Colorful Fridays-Forays in Gray

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“There’s so much gray to every story-nothing is so black and white.” Lisa Ling (from Brainyquote)

A sojourn into the land of grey can be extremely painful for those who are certifiably color addicted.  Gray can quickly turn into depressing or dull or any other sad state you can think of.  Most people associate grey with negative connotations such as, “It’s a gray day.”  Or “Gray skies today.”  One of the worst associations is “Battleship gray.”  Who wants to paint a battleship?  Well, somebody might but that’s beside the point.  The connotation is still unfortunate.  These associations give the whole family of grays a bad name and especially the most widely used grey, Payne’s Gray.

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 British watercolorist, William Payne (1760-1830), is believed to be the first artist to come up with this bluish grey, thus the name, Payne’s gray.  According to an article in Walker’s Quarterly published by Basil Long in 1922, Payne likely devised the color by blending a combination of indigo, raw sienna and lake.  Experimenting artists have come up with many combinations since to get the precise degree of bluish gray that is Payne’s gray.

Carol Gillot of the blog Paris Breakfasts states she combines ultramarine and bone black for Payne’s gray in her paintings.  Others have used combinations of Prussian blue and alizarin crimson for this particular gray. Personally, I have found the combination of viridian and alizarin crimson makes a nice Payne’s gray.  And there is always the straight stuff right out of the tube if you prefer to spend your time painting rather than mixing.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that all paintings with Payne’s gray must be negative.  A little play in the land of gray can explore new depths of shadow and form.  Painting strictly in gray can force the eye to see things that may otherwise be obscured by color.  So paint some gray skies and gray days.  Maybe even some battleships.  Have fun in the land of gray and see what happens.  Payne’s Gray could possibly break a total color addiction.  You never know, Payne’s Gray may even become a happy color.

Here are some artists doing wonderful things with Payne’s Gray:

quick sketch using only perylene maroon & paynes grey

Paintings by William Payne can be found at the Tate:

In case you want to know more things you can do with Payne’s Grey, here is a makeup artist teaching you how to create Payne’s Gray eye shadow:

Feeling The Rain

Chickadee, oil on canvas

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”Bob Marley (from

At the first sign of raindrops splattering on the windowpanes, most people run for cover. Or they unfurl an umbrella and search for the nearest shelter hoping not to get too wet. Still others stay indoors and refuse to come out until the rain stops. What if, instead of running, seeking shelter or staying indoors, people looked up to the dark overcast, forbidding sky and followed Gene Kelly’s example, and began to sing and dance. Instead of running for cover, throw hands up to the sky and let the rain pound down. What if, when the rains pound down on creativity, creative people jumped up and started to dance and sing.

It’s inevitable that the creative spirit will get drowned by daily life at some time or other. How long the drowning lasts, depends on the circumstances. Creative people, like any other group, hunker down and ride out the storm, hoping it won’t wash away too much creativity at the same time. A choice is made to hunker down. Nobody is forced to run for cover or unfurl an umbrella. They just do it because nobody wants to get wet. When it’s raining on the creativity parade, artists console each other and say sweet little nothings like, “don’t worry, the rain can’t last for ever.” What if the rain does last forever? What then?

How about refusing to hunker down? How about leaving the umbrella behind?   How about getting wet? Raining on creativity may be a signal that the artist has not being doing enough singing in the rain. The artist is so busy running for cover that the thought of stopping to sing and dance has never occurred. The next time the creativity parade gets rained on, turn toward the rain and check out what it feels like. Does it taste? Or smell? Tune in. It could be the rain is just watering the next creative idea. Jump in. Play Gene Kelly. And pity the souls who prefer to hunker down while artists are singing, dancing and a lot more than just getting wet. There’s no telling what creation may come from feeling the rain instead of running for cover.

In these days of lock downs and virus fear among all the other wild and crazy stuff going on, maybe a little Singing in the Rain is what we all need to get our art pumping again!

Monday Morning Birds-Cardinals

Cardinal Pair on Dark Blue, oil on canvas

“When cardinals appear, Angels are near.” From a poem by Victoria McGovern

Cardinals are a favorite for me. I love painting them. Their personalities are never quite clear. There is nothing like seeing that beautiful bright red on a snowy day or a day when the leaves have all gone brown. At this point, they are probably the bird I’ve painted the most. People seem to have an almost spiritual connection to them. They frequently tell me that a cardinal is a message from a loved one passed on. When they see a cardinal, it is a visit from the loved one. To see a painting of cardinals is to keep that loved one near always.

There are a number of places to read about where the story started about the cardinal’s relation to someone in the past. One such place is the Wild For Birds blog. A nice description on the site covers the high points of the meaning behind the cardinal as the main messenger bird. Most sources give the origin to the saying, “When cardinals appear, angels are near,” from a poem by Victoria McGovern. Read the complete poem on Bonnie Lecat Designs website.

Cardinal Pair on Teal, oil on canvas

I’ve painted so many of them that I have my paint colors down to a short list. My favorite red is Winsor Red from Winsor & Newton. It is more transparent than the cadmiums and does not have their toxicity. Indian Yellow brightens up both male and female bird when used in transparent layers. Payne’s Gray is my choice for the masks. I try to never use black if possible and Payne’s Gray will achieve the darkness I’m seeking but occasionally I’ll add a bit of Hooker’s Green to the Payne’s to create a little drama to play off the surrounding red. Zinc White or Mixing White are my lightener colors. Titanium White is too opaque and chalky for my tastes. A more transparent white is my preference. Occasionally, a bit of Lemon Yellow is needed to brighten up the lightest spots on the birds. Really only a few colors are needed to paint beautiful richly colored cardinals. The only other colors needed are your choice of background color and some Burnt Sienna and Naples Yellow for the twig.

Have fun painting a few “messenger birds!” Let me know if you get any messages!

Colorful Fridays- Misunderstood, Mispronounced Exploding Yellow

Autumn Leaves, watercolor

What a horrible thing yellow is.”  Edgar Degas (from

Few paints are as controversial as the much-maligned yellow known as Aureolin.  Artists either love it or hate it.  Aureolin will turn a greenish brown eventually but not everyone believes this is a bad thing.  This greenish brown can be quite useful in many mixes, especially in recreating the colors of nature.  Aureolin is never a substitute for the more brilliant yellows of Lemon or Cadmium.  Perhaps therein lies the controversy.  Expectations to be something it’s not, lead some to shun this highly transparent yellow.

Aureolin is also known as cobalt yellow and can be very expensive.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Bostonstates Aureolin is “composed of cobaltinitrite.”  The MFA also says Aureolin was “discovered by N.W. Fisher in Germany in 1848.”  It began use as an artist’s pigment in 1852.  Aureolin was first sold in the Untied States in 1861.  For more information see the MFA’s website at the link.  Aureolin is most valuable as a glazing color as it has a high transparency rating.  It can be quite useful in botanical painting.

The fade to brown character of Aureolin has led one artist to post a dire warningstating in no uncertain terms that Aureolin should never be used by any artist, at any time.  The warning also states tubes of Aureolin could “explode.”  Verification of this claim was not available from other sources.  It seems a bit over the top to think any reputable manufacturer would knowingly sell exploding paint.  However, caution is advised.

If unconcerned about explosions in the studio or high expectations of brilliant yellow from a greenish brown yellow, then Aureolin can be highly useful.  The fading to greenish brown of Aureolin is less acute in oil than watercolors.   Before you rush out to buy a new tube of Aureolin, check out the Talking Dictionary’spronunciation.  That way, you will be understood correctly when you call to report the exploding tubes of paint in your studio. For some reason, the tube I’ve had for years has never exploded.  Oh well, one can always hope.

Check out how these artists make use of Aureolin:

If you would like to name your horse, Aureolin, too late, it has already been done:

I wonder if announcers say the horse’s name correctly?  Aureolin Gulf may be an exploding horse.

Zoom Workshops open

Sunflower Watercolor

Registration is open for the first Two series of 3-Step Botanical Watercolor workshops that will be held in 2 hour increments over 3 weeks. The First part will cover the preliminary drawing and how to transfer the drawing to watercolor paper via tracing paper. Part 2 will focus on detailed under-drawing as the key to depth, shadow and texture. Part 3 is the finished painting in watercolor using layering or glazing techniques to achieve rich color and velvety smoothness in petals and leaves. The first series will feature sunflowers and the second will be on Pansies. Sunflowers will take place on Tuesdays and Pansies on Mondays. Two times will be available for both series. Click on the Workshop button in the side bar or go to the Workshop page. Class size will be limited to provide personal attention. I look forward to meeting new faces and seeing the art work of lots of artists out there. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.

Once registered class materials will be made available for download in PDF form.

Coming up soon will be a Student Gallery of work created in the workshops! Help me make a place to showcase what artists are doing in Botanical Painting

Purple Pansies
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