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Friday, November 27, 2015

Cross Hatching: Perfect for when I don't think I have time

I'm having a very busy week working on a huge blogging project that is taking a lot of my time and creative energy. It is mainly writing and photography at the moment and despite the fact that I did some watercolour testing yesterday, I don't really feel in the mood for doing my own painting – well except for my daily morning coffee! I always seem to say "I'm not doing much sketching but…"

Anyway, what I am finding this week is that during the day I don't think I have time to do an ink and wash sketch so instead have done a few plain ink drawings.

Those of you who read and carefully observe the pages I have shared in my Everyday Pages posts might have noticed that I got more than one pen (Pilot Falcon) in my recent box from Goulet Pens. I also got a TWSBI Eco which I love (VERY nice pen) but have had a few comfort issues with it (doesn't feel perfect in my hand). I have been persevering with it and the more I use it, the better it flows and the easier it is to use.

So as a result of this new pen and the perceived lack of time I have ended up with a few cross-hatched sketches this week in my book - the full extent will be revealed on Monday.

The funny thing about doing a cross-hatched sketch is that I end up spending more time working on the values a little later on, so the final image ends up taking the same amount of time as I would have needed to complete an ink and wash sketch on location. But I tell myself I have enough time to start ('just do a simple outline") and then things progress. The really important thing is the starting,  and the process of doing will soon take over!

So this sketch from Wednesday started with the idea of a simple silhouette of the roof line of Mosman Gallery that I could see from my car. The reason for this sketch was recording the excitement of exploring a new part of the suburb as a result of my physio moving locations.  I ended up doing much more to this sketch than I initially planned (a whole scene rather than a simple outline) so am greatly satisfied that I managed to record this story in my day.

So much for a short blog post! (and oh! before you ask me... more about the Eco soon!)

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

White Nights: First sketches

After yesterday's initial colour chart and exploration I decided it was time to go for it and do two sketches with the White Nights paints. The way that I work is a bit crazy - I am working spontaneously (unplanned) and wet in wet a lot - this is highly risky business in untested pigments. But I just went for it!
  • One of my first findings was that the earth colours were a little weak so I was conscious of making sure my washes were juicy. 
  • The colours in this sketch are not as bright as it would achieve with my Daniel Smith colours, but overall I was fairly pleased with the result. 
  • There are few places where I lost my brushstrokes and there are more more backruns than I am used to (for example in the purple shadow under the cup).

The next sketch was an Italian architecture subject - Palladio's Barbaro Tempietto - from a photo of course! This time I worked a little more controlled: ink first, then paint, initially adding local colour washes and then some wet-in-wet shade/shadow (in some places my timing was a little off but that is part of what I was testing).  I worked hard to get the initial raw sienna wash to be pigment intensive and was pleased with the intensity in this sketch.

A few more follow up tests.... just checking the granulation of Red Ochre and Ultramarine versus Daniel Smith(transparent Red Oxide and Ultramarine Blue). These are a little messy... I was moving the water around in the swatch to see what was happening, so the most relevance is to me at the time, not the final image.
You will notice the comment that the raw sienna pan was giving me good pigment 'pickup' now that it was moist.

Anyway... after about 4 hours of testing I have got a reasonable feel for these paints but there is a lot more that I would need to do to know them well - mixing all the colours and testing on different paper etc etc. This need to spend time getting to know(and love) your materials is something that I refer to constantly when I teach. But more significantly for me the process of testing different paints was a good reminder to me how much I rely on the pigment characteristics of my selected Daniel Smith. Particularly, if you work wet-in-wet you need to know your pigments well. I think that I will work more 'wet on dry' in any future White Nights sketches till I get to know them better. Watercolour is SO much more than just the colour!

In summary: These are generally good paints for their price so if you have a limited budget they are worth considering. However make sure you check the lightfastness of the colours you use (not such an issue if your work stays inside a sketchbook but I always try to use lightfast pigments). Also be aware of the opacity of your selection. There are a lot of opaque colours in this particular set and generally for ink and wash transparent colours are easier to use. 

More about the important things to consider when you set up a watercolour palette here.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

White Nights watercolours: Colour Chart

When in Singapore for the Urban Sketchers Symposium in July this year, I was given a 24 full pan set of White Nights watercolours to test. I have heard a lot about these paints so was keen to get a set to test. In essence these paints have a reputation for being highly pigmented very economical 'extra-fine artist' watercolour. Note: Most cheap student grade paint have lots of filler and little pigment - meaning that painting with them is normally flat, dull and lifeless.

This is a big plastic palette with a loosely hinged mixing area. The pans are full size and filled to the top - you can see how I have had trouble with them sticking to the mixing area.

My first step is to do a colour chart and work out what the colours are like and some basic pigment characteristics. Coping a very obvious idea that colour guru Jane Blundell uses, I stuck the labels down and did the swatch underneath. BTW you might be interested in her review - my own testing to date totally agrees with her findings!

For each swatch I was testing what a general 'pick up' of pigment was from a dry pan and then how it reacted when I added more water. I was also testing the opacity of the pigments by painting over a big black ink stroke that I laid down first. What I needed to do as well was to test how intense each pigment could become - I might add this to a small part of each swatch later.

In general I found most of the colours to be strongly pigmented but a few were weak - namely the earths and cobalt blue. In some of these tests I went back to the pan to pick up more paint - so they are weaker than the swatch indicates.

I then did a test of "THE mix" namely burnt sienna and ultramarine and put a swatch of my standard version of this on the page for reference (ie. Daniel Smith Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Red Oxide). I discovered that the orange earth colour of Red Ochre was the closest to what I was used to.

I also did a quick test of some earth colour washes with a quick wet-in-wet wash over the top with my mixed grey from the previous test. I had discovered doing the colour chart that these colours were weak so I wanted to see what would happen in a typical usage. The washes are lighter that I would like - indicating that if I want to achieve the intensity that I am used to, I will have to do more 'picking-up' of paint - I will have to work harder to make juicy washes!

Finally I thought the greens were a little unnatural so I did some tests to see how to mix a more usable colour. This is when I discovered I had omitted to add the full intensity swatches to the earlier colour chart - I was surprised at how dark the Green became.

Ok... now that I have had a little exploration of the paints, I need to test them in a real life painting situation. You can only get so far by doing colour charts but I hope you found this explanation of my approach to initially test paints helpful.

To be continued...

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