20.3.10

Paints and palettes.

I haven't really painted since taking up needle felting over two years ago. I was very, very tired of it; one of my earliest memories is of my dad going into a shop, leaving me on the pavement and emerging with a long, thin blue tin box, which he handed to me with a gruff ''there you are girl'. Or words to that effect. It was a box of Reeves artist's watercolours. I was about four years old.

(This is not the first one - I used that one up and he bought me this replacement on a later birthday)
He also gave me crayons, coloured pencils, let me play with his pastels as a treat and generally encouraged me to paint & draw without saying much, just giving me the tools. It was also a good way to keep the house peaceful, which was something he craved (not that I think I was a noisy child). When he died, I made a vow to become an artist for him, and stuck to that promise, even though I was only twelve and trying to keep that vow made life very difficult for me. It took me until fairly recently to realise I didn't really enjoy painting at all; I was just going through the motions.
So I was more than happy to give painting a break - I was bored and even resentful of it, and the only painting I've done since then has been for the odd commercial job. (Drawing however, I do love and never stop). But I was so pleased and surprised to have an enquiry from a needle felt customer as to whether I had any original artwork for sale. Yes, but only the two - 'Luna' and 'Little Clown'. And they bought them at once. Which was lovely, especially for my overdraft. This, combined with the enormous amount of painting I have to do for my two jobs, has brought me back round to the idea of painting again. But - my paints have been dying over the years. Look! The 'condemned' ones with red crosses on are the totally dried up tubes; I've had many of these since the early 1990's.


I went through them and realised I hadn't bought more than one or two tubes of new paint in a decade - the
last time was back in 2005, just at the time I started this blog and tried out the (then)new 'Potter's Pink'. Not all of the dried up tubes needed replacing - colours like these pinks are so vibrant I only use them in tiny amounts, not for washes, so I can happily use the dry lumps they have become.

I took the plunge and spent some money. Not only paints, but all the paper I'll need for the final artworks (about 20 A2 sheets), and yet another ceramic palette (I can never have enough).
And another big roll of gummed strip; the sad little remnant there is all that is left of the previous large one, which was used up over five years. That is, I can tell you, a
lot of work. I also had to replace my pencils which get used up within weeks at the moment.

This is my other box of paints; my gouaches and some of my new tubes. I bought everything from Jackson's Art online, who are my main suppliers; apart from their prices, I've never had anything but prompt and courteous service from them, and that's all you really want from a company. I indulged myself and bought several new colours from two brands I'd not heard of before.

Shin Han and Maimeri Blu both make affordable water colours, and Shin Han especially had some gorgeous sounding hues, some of which are opaque, a quality I like. There are all kinds of *rules* about water colour painting and I ignore them all. I mix gouache with watercolour, even though it splits. You just keep briskly mixing it together as you work and this often gives me lovely, strange colours. (One of the other *rules* is that you don't mix watercolours - you layer them. However my entire painting style rests on mixing and re-mixing - it works for me). I made a little colour sample to try out the colours I'd not used before. The Shin Han ones came out on top. I've kept this image large, so that if you're interested you can click on it and see what I mean. The 'Shell Pink' and 'Horizon Blue' are two shades that I'm always mixing up, so it's nice to have it ready to hand. I've always thought of the pink as sticking plaster colour. The Shin Han samples are on the left, the Maimeri Blue on the top left, three of them.

I don't think I'll be using the 'Lilac' much, (too purpley) but 'Davy's Grey and 'Horizon Blue' are keepers. The one error was stupidly buying 'Green Earth' from the Maimeri Blu range. Of course, it's what I know as 'Terre Verte'. This brand of paint is also quite gummy, which is typical of a cheaper tange. Not something I mind, but I know some people do. The 'Sandal Red' is basically a geranium shade, but a nice one. Here it is with Sennelier's Rose Dore (very red) and Winsor & Newton's Geranium Lake (pale) gouache. But still very tasty.
An opaque colour I used to use a lot for mixing is Daler Rowney's 'Nickel Titanate Yellow' . When I ran out I replaced it with a Winsor & Newton version, which really was not the same. It didn't have the chalky, lemony bite of the DR, so I'm glad to have it back.
Another colour I am very fussy over is sepia. It's something I don't use in my commercial work, as it dulls the vibrancy. My publisher once had a prospective book of mine rejected by clients because it was 'too brown'. However I always put a sepia wash in my personal work and it seems to be a selling point, giving it a nostalgic feel. Go figure, as my American friends say. I only have one sepia in my box that I like, and that is an ancient tube of Reeves in lead casing. It has the blackness which marks proper sepia...
...here is is on the right, compared to two others I have (Winsor & Newton Gouache and Old Holland) which are really just brown. Actually my favourite sepia is in the Cotman student range, but naturally I forgot to order that one.
I find it invaluable to keep a record of how I mix colours. This is a big sheet I made about 13 years ago, and I still use it today. Again, I've left it at big size., so you can click on it for more detail There are plenty of examples on it of how I've jumbled Nickel Titanate Yellow with other colours, to produce something I find interesting.
So when I hit my final deadline (please God) at the beginning of June, I might just start painting for pleasure again, now that I've had my little strop and a two year break. Sorry Dad and thanks again for the paint box.

37 comments:

Natasha said...

I saw a quote in the paper at the weekend and it immediately made me think of you. Can't remember the exact words but it went something like;
They were the true personification of an artist not pretensious but with a lifelong desire to create works of art with good craft and integrity.

Sue said...

What an interesting post, and I'm glad you're breaking all the 'rules'. That's what they're for ;-)

Wanda said...

What a nice memory to have, your father's gift of watercolours. Perhaps you will enjoy it more, when you take it up again. Enjoyed the posts on the Norman Church and your garden polytunnel also. You're a very creative and productive couple. Good luck with your deadline in June.

Southern Lady said...

Oh how I wish I could paint. I have always admired those with such talent. I hope you enjoy your new supplies! Carla

Suze said...

This was a great and timely read, Gretel. My husband has just discovered watercolour painting. I've known him quite some years and in all that time I've never known him to paint(other than walls) or draw, but he's having fun...which, I think, is what you've rediscovered...enjoy your next journey, Gretel...

Graceful Moments said...

That you so much,Gretel for all this lovely information. I was particularly interested in the feedback on the Maimeri Blu. I am bookmarking the post so that I can look over your color charts while in the studio. I love your originals that you sold. How fortunate for the buyers that you had two that go so beautifully together. I truly love visiting your blog. Always something interesting! Look forward to seeing some new paintings later in the year.

myletterstoemily said...

i can't tell you how much i
enjoyed that explanation of
color and painting technique.

i have no artistic ability, but
am a singer. while you work
with hues and paper, i work
with fortes and pianissimos.

it is so fun to get a glimpse
of your life. you paintings
are enchanting.

Frances said...

Once again, you are generously sharing all sorts of valuable insights and information and inspiration with us.

It really is fun to click those pictures and make the paint colors easier to see.

If you keep this up, you might even have me getting back to the paints, brushes, water and paper.

Thank you! xo

Frances Tyrrell said...

A lovely peep over your shoulder. I like your notes and chart like a mosaic rainbow, and the dried out tubes that still magically yield glowing colour at the touch of water.

Wishing you very well with the deadline, you will deserve a holiday after this.

Soozcat said...

Oh, all those wonderful colors. It's like home.

Your dad would be plenty proud of you, of that I am absolutely certain. Whatever primary medium you chose.

Caroline B said...

Ah a Reeves paintbox - I had one of those as a child (probably more than one over the years.) Like you, I was given the equipment as my mother was an artist so it was always available.
You must NEVER stop painting! Your work is so lovely, it would be a crime - I'm always envious of your nostalgic colour washes.
Very interesting to see how you work - how very organised you are with your colour mixes whereas I just slap things together & hope to remember how I did it. Totally agree with you about rule breaking - once I started to forget about all the watercolour do's and don't's, my work became more how I wanted it to be and I stopped worrying about it.
Sorry, rambling here, but paint is my first love!!

Rima said...

A splendid post Gretel dear :)
I was fascinated reading that "too brown" work was rejected by publishers. Perhaps that is my problem! I break the watercolour "rules" too having never really learnt them.. and stand very impressed by your organised colour charts!
I'm cheering you on!
X R

Vikki said...

Hi Gretel

Really glad to hear that you are painting again, and not just painting but remebering the joy you felt when you first started. You are a very talented artist, long may the creativity reign!

Vikki x

Doda said...

What a treat to have all these new paints and paper. I am sure you are going to do something wonderful with it!

Jessie said...

I love to paint because of the colours. My abstract acrylic paintings were about the colour more than anything! It's interesting that you say there's a rule that you mustn't mix watercolour, just layer. I had no idea! (maybe a good thing?)I do colour charts like this, for me it's an excuse to play. Happy painting Gretel! I love your paintings by the way!xx

Yarrow said...

Oh YAAY, I hope you do begin painting again, as I love your work so very much :) I love the paints and I had no idea there were so many exciting colours. I just stick to a bog standard few!

I feel the way you describe about my writing and have given over fully to painting. If it's all that occupies my mind, then it must be what I really want to do!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Break the rules, break the rules, it seems more fun that way. Besides you've made your own. Love your color chart. And drawing is so different, it can be so soothing to the nervous system. Can't wait to see what you paint up after deadline is vanquished.

acornmoon said...

I am so pleased that you did not stop painting, that would have been a tragedy.

Hope all is well with your project. Have you tried Dr Ph Martins? they are water colours in liquid form, like inks only without shellac, lovely and bright and rather addictive.

Twiglet said...

A fascinating post - I would be happy just to sit and watch you mix colours! Enjoy your painting - you have such a talent!

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

Goodness! I'm amazed at your talent and to hear you don't really like doing it! I LOVE that you still have one of your original paint boxes that your dad gave you :) Well, I'm glad you've had your two year break and are thinking of painting again...to show us what you've created (if you choose to do so) will be a gift to us all...stay well ;)

Gerry Snape said...

Oh my,what a lovely blog! Almost good enough to eat. Don't you just love some colours? When I was little my mum took me to the house of two old sisters. Even walking up the garden path I could smell the turps and linseed oil. they used words like, Titian blue, carmine, rose madder and crimson lake! What exotic conversation! I had no idea what they were but I was sure that they were special. I still am.

janet said...

Oh Gretel...what a wonderful sneak peek into the world of watercolor. I have never tried them, but have a deep desire to give it a go one of these days. I even have a little starter set waiting for me. I love the beautiful soft dreamy look you get with them. I'll be needing a lesson during that future visit ;-)
Hoping june comes soon..your friend, Janet xox

PS..I'm planning Oscar's Easter basket. Does he like milk or dark chocolate?

Chrissie said...

I love this enchanting insight into your watercolour world - good luck with the deadline Gretel

Sue said...

Oooh yum yum, all those colours are gorgeous! It makes me want to dig out my watercolour box and have a happy slosh around!

Sarah said...

What a great post! After a breathless year of deadline after deadline, last fall I suddenly found myself without work and without any desire whatsoever to paint anything. I've been writing and drawing while the paints in my ceramic palettes grew dry and dusty. Yesterday for the first time in I don't know how long I spent the day painting something that was just and only for me. It was wonderful. I think we need those breaks sometimes to be able to come back and fall in love with paint again.

ADonald466 said...

I am very envious of your talent!! I get very cross with Malcolm, as he is a talented artist - but hardly ever paints or draws ..... he'd rather make practical things out of wood for the house and garden!

Threadspider said...

Lovely post that appealed to the magpie in me-a collection of old paints, and boxes and memories. Good luck with the deadlines.

Jackie said...

For someone who doesn't like painting you did a great job of inspiring me. I did wonder for a moment how you could mix up a pink with a blue and then I realised what you meant by mix up.

Pearl said...

This was such a fun post. I loved hearing about your dad. Sounds like you got some of your talent from him...Did he paint a lot?
This was such a wonderful peek into your world.
Thanks so much for sharing.
Hugs,

ewix said...

How I love looking at paints
and colors
this has inspired me to paint again

My daughter gave me a lovely little water color set...........
what fun it will be!

Cathy Holtom said...

So glad you're painting again, can I sit on your shoulder and watch?
I would love to see some of your drawings too. Very interesting post.

Jee said...

I love water colour - my dad started me off too but I had a shiny red Reeves paint box. Having not painted for a while, I find the different stuff available now quite mind blowing. As I've nearly always painted animals - horses and dogs, the new colours are so beguiling me to try flower studies and landscape. You can become tired of something even when you love it. Giving it some space is a good idea, I find.

Rachael Rabbit said...

You talk about paint and color in such a magical way. I can't imagine how proud your Dad is/was of you and your work - in felt or paint. x

Nuno Barreto said...

Hi,

Really loved the Shin Han colours you chose. Can you please tell me which pigments are used in Davy's Grey, Horizon Blue and Lilac?

Thanks

John said...

For someone who doesn't like painting you seem to have amassed a lot of paint! Excellent post, you have an enviably methodical way of arranging and using colour. I tend to jump in with vague ideas an hope that it all comes out well in the end.

Painting can be very frustrating, I'd much rather just draw given the choice, but when it works well and you surprise yourself with the results, it can be a journey of adventure too.

kate smudges said...

I loved seeing your reeves paintbox. What beautiful memories ~ your dad must have been a wonderful father. I just wish that he'd lived longer for you! A yummy swatch chart (sometimes I think I love mixing colours far more than painting.) June will be here in a thrice and you'll soon be back to painting and having some free time.

Ulla said...

And its your paintings that brought me to your blog in the first place! Happy that you may come back to them. I was so delighted to hear from you and miss checking in on your everyday progress. Will try to catch up on your life and doings soon. I love this post, as it tells us alot about you and your father, and the whys you do what you do...
Hugs from a hail filled (today!) California,
Ulla