Pierre, 8 x 10 watercolor

Pierre, 8 x 10 watercolor

I just finished this commissioned watercolor of Pierre.

Benny 3

Benny 3, 8 x 10 Watercolor

Benny 3, 8 x 10 Watercolor

I finished this commission today.  It’s in a different style than I have done in the past, but I really like it.  I dotted it all on, dry brush, starting with the light blues in the whites, then the purples and greens, then the blue-blacks.  Pointilism let all those colors in the black areas show through vibrantly.  It seems to be moving.

Benny 2, 8 x 10 sketch for watercolor

Benny 2, 8 x 10 sketch for watercolor

I named this Benny 3 because I had begun Benny 2 but decided to do another pose.  Ben’s mom was particularly fond of his floppy feet, and this composition put them front and center.

Benny 1 was a pastel.

Ben is missed terribly.

Secondary Values

Over three days I painted three pages of secondaries going from full strength to almost nothing.  Just as with the Primary Values, I started with gouache and then any single watercolors I had, but I don’t have many of those, preferring to mix my own.  So I started showing values of mixed secondaries.

For the curious artist or random pedants, the oranges are Bright Orange gouache, then watercolors Cadmium Red Light (RY), Perm Rose (Rb) + Cadmium Yellow Light (Yr), Cadmium Red Deep (Ry) + Cadmium Yellow Deep (Yr), Alizarin Crimson (Rb) + Lemon Yellow Hue (Yb), Alizarin Crimson (Rb) + Yellow Ochre (Yrb), and Cadmium Red Deep (Ry) + Yellow Ochre (Yrb).   So per this previous post, any time there is a “b” in the mixing code, you can expect a dull or greyed orange.

The greens are Permanent Green gouache, then watercolors Hookers Green Dark, Intense Blue (By) + Burnt Umber (gorgeous deep color), Intense Blue (By) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), Ultramarine (Br) + Cadmium Yellow Light (Yr), Ultramarine (Br) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), Indigo (Byr) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), and Paynes Grey (BYR) + Lemon Yellow (Yb).  With four blues and five yellows/browns, I needed a little more room, so at the top I added Intense Blue (By) + Burnt Sienna (Ybr), Payne’s Grey (BYR) + Yellow Ochre (Ybr), and Ultramarine (Br) + Yellow Ochre (Ybr).

Indigo and Intense Blue make beautiful darks, but I find them difficult to work with.  Indigo lifts too easily and Intense Blue has so much pigment it is difficult to get it to softly fade to white – as soon as I touch a dry edge with fresh water, it colors all the water and makes a new boundary.  They are both fine if you’re not going to touch them again – that just doesn’t seem to be my style.  Ultramarine seems to be in the sweet spot, mixes well, and even adds lovely granulation, but it doesn’t make particularly exciting darks.

The purples are Deep Violet gouache, then watercolors Ultramarine (Br) + Permanent Rose (Rb), Indigo (Bry) + Alizarin Crimson (Rb), Ultramarine (Br) + Alizarin Crimson (Rb), and Intense Blue (By) + Permament Rose (Rb).  I was tired of doing whole value runs, so at the top I added single mixes which I’m not going to type out.

Value Color Charts

I have a pretty good idea of color theory, but wanted to get better at using it, with a specific plan for practice, so I bought the books for Color Theory Made Really Easy by Sandra Angelo.  I’m not ready to give a final review of it, but I thought I’d share how the practices are going so far.  (UPDATE: I’m done and selling it.)

First you read a couple of booklets on color theory which I mostly already knew, but then she lays out a series of color charts for you to make.  I was disappointed that she did not include a list of materials, but only an order form for buying the kit from her, with the warning that the system wouldn’t work with the wrong supplies.  I emailed to her for a list but haven’t heard back.  I’m very unhappy about that, but she may have a good reason such as illness.

She recommends acrylics for learning to mix, but since I don’t know exactly which ones and have no interest in acrylic I decided to buy some gouache, which is opaque watercolor.  I verified that Savoir Faire gouache is vegan and of reasonable quality and bought a set of ten tubes.  So far I think watercolors would have been fine since I’m used to them, but maybe gouache will be helpful later.

She has you start by mixing the primaries but I decided to skip ahead to start with the easiest, pure values of single colors, and I’ve done three so far, one a day.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this.  The left column is gouache (two columns for blue, since the gouache came with both Primary Blue and Ultramarine).  You mix the gouache by putting down a puddle of white at the top and then slowly adding color.  I then made columns for all my watercolors of that hue, starting at the bottom practically straight out of the tube and adding water with a dropper as I went up.  I thought about leaving room for pastels but I think that would just make a mess.

There’s nothing revolutionary about doing this, and yet I took my time and really thought about the colors, warm or cool for instance, and then went around my house trying to match items to the color chart.  I think taking time to do this was important. If I’d just done the gouaches I don’t think I would have learned much, but seeing the various hues, the paints I use, laid out was great.

Next to the watercolor names I have put the mixing code.  This is a neat idea I got from Peter Saw’s site many years ago.  Look around, there are several pages and he does a great job of explaining a practical approach to mixing I’ve been using since my first teacher confused me.


I have a commission to paint another portrait of Benny, this one a watercolor, but I’m apprehensive because he’s so fuzzy.  I’ve been doing short-haired animals and have never spent much time on texture.  It’s time to brush up (haw).

9781440321573_p0_v1_s260x420I went looking for books that featured watercolors of long-haired animals, and the closest I was able to get at Barnes Noble was Secrets of Watercolor by Joe Garcia.  I like this small book because 1. it is only $12.99, 2. it is a great little reference with one page per technique (dry brush, etc), 3. I admire his style, and find his techniques already close to mine (he’s not afraid to call lifting a deliberate technique rather than a do-over), and 4. he included demonstrations of a furry dog as well as a fat cat.

Rocky, 9 x 12 Watercolor

Rocky, 9 x 12 Watercolor

So I painted Garcia’s dog Rocky.  I thought it was pretty good for a first try at his technique.  Things I did differently was to first put down some light washes of either sienna or purple, to warm or cool a few areas, then lay all the fur on in distinct brushstrokes rather than as my usual blobby wash.  I also used my fan brush to both add some dry strokes and also feather puddles of paint out.  I usually hate how artificial the fan brush looks, but I got better at just using a half or third of it.

It was difficult to get the Ultramarine/Burnt Umber mix I use for black dark enough without adding Payne’s Gray, as I had to do at his jaw.  Payne’s Gray is OK but a little dull.  I just bought the much darker Intense Blue, and plan to see if that works well.  When I tried Indigo/Burnt Umber once the result was a disaster – it just lifted too easily, wouldn’t push around, and was miserable to work with.  I love Indigo in shadows but will never try to use it where I need to adjust it.


Abbey, 8 x 10 Watercolor

I just sold this commission. Abbey loved to help her mom do puzzles.  I love the humor of “helping” with the puzzle, the personal history that made it special to her mom, the sunlight, her dynamic position, and the overall composition.

My first try on this painting, I used Indigo as my blue, and I had so much trouble; that and Payne’s Grey lift so easily they are impossible to work with when it comes to details.  For this take, I went back to my old standby, Ultramarine.  Mix that with Burnt Umber and you are good to go for light or dark greys, blacks, or blues.

The other problem I originally had was that the photo was overexposed, with her face in darkness and her stomach and the puzzle totally washed out.  But I loved the photo, so I ran it through Photoshop on AutoFix about five times until it looked like I could work with it.