The little loose paint chips that I made so long ago out of watercolor swatches have proven useful. I really am not entirely sure why I got it into my head to play with watercolors, again: except for the fact that I love color, and they’re gorgeous.
M was looking for a butcher tray, so we stopped off at the little art store to look at the palettes. There were only two things I could think of which I might have a chance of using in the near future. The first was a stable home for my watercolors (a Mijello 33-well palette); the second was a piece of basswood, to enable the possibility of woodblock printing.
In a prior relevant post, I mentioned the Mijello Silver Nano 40-well palette, and how for me it has become, in practicality, a 20-well palette. The dried colors just don’t reliably stick to the upside-down wells when the palette is closed. It has good space for mixing, and it may just be that the colors I put in there fell out because of the properties of the pigments used (they’re largely earth tones, in the lid). It’s also possible that the antimicrobial coating on this palette makes it somewhat nonstick…in any case, I didn’t want to put any more of my paints in there after I realized it would be a temporary home for them, at best.
So I basically just bit it and got a palette with all the wells on one side, with as many wells as I could find, in a dust-safe and compact model. I had been looking at the 33-well palette before, but for reasons I can’t recall (likely having to do with mixing space), passed it up. What they don’t tell you is that they give you three extra mixing surfaces in this palette: one in the lid, one behind the one in the lid, and one hidden under the paint wells (though I’m not sure if these are watertight for travel: the outer plastic is not the same color). At least in the palette I got, and I’m hoping it wasn’t modded by some prior customer to contain all of this, all these spaces are white plastic, thus you can see the color you’re mixing.
I spent quite a long time poring over and studying the Mijello Mission Gold watercolor paint advertisement which was included, after I got home. The palette contained a little free tube of what I think was Rose Madder (it was taped to the advertisement, so I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be there!). What I actually was doing was analyzing the differences in color from the printed swatches (keeping in mind that CMYK printing does not always reproduce colors accurately), and cross-referencing the pigment codes to see what was made out of what. At a certain point, it became clear that one doesn’t need to buy the intermediary mixes of pigments, if one already has all the ingredients to mix that shade oneself.
The draw to convenience mixtures, for me, has been that the colors are often really beautiful, and I just haven’t discovered how to mix them yet out of single-pigment paints. And, if doing reproduction work, one might actually need a standard shade — as versus the subtle minutiae of variations that occur in hand-mixed colors.
Then, I started looking at my own paints, wondering how many of them were single-pigment formulations. Quite a number of the ones I have are single-pigment, actually: at least that’s what the codes might imply (though some codes — especially in the browner earth tones, and Phthalo colors, carry the same pigment number even though they are different shades). I have mostly Winsor & Newton colors, as I could get smaller tubes for a lower initial investment (though these are not cheap colors, as I initially thought).
Tonight, I was wondering aloud if there was a standard palette that was mixed from, to create harmonious color lines in manufactured convenience colors. M asked me if I wanted to mix colors. That was a definite yes. Then she suggested that I write in and ask to tour a paint factory, and that maybe they would even hire me–!
I had been talking about mixing colors which no one tells you how to mix…my intro to this was Phthalo Green + Permanent Rose (in a Watercolor class), which makes a lovely grey with tones of violet, pink, and blue, which can range into green, depending on proportions. I used that combination here, in the background. Particularly, the muted violet in the lower left corner and the blue-green in some of the leaves to the right of the rose used this combination:
The original post in which I first published this image (in color) is here, though only later did I say that I used Viridian. I was mistaken. I used Viridian Hue — “Hue” means that it approximates the color of something else. In this case, Viridian Hue was actually a Phthalocyanine Green which approximated the masstone (basic color) of Viridian. However, true Viridian (a chromium-based color: also be aware that in my earlier treatment of chromium colors versus cobalt colors on this blog, I inadvertently confused the terms) behaves differently in mixes. In particular, it’s a granulating color (unless I’m wrong and it’s really “flocculating”) — it clumps on the page as it dries, is more muted (less intense), and is not as smooth as any Phthalo color I’ve ever used. (In particular, it doesn’t do the same thing with Permanent Rose as Phthalo Green does.)
I prefer my paints to flow smoother, though there is undeniable complexity added to an image when the textures of granulating and flocculating paints come into play. The natural settling of the pigments in…let’s say, the watercolors I (personally) like…add visual texture. I’m just not terribly fond of visible brushstrokes in areas I want to be smooth. I know smoothness isn’t everyone’s thing, though. And my opinion may change after seeing what I can do with dry brushwork — I have noticed the look of it to be visually interesting.
Anyhow, I was able to use my little paint chips to play with the future layout of colors in the 33-well palette. There are still empty wells, which is likely a very good thing. I did something different this time, though: I moved from bright primary color on one side into muted tones, then added in the pinks, violets, greens and blacks on the other side.
Upon looking at this image, to the left, I’m really tempted to play around more with this, though. I’m seeing distinct groups or families of colors — I’m not sure if any of you are more familiar with it than I am, as I’ve only had community college and high school training in art — but this is what I’m seeing:
A green-to-cool yellow family (Winsor Yellow and up, on the photo, plus Winsor Blue and down on the photo): these colors can be used to mix greens…and they have a certain impact on me emotionally which I can’t describe. But they do make me think of plants. The Oakland A’s. Androgyny?
A red-to-orange family (Winsor Red to Winsor Yellow Deep): all of these appear very warm to me and like they stand out more than anything else.
A pink-to-violet/blue family (Permanent Rose to French Ultramarine): these four colors could probably be called my home base, I mean, just personally. Do I know why? No. But I know they make me feel some way. (My brand of) Feminine?
Then, there’s Cobalt Blue, which doesn’t quite fit in for me. I really don’t particularly like Cobalt Blue, in this formulation, at least (W&N). It’s great for skies, but in color mixing, it’s weak…and it doesn’t really lean very far toward any other color, except maybe Winsor Violet (Dioxazine Violet) and “Magenta Permanent,” (I can’t remember the formulation offhand, but this was a W&N color), above.
And…I did mention that I had shaded these into earth tones, in the new palette. I wouldn’t have caught the color overtones of these earth tones without having played around with Pitt brush pens for a while, and realizing that nearly each brown, muted yellow, muted red, or muted blue, had an overtone which made it part of a larger color family. (There was also a muted violet, and one brown which didn’t lean any one way in particular, kind of like Cobalt Blue in that way.)
I have taken photos of the new palette (just in case a wind blew it all away by accident), but I can’t do the layout justice with nighttime lighting. I’ll try and post records tomorrow and then — after recording positions — try and play around with the chips more and see how else I can rearrange them…