Color Project

This is my project starting in July 2018, of making watercolor paintings in one color only. This is a challenge to myself to explore more deeply and to have a painting practice that produces regular images without overthinking content. I am limiting myself to using choices in application such as a wash or heavy and opaque or using different brushes to create varying marks and textures. Of primary importance is the quality and subtleties of the particular pigments.  There is so much that can happen just within one color alone. I really want to explore and see what happens. How will color influence image? How will color influence me? I am enjoying learning more about the history of artists pigments.

Color Project No. 14 is Blackcurrant Red Lake. I have come back to the beginning with a color very similar to No. 1. This one is from Case for Making in San Francisco. Their website describes all their lake colors the same : “Lake pigments consist of a natural clay base plus mineral pigment.” It is my understanding that lake pigments are made by precipitating a dye with a binder. So I am thinking that this is using the clay as the binder but I don’t know what the color is derived from here. It seems like an iron oxide mineral pigment like Mars Violet or Caput Mortem. But that would not likely result in the name “Lake” so I don’t know! I am a big lover of all these deep purpley browns. I will take them all.

Since this brought me full circle I am going to start adding more color to my palette. I actually did not realize this until I was posting it here as I have just been choosing colors by whatever was the last one and did not plan it all out in advance.

Color Project No. 13 is Cadmium Orange from Old Holland. PR108. Cadmium is what eventually replaced vermillion. It was less costly, less toxic and does not revert to black when exposed to light. We are lucky to have it. I am afraid that this digital collage looks a bit redder than the actual painting. Sometimes it is just impossible to get it to look the same on the screen. What can I say? But I like the texture of this tiled pattern and the color. It is totally an accident that I just made an orange painting so close to Halloween.

Color Project No. 12 is Yellow Ochre. Specifically, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre from Case for Making. Their website tells us that they have 3 colors made from pigment from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia but I just have this one right now. Hope to add to my Case for Making collection as well as learn more about grinding paint for my own use.

As I look at this image I see how I have made a frame of inlaid wood surrounding an autumn full moon. I began this is an abstract way but even with one one pigment and water, recognizable images emerge and I say ok, lets do it. If this is inlaid wood, that’s cool. I do know moons and wood grain are reappearing in my work all the time. I can go back to when I was in my twenties and see pieces with plaster rubbed over plywood and tinted and waxed. The wood grain is like water ripples and it is the language of my consciousness. I do not claim to know what it means. I am certain it has a meaning that I could go towards to understand myself better.

I am starting to wonder if after I reach the end of my rainbow path here that it could be fun to go back into these single color images and add. Just a maybe idea. I will keep going…

Color Project No. 11 is Permanent Green Light

This color wanted to disappear on the screen as if it was just too much to deal with. Like a fluorescent, it is quite a bright and vivid color. On my Daniel Smith tube it says it is a mix of Phthalo green PG7 and Hansa yellow PY3 so I could mix it myself really and don’t need to keep a tube of it. Phthalo Green is very stable and lightfast and one of those synthetic colors that end up used in as many ways as can be imagined. Switch out that yellow for something deeper and you will get Hookers green.

Looks like I will be heading into some yellows now…

Color Project No. 10 is Chromium Oxide Green.

This coat of arms of Elizabeth I is in Derbyshire, England and is quite beautiful so forgive my rendering of it with my decorative flower border. I have to let my urges take me where they will for this project or it won’t provide me with the interesting information down the road when I go into analysis.

PG17 might look familiar to you as the color of money. Also the green color of wine bottles. Also, it is so lightfast it is great for industrial paint that needs to last a long time, um military vehicles and industrial walls in hospitals , ugly ugly. You are indeed familiar with this green and it does not make you love it. But I find it a humble and neutral color. Pleasant to paint with, a soft green wash and very opaque when thick; it’s good to keep around. I don’t use it a lot but perhaps paired with a pale blue and a red earth color…. see? There I go, wanting to grab more colors. Eventually, I will cave. Just watch.

Color Project No. 9 Cobalt Green Pale
Also called PG19 and is made by mixing cobalt chloride and zinc oxide at high heat. More zinc oxide makes a paler green of course.
Compare this to the Verditer Blue a few posts back that uses cobalt oxide plus aluminum oxide, then mixes that with cobalt chromite and zinc white. The art of a pigment maker is amazing. You need to be able to reproduce these colors reliably. At least to keep up with demand. I don't think I can make this green by mixing cobalt blue PB28 and a yellow so this is a valuable addition to the palette of a color aficionado. Of course, I never turn down a color from my palette anyway, but just suppose I might.

Meanwhile, It has a very granular wash and to get that dark green, it needed to be quite thick. It is a nice mid tone and I want to use it on top of a pale yellow. But no, I am not doing it! This is all about this green and was satisfying in its variety of texture.

Color Project No. 8 is Mayan Blue
This pigment is (historically) made with a particular clay mixed with indigo dye made from the Anil plant. This version is made by Daniel Smith and I don't know exactly what is in it. I found this difficult to use alone as it is very transparent and becomes a streaky mess very easily. Keep a light hand and act like you are making pie dough. In other words, do not over handle it! It will become tough and unappealing. I should probably do an indigo painting next to compare but instead I will move into green. :)
The more I go on with this project, the more the idea of making some of my own pigments is sounding interesting to me. But there I go again, creating the wheel over and over while the world passes me by at lightening speed.

Color Project No. 7 is Cerulean Blue. This pigment is made with either cobalt tin oxide(PB35) or cobalt chromium oxide(PB36) depending on the manufacturer. This is PB35 made by Sennelier. If you are shopping for Cerulean and see something called Cerulean Hue just know that is Phthalo Blue and White and is totally different than this. This has a smooth and velvety soft sky blue appearance. Last, but not least, cerulean blue plays a role in the X Files 3rd season in an episode called "Pusher" where the monster/villain uses that phrase to bend people to his will. I am going to re-watch this right now. cerulean blue cerulean blue cerulean blue

Color Project No. 6 is Verditer Blue. I started this painting on wet paper and worked up towards the shapes that I see as rain droplets hitting the water. This blue has a lovely clear and clean feeling. It is actually a mix of pigments which I was going to avoid for this project but it is a blend with a history which is interesting. Verditer is the manufactured paint version of azurite and was of course discovered accidentally as these things usually are. The pigment came about as an impurity when separating copper from silver. The copper nitrate solution came into contact with chalk and caused a green or blue substance to occur. They had no control over blue or green in manufacture and it was not stable in a painting so was not used by artists, unless they were poor artists! This modern day version is a reliable and lovely blue made with cobalt, cerulean and zinc white and made by Daniel Smith. ⠀

Color Project No. 5 is Cobalt Violet. This is a Daniel Smith watercolor. I use this color a lot but never have I used it by itself and I love it. There is a good granulation but it can be a nice smooth gradation as well. It picks up easily if you make a mistake. I was thinking of something metallic as I painted this.

The metal cobalt was used in medieval stained glass for that bright blue, but they did not figure out how to make cobalt into a pigment for paint until 1802. By half a century later there was a range of colors that could be made with cobalt that are more lightfast than the similar hues made with dye. Do a google image search for cobalt pigments for the greens, blues and purples if you are color fiend like me who enjoys such things.

Color Project No. 4 / Quinacridone Violet made by Daniel Smith.
Quinacridones are chemistry and not mineral or plant based. They are vivid and transparent. So beautiful. I did not have to stop myself from the urge to grab another color while painting this because I was happy with just this one color and now I notice the tube is almost empty. As you can see, I was enjoying how the paint moved on wet paper. There is quite a value difference with layering this color opposed to the previous two reds although both Alizarin and this Violet are transparent.

No. 3 Alizarin Crimson by Schmincke. Alizarin Crimson is a synthetic version of Madder Lake. Lakes are made from dyes made from plant material and not ground minerals. I wanted to make a similar flower to the Minnesota Pipestone one and it quite naturally came about that the pipestone flowers are more stone like than the alizarin ones. I noticed this after I was looking at the two of them and thinking about the different qualities of the flowers. This shows me how instincts are the way I can learn things as I am only to observe and contemplate what I have done in the same way as thinking of a dream upon waking.

Color Project No. 2 / Mayan Red made by Daniel Smith.
This is a very vibrant rose color with no yellow at all. The actual Mayan pigment was cinnabar which contained mercury and so we don't use that anymore.
I like the bright red this has at its strongest opaqueness that is so different from the rosy hue of the wash.

Color Project No.1 / Minnesota Pipestone

One of the beautiful mineral pigments made by Daniel Smith. This has such a rich texture and feel. I decided to make a very geometric carved image and retain the painterly attributes of the pigment.