The current palette and brushPosted: January 24, 2015
I’ve been looking forward to writing a more detailed post about the colours on my palette after Parkablogs asked the question a few weeks ago. It’s grey and damp in Montreal (January thaw) so instead of getting out to sketch, I made a little schematic of what I am currently using.
This comes with a few disclaimers:
1: There are no rights and wrongs with colour. Colour choices can be very personal and different people have success with different pigments. For example, I rarely use Phthalo or Prussian blue because they just don’t work for me. Or rather I can’t make them work. Other people use them to great success. Have a look at how successful Alvaro Castagnet is with reds or Milind Mulick is with pale greens.
2. Value is more important than colour, so if you can get the right value with whatever colour you are using, you will have a higher success rate in your paintings and sketches.
3. I’m not someone who studies the chemical compounds of colours to analyze how they are made. If I like the colour and it works well in my paintings, then I stick with it, even though there may be plenty of alternates. If you, on the other hand, are interested in the science of watercolour pigments, the most valuable resource you can find online is handprint.com
Below is the list of the colours I am using these days and in case you want to know the brands there’s a photo of the tubes below. (Forgot to include the Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet in the photo.) Again, this is just my personal preference for the time being.
So let’s go over the colours one by one. Each one has a specific reason for being in the palette.
Azo yellow: transparent, cool, mixes well to make pale greens. And this from handprint.com: “is a very good “primary” yellow, leaning neither to red nor to green, with a bright, clear appearance.”
Gamboge: I like to have a cool and a warm yellow. This is the warm one.
Naples Yellow: very opaque, chalky yellow that is best used on its own rather than in mixes (turns them dull and milky). I love to use it as the warm tone in the sky close to the horizon line.
Pyrrol Orange: this is a transparent orange, one that I used a lot of recently in Costa Rica. It dilutes beautifully into a light salmon colour, is great in skin colour mixes and even works nicely for warmth in skies.
Azo Green: great for foliage because of the uniqueness of the green. Warm but not too pale.
Deep Sap Green: I have been searching for a deep, blueish green for a long time. This one works well for dark evergreen foliage in winter, especially mixed with Indanthrene or Alizarin.
Phthalo Green: Handprint.com describes this as the anchor green for many “convenience greens” (like the two I use above) so if you only have one green in your palette it should be this. Add a little yellow, you have spring green; add some burnt sienna to get a beautiful mid-green for trees. Just don’t use it on its own for foliage! There’s nothing in nature that looks like this.
Cobalt Teal: I’ve been looking for a good turqoise for a while. I used to use Manganese Blue but stopped because it was too runny. Beautiful to use for tropical seas, if you are lucky enough to be somewhere warm.
Cerulean Blue: for skies, greys, backgrounds. I only use Winsor Newton brand.
Cobalt Blue: wonderful in shadow areas, and of course for snow
Ultramarine Blue: great for making greys, especially mixed with Burnt Sienna
Indanthrene Blue: a fairly new addition to the palette for mixing darks
Carbazole Violet: another recent addition that makes beautiful shadow tints and rich darks
Permanent Alizarin Crimson: the cool red that is part of my favourite primary triad along with Azo Yellow and Ultramarine. If I could only bring three colours on an outing it would be these three
Organic Vermillion: another new addition to the palette to replace Cadmium Red, which I find too opaque
Burnt Sienna: This is in almost every sketch I do, but the only brand I use is Winsor Newton. I could do a whole post on this colour alone and all the great mixes you can make with it.
Burnt Umber: Mixed with Ultramarine, great for deep, rich darks
The palette I’m using these days is one generously given to me by someone who took my workshop in Seattle last summer. It’s a little bigger than the one I travelled with last summer, and I find it works well because it’s light and has a generous mixing area. If you use a plastic palette like this one, be sure to wipe down the mixing area with an abrasive cream cleanser to avoiding having your paint bead on the surface.
The current favourite brush is one I’ve had for a long time but only recently rediscovered. It’s a Raphael Petit Gris Pur mop brush. It holds lots of paint, has a great point and feels perfect in the hand. More about brushes in another post since this one is now rather long.