Saturday, April 18, 2009

Testing a New Daniel Smith Watercolor

Note: Click on the images to view enlargements.

This is an interesting time of the year for a landscape artist: the leaves are not out yet so the structure of the trees is still plain to see. The snow is gone and the marsh grasses are chlorophyll-lacking shades of buff, ochre, khaki—well a zillion shades of brown. For those of you who know my work you know I am not one who is wedded to using local color for my paintings. However, the amazing varities of browns out there have caused me to try to duplicate some of the colors I see.

The solution came in a conversation with my friend Roz Stendahl (famous for, among other things, her galactic knowledge of pigments). The subject of (what else?) pigments came up. We often talk about favorite combinations of this or that pigment with a favorte: PB 60 aka Indanthrene Blue. While she tends toward a more muted result in her paintings I still need those essentail neutrals to show off the intense colors I love. We were discussing the interesting muted colors one sees outside now before the green-up, including the subtle color made by masses of red dogwood. As a suggestion for that pinky-red, Roz mentioned some of the new colors Daniel Smith has introduced, which she had just mentioned on her blog— in particular: Transparent Red Oxide. And soon we were on to the discussion of a great Schmincke color: Translucent Orange.

I made a trip to Wet Paint art supply store, bought my two new colors and the experiments began. The photos show some test spots.

In the first photo above, I have laid down some PB60 and Transparent Orange and mixed them on the paper. To the right (in the little rectangle) are the same pigments mixed on the palette. You can see one gets a much livelier result when the colors let themselves mix on the paper. The swoosh to the right of the rectangle demonstrates how Transparent Orange plays out going from wet to dry brush. I noted a shine indicative of gum arabic when the paint was applied thickly. I don't mind that but will have to keep it in mind so I don't get that effect when I don't want it.

This second photo above shows some experiments with PB 60 and Daniel Smith's transparent Red Oxide (as well as a reference stroke of Burnt Sienna gouache). Next there are two connected swooshes showing Transparent Red Oxide combined with Cobalt Blue! Fabulous grays result from both combinations. The first combo (on the far right) absolutely duplicated the gray basalt rocks found on the north shore of Lake Superior. The second is exactly right for those elusive grass colors.

Just for comparison I laid down a bit of Burnt Sienna gouache. It is a cooler, quieter brown next to the Red Oxide watercolor. (Of course we a dealing with a gouache to watercolor comparison so it is not apples to apples.) The Red Oxide has a kind of snap to it along with a very nice sedimentation. I love the color and will try replacing my Burnt Sienna with it in my watercolor palette. My experiments with the Red Oxide resulted in a bit less of the pinky Pipestone type brown that Roz found but it is a lovely color nonetheless. (She only had a dried paint spot to work from and I was using fresh tube color—that may be part of the difference.)

Next week I will show you some of the little landscape sketches I've done with the new colors. For now I am going outside! 70 degree weather in Minnesota is too good to miss after a long winter.

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