Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Yeller" old

I'm almost there. . .

Close to wrapping this up now, but the process been slowed by the lovely weather during the last few days. It's been difficult to stay inside during lunch to work on the mini. So I've taken a few walks this week rather than paint.

The next mini, I've already decided, will move back to a point of comfort: a purple iris. The challenge will be its composition. I'm planning a square, which is always tricky to imbue with energy. Plus, I'd like to see if I can loosen up in such a small painting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baby steps

Well, I think it's looking better. The contrast of the rust/maroon elements on the falls helps immensely, I think.

Looking back over my color chart from the weekend, it appears that the most attractive mixes come from using Yellow Ochre. Those samples actually exhibit some almost silvery effects. Most of the others tend toward brown or green.

But I'm loath to use Yellow Ochre in most of my paintings because it is somewhat opaque, and it exhibited "milky" and dull attributes the few times I've tried it. Perhaps I was using it with incompatible pigments, so with some more experiments I might give it a second look.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

All about yellow . . .

I'd like to take some time to talk about yellows, since they are giving me so much trouble in this new mini.

By the way, here's the next stage of the iris:

Some progress, but it's still been very frustrating to create shadowed areas without turning them into mud.

So I decided I had to do some research. It's too late for this one, but I might be able to learn something for a new attempt.

So, out with the color wheel to discuss some color theory.

On the color wheel, colors that are opposite are complements, and when they are mixed, they neutralize one another, creating, in theory, a gray.

I use this principle all the time in my snowy barns series by mixing French Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna. Those complements, representing blue and orange, create wonderful neutral tints. I can create a rich gray, or shift the balance to make the gray warmer or cooler.

In theory, as can be seen on the color wheel above, purple and yellow are complements. So, they should also be able to create a range of "grays," or neutral tints.

But, it's not that simple, it seems.

Somehow I'm pleased to see that, even on the color wheel, the window showing a mix of purple and yellow (circled in the image above) creates a muddy brown.


Muddy browns are not I'm after in creating the shadows in the iris' standards and falls, But that's what I keep running into as I work through the mini.

First, here's a rundown of some of the available yellows I have. These are all Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colours.

The range runs from cooler colors such as Winsor Lemon, to the warmer Quinacridone Gold. (Note on Quin. Gold -- this is W&N's new formulation which uses several pigments to mimic the appearance of the original one-pigment paint using PO 49. The one-pigment formula was discontinued in 2005, according to Bruce McEvoy's Handprint site.)

There are also two more opaque yellows in this mix, Cad. Yellow and Yellow Ochre.

The yellows I actually have used in the iris are Aureolin and Quin. Gold.

The pigments I've used within those two yellows to create shape and depth are two mixed purples (from the other irises) made from French Ultramarine Blue (PB 29) and Perm. Alizarin Crimson (PR 206). One purple is mixed with more blue, the other with more red. I've also used touches of Pthalo Green (PG 36) and Perylene Maroon (PR 179) as reflected colors within some of the shapes.

Now, if I create a color-mix swatch using all of these options, will I find that some mixtures are more successful than others?

Doesn't look promising. To the two mixed purples, I also included Ultramarine Violet. (To see the chart more clearly, you may have to click the image to see it full size.)

But, I'm going to use this chart for a future iris to help in planning. I hope that will lead to a better result.

In the meantime, stay tuned to see if I can rescue this mini . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yellow with fear

Well, I've started a new Lunchtime Painting, and I've listened to the challenge of a friend who told me I should try an iris in a different color.

Well, here it is, and boy it's been difficult.

I have never attempted to mix much with yellows before, and creating neutral tints for the shadows, etc., has been problematic.

Lesson learned: You can make some really sickly colored tints with yellow if you don't know what you are doing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A happy ending

It was a happy ending for me, at any rate. Very pleased with this one, and I enjoyed having such a detailed record of the process so much that I finally worked out how to create an Adobe Flash slideshow just for the occasion.

If you visit my Web site,, I've created a new entry page that features the Flash movie, with each stage of this painting softly melting into the next. I find myself watching the movie for long periods of time. I'll focus on some particular section, a portion of a fall, for example, and watch how that little section changes. Then I'll move to another small area and repeat. It's hypnotic.

Thanks to my friend Roger, I also might have a name for these minis that I complete while on my lunch hour. "Lunchtime Paintings," was his off-hand suggestion. I rather like the sound of that, but I wonder if anyone else has some ideas. Speak up, if you do.

I want to keep working on little projects during lunch (and have already started another iris). When the weather improves, I'd also like to wander downtown and do some plein air sketches from time to time.

The end result feels greater than this little painting. I feel enthusiastic about painting, for the first time in months, and keep thinking of ideas and experiments that merit further exploration.

Lastly, thank you, Eleanor, for your kind words about the penultimate stage of this mini. I hope the end result doesn't disappoint?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wait for it!

Okay, sorry for the unoriginal misuse of the classic Monty Python line in the title. But, just as a tease, let me say that I'm REALLY happy with how this mini wrapped up. Yes, I'm working one image ahead of the blog, but let me encourage you to check out the next post to see the final image.

However, back to the image in this post . . . I continued to glaze into the darkest areas to highlight contrasts and create depth in the form.

At this point, most of the formative glazes are finished. What remains is the critical addition of veins into the standards and falls, and from the several irises I've painted over the last few years, that final step is what really determines the realism in the flower.

So, stay tuned!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pleased so far

So far, this mini feels successful. I think I have better contrast in the standards and falls, and I think the shape feels much more dynamic. I like how the positive and negative space interact. Essentially, it's a diamond in a rectangle.

It might be a little too centered, but I don't think it feels static. The structural shapes within the iris provide movement.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


The background was the first thing I did on this mini, and, as you can see from these updates, I haven't changed it. It was completed wet into wet, and I mixed the colors on the paper rather than on my palette. Mostly it's Thalo Green and Perm. Alizarin Crimson, with splotches of New Gamboge.

As for the color of the iris, it's a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Rose. I pre-mixed two purples from these pigments, one warmer and one cooler. I use the two to create depth by pushing some of the petals (technically standards and falls) to the foreground, and others to the back. It's the technique I used in my class last fall, and using two color temperatures also creates more energy and interest.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Step-by-step mini

I've switched from a night to daytime work shift, which includes a required one-hour lunch break. The first week or so, I had great difficulty dealing with the break...I wanted something to do.

Then I decided to continue on another iris mini while on my break. So last week, for the first time in ages, I painted every day, and the hour for lunch FLEW by!

Time is still limited. By the time I eat my sandwich and then get out my supplies and water dish, I only have about 40 minutes for painting. Then, with the slower drying time of the 300# paper, I'm limited further still, but it's been such a relief, even if my time is so short. I wouldn't want to tackle anything larger than these minis on such a limited schedule.

Each night I've recorded the progress from each day, so I have a detailed, step-by-step series of photographs. I'm working in Flash to create a slide show that shows the iris forming right before your eyes, but with Blogger, I have to content myself with sequential images.

So here's the first stage, with several more to come.