An off week at the easel…

After what I definitely consider to be a run of a good few weeks at the easel, I suppose an ‘off’ week was only ever a matter of time away! The past week has been one of those weeks when I struggled with both subject matter and with execution!

I had something quite different in mind with this subject matter, but this is how it turned out:

Cafe interior (full image)

It’s not be any means a total disaster – and there are a couple areas that I’m quite happy with: some aspects of the chandelier light, the general tone and texture of the walls and the sense of light flooding into the room from outside… but the foreground…

I started off with a really dense dark foreground, painted with really heavy mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. I took this way too far though. As well as losing any sense of the light, I also lost any suggestion of the shapes of chairs or tables, or of light catching the edges and surfaces of the furniture in the foreground.

I decided to flood the entire foreground area with lots of water and to let the paint ‘drain’ off the paper. This went a little way to improving it, but by this stage I’d started to lose my enthusiasm for this painting!

Instead of working with it further, I had a play around with a few different crops of the image:

Cafe interior (crop one)
Cafe interior (crop 2)

I quite liked some of these and they helped me to focus a little more on some of the positives in my efforts rather than just on the elements that were frustrating me.

Still, in a fit of pique, I decided that there was nothing good going to come of pursuing this any further and that it was high time I sorted out my paints instead.

Can you ever have too many paints?

My sprawling collection of watercolour paints!

For someone that only tends to paint with a relatively limited palette, I seem to have accumulated a substantial quantity of paints. This is mainly because I often buy paints on ebay and quite often people will be selling off five or six tubes of paint, of which I’m only really interested in two or three of them. When the price is right, I’ve been able to pick up quite a lot of bargains. The downside is that I’ve also accumulated quite a few paints that I’m not entirely sure what to do with!

When I sorted out and grouped all the paints together, it’s quite telling. The main thing it’s telling me is that I need to STOP BUYING PAINT!

my stockpile of watercolour paints!

At the top of the image are my blues: cerrulean, cobalt and french ultramarine. Top right I have some yellow ochre (I favour raw sienna over yellow ochre) and three tubes of quinacridine gold that I’m not at all sure what to do with!

In the middle is a tremendous amount of cadmium yellow that I seem to be stockpiling for some bizarre reason. I also have reserves of burnt sienna and burnt umber on the left. On the far the right, I have far more chinese white and titanium white than I’m ever likely to use. I also have tubes of sap green and alazirin crimson – neither of which feature in my regular palette.

At the very bottom are some new 37ml tubes of some of my staples that I only bought recently. All in all, plenty of paints to keep me going for quite a while and it’s also been valuable to see where I have the odd gap. I am for instance going to allow myself to buy a new tube of light red!

A happy coincidence

As I was compiling this post, I received my regular email from Jackson’s Art Supplies which really grabbed my attention as it seemed so timely as to almost be suspicious! The article details the preferred choice of colours from five leading landscape artists. You can see the full article by clicking on the image below:

Aside from being a great article, what was particularly interesting to me was how much food for thought it provided for some experiments with colours such as indigo and quinacridine gold!

Who knows, maybe my profligate purchasing of paints will provide some interesting dividends after all!

Thoughts on An off week at the easel…

20 thoughts on “An off week at the easel…”

  1. Back again! Quin Gold IS available in name only. Most manufacturers now are labeling a MATCH for QUIN GOLD that is NOT the real thing but matches so closely you can’t tell the difference! They are now doing the same thing with some of the cadmiums since that is a poisonous pigment!.. WN included! Some of the new discoveries in pigments can make the actual paints do interesting things that the same color can’t do. Part of this may be partly due to the binder that is used. For instance, QOR watercolors with their own binder, can behave quite differently from the same color made by a different maker. QOR WCs are highly pigmented, for one thing, and can literally ‘push’ their way into another one in a wet-in-wet situation which can be used in wonderful but not always dependable ways. Excellent for those of us who love color and enjoy allowing it to behave in miraculous but less dependable ways! I am not a ‘control freak’ (like my granddaughter who must have everything go just as she determines…and exactly when!

    To change the subject, do any of you use Britain’s own Rosemary brushes? If so any special favorites? Especially curious about her “Traingular brush” which I’ve seen demostraated.

    1. Hi Margery and thanks for this. I’m 99.9% certain my Quin Golds are the ‘new’ ones. As I never experienced the old ones, it really doesn’t matter that much to me! It’s certainly an intense colour, that’s for sure – but beautifully transparent too. I’ll continue to play with it and can already see that it may usurp my transparent yellow!
      I’ve only bought one or two Rosemary and Co Brushes – none of which I use regularly so I’m afraid I don’t feel qualified to give much of a critique! My brushes are mainly Da Vinci, Escoda, Isabel, Raphael and a few Winsor and Newton. I’ve basically already got far more than I’m ever likely to use/need!

  2. Pingback: Fan Ho watercolour painting

  3. I’m actually coming round to the view that you can mix (near enough) any colour from any big enough range of single pigments – in my case 9. Like you I occasionally move one out and bring another in but it’s really only on a whim and, in my case, just because I think it’s a bit wacky to avoid using the colours that everyone else uses! (I think I’m a thirteen-year-old at heart). So I’m always a bit suspicious of “marvellous” colours that you can’t get any more. The paint companies always mix up a hue that’s hard to tell apart from the sadly departed so why not do the same thing yourself? If I need gold I mix a slightly orangey yellow with a bit of “dirt” in it; in my case that would probably (at the moment because these are some of the single pigments I have currrently in my set of 9) involve mixing Green Gold and a touch of Permanent Rose – one being not quite yellow and the other being not quite red so as to introduce the “dirt”. Or maybe Transparent Yellow with Permanent Rose and then just a touch more “dirt” from Quinacridone Violet. They may not exactly replicate PO49 but they’re close and they’re interesting in themselves and they’re your own invention, as it were. I very rarely paint with a colour straight out of the tube so I never quite understand why a particular colour is any better than any other similar colour; I never look at a painting and say, “Wow, that’s a wonderful/awful gold!”; I tend to say, “Wow, that’s a wonderful/awful painting!” = combination of colours interpreting what I see in the world.
    [All colours mentioned above are W & N Professional watercolours]

    1. I think I’m of a similar mind to you on this Rob. The most significant thing that I can do to improve my work is, I believe, to spend more time painting. I see others produce amazing results with palettes that are more limited than my own. The difference in my mind has less to do with the variety of colours or any of their inherent individual qualities, but everything to do with the artist’s understanding of tone alongside their understanding of their own palette. That said, I did apply some water to some quinacridine gold. It’s vibrancy terrified me in much the same way transparent yellow did when I first used that! I’m tempted to try swapping out the transparent yellow for a while in favour of the quinacridine as I’m more likely to have a play around with it then. Like transparent yelllow, I can’t see a place for it in it’s natural state so I need to get a sense of what I can do with it mixing it with the other colours in my palette.

  4. John, it’s all about PIGMENT! According to the owner of Daniel Smith (I use their watercolors almost exclusively with some by QOR) who recently gave a wonderful talk on their colors, the story re Quin Gold went like this:
    Back when the paints used by auto makers, new colors along with great improvements in the pigment industries, some spectacular paints evolved for cars which had to withstand the hazards of weather. Colors used to fade badly, especially reds, so auto colors were very limited. Then, Along came the discovery of some amazing new pigments which then became available to the entire range of industries that used colors. Quin Gold was created by (he thinks BASF, one of the largest pigment manufacturers) for he believes, Toyota. Quin Gold was created just for them and they owned the rights to that color. When they stopped using Quin Gold for their cars, the color was forever retired! Other manufacturers have managed to duplicate the color now and he showed Daniel Smith’s new match as compared with the original one, SO CLOSE it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. Since auto makers use such huge amounts of paint, they are able to have this kind of control!
    I’ve only been doing watercolors seriously now, for 5 years. I’m not sure when this lock on the pigment took place but do remember it happened within that 5 year time but I don’t know if my tubes were the real thing or not. I DO know that a lot of people grabbed what they could after I began using it! Just like toilet tissue now in this ‘Covid’ era! ME FIRST!

    1. Hi Margery and thanks for this interesting additional information about the Quin gold. I did put some water on some the other day (something to look forward to in my next post!) – wow, it’s vivid! I liked it’s transparency but I’ll need to spend a lot more time with it and seeing what combinations I like with it from my existing palette. I’m happy to try the odd different colour variation but, as you’d probably expect me to say, I’m not going to revolutionise my palette! It’s plenty colourful enough already – I just choose not to paint the most colourful paintings in the world! 😉

    1. Thanks Warren. Hope it doesn’t happen to you as often as it seems to happen for me! The interest in that quinacridine gold is making me want to hold onto it! I need to have a play with it to see why everyone’s so keen on it!

        1. Thanks Warren – I had no idea that this isn’t available anymore? I’ve know that some of mine has arrived in a recent ebay purchase and I’ve just looked on Jackson’s Art Supplies and they still have it in stock? Maybe it’s the formula that has changed?

  5. Hello John! I can understand your problems with not meeting all your promises! We all have interruptions and blank spots. This is ART, not some regulated event! I admire your devotion to your followers by posting your ‘not very good’ efforts as well as your winners! We all have both too! You already know my priorities, and mine are color!! Based on that, I wish you would play with some of those colors you have in ‘your pile’ and learn what they can do for your work instead of sticking to all those dreary greys! They become depressing and surely effect your mood and overall view of life! Now don’t get angry with me again!
    I can’t today see anyone not having Guin Gold in his palette! This is not the 19th century when such marvelous NEW pigments have Not been discovered! That they did not yet exist back then is no excuse for not including them today! Some of these new pigments have unimagined miracles never heard of back in the 19th cent!
    I found that the best way to become familiar with them is NOT to use them in a traditional landscape but to just PLAY with them; just dropping blobs of color on your paper both wet and dry, and allow them to do what they want to do! You’ll find miracles happen before your eyes when you allow them the freedom to mixing on their own, OFF the palette! Have some FUN then adapt what appeals to you. No artist should stay in a ‘comfort zone’ forever just repeating himself
    I can’t believe anyone would not find INDIGO a most important color to include in, well almost every painting! Far more potential than Paynes Grey! And the various quinacradone colors can open your eyes and so on. Experimentation is what keeps your paintings alive rather than the safety of sticking to the ‘ same old‘ because you are comfortable or it ‘sells’!’
    For your friend and follower who wants your tube of Guin Gold, I just learned why the original is no longer available and I can forward that info (or abbreviate it here) if I have access to your email. I’d be happy if not, to tell you briefly what the issue was, let me know!
    Please. Don’t be mad again, I mean well and hope you’ll consider some of my remarks useful!

    1. Thanks Margery – I will endeavour to follow your advice! As you know, I do like to maintain a relatively limited palette – but to try to really understand what I can achieve with that palette. I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible with the colours I use now but I will try to explore a few of these others that I have lying around!

  6. Feel free to send the quinacridone gold tubes my way, John. 😛 I much prefer it to Yellow Ochre and even my once old staple, raw sienna.

    It is strange how much paint one can stockpile over the years. I have certain tubes of colour that I bought but are unlikely to use very much, if at all. I think the same stockpiling is true of paper, at least for me. It will eventually all be used but this does not stop me buying the odd new sheet here and there to try.

    The Jackson’s article was interesting. I was facinated by how few colours most of them use. Just goes to show the benefit of the limited palette. If only this did not stop us buying new tubes of paint!

    1. Hi Conor and thanks for this! Seeing how some of the artists on the Jackson’s article use quinacridine gold – and reading how you now favour it over yellow ochre and raw sienna means I’m definitely going to have to try it out for myself!

      I’ve now thankfully got my paper choice pretty much narrowed down! I’m almost exclusively Saunders Waterford rough high white these days!

      I’ve got 15 colours in my palette – about 8 or 9 I use consistently while others, like cad red and cobalt turquoise etc only get very infrequent outings! Obviously this still won’t stop me buying more!

      1. Hi John,

        Yes, quinacridone gold is a popular colour. The original pigment of PO49 was a colour people went absolutely crazy for. It is no longer available due to lack of demand in the automotive industry, which led to Daniel Smith buying the entire supply of the pigment. It ran out about a year ago and artists everywhere began to stockpile this precious pigment. Personally, I thknk the replacement quinacridone gold pigments, made of two of my favourite pigments of PO48 and PY150 are just as nice. I do love how transparent quinacridone gold is compared to yellow ochre or raw sienna. Have you tried Quinacridone Burnt Orange at all? I think you might like it. Like a very transparent burnt sienna.

        Regarding paper, Saunders Waterford rough in natural white is my favourite. Never tried the high white. Saunders is really a beautiful paper. I prefer it even to Arches.

  7. If you. Ever decide to get rid of the quin holds, please contact me. I am always in search of original formulas
    I love the texture in this painting

    1. Thanks so much for this Suzala! I’m going to have a play around with quin gold (who knows – I might love it!) but if I decide it’s not for me, I’ll let you know! Thanks too for
      The kind comments about this painting.

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

Shopping Basket

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.