Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mardi Gras Iris - completed!

Step #1
Finishing "Mardi Gras Iris," which I’d shown in my previous post, meant identifying the colors I used when starting the painting several months ago. I'd neglected to keep color notes, so I had to do some paint swatches to be sure I'd get them right. I wanted to stay with mostly transparent, and staining or semi-staining colors. 
Holbein's "Opera" -- an almost neon-bright pink that is fairly easy to identify -- was the main color I used in the center iris blossom. Pigments used in manufacturing Opera make it a 'fugitive' color (unstable, and not very permanent), so I wouldn't normally use it in focal-point areas of a painting. But in this painting, I was experimenting with a more vivid palette and wanted to determine how Opera interacts with other pigments. I do know other watercolor artists use this color to good advantage, especially in detail areas.

Background runs and blooms
After a little experimenting with color swatches, it was clear that I'd used "Winsor Blue GS (e.g. 'green shade'), " Dioxazine Violet," and "New Gamboge," along with "Transparent Orange," "Quinacridone Gold," "Permanent Rose" and "Quinacridone Magenta," all of which are Winsor &  Newton, professional-grade paints.
I did the background in a blended wash, using Winsor & Newton's "Permanent Sap Green," "Cobalt Blue," and "Green Gold," making deliberate use of "runs" and "blooms" (detail, above left) in the process of laying down these washes. 

Also, I lifted small spots of color (detail right) using a wadded-up paper towel, still allowing the paint to blur and blend naturally.
Step #2
You can see how beautifully some of these colors combine with each other in the stem and leaf areas -- Winsor Blue (GS) and Dioxazine Violet make a lovely, soft shade when they mix together on paper. When mingling on paper, it is critical to use staining, or semi-staining, transparent colors -- and to allow details to dry completely before continuing to paint. (A hair-dryer set on low helps speed up the process.)

The completed painting (below) shows what a visual impact results when you use intense, saturated colors throughout all areas of a painting. It makes a bright and colorful statement at the tail-end of a snowy New England winter.

"Mardi Gras Iris"
10" x 15" transparent watercolor

Thursday, March 15, 2018


I usually have a few paintings and sketches going simultaneously, partly to allow damp paintings to dry thoroughly, and partly because I am easily bored if I have only one painting in progress at a time...  Right now, I'm working on two very different paintings

• A floral that I'm approaching with a question: "Can this painting be saved?" The tentative title is "Mardi Gras Iris." It measures 11" x 15."

• The vertical work below, "Lochside Croft," 11" x 20" is actually the left-hand side of a large, square-format painting. Because it was not working out, I cut it in half. After I did, I sold the right-hand side! I'm hoping this one can be salvaged...  time will tell.