Last week, we did an exercise on simple value/tonal painting. Our subject was a raw egg and one or both of the eggshells on a white plate. We lit our our egg and shell and moved the pieces around to find an interesting composition. Using three values (light, medium and dark), we looked to have different quantities of our dark, middle and light tones to create interest. For example, in my monochrome example, there is a small amount of lightest value, a middle amount of dark value and the largest amount of medium value. As long as the quantities of these three basic values is different, the composition will be interesting. In contrast, an equal distribution of light, medium and dark masses in a composition will be uninteresting.
This is a figure taken from "The Simple Secret to Better Paintings" by Greg Albert (link) illustrating that given unequal division of the tones in a composition, the smallest area becomes the center of interest (regardless of its value)
Our exercise used any single color. Some made a grey using transparent red oxide and ultramarine blue, or pthalo green and alizarin crimson, burnt umber or the fabulous color asphaltum by Gamblin (link) in my example above.
Many of my students enjoy the paintings of Dreama Tolle Perry (link) and Nancy Medina (link). Some of us have studied either in workshops or in e courses with these artists. Both Dreama and Nancy use an underpainting of rich transparent colors diluted slightly with linseed oil: gamsol (1:! mix) (Dreama) or Chroma Brand Archival Lean Medium (Nancy). Both darken their transparent under layer substantially before using opaque colors in the upper layers of the paintings. These opaque layers use no medium. Note that any paint (including the transparent paint) mixed with an opaque paint becomes by definition an opaque color.
This week, we identified and organized all of our paints into opaque and transparent colors.
We taped our transparent tubes for easy identification.
Whether a color is transparent or an opaque pigments can be found on the tubes themselves for many of the common brands we owned. Winsor and Newton has a square on the right upper back of its tubes. A blank square (one that you can see through) is the symbol that the paint is transparent: a solid black square (one that you cannot see through) is the symbol for opaque paint and a square that is half and half is semi-opaque. Rembrandt uses the same squares but theirs are located on the front left of their tubes. Sennelier has their squares on the top back left in the black name banner. The following brands print "transparent, opaque or semiopaque on their labels. Williamsburg has this listed on the back top under "Pigment". Gamblin writes in in capital letters on the back also under the pigment description. Richeson has a box on the lower back that lists the pigment properties. Michael Harding also prints theirs on the back in the pigment information. Perhaps the Japanese on the back of Holbein paints has this information but it is not something I can use. I cannot find this information on Old Holland tubes. With paints where this information is not found easily on the tubes, one can go on line and click on the "pigment information" tab for a particular color.
Our exercise to illustrate the properties of transparent compared to opaque colors had each class member identify (or if possible mix using transparent colors) a color that appeared similar in a transparent and an opaque tube. For example: top left transparent sap green. Second row left: sap green mixed with indian yellow, then opaque cinnabar green, transparent red medium by Rembrandt and opaque cadmium red.. Each color pair was applied thick to thin in a streak on the exercise board. The underlying canvas could be seen through the transparent strokes and not through the opaque ones. Tilting the surface so that the paint could be seen across the surface further illustrated the difference in the opacity of the pigments. In addition, even with the single matched pairs, we could begin to see that the opaque pigments advance.. This explains why our "go to" deep grey mixture of ultramarine blue and transparent oxide (both transparent colors) makes a rich deep dark. It also explains why the centers of the flowers that Dreama and Nancy make using their transparent mixtures stay in the depth of their flowers.
Next, we added white to each color pair. White dulled down the opaque member of all of the color pairs we tested. The transparent -white mixtures retains more color intensity (chroma).
This is my underpainting of transparent colors. Notice how well the dark transparents receed into the background. I have redefined my drawing in the wet paint using my wipeout or kemper tool (link). This allows me to apply the opaque colors more precisely. That way, there is more likely a clean deliberate stroke of opaque paint and less blending if I had to move things into the correct position,
The opaques have been added to complete the painting.
I started this painting by painting a gesso board that I had prepared (see post 2/27/2017 (link) with acrylic pink paint. Then I mixed strings of flesh colors using combinations of cad red light, yellow ochre pale, some sap green, transparent red oxide and white and put small patches of color onto the areas that I saw them. Painting on a black or red surface adds an immediate "depth" to a painting and the figures appear dimensional even unfinished.
I think the illusion of dimension is even more apparent here.
Here small pieces of bright sun-lit colors have been added to the sand, water and waves. The clothes are "fluorescent" because of their intensity. The green is caribbean blue and cad yellow light. The orange is cadmium orange and cad yellow light. Little pieces of the original pink can be seen and the pink also gives "warmth" to the painting.
To mix more realistic greens (like those in landscapes), often the intensity needs to be modified. Here is a mixing exercise that changes the intensity of the greens without changing its value..
First: Mix more cadmium yellow pale (top first row) with less ultramarine blue (second box: first row) to achieve a nice starting "cinnabar light" green (warm, opaque, spring green: top: second row). Then, alter the values of the greens: in order, these are: add more ultramarine blue (darker), original mix, add more cadmium yellow light and more cadmium yellow light. Above: instead of yellow, add more white and more white.
To achieve the slightly less intense (but same value greens seen in the row beneath these starting greens, first mix equal value violets to the greens that will be modified.
Violet is made with ultramarine blue (second box: first row) and permanent rose (third box: first row). It is more red (third box: second row) or more blue( second box, second row) violet, depending on which is the predominant color in the mixture. Both mixed purples (the reddish and the bluish) are dark colors so to determine what a dark mixed color looks like, test a tiny piece of it by adding white (shown third row beside parent dark purples). To change the values of the purples, add white (string of purples beneath matched value greens).. The slightly less intense greens are made by adding a tiny amount of the corresponding value-matched purple into the green that is being dulled down. Adding MORE purple, will grey the green further. By first making a matched value of violet, the mixed green will keep its value and change only its intensity. A small amount of the matched blue or red violet was added to the greens lightened with white in the top right squares.
Do this yourself. It will make more sense. this exercise will also be practice for making some good starting greens and violets.
Bright unmodified greens in this floral study. This painting was working on bright, not realistic colors.
Mom, Wife, Former Pediatrician, One who LOVES color, creativity, paint, and lifelong learning.