Colorful Fridays–Redless Monkey Yellow

crystal bowl pansy mix

 

“Happiness is Gamboge, ennui is grey…” Jonathan Meades

 

The most beautiful warm glowing yellows in paintings are often the result of the liberal use of the orangey yellow Gamboge.  So warm and glowing is this color that it is said to be used to dye the robes of certain Buddist monks giving the robes a rich saffron color. Gamboge is the color of the ripe wheat fields in Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel, The Elder”s 16thCentury painting of peasants at the harvest.  Gamboge is the sun on a bright afternoon in late September.

 

Gamboge was originally derived from the resin of the Garcinia tree growing in Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian countries of the region.  The resin is collected in bamboo shoots until dried when the bamboo is then cut away. The resin of the Garcinia tree is considered a controlled poison in some countries due to the cathartic (according to Britannica,”drastic catharic”) properties of the fruit. However it is frequently found in small amounts in some herbal products used for weight loss and other physical issues.  It is relatively harmless in small amounts.

 

Modern Gamboge paint is no longer made with the resin of the Garcinia tree.  Original Gamboge has a very poor lightfastness. Daniel Smith’s New Gamboge claims an excellent light fastness, “more staining than Yellow Ochre and equal in tinting ability to Raw Sienna.”  New Gamboge lacks the fugitive properties of the original. Beautiful, glowing warm yellows can be “poured” over any paintings with no worries of fading.

 

RadioLab has a podcast titled “The Perfect Yellow” that tells the story of the origins of Gamboge along with some other interesting tales of the use of this versatile yellow. RadioLabs website discusses the use of Gamboge and other colors in experiments for teaching monkeys to recognize red.  One wonders why on earth we would want to teach monkeys to see red? It’s bad enough when people see red.  Just image being overrun by rampaging monkeys seeing red!  And what if the monkeys start eating the Gamboge resin?  What a mess we will be in then!  Perhaps it is better to keep the Gamboge for paintings and leave the monkeys to their red-less vision.

 

Gamboge is the yellow of warmth and happiness in many paintings.  Its addition will add a beautiful golden glowing tint to many colors. Today’s Gamboge is free from the potentially harmful side effects of the past.  Though today’s mixes lack the poisonous resin of the Garcinia tree, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it and please keep it away from all monkeys. Otherwise you will be able to experience the “happiness of Gamboge” in any painting.

 

Some quotes from others about Gamboge:

 

Mcspiky says, “I would describe this colour as a form of mustard with little bit more zest and and vibrancy to it (trying not to be pretentious here).”

 

Ferrebeekeeper says, “Here is a gorgeous warm color for Thanksgiving week.”

 

For more on Pieter Bruegel, The Elder:  https://www.pieter-bruegel-the-elder.org

 

Gamboge can be hard to find in stores.

Link for Daniel Smith: New Gamboge

It is also carried by Dick Blick Art Supply company.  Find it here: Dick Blick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pencil Games

Pencils-Derwent
Derwent Graphic drawing pencils

My pencil is like a fencer’s foil.

Andrew Wyeth

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!

Pencil-blackwing-pearl

 

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!

Pencil-blackwing-602-2
Blackwing 602 drawing pencil

Colorful Fridays–Wallet Friendly, Fire Engine Red.

Poppies

 

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!

Happy painting!

Flowers of the Zoom

Mary's Rose
Yellow Rose by Mary Phillip

Mary Phillip, (Notions Journey), Misty Swann, Sandy McNeal, and Emily Hudgins Gibson graciously agreed to assist with my learning curve on Zoom.  This is their beautiful work. Full disclosure: they have all taken either workshops from me or other assistance with their work. However, they are each accomplished artists and I love working with them.  An online format for teaching art is a whole different animal.  These artists adapted easily.  I was amazed!

Sandy's Lily
The start on Sandy’s watercolor Lily.

Sandy McNeal is the newest member of the group.  Her usual medium is oil.  Watercolor is a new venture for her and botanical watercolor, especially. The style was unfamiliar to Sandy so hers was not as finished as the others in the 2-hour time frame but a really beautiful and delicate start.  Sandy has a natural feel for what the paint can do.  The specific paint colors for botanical painting were new to her too.  The zoom format was a challenge for me in demonstrating color use.  Sandy had no trouble picking it up!

Misty's Yellow Rose
Misty’s Yellow Rose

White flowers are Misty’s specialty.  This yellow rose was not an issue for her at all.  She was able to almost completely finish this painting in our two hour zoom.  I particularly love the center with the stamens reaching out. Her depth in the flower with the subtle use of the yellow paint is amazing. A very delicate and sweet painting. Yellow is a color easily put on too thickly.  Misty was able to control the layers of yellow to keep the rose light and airy.  During the Zoom time, I was able to follow her progress easily by her use of her phone to capture the painting as it developed.

The last artist, Emily Gibson is still working on her Lily, progress held up by a personal issue but hopefully we will soon be able to post it too!

Thanks, to these four artists, I have been able to gain a feel for the use of Zoom as an art instruction format.  The plan is to soon set up more Zoom workshops.  Sign ups will come through this site.

See ya soon and happy painting!

Chasing Inspiration

Great Blue Heron, oil on canvas

These beautiful wading birds capture my imagination every time I see one. I would love to pinpoint exactly why but can’t. At times, I am awed by the sheer elegance of Great Blues as they take off for flight. Other days they seem to be playing hide and seek. Strutting along the edge of a body of water, they appear arrogant and snobby. I keep chasing them around different bodies of water with my camera. As I click, click, click with the camera, these herons get a little more familiar and I think of more ways I want to paint them.

Great Blur Heron in flight over Kentucky Lake.

The wing span is amazing as this Great Blue flies off over Kentucky Lake. He was fishing on the shore until our boat got too close and he took off. I’d like to watch the take off in slow motion as the wings open the legs bend to push off. As he gains altitude, the legs straighten out behind and he tucks his long neck down with his head and beak in line with the legs. Its a majestic sight. I haven’t painted one in this position yet but will soon!

Great Blue standing by the water at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

This guy looks decidedly grumpy. The scowl on his face is priceless. He didn’t move as I snapped photos but looked like he’d like to tell me what to do with my camera. He’s probably next up on the canvas. I can’t resist that expression!

The painting above was inspired by a Great Blue I encountered on the beach at Alligator Point in Florida. He was hanging out with a few brown pelicans, some Black Skimmers and a gang of Laughing Gulls. After a few minutes of looking out at the water as the sun was going down, he turned and arrogantly sauntered off into the sunset. His beautiful blue head and lighter blue back feathers became more vivid against the back drop of the orange sky reflecting on the sand as the setting sun slowly dropped.