by Carolyn Payzant
I had the privilege of seeing ASBA’s Losing Paradise? exhibition while attending the mid-year ASBA Board Meeting in Chicago. It is truly beautiful and I urge all of you to see it. Carol Wooden did an outstanding job in organizing this exceptional exhibition.
But as I write the Color Curriculum article [for the ASBA Journal], I was most interested in how some of the artists applied their color and what colors they used. So I took a leap of boldness and emailed two of the artists and asked how they accomplished such depth and/or illumination in color. True to the ASBA tradition of sharing, they responded and I would like to share this information with you.
Jean Emmons, US – Ixia viridiflora – Green Ixia
Jean’s image is on the exhibition catalog cover. I can assure you the reproduction does not do justice to her color sensibility or sensitivity. In life - it glows. She writes:
“Carolyn, I'm always trying new paints (many that you've recommended in your column). I do like the Holbein Marine Blue (PB16), but I didn't know about it then. The main pigments were WN [Winsor & Newton] Cerulean Blue (PB36) and WN Cobalt Turquoise Light (PG50) used over light washes of DS Hansa Yellow Light (PY35), WN Rose Dore (PV19+PY97), and Holbein Davy's Grey (PBr7+PBk6+PW6). Also, some very dilute DS [Daniel Smith] Quinacridone Gold (PO48) in the under-painting.
After several transparent layers, I used Holbein Shell Pink (PO73+PW6), Holbein Lavender, Holbein Lilac (PR122+PV23+PW6) and Holbein Blue Grey (PB15+PW6) in the final layers. Though, they are watercolors, they have a tiny bit of white that "covers all sins" so to speak. I also remember I had some rough spots on the vellum that were hard to paint on -- smack in the middle of the Ixia flowers. Those Holbein colors helped to patch that up. In fact I remember that Ixia required a lot of "hospitalization" and hair pulling.
I do some illogical under-painting. I may push a color warmer or cooler to see how it looks and then undo it. Vellum is perfect for this. I much prefer layering lots of individual colors instead of mixing ahead on the palette. However, I do mix on the palette sometimes, especially WN Cerulean Blue (B36) with WN Indian Red (PR101)to get various warm and cool grays. If I tried to layer with Indian Red it would be way too heavy and opaque. I like lots of transparent layers -- the concept of "pentimento" appeals to me -- some layers you don’t see. Though hopefully, on some level, you can sense they are there.” (Note: pentimento is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting.)
Heeyoung Kim, US – Silene regia – Royal Catchfly
Heeyoung’s Royal Catchfly image is reproduced on one of the exhibitions informational posters. This poster is so vibrant it pulls the crowds right into this extraordinary exhibition. Heeyoung writes:
Intense red in full bloom
1. I first under-painted a very thin wash of Naphthol Red (M. Graham, PR 112), keeping highlight areas and some edges white.
2. I painted the shadows next, using a soft grey mixed with: Alizarin Crimson (WN, PR 83), French Ultramarine Blue (WN, PB 29), and Winsor Green (blue shade) (WN, PG 7). This mixture is softer then Neutral Tint. For the deepest shadows, on top of the light shadows, I used a very dry Indigo (WN, PV 19, PB 15)
3. For the red, thin washes of Cadmium Red (WN, PR 108) were painted on the highlights, while keeping the most highlighted areas and edges very thinly painted to make the petals not flat looking. Naphthol Red (MG, PR 112) was painted last to give the intense redness to the petal.
For the brownish red petals
1. For highlighted areas I mixed and painted the area with a thin wash of : Permanent Rose (WN, PV 19), Peryene Maroon (WN, PR 179) with a touch of Permanent Sap Green (WN, PG 39, PY 110)
2. Mix for dark areas is: Peryene Maroon (WN, PV 19) and Indigo (WN, PV 19, PB 15). For the darkest shadow I again used thin washes of Indigo.
3. For the red areas, I used Cadmium Red (WN, PR 108) as the base, then glazed the light part with Peryene Maroon (WN, PR 179) and the dark part with Indigo (WN, PV 19, PB 15)
Carolyn. As you know, everybody creates different final results with the same paint mix. I believe all that matters is how the artist applies the color. I never put thick paint at once, instead I apply it thinly; layer by layer, until I get the intensity I want. Some artists advise not to put more than 6 layers, as you would end up with murky color. However, I find many layers are perfectly fine when you apply them appropriately.
My last thoughts: To you the reader, there is more than one way to paint and use color to achieve greatness. To both of these remarkable artists, I can only respond: thank you – thank you for sharing your talent and the joy that you bring to our obsession.