Pigment Wonderland

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.

Garden Pond by Robert Reynolds, 29 x 19, transparent watercolor painting on rag paper.
Garden Pond by Robert Reynolds, 29 x 19, watercolor painting on paper.

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.

Forest Light/Big Sur by Robert Reynolds, 28 x 19, transparent watercolor painting on paper. Shallow Waters by Robert Reynolds, 29 x 19, watercolor painting on paper.
Forest Light/Big Sur by Robert Reynolds,
28 x 19, watercolor painting on paper.
Shallow Waters by Robert Reynolds, 29 x 19,
watercolor painting on paper.

But I do love these pigments and use them quite often in my watercolor paintings, just not for atmospheric effects. In fact I’ve had the privilege of watching them being made during the two times that I visited the Windsor/Newton factory located in Harrow, London. If you are ever in London, take the tour of this famous fine arts paint factory. You will be in pigment wonderland!

My basic watercolor painting palette.
My basic watercolor painting palette.

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 works. More soon,





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Watercolor Painting
Robert Reynolds

About Robert Reynolds

The paintings of San Luis Obispo native, Robert Reynolds, are in art collections throughout the United States and abroad. Images of his paintings have graced the pages and covers of national art magazines and his work is featured in over 20 books, the majority being art books. His painting, "Vineyard Radiance" was on the cover of The Best of Watercolor SPLASH 9.

Reynolds has assembled an impressive body of work and list of honors. He is a past winner of the Gold (1994) and Bronze (1993) honors in the California Discovery Awards, and the Bronze Award winner (1996) and Finalist (1999, 2000, 2004) n the Landscape category for the Artist's Magazine's National Art Competition. His work has been in numerous solo art exhibitions.


In a past commission, the United States Postal Service chose Reynolds to do the artwork for a stamp commemorating the famed Hearst Castle located in San Simeon. Selected as a Central Coast Wine Classic Commemorative Artist (1998, 2002 and 2009), Reynolds' painting entitled "Vineyard Light" (1999) is held in the collection of Meridian Winery. Reynolds was also a winner of the Purchase Prize Award in Ironstone Vineyard's national art competition (2000). Posters were published using his painting image to celebrate the annual event.


National publications regularly highlight Robert Reynolds' work. Features and occasional cover stories include: The American Artist", "The Artist Magazine", "Watercolor Magic", "American Artist Watercolor", "North Light magazine", and a number of other magazines. In addition to his own two books, "The Art of Robert Reynolds; Quiet Journey"; published Cal Poly University and "Painting Peaceful Places" by Robert Reynolds and Patrick Seslar; published by North Light Books. His paintings have appeared in a number of local magazines. Reynolds' watercolors have been in six of the prestigious watercolor books, "Splash" published by North Light Books and edited by Rachel Wolf. Also, his work has been highlighted in two of the French art magazine, "Pratique Des Arts". Also, his work has been included in a number of British art books.


Reynolds served as a Professor of Art at Cal Poly University for a good number of years and enjoyed working with the art students who were beginning their own journeys. This past year he had a solo art exhibition at the S.L.O. Museum of Art.


In 2005, Reynolds participated in the invitational Biennale International Dell' Arte

Contemporanea in Florence, Italy. He is listed in the Marquis journals: "Who's Who in   

American Art"; "Who's Who in America"; and "Who's Who in the World".        







2 thoughts on “Pigment Wonderland

  1. The color palette Andrew Wyeth is just as vital and just if not more important than N.C.’s were. Are they bright? No, but they are still color. Even black and white are colors.