Alright! The watercolors *are* usable!

There is a difference between using Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated (liquid, dye-based) Watercolors and (pigmented) tube watercolors. But the difference largely is in the randomness that comes with the flow, spread, and drying of pigmented watercolors, as versus the smoothness and fineness of gradation that can come with water-soluble transparent dyes.

Drawing from imagination

Today, after about five hours of homework, I let myself do something to relax. I followed what I had been doing with the flowers, and just started drawing what I had in my mind’s eye. I essentially drew what I thought what I wanted to draw looked like, which, of course, isn’t what it actually looks like. But it’s an interesting exercise to undertake which gets me away from attempting to reproduce things photorealistically, and lets me use more imagination in the process.

Because I only have one vial of the Ph. Martin’s Radiant — which I bought…probably back when I was in high school, or around that time — and this in “Calypso Green,” I decided to try drawing something I met up with last time I was in Hawaii. This is a plant colloquially called “Swiss Cheese Plant,” a.k.a. Monstera Deliciosa. The leaves of these plants are commonly used as fabric motifs.

In any case, I was intentionally working without a reference, so I didn’t recall that Monstera leaves are actually greener/less blue than the bluish-green color I had. Luckily, working without a referent, I had little reason to worry myself with this…especially as Hawaiian fabrics which showcase motifs of these leaves, often change the color schema totally away from what’s seen in reality (or at least, what I have seen in reality!).

At this point, I haven’t done scans or photographs, though there is a very visible trend that I can see through the progressive versions (three) which show the development of my thought of how to draw and paint this thing. And, having viewed references tonight, I have an idea of what I got correct (what I took away from my memory of these leaves which was most important) and how to tweak minor things to look more lifelike.

The watercolors are great for fine art; maybe not as suited, to reproduction work.

The clearest takeaway is that I do not have to buy the Ph. Martin’s: I was working, tonight, with five colors, and all of them were pretty much entirely transparent, so far as I could see. Those colors were Winsor [Phthalo] Green (Yellow Shade), Green Gold, Dioxazine Violet, Permanent Rose, and Lamp Black. All of the non-black colors were Winsor & Newton brand, while Lamp Black was Holbein. (I am aware that there are “transparent” watercolors which feature opaque pigments, such as Cadmium Orange; my task will just be to figure out which those are, via research or experience, and avoid them if I want to preserve underlying linework.)

In the test which I made with the Calypso Green, I also mixed in Lamp Black and Dioxazine Violet, from my tubes. I started adding more and more different colors, though, after I saw what I could do when not working monochrome (or duochrome — I don’t think black is technically considered a color, here).

What was surprising, was the intensity of color I was able to get out of my tube watercolors, and that it surpassed what I had done with the liquid watercolor (though I’ll have to do more experiments to see if this is a fluke, or due to my differing approaches in each attempt). As I hinted at earlier, the tube, pigment-based watercolors leave a textured look after drying, which is not as apparent with the liquid, dye-based watercolors.

I am very, very certain now that the dustiness I was getting with my watercolors has to do with the fact that I was trying to use them from a semi-dry state, and not right from the tube. I also very likely was not using enough paint. This is something that my last Watercolor teacher got on me about (…before he messed up my Aureolin pan and left it so brown that I just forgot about ever salvaging it).

Tonight I used the paints straight from the tube, diluted with water, of course, but not washed out with water; at least in the third leaf I painted, which was wholly tube paint. I wish I would have taken my time there, and gone in with 2-3 layers of dark color, as versus having too much paint and water in my brush at the same time and making blotty uncontrolled marks. But maybe that was also me, being used to using natural hair (sumi brushes, tiny hybrid brushes) as versus full synthetic…

I also opted, tonight, to stick with Microns for linework, instead of going in with my Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink — which I know works beautifully, but I doubted my ability to use a steel dip pen at this point in my work, and if so, which nib; and will I have to burn it first and will I have to soak it in ink remover later… My point was to experiment with the Radiant watercolor, not to experiment with everything.

A last note on this before I get into geeking out over paints: the Radiant watercolor from year 199x, which is the only vial of this I’ve ever bought, also smelled of something which I think might have been…ammonia? The only caution I found on a lookup for the new version was to avoid getting it in one’s eyes, so it’s possible that my nose was accurate. But then, I hardly ever smell ammonia, anywhere, to the point that I’m not sure I can recognize it. The smell reminded me of weak vinegar, actually. And considering how old it is…the fact that it’s viable at all is surprising.

I’m not sure if whatever is making this scent, would interact with other paints. In any case, the new versions of this are said to be fairly safe, according to the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets).

Trying Green Gold (PY129)

It was my first time using Green Gold (Pigment Yellow 129, or PY129) in a mix! I got this a long time ago, but had never been able to play with it. I had read over at handprint.com that it is very useful for making greens more yellow-leaning, and…I actually do really love what it did. I just feel hesitant to make greenery too yellow-looking, as it can read as dying vegetation.

As a note, though: Green Gold as a pigment is way more affordable in watercolors than it is in acrylics, probably just because the sheer amount of pigment you get in a tube, is less. I was working with a 5 ml tube of watercolor, instead of a 2 oz. tube of acrylic (as is standard for a tube of Liquitex Heavy Body paint, which is normally what I would use for acrylic painting. It’s good, but not quite on the level of Golden paints).

According to a quick conversion by Google, 5 ml is equal to ~0.17 US fluid ounces…which probably accounts for the difference in price! (I’m sure that the watercolor version is much more concentrated, though.)

In acrylics, I’m pretty sure that I opted to mix the shade instead: the only difference seems to be in price and opacity. A 2 oz. tube of Green Gold in Liquitex is around $19 MSRP (as of this writing). Of course, that price is mitigated with discount art stores. A 5 ml tube of Green Gold in Winsor & Newton tube watercolor is around $11 MSRP (without discounts).

In contrast, a 2 oz. tube of Liquitex Bronze Yellow (a good start to reproduce this color, along with an orange-leaning or earth yellow and a blue I’m uncertain of, right now [it has been a while since I’ve been mixing acrylics]) costs less than half as much, even at full price.

How much canvas or paper each of them will cover, is uncertain to me: some pigments mix more strongly than others, and I haven’t used up a tube of either of these Green Gold paints. I do think that $19 for a tube of paint is kind of a bit much, however; and in some (many?) cases, having to buy paint in 2 oz increments, is too much (especially if you’re like me, and your paints last so long that the tubes biodegrade and force emergency measures to either save or throw out what’s inside).

That is: getting a 1 oz tube of an expensive pigment for half as much (or a little more than half as much, to account for packaging, shipping and distribution costs), is much more reasonable, to me (especially considering that I haven’t used the paint yet, and thus don’t even know what it can do).

Anyway, that was kind of a dead-end tangent (though empty paint tubes are sold for just such emergencies as the neck of a paint tube peeling off), but it was fun to get into, at the time. 🙂

And, I found…

…it’s much nicer to work on large sheets of paper, than it is to work on smaller sheets. I’m not entirely certain why this is, yet, but it does allow “breathing room” for my images, and room for them to grow. Right now I’m using a watercolor notebook…I’m pretty sure it’s Canson Montval watercolor paper.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and take photos and upload some of the work I did tonight, though I know it’s going to be difficult to do without going back in to try and correct things! I suppose I’ll just have to apologize beforehand for not remembering what a Monstera Deliciosa plant looks like… 🙂 …which will be all too obvious to people who actually live with them!

(I’m just trying to use a visual adaptation of a free-writing approach…where [generally speaking] we aren’t always experts on what we’re imagining, but the products of the exercise can seed new work…but to get into explaining that would likely take another post. It’s almost 1 AM my time, as well; I should turn in.)

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paintedstone

Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

2 thoughts on “Alright! The watercolors *are* usable!”

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