That mysterious bluePosted: March 5, 2016
A few weeks ago I painted a snow scene and many people emailed me inquiring about the blue pigment I used. I was testing some paints for an art store and until they became available, I couldn’t really say what they were. Well, they are stocked now in Montreal, so I can reveal that the paints I was testing were Holbein’s Irodori Antique Watercolours.
The first tests I did were with the greens, pinks and purples. Have a look at my little test sheet. You’ll see that the paint is very granular, the colours are intense and the paint is quite opaque, almost like gouache. If you read the product literature, you’ll see that the watercolours have been created from ancient Japanese and Chinese pigments.
The first test that I did was to paint some tulips. You can see that the paint is not quite like traditional transparent watercolour. The greens, pinks and purples are rich and so saturated, but they don’t move around quite as much as I am used to. This is pure pigment mixed with gum arabic, but there’s no ox gall in the mix to make the paint flow. Quite a joy for flower painting, but how would this work for plein air work?
Since I didn’t quite have the right colours for urban sketching, I went back to the store to get some more samples of blues, yellows and reds. Here is the sample chart for the next tests.
That’s when I painted the snow scene using the Antique Pale Blue for my shadows. It’s quite a unique colour which is probably why so many people asked me what it was.
I think these pigments are at their best when used unmixed, in other words, the pure version of the paint. I couldn’t really test them for a plein air car sketch because I didn’t have enough paint to fill my palette, but I did paint a few wheelbarrow scenes from my window and I can’t say I liked the experience of mixing them. The colours became flat and dull (more like gouache), like in this backyard sketch.
Would I use these paints now that they are available in store? I certainly wouldn’t replace everything in my palette but I think that a few tubes would be a nice addition to what I already have. Each tube is the same price (unlike most watercolours which vary by series) and I did buy a tube of Antique Seedling because it will be wonderful for those light spring greens (when spring finally arrives!). And of course I bought the Antique Pale Blue for painting snow. If you enjoy painting florals, it would certainly be worth giving these a try, both for the colour intensity and the way they move around on the paper.