Thursday, 17 October 2013
Poppies in Watercolour.
The other day, I arrived home with a tube of watercolour and noticed that the lid of the tin in which my colours reside barely fits anymore. I wondered how I had managed to amass such a number of tubes when, if you read almost any book on watercolour painting, you will be advised on the merits of a limited palette. Perhaps it is the element of mystery they hold. By this I mean that watercolour can be, as we all know, very unpredictable. Sometimes it can seem to have a life all of it's own when released onto the page and, whenever I pick up a tube, I wonder if I wouldn't be overly surprised to feel a faint and quickening pulse. But then of course, that pulse is in my eager finger tips - isn't it? My recent attempt with acrylics only emphasises this further. Acrylics do what they are supposed to do on the surface, they don't move from where they are put, they don't blend or bleed before your eyes against your very will, they don't thwart your carefully laid out plans and transform a picture from promise to failure in a split second and, they don't indulge in 2D gymnastics such as back-runs etc. Ah, but despite their willfulness, watercolours are old, established friends. Real friends, with whom life is not always easy, with whom there will always be dis-agreements, arguments, even short periods of quiet distance. But they are friends nonetheless, who will always be there and, what's more, will always be treasured. Ultramarine, a deep, warm blue which granulates on the paper providing texture as well as the colour of a Mediterranean sky. Cobalt, a kind of all purpose blue, a bit cooler than Ultramarine and ideal for more northern skies. Mixed with Alizarin Crimson it yields a useful shadow hue. Cerulean Blue is cooler still, the delicate shell of a Song Thrush egg or a wintry evening sky - one of my favourites. Let's get down to earth. Raw and Burnt Sienna, rich and autumnal and don't forget that warm, ancient brickwork on farmhouses and village streets. Raw Sienna is so versatile it will even provide a warm backdrop for a summer sky. Burnt Sienna with Ultramarine summons a rich, warm dark for that open doorway. The sun is shining through the window as I write this. Lemon Yellow, acidic, juicy and strangely cool for a colour that depicts sunlight so well. Then there are the Cadmiums, both Red and Yellow. Cadmium is a nasty, highly toxic metal (Cd. on the Periodic Table). Manufacturers have found substitutes to enable us to enjoy these colours safely. Uncompromising and opaque, they need care when applying. Just a few well-placed spots and Cadmium Red can lift a whole picture single-handedly. All the colours mentioned so far are what would be termed traditional, there are others, more modern with exotic names. I don't own any Perylenes or Indantherines but I do own some Quinacridones. Quinacridone Red is a pure, transparent and unbiased red. In diluted washes it gives a lovely, dusty pink, I've found it's also ideal for toning down greens. Quinacridone Gold, a potent, molten yellow. Apply it to wet paper and watch as it overpowers the white, almost scorching the surface. One of my all-time favourites is Green Gold. Transparent and intense, as it's name suggests it is somewhere between green and yellow but it is deliciously rich and evocative. Whenever I see it on a palette I smell turning Autumn leaves and the damp fragrance of Sphagnum Moss. I could go on and on ("No, please no"! I hear you cry.), Like what a curious thing Neutral Tint is. Hardly a colour at all, more like a mood, or a statement of intent. How on earth did they get that in a tube? I haven't come close to covering all the colours I own but I think I've rambled enough. All the above consists of my own opinions and you, dear friend, may have good reason to disagree with some, or all of it. The whole point of this was to try to apply reason to the burgeoning content of my paint box. My wife has never questioned this but what if, one day, she did? She would be entitled to an answer. Or maybe (and this is highly likely), she already knows and simply indulges this 51 year old child his little bolt hole from the world. She has, after all, always known how to sustain my happiness. Monday I go into hospital again. They are going to try again. My wife will come and fetch me home when they have finished with me. If I'm well enough I'm thinking of asking if maybe we could stop by an art store. Just to have a look around.... Watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb ROUGH.