Testing blues

Thinking about colour mixes is one of my favourite aspects of working with watercolour but I am not very scientific about my pigments. If what comes out of the tube looks good then I’m usually happy. But I wasn’t very satisfied last week when my French Ultramarine from Daniel Smith did not perform as promised. I’ve discovered that the proper term for what happened is flocculation — clumping together of pigment particles. In my case the paint did not mix well with alizarin crimson and I ended up with blue flecks sitting on top of a red wash. Today I did a little testing, comparing the colour to a Winsor Newton French Ultramarine and the paint was fine which leads me to conclude that a bit of the binding agent wasn’t properly mixed in. This is a colour that I am using in my workshop in Barcelona and I want no surprises when I am there.

I also tried out a few new colours today: a cinereous blue from Sennelier which came to me as a sample when I purchased a brush, and a brown madder and a rose of ultramarine donated by students. I love the cinereous blue. It’s a bit more electric than cerulean but as you can see I didn’t do a good job of turning it into a grass-green. It looked fine on the palette but on the page it’s scarily artificial. I probably should have save the test for a bit of sky instead.


14 Comments on “Testing blues”

  1. Lee Kline says:

    Scarily artificial? I love the sound of that. Reminds me of some dates of my youth.

  2. Wayne says:

    At the risk of seeming crass , you may want to consider another short label to define French Ultarmarine on your colour swatches . Otherwise , thanks for the test; very helpful once again Shari.

  3. charles says:

    I have some Sennelier blue in my palette and I agree that they don’t mix always well. I think they are made to be used straight, or almost. They perform very well in skies.

  4. monique says:

    Love the basket:-)

  5. Ross says:

    OK, I give up… what are the brown things in the basket?

    • Those are the pots that cracked from being left out in the winter. They are broken up with a hammer and used at the bottom of the new pots that I plan to empty this year so I don’t end up with two baskets of cracked pots next year.

      • Ross says:

        LOL! I thought it was something edible that you had made… like big chunks of chocolate fudge… not the results of your neglect.
        You do realize of course that your system is not sustainable? You recycle the pots in the bottom of the new pots (that’s good so far), but then next year you will need more pots to fit the previous pots in… and the next year even more. Perhaps you should give up the pretense of being a gardener and just stick to the painting… no complaints from me with that option.

      • Yes, I guess it could just be an endless cycle…
        But if I give up my feeble attempt at gardening I may not have any backyard subjects to paint.

  6. Monika Baum says:

    I ordered the Daniel Smith ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and aureolin (cobalt yellow) just around the time when you must have posted this… The ultramarine blue hopefully does not perform like the French ultramarine, does it?

    I was also very lucky to find the Heritage Folding Palette that Brenda Swenson recommendsunder a different name at a European supplier. Just in case I prefer tubes to pans from now on.

    • Your paints will be fine Monika. Don’t worry about the blue. If it acts like mine did we’ll just mix it around a bit.
      I love that palette and have been thinking about getting it. Nice post on Brenda’s site!

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