Delicate under drawings for watercolor botanical painting are vital to the success of the finished artwork in a specific technique. Using the best pencil is an essential part of that success. In the my work, pencil drawings have become more and more a central part of the overall botanical painting. The quest for the best pencil has become imperative. Let the games begin!
In the first leg of the games, a number of pencils from leading manufacturers of drawing materials have been acquired. Using these pencils individually on the same subject will provide a decent comparison. After all pencils have been used in drawings of the same flower, (in this case a calla lily), watercolor will be added to determine the effects each pencil has on the final outcome of the painting.
There may or may not be a winner! Some pencils may prove to be better at some aspects of creating a botanical painting. Pencil boxes will likely still be needed but the size may be reduced. Cash outlay for art materials could be reduced too!! We will see!! On your mark, get ready, GO!
The very-expensive, highly-toxic Vermilion red was replaced by the lesser expensive and less toxic Cadmium reds in artist’s palettes in the nineteenth century. Less toxic and less expensive was less than perfect so the search for the perfect red continued. Eventually, chemists came up with a fairly good substitution for Vermilion and Cadmium. Naphthol Red was born in a chemistry lab as a derivative of coal tar.
Just Paint on the Golden Paints website describes Naphthol Red as, “bright, opaque, fire engine red.” Gamblin’s website says Naphthol Red is a, “modern organic, warm red that closely matches Cadmium Red Medium,” though Naphthol Red “makes more intense tints” and is “more transparent.” Gamblin also reports Naphthol Red is “excellent for high key painting.” AArbor Colorants recommends Naphthol Red for printing inks and gives it an excellent light fastness rating. Some sources report Naphthol Red as fading in tints. Confirmation of this claim was not confirmable so tests may be in order.
Naphthol Red does not have the toxic properties of Vermilion and the Cadmiums and is considerably less expensive. The Material Safety Data Sheets give Naphthol Red a very low toxicity rating. The MSDS says Naphthol Red may cause some mild skin irritation, nausea if consumed, or some respiratory irritation if inhaled. Contact in large amounts could be more toxic.
If in need of a bright intense fire engine red, Naphthol Red may fit the bill, especially if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money. Just don’t have the Naphthol Red for dinner or add it to body lotion. It’s probably not a good idea to set any dried pigment around a fan either. Otherwise, Naphthol red can be a palette staple as a strong red without fear of damage to health or wallet.
My preferred red for botanical painting is Naphthol Red or its sister: Windsor Red. Thinning is required to achieve the transparency of botanical painting. No other red comes close to the intensity of Naphthol Red or Windsor Red so use with extra water and enjoy the intensity!
“I want to paint the way a bird sings.” Claude Monet
Sometimes I wish I could compose beautiful poetry. If I could, I’d write some lines about the beauty of a bird in flight, the graceful curve of the wing, the focused determination in the eye, head down, feet up. There is just something magical in the sight of a bird soaring through the air that begs for poetry.
If I could be a storyteller, I’d make up a story about the birds chattering in the trees and swooping down to the feeder to snatch a morsel or two. I wonder if they talk to each other? They make funny little noises when they congregate in the trees around the feeder. I imagine them gossiping about who’s hogging all the seed or who flew off for a few days and didn’t tell the others where they were going or whose feathers were looking a little shabby. Can cardinals understand the chatter of chickadees? Do finches converse with sparrows?
Since I am not a poet or a storyteller, I paint birds. Sometimes I paint the single bird in a stance I believe to be a pose for the camera. At other times, I paint them in groups or pairs and arrange them as though they are conversing. While I paint them, I imagine what they are thinking and what would they say if they could talk? Maybe they do talk. I just don’t understand bird language.
Since joining the American Birding Association, I am learning more about different birds and bird behavior. My camera has become a constant companion as I wander around searching for subjects to paint. Every now and then, I capture the image of one I don’t know so I go to the ABA’s bird identification Facebook page, “What’s this Bird?” I post the image. The identification returns quickly and my bird knowledge expands.
As I learn more about which bird is which and why one swoops and another soars, I’ll go on wondering if they talk amongst themselves or if they concentrate on each flight and not on what their companions are doing? Maybe a story will come to me. Or possibly some lines of poetry will pop into my head. Perhaps a painting will be a poem one day or possibly tell a story. Paraphrasing Monet, I hope to paint like birds fly. In the meantime, I’ll just keeping painting.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Picasso as quoted from “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins
A couple of weeks ago, I was standing around in a FedEx Office store waiting for the computer guy to finish my project when in the distance I spotted the word, “Artists” in the title of a book on the rack where there are usually books on sales and other business type information. “Artists” is never a featured word in the title of sales and business books. It just isn’t done. Artists aren’t considered business types. We’re too flakey, or whatever, to be taken seriously by the business world. I moved in for a closer look.
And guess what??? It was a business book, believe it or not, for artists! Oh Glory! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course I had to buy it! Not just because it was for the business of artists, the title was so intriguing too! The book is called, “Real Artists Don’t Starve,” and even better, it is written by fellow Nashvillian, Jeff Goins. So far it is a red meat book for all artists. I haven’t gone far in the book because I am caught up in Chapter Two. Most likely, I will re-read this chapter a few times before progressing to Chapter Three, because it is so good. Chapter Two encourages artists to steal from other artists.
Stealing??? I’m shocked! Scare bleu! (To steal a phrase from Agatha Christie’sHercule Poirot.) A deeper dive into the second chapter and I find I have been stealing since my very first painting when I was eight years old. That first painting was stolen from Van Gogh and I have been stealing ever since. After Van Gogh, I have stolen from my other idols like Degas, Bonnard, Wolf Khan and Georgia O’Keefe. And that’s just for starters! The list gets really long, when it moves to today’s contemporary artists.
Goins point is, as he quotes from the bible, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And he’s right. There isn’t. The wise artist sees that. According to Goins, we spend a lot of wasted time trying to be original without realizing who we are as artists is original! Unless you are a forger, most likely you are not copying exactly but are taking pieces from another artist, or artists, to create something new. We learn from those who have gone before. We honor those who inspire us when we spend time copying from them. More than that, when you follow a teacher’s direction, you are stealing ideas and techniques from that teacher. And that’s a good thing!
This New Year, I am resolving to do more stealing!
Happy stealing, to you, for the coming year!!
You can pick up a copy of “Real Artists Don’t Starve” at Amazon, Barnes and Noble here, or from Goins web site: www.goinswriter.com