White Nights: First sketches

November 26, 2015 | Leave your thoughts

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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