Alright, so. I have been working on playing around in watercolor…though I think the better examples of this happened when I took my time. The little squares here are underneath my transparency swatches…which are basically just an index of the colors I have. Really, the biggest pain about any of this is that the earth tones tend not to stick in the lid of my palette and instead separate as little chips that fall when I try and close it… >_< …right. Whoever said that design would work, anyway?
Initially, looking at this, I was thinking that, because of what I had been doing with the brush to achieve smoother gradations (pulling each color into the other with small brushstrokes), maybe I should be working in gouache, instead. However…now that I look at it, I just see someone learning to control their medium at a very early stage.
I have gotten out the gouache: trust me, I’ve gotten out the gouache. 😉 I haven’t done any comparisons yet between the different effects achievable with each media, though.
Sorry about the photo quality…I still haven’t gotten the hang of this, yet.
Although in the past I could say that I really disliked (my own) dry-brush effects, when I look at it here, it actually seems to work. (Kind of like how I don’t like to use hard charcoal or graphite sticks, but they have their uses?) I’m pretty sure the upper pink is Permanent Rose; and the one under it is Permanent Magenta (in Winsor & Newton brand), in many other brands known as Quinacridone Violet (though W&N’s “Quinacridone Violet” is a completely different shade, leaning more blue than red). This is what I mean by irregular labeling of paints.
The grainy green-blue above it is Viridian; actual Viridian, not “Viridian Hue.” I did try blending this Viridian with Permanent Rose, and now suspect that the beautiful mixed tone I got (mentioned in multiple places, earlier) actually may have been Viridian Hue (W&N Cotman Phthalo Green) with Permanent Rose. Viridian Hue (Phthalo Green) plus Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) are together in the top central square in the upper first photo of this post. What can Phthalo Green be used for? Try! 🙂
One thing I can say is that natural hair in a paintbrush makes a world of difference in that brush’s performance. I first ran across this in Painting class, when I started using Sumi-e brushes with my watercolors, because they retained water and color better. This is not a traditional use for them, so far as I can tell — but at least the regular Western transparent watercolors I’ve tried (largely Prangs and W&N colors), don’t seem to harm them.
I have at various times had three different types of Asian calligraphy brushes, though one of them (I think it was a Mao “Little Ying”) eventually died from irregular expansion of the handle. That is, I think I left it in the water too long, and the bamboo split. >_<;; Because of the way it was constructed, about the only thing keeping it together at the end was probably a piece of string, and probably some glue.
The other bamboo-handled brushes I have are all Yasutomo (for some reason, it’s hard to find other brands than this in brick-and-mortar stores: excepting Asian stationery stores), in a couple of different styles. I have no idea what the different styles are actually intended to do, but they work for watercolor. The ones I have all have a core of stiff hair, surrounded by a ring of soft hair. They don’t keep their point well — you have to shape the tip prior to each stroke — but the touch is much softer and more delicate than with a synthetic.
Most recently, I picked up a little tiny #2 Robert Simmons “Sapphire” flat, which is maybe 1/8″ wide, and it’s so much easier to use than a full-on synthetic with watercolors, that it’s kind of weird. In tiny sizes like the one I have, they’re actually affordable…
The Sapphires are a blend of red sable and synthetic fiber; but the amount of natural hair in them actually does make them handle differently when it comes to watercolors. Laydown and color retention is smoother than what I’m used to from my completely-synthetic brushes (most of the rest of them, that is), which I’ve read have a tendency to dump their pigment load all at once.
Now that I look up this company online, I find that they are also the people who make the “Signet” hog-bristle brushes that I like for acrylics!
Hmm. Wonder about that…
I’m not sure how natural brushes would fare with gouache. Gouache has a tendency to get heavier, stickier, and stiffer than transparent watercolor. I’ll give it a try with my synthetic brushes before I attempt anything with the real-hair brushes (the color-load-dropping thing may be a bigger issue with watercolors which are close to the consistency of water), though I’m thinking that maybe my heftier intended-for-acrylic brushes might be better off with those paints…