Your Colors Are a Wonderland

Here’s one of my favorite watercolor blogs by artist and instructor Robert Reynolds on the importance of color and how personal choosing pigments can be. And after you are done, be sure to check out Watercolor Wonderland: The Shirley Trevena Collection (sounds thrilling, no?) for more watercolor painting techniques. Enjoy!

 

Autumn Leaves by Robert Reynolds
Autumn Leaves by Robert Reynolds, watercolor painting.

Is color important in a work of art? Most would say a loud yes! However, look at the wonderful work of the great, late artist, Andrew Wyeth. His dad, the famous illustrator N. C. Wyeth, was often telling Andrew that he needed to put more color in his paintings. However, Andrew continued with his low-color paintings that have become a landmark in his beautiful work. The feeling that he puts into his work reaches out and grabs one’s soul. So obviously, “color” is a personal matter.

For me, my interests in color have fluctuated over the years, and my watercolor painting palette has changed in many ways during that time. For example, I used to include ivory black in my basic palette, but today I rarely use black, mainly because it doesn’t produce the lively shadow tones and low-intensity colors that I now create with other pigments. I also rely less on earth colors such as burnt sienna and burnt umber, because they seem too “heavy” in capturing the light and the airy feelings of sky, clouds, fog, and mist.

Lakeside Azaleas by Robert Reynolds.
Lakeside Azaleas by Robert Reynolds.

My basic watercolor palette adds up to about 15 colors, and I do add other colors when I feel the need to do so. But in general, whenever I paint, I simply try to be conscious of which colors are staining colors. For example, at one time I relied on a mixture of hooker’s green dark and alizarin crimson when creating the effect of tree foliage. The interplay of both colors did create beautiful foliage. However, the colors seemed to lock themselves into the paper. It was difficult to remove the mixture colors from the paper, which I do quite often.

Because of this issue, I began to use mixtures of blues and yellows to create my own greens. On the whole, however, there’s no reason to avoid staining colors. They pose no insurmountable difficulties for experienced watercolorists and can be quite useful when an area needs to be glazed with a second color without lifting the first color in the process. Quite often, for example, I’ll use alizarin crimson as a glazing color to unify a number of elements in my watercolor works.

All best,

Robert

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

3 thoughts on “Your Colors Are a Wonderland

  1. Robert wrote, “…. Quite often, for example, I’ll use alizarin crimson as a glazing color to unify a number of elements in my watercolor works…”

    Robert, you may wish to check the pigment index (PI) of your alizarin crimson. Alizarin crimson PR83 is highly fugutive, and will fade significantly over time. Much better to use another paint entirely.

  2. Robert wrote, “…. Quite often, for example, I’ll use alizarin crimson as a glazing color to unify a number of elements in my watercolor works…”

    Robert, you may wish to check the pigment index (PI) of your alizarin crimson. Alizarin crimson PR83 is highly fugutive, and will fade significantly over time. Much better to use another paint entirely.

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