Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blue--what's your temperature?

Warning: this is deep in the weeds for any artist for morning, so if you're reading this before noon, make sure your coffee is close! 

In my last post I showed you a "study" I put together to increase my knowledge of my blue pigments and various mediums. Update on that soon. At the end, I mentioned the post by Carol McIntyre that shows something like I've done in the above photo to help me judge the relative temperatures of cobalt and ultramarine blues. On the first row, squares of cobalt are surrounded by ultramarine, and on row 2 it is the reverse. I used Vasari paints in column 1 and Gamblin in column 2.

In Carol's post, she asks readers to tell her which blue jumps forward to them. Which does to you? I am almost firmly convinced there is no right or wrong, only a bias each of us has for feeling that red or yellow is warmer. Cobalt leans more green (therefore has more yellow) and Ultramarine leans red, so if you think red is warmer, feel it is warmer, ultramarine will logically seem warmer to you, and the reverse is true. Gamblin's site also states that Ultramarine is warm. I have run into many artists I respect that think the opposite is true, but there are arguments on both sides. I have used Ultramarine as a cool blue years ago, and switched to using it as my warm blue a while back. Based on this study, though, and several other factors, it's now migrated back to the cool side of my palette.

It is important to note in this that all color is relative, and compared to another blue, ultramarine may be warm, but as compared to cobalt, my current assessment is that it is cooler. There is a little variation in intensity of the colors in my study, which I did my best to avoid, but the cobalt advanced to me more in Carol's post and here. That surprised me, but it stands to reason (and I struggled with that until I saw Carol's study and became a believer). As we know, yellow drops out first as colors recede, and we're taught that warm colors advance and cool colors recede. John Sloan, in his book On Drawing and Painting, states that "The most projecting point on the spectrum is yellow-orange; the most receding, blue-purple." So the yellow in cobalt would mean that it advances over ultramarine, which has less yellow and more red (feeling that blue-purple thing). Additionally, why is it that I would use ultramarine for the intense blue of the sky above, but cobalt closer to the horizon (where it seems all things go to be warm)? 

I know there are other points on both sides out there (I've put links to three articles on the subject below), and I'd love to hear any you have for the sake of completeness. For now, through this and my other study, I've determined that I want to push cobalt off my palette for the time being, subbing in Cerulean (a much more obviously yellow-blue) like my friend, David Boyd, and see where that takes me. I still have many tubes of cobalt and it's too pricey a color to go to waste, but it'll keep.

-julie davis

To further confuse you, find three interesting articles on the subject:
1. Sharon Hick's interesting take here
2. and Bob Bohr's article here 
3. and Lisa Marder of ThoughtCo.'s writeup here

*I'll get an update on the study of my blue pigments and mediums in my next post--too much to cover in one post!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Getting the Blues

Pigment Study of Blues

Let's just get it out of the way. I'm an over-preparer. I don't think I am, but according to my brilliant and patient husband, to whom most things come easily, I overthink and over-prepare. So in light of my upcoming (and first I might add) workshop in Kerrville, I began preparing when I agreed to teach it, back in February! It's in November--not a minute too soon, right? It's given me the fantastic opportunity and the drive to reread everything I've ever learned, and to dive more deeply than I ever have into some areas that I've found newly mysterious or about which I've always had lingering questions.

One of these areas is the temperature relationships and color biases of blue pigments. Another is the effect of different mediums (dry time, how they might dilute the strength of a given pigment, etc.). Lastly, I want to see how the brands I use compare to one another over time. The exercise I did yesterday will (hopefully) show me all this in time. 

I probably should have done this on a larger board (this is 10 x 10) and left some blank spots to add future blues I might want to test, but for now, this will do. I looked at Vasari Cobalt and Ultramarine, Gamblin Cobalt and Ultramarine, and Michael Harding Cobalt and Cerulean (a rarely used color for me -- but I'm liking like it). The Ultramarines are across the top so I can compare them easily, the Cerulean and the Cobalts across the bottom.

Along the left side I labeled:

   Paint only
+ Neo Megilp
+ Linseed oil (refined)
+ Liquin
+ White

I'm new to using Neo Megilp, and for the past couple of years have really used nothing but paint. I've tried Liquin and am not a huge fan due to the quick dry time and vapors, but I included both of those so I'll know how the Neo Megilp compares in dry time and how it affects any gloss of a given paint. I began using Linseed oil, and still do on occasion, but it's rare.

I then set about with a bunch of no. 6 brushes, and put down a sample of each color with the mediums (and white at the end for fun to test relative temperature/bias). I look forward to seeing how the mediums compare each day. A couple of observations already:  1) this morning the Neo Megilp and Linseed were still plenty wet while the Liquin samples were well on their way to drying to touch, and 2) the Vasari paints already have plenty of oil in them (one reason I like them so much) so the added linseed is just too much for these pigments. I'm hoping to see that the Neo Megilp stays wet a good bit longer than Liquin.

The second thing I'm looking at is how the different brands dry, both in length of time and how much gloss they retain (hand in hand with when they actually "dry") and how the brushstrokes hold up both with different mediums and with the paint only.

Lastly, and one of the real reasons I did this study, is that I wanted to see how Cobalt and Ultramarine and Cerulean appear near one another to see their relative temperatures and biases (do they lean more red or more green and which brands do what). I have done extensive digging for information on whether ultramarine is a "warm" blue as Gamblin's site claims, or whether it is cooler (as many more sources tend to agree). I have used it as both, and I am realizing that I, along with many others, have an inherent red bias (see/feel it as warmer than yellow) when on the spectrum, really the most advancing and warm colors are the yellow-oranges. I am now leaning to using Ultramarine as my cool blue again, dropping cobalt (as I pretty much now agree with my friend David Boyd that it works as a lighter value of Ultramarine), and using Cerulean as my warmer blue. If your head is spinning now, it's my fault. Just walk away slowly.....

-julie davis

* I have another way to demonstrate the relative temperatures of Cobalt and Ultramarine that I can post soon, or look up Carol McIntyre's version here. (the squares with cobalt inside and ultramarine out and vice versa are what were demonstrative to me).

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hurricane Harvey fundraiser for Rockport Center for the Arts

Hillside Study, 8 x 6 in., oil on panel
donated for fundraiser - purchase here

As many of you know, the beloved Texas coastal town of Rockport was devastated by Hurricane Harvey on August 25th. Like so many homes and businesses there, the Rockport Center for the Arts suffered extreme damage from the high winds and rain Harvey wrought. 

Two of our hardworking Plein Air Austin members, Robin Cheers and V...Vaughn, have organized a fundraiser to raise $10,000 for the center to help them rebuild. They reached out to artist friends across Texas and the country for 100 donations of unframed art, and are selling the works for $100 each. I've got a few in the bunch and they're adding more as they come in -- 100% of your purchase price will be sent to the Rockport Center for the Arts to help them rebuild. You will receive a receipt for your charitable contribution from Plein Air Austin/Rockport Center for the Arts.

See and purchase the artwork here! And thank you, Robin and V!

-julie davis