Sunday, January 15, 2012

Emerging Artists at Tamarack

Fire Engine Red
We've just completed the long trip to Beckley, W.Va., to take paintings to the Dickirson Gallery at Tamarack for their upcoming "Emerging Artists" exhibition.

I've taken four pieces for inclusion, including my latest, "Fire Engine Red."

This one is a departure from my usual style. I wanted to make it bold and hard-edged -- a pop art or poster art look. I created the composition while playing with some reference photos and cropping them into squares.

The watercolor medium actually complicated matters in the case of this painting. You see, there are no red pigments that are truly staining enough to handle the kind of application I wanted to make. My goal was to soak the entire paper in vivid red (except for the yellow lettering and  the reflective highlights which would be preserved with masking fluid). Then I would mix up a deep black and paint over the red.

For this to work, the red has to stay in place when rewet with the black glaze(s). However most staining red-like pigments tend to be more rose-colored in hue, not appropriate for this subject matter.

I tested all the true reds I had (W&N's Winsor Red,  Maimeri Blu's Dragon Blood and Permanent Red Light, and DS's Quin Red) by making sample paint strips on scrap paper, allowing the paint to dry, and then lifting a line through the paint with a damp synthetic brush. First I decided that the Quin Red was too blue in tone to be useful. Of the others, none of them could withstand the lifting, even after I switched to a sable brush for a second test.

I also tried a couple of red mixes, but I didn't like the results. I wanted a deep, consistent red as the base.

I eventually decided that the Winsor Red was the most resilient of the samples and was the proper color. To increase its staying power I also decided to go with two separate glazes -- the first a wash of Perylene Maroon, and the second a strong dose of Winsor Red.

Once these two glazes were dry, I mixed a strong black and began working on the darks, but you can see the difficulties I encountered in the shaded areas -- the reds still wanted to lift when I would apply the greyed-down black, despite my best efforts with a light touch and a sable brush. So some areas are not as smooth as I would have hoped, but the overall effect still works I think.

I do think the exercise was a true test of my abilities -- this composition may look simple, but try it in watercolor, and you'll understand how complicated this kind of application can be.

The opening for the Emerging Artists show is next Sunday, Jan. 22, and the show will remain up through March 23. For more about Tamarack, visit their website at or visit the Dickirson Gallery's Facebook page at Photos of each show are posted in the Photo Gallery.

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