“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.
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:
Paintings by William Payne can be found at the Tate: