Thursday 27 November 2014

On My Easel today...

Phragmipedium Bel Royal sketchbook page

 This is a painting of a flower I fell for 'hook, line and sinker'.   I think, by now, most people are aware of my love of all things Orchid, so it won't come as much of a surprise, but this is an orchid that I'll probably never own.  It just grows too big!   I ran out of space a long time ago and still the collection is growing.  I've had to repot and split a few this week, so I've suddenly got two more plants I didn't anticipate, but I digress.

My new love is an Orchid I met at the Orchid Festival of Wales, on the stand of The Orchid Society of Great Britain.  It's a Phragmipedium Bel Royal and is one of the most striking slipper orchids I've seen.   The colours just glow!

It was one of the flowers I was given to bring home with me to paint, and I've got plenty of drawings and sketches despite having to work so quickly to record it.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - First washes

 The first picture shows the delicate first washes of colour laid down, reserving the white areas to keep the highlights.  This is the stage where I often feel that it's going wrong and maybe I should start again.  Nerves of steel are needed to continue.  It also takes a lot of patience, waiting for the washes to dry.  Painting on damp washes is one of the quickest ways to dull a painting.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Further washes

 This second picture shows how the washes have developed and the shadows are beginning to give shape to the flowers.  Edges need tidying up in places and I'm removing as much pencil as possible at this stage.

Phragmipedium Bel Royal - Even more washes

The last picture shows how further washes have been added and the painting is now starting to look a little more like a pale version of what I have in mind.    There's quite a bit more work to be done and many more washes to come, but not all over.  Pale areas will stay very pale unless I need to adjust them. 

I hope you've enjoyed this work in progress, I'll update it in the next few days as it grows and develops.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

How many colours do you need to paint flowers?

I've been thinking a lot about colour lately.   Specifically, how many colours does a beginner need in order to paint a painting?   Notice the word need, rather than want.

Many beginners in watercolours seem confused as to what colours they need to buy, and I'm sure many of us have bought as many colours as we could afford, thinking that more is better.  Then sat around unsure as to where to begin, overwhelmed at the sheer number of colours in their kit!

So with this in mind, I picked three colours which work really well together and are transparent, and set out to find out how many colours I could make with just those three colours. 

The answer is...  a lot.      I decided to keep my colour chart to just one side of watercolour paper, and a bit smaller than A4.  No reason for the size apart from already having several pieces, all the same handy size.
Three colour chart with Cotman Watercolours ©2014 Polly o'Leary
Three colour chart with Cotman Watercolours

First, I mixed two of each of the colours, adding tiny amounts of one colour to another and recording the colours as they changed.   I did this with each of the three colours.

Then, I picked mixes of two of the colours and added tiny amounts of the third to see what colours I got.

I labelled everything so that I could repeat any colour I wanted just by looking at the chart.

Notice that each primary colour can be changed to either warm or cool by adding tiny amounts of one of the other colours.  So you get a Warm Red and a Cool Red, a Warm and Cool Blue and a Warm and Cool Yellow.    Then, as you continue adding tiny amounts, the colours change to produce a range of Oranges, Purples and Greens.

But that isn't the end of the story, each of those Oranges, Purples and Greens can be further changed by adding tiny amounts of a primary colour to produce progressively warmer or cooler versions of the colour.   And as you add more and more of the primary, you get a range of browns, golds and greys.

All of this was done using only Cotman Watercolour paints, since this is often the paint bought by beginners, but you'd get the same results using Artist's Watercolurs too.

As I was enjoying myself, I then decided to make colour charts with six colours guided by a MaimeriBlu Tryout Set I had hanging around (In the Cotman Chart below, I used seven colours as I wanted to see the difference between PG7 Phthalo Green, and PG36 Phthalo Green in the mixes) .   But this time, I limited my mixes to just two of the colours, otherwise I'd still be mixing colours.

Six-colour Palette Mixes - Cotman, MaimeriBlu and Artist's Watercolours ©2014 Polly o'Leary
Six-colour Palette Mixes - Cotman, MaimeriBlu and Artist's Watercolours

So there you are,  it's possible to mix a huge number of colours with just three well chosen tubes of paint - certainly enough colours for your first tentative steps in Watercolour.   And it's possible to mix an almost infinite number of colours with just six well chosen tubes of paint.    Good news for anyone wanting to start painting in watercolour without spending a fortune.

More on Colour

Lightfastness Testing #1

Lightfastness Testing #2 - Results

The Problem Of PY153 - New Gamboge, Indian Yellow