he suggests not lasting but if you're not interested in selling I don't suppose it matters. (I always photograph mine then file them for posterity - i.e. for my son to delete eventually.)smile
I'm now looking at more still life and flower painting on youtube but now I feel able to put paint to paper. The fact that I have signed up for watercolourtv means I will be motivated (a Scot married to a Yorkshireman doesn't waste money!) I even took my paints on holiday this week and used them!
I've had a look at Nita Engle and she is amazing - will certainly research her further.

Dragonfly1 Fri 10-Jan-14 18:14:25

Rockgran I think your paintings are lovely. Like you, I feel intimidated by all the science around painting so I do the best I can for my own pleasure. And if the pigments fade after twenty years I don't actually care cos I won't be around! You go girl!

rosesarered Fri 10-Jan-14 18:14:56

rockgran just viewed your paintings, they are great!!! I especially like the roses and the snow

rockgran Fri 10-Jan-14 19:08:43

Thank you Dragonfly and rosesarered! I just paint for the pleasure of it -it is a great way to clear your mind of worries. It is nice to have a place to keep them and if someone has a look that's great!

wingnut Fri 10-Jan-14 19:52:38

Yes, anything that gets you painting is good, and I felt the same about these courses. I'm pointing out my reservations about a couple of things (well, the choice of two colours, really), but otherwise I'm all for it. As for lightfastness, it is true that anything I do right now is not good in my eyes, but then it is no more expensive or difficult to use lightfast pigments as fugitive ones, and if my great grandparents, say, had painted, and I had been passed down a copy, I would have been really pleased. So why not?

OK, I was going to say something about his recommended palette (i.e. his choice of colours, as against the pigments used to make those colours). First, let me say there is nothing at all wrong with it, as every palette is a compromise, so you make a compromise that suits you. Understanding the choices can help you work out what you would like to change–if anything.

First, gamut, which is just a word to describe the total set of colours you can mix with a given set of paints. This is a limited gamut set, which you may or may not like (Trevor Chamberlain uses a fairly limited palette and I love his work). Everyone is familiar with the colour wheel, yes? With the colours around the outside, usually yellow at the top, going through orange, red, purple, blue, cyan, blue-green, and yellow-green. So the angle determines the colour (called the hue angle). The middle of the wheel is neutral grey or black (or white, there are actually three dimensions, the third being value), so the closer to the middle you get, the less colour and more neutral it is. take two of the paints, let's say ultramarine and alizarin crimson, and make a number of mixtures, starting with pure blue, then with a little of the red added, more and more red, till in the final pile there is pure alizarin. If you found ultramarine and alizarin on the colour wheel and drew a line between them, you have basically mixed all the colours along that line (I'm simplifying slightly, the line may not be perfectly linear, but never mind).

Now take a third colour, say yellow ochre, and mix some of that in with any of the piles you have made, and you can see that you can pull the colour made anywhere along the line towards the third colour. In fact, if you find all three colours on the colour wheel, and join them with a triangle, the interior of that triangle is the full range of colours you can mix with those three paints, ok? But yellow ochre isn't a very bright (saturated, or chromatic) yellow, and alizarin crimson is a fairly dull red. There is no possible way to make a brighter yellow than yellow ochre by adding blue or red to it, yes? Similarly, you can't make a brighter orange by mixing yellow ochre and alizarin than what is on the line between the two on the colour wheel, but cadmium orange, say is much more orange than that. The fact that a line between any two points on the colour wheel goes closer to the middle at all points between them is called saturation cost. It means that if you choose colours that are spaced far apart on the colour wheel, you can only make fairly dull (low chroma) mixes with it. If you mixed, say, lemon yellow and perinone orange, you can make very bright orangey yellows and oranges, because they are close together. And for any pure paint you have, you can't make anything more chromatic than the pure paint itself. So, to get the widest gamut, you need very saturated paint colours that are not too far apart. Makes sense, yes?

Looking at this palette choice, you can see that aureolin, yellow ochre and burnt sienna don't expand the gamut at all, they are convenient for mixing dull browns and yellows, but you could do that with the other colours. You can only make pretty dull greens, because ultramarine and lemon yellow are a long way apart, and dull purples, because you only have a dull red to begin with.

Six watercolours (plus white gouache), but you can get a much more extensive gamut by choosing six saturated (chromatic) colours evenly spaced around the spectrum. also, the subtractive primaries are not red, blue and yellow, as they thought in the 18C, but cyan, magenta, and yellow, so we'll include those, and colours equally spaced between them.

Lemon yellow (windsor lemon PY154)
Cadmium scarlet (PR108)
Quinacridone magenta (PR122 w&n is good here)
Ultramarine blue (PB29)
Phthalocyanine blue Green Shade (PB15:3, e.g. W&N winsor blue gs)
Phthalocyanine green Yellow Shade (PG36)

These are all lightfast, and pthalo blue G/S and cadmium scarlet give very deep blacks Cadmium scarlet and quinacridone magenta give a full range of reds.
I mention W&N as they are very commonly available and good. The best watercolour brands are Daniel Smith, W&N, MaimeriBlu and M. Graham.

I would extend that a little with a couple of convenience dull colours in the warm part of the spectrum,

Nickel dioxine yellow (PY153) or yellow ochre
Quinacridone burnt orange (PO48) or Burnt sienna
Perylene maroon (PR179). (good alizarin crimson replacement)

So eight or nine colours, all the convenience of the original, more mixing complements, much greater gamut, and all lightfast.

Dragonfly1 Fri 10-Jan-14 20:01:25

Wingnut I'm sure you're very knowledgable, but actually that kind of theoretical deluge is what puts me off painting. Some of us just like to mess around and enjoy our hobby without being made to feel intellectually inadequate. Which I now feel. So I shall leave this thread alone and go splash some paint on some paper instead.

Dragonfly1 Fri 10-Jan-14 20:05:35


adam222 Fri 11-Apr-14 10:52:26

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