I really should have written this post closer to the time in which I was experimenting, but various things (mostly the closing in of the deep night) kept me from doing that, then. Today — well, today has not been an art day; nor was yesterday. However, a few days ago I began experiments with my heavy-body acrylic paints, to see what the difference was — directly — between watercolors and acrylics.
I’ve just done some Levels adjustments on these photographs. The lack of good lighting was actually really noticeable on this first photo (it was, as usual, nighttime when I took the shots).
Anyhow, as I had been doing gradations in watercolor, and I knew I had a Zinc White which I had barely tried out, that top strip is Quinacridone Magenta, gradually blended with increasing amounts of Zinc White. Zinc White (Chinese White) is different from Titanium White in that the latter is much more opaque than the former. Thus, while both of these whites will fade out colors, the Titanium White will make a more opaque mixture (as you can see in the Payne’s Grey + Titanium White value scale over the black bar at bottom), while Zinc White will make a more transparent mixture.
The colors I used in this experiment were all high-key (bright) colors, things I normally wouldn’t use by themselves, unless I wanted a kind of psychedelic effect. What I found interesting: I mixed a violet tone in the upper right of that photo with (I’m thinking, probably) Phthalo Blue: Green Shade and Quinacridone Magenta. Above that mixture is a line of straight Dioxazine Violet, though it doesn’t look all that great in this photo (I’d have to tweak the color adjustments more to really get that to come out clearly). Here, I’ll try:
What I realized is that though the two methods would each make passable violets, the mixed violet was more complex when observed because of the fact that there were two different light-scattering pigments in there (both the Magenta and the Blue), whereas straight Dioxazine Violet gave a more “flat” violet (though still modulated by paint thickness, which in turn had to do with the amount of water and paint in the brush).
By the way, those little bars at the bottom of this image are Ultramarine Blue (Red Shade) — which is what would have been used to mix an intense violet in my Color class. Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) is much greener and more vibrant, producing a relatively muted violet tone.
It is, however, not as green as Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) or Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), which are at the top left corner of this practice sheet, moving from left to right, respectively. I had found it difficult to find things to use Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) with, as it’s so vibrant and intense. On the other hand, I had also not known why it was that my prof had us get Chromium Oxide Green (top center), because it’s such a dull, muted color.
About half of the swatches above are paint straight from the tube, whereas the other half are mixtures made using those paints. I didn’t really get into good territory, though, until I started mixing with Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (a bismuth salt which I had been trying to avoid until I realized how efficient it is), Bronze Yellow, and Yellow Oxide (a.k.a. Yellow Ochre), along with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Chromium Oxide Green, and Emerald Green. The last is a convenience mixture, located directly below Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade): that is, farthest to the left, one down. (Indian Yellow is directly below that.)
You can see how close these two paints are in hue…I have been collecting greens for a while because of really hating that Chrome Oxide Green: unmixed, it is the hue of a pool table. However, in Liquitex Heavy Body paints, most of the green colors available are convenience mixtures.
Bronze Yellow (bottom row, second from the left) is also a convenience mixture, but produces more complex tones when mixed. Like Indian Yellow, it makes warm and muted greens (the swatch in the lower left corner was mixed with Indian Yellow, whereas the swatch at bottom center was mixed with Bronze Yellow).
I am trying to remember exactly how I reached that color second from the right, on the bottom row. This was my favorite color of the entire mixing session; I know it was Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) with Indian and/or Bronze Yellow, and/or Yellow Oxide. (By the time I had reached that point, things were getting complicated on my palette.) I probably should have noted it down while it was still fresh in my memory…though I should be able to mix the modified version again, easily. As long as I know that it was a muted bright yellow (now that I’m thinking of it, it was probably Indian Yellow) with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), I’ll probably be all right.
In any case, that color makes up two of the blue-green center streaks in this plaything I made up. (I was using a hog-bristle “Georgian” flat brush by Daler-Rowney which had already started to wear down from my painting with it on rough surfaces…so I decided to play with it while I could.)
By the way: these experiments were done on canvas pad sheets. These are sheets of canvas which are primed on one side and bound into a pad, like papers would be. I’m not wasting stretched canvas on these experiments, that is. And actually, the image to the left, here, is something I was messing around with on the back of the first experiment I showed you. It’s really easy to just gesso this and then wait for it to dry, and then you can paint on the back of the canvas (though it may need weights to keep it from rolling up while it’s drying — I used a couple of tubes of paint). As for gesso brushes, I was using a Purdy brush, which is available from hardware and home improvement stores.
Anyhow, the greener streak on the far left is mixed like the center blue-green streaks, but also with Emerald Green. As for those other yellow-green colors, I honestly can’t remember how I got there, anymore; but am guessing it will be relatively easy (for me) to get back.
For some reason, this setup, in which I had gessoed the canvas myself and then waited for it to dry, seemed to accept the paint much more easily (and cleanly) than the part of the canvas which was designed to be used first. I’m not sure if it has to do with the absorbency of the gesso or the grittiness of the gesso or what (I was using Liquitex Basics gesso, which is relatively rough). I didn’t try laying down areas of color on this side of the experiment, either, so I don’t know whether my paints would streak with the Liquitex Basics gesso as well as the pre-gessoed front side of the fabric, or whether the streakiness is due to some quality of the pad’s integral gesso formulation (I still haven’t broken into the Fredrix canvas pad).
In any case…I realized at this point in the experiments that I wanted to try pairing muted colors with high-key colors in mixes, because in that way it’s possible to get vibrancy from the high-key color, with temperance from the muted one. This must be one way to use those psychedelic colors with which I started off this post, without looking entirely artificial. Without Phthalo Blue’s intensity, that is, I don’t think I would have been able to reach that intense peacock blue hue. Mixing a muted yellow, I asked myself what would happen if I added a greenish blue: and I got that beautiful formulation.
I also realized just how close Indian Yellow and Yellow Oxide were, to each other (Yellow Oxide is in the lower right corner)…and have begun to realize that I can weed out some unnecessary colors (which produce repeat hues), once I figure out what I want my palette actually to be.
And, of course, that means: more experiments! Hehe. I have found that I enjoy working with acrylics moreso than with watercolors…the paint is just easier to control, although there is the issue of needing to work on surfaces which aren’t paper…luckily, I have 17 pages of canvas pad sheets left. 🙂 And, if I’m not working on anything serious, I can buy more unstretched canvas (though I’m not sure it will work the same).
As regards that big painting I want to work on, that I’ve talked about before: I am thinking that I am going to try jumping right to canvas without making a trial drawing of the succulent that I want to paint. I’ll be using vine charcoal for an underdrawing, so any mistakes should be easy to wipe off with a wet rag. My problem is that I put obstacles in front of myself to delay the work, and that isn’t good: and, I mean, as long as I’m not using a textured media like gel media, I will be able to gesso over the whole thing and start again, if I need to. Putting it off just reinforces the procrastination and fear mechanisms; and I do really want to start on this — before school begins again!