More on Schmincke Pan Watercolors

April 30, 2009


Above: Another "chart" I made when testing Schmincke pan watercolors in December 2007. I'm mixing new selections with colors already on my palette.

I thought it might be helpful for people to see the other types of tests I put watercolors through when making a selection for my palette, so I have included in this post two additional "charts." I put charts in quotation marks because I am not trying to make a formal, tidy, structured chart for the most part when I do these tests, I'm just interested in blending colors together and seeing what happens. A lot of artists I know take a much more orderly approach to these types of tests and put them into columns and boxes and apply a lot of order. While I love order probably more than the next person I'm happy to just get in there and mix. I think each artist has to do what is most useful to him. (My colored pencil charts are extremely orderly!)

For me it is also about speed and getting back to painting. If I can get the information I need, easily, from a blotch of color on a page, then I'd rather not spend the time making a chart. Just do what works for you when testing, so you can get back to painting.

On the page shown above, still in that sample journal 11 x 7.5 inches wide with Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, I was interested in blending the translucent orange with various colors either already on the palette (Dark Blue Indigo) or potentially on the palette (Manganese Violet).

The Schmincke brochures said that mixing Trans. Orange with Phthalo Green would yield a warm grey. I didn't quite achieve that in my mixes, but what I did find were some interesting blends, including a lovely olive. I decided to give Phthalo Green a spot on the palette, and that's a first for me. I tend not to use many greens at all, pre-mixed, tube or pan. Also I really don't like Phthalo Green, or so I thought. It's still hanging out there on the palette, not used much, but it has a spot.

What I do when mixing swatches like this is I get some pure color on the brush and put it on the paper, pushing the puddle of color out just a bit (I want to be able to see some of the original color when I'm done. (The brush is full of thick, wet— but not watery, paint.) Then I rinse the brush and pick up the second color. I start to the side of the first color so that I can create a clean swatch of the second color, then I keep drawing that second color to the still wet first color and let them blend. I may drag that blend up or down to see the different mixes I can get.

Then I let the whole mess dry and make notes about what I like or don't like. In this way I see how the colors I'm thinking of adding work with the colors I already live with. Since I tend to paint this way too, blending mostly on the paper rather than on the palette, this type of chart ends up being more representative of what I might actually get when painting.


Above: Here is a more orderly blending chart. I have decided that I want to include Cobalt Turquoise in my palette, but want to first check it out with all the colors. Click on the image to view an enlargement and read below for more information.

In the second chart, immediately above (which sadly had quite a bit of shadow in the gutter area of the page), I mixed Cobalt Turquoise with each color in the new palette. I did the mixes in the same order as the palette chart (posted on April 28). Because of this arrrangement I don't have to spend any time labeling each of the individual colors. I need only label the main color I'm testing and then work down the row. I note down things of interest as they occur to me.

When I arrived at the blue selections in my palette I had already mixed the Cobalt Turquoise with those on previous charts, so I simply wrote a note that the blues were on other charts. I didn't want to spend the time making mixes I'd already done elsewhere. People who like complete charts might want to repeat these colors. I don't mind flipping to another page. Once I make these charts I actually don't look at them very much, unless it has been a long time since I worked with a particular line of paints. I don't think I have a particularly good color memory, but once I see how something mixes and the quality of how it settles I find the charts aren't necessary, so the few times I will flip through some pages is less of a time drain than retesting the same pairs.

I will also pick triads out from the new palette and create triangle charts. You can see one of those types of charts in a post about Daniel Smith and M. Graham watercolors by clicking on the link at the end of the last sentence.

Finally, because I index my journals (see Indexing My Journals) I am able to find these charts whenever I need them. I used to keep charts on single sheets of watercolor paper in a folder, but they were always getting misplaced. No journals have been misplaced since 1988 so I think they're safer as a resource in my journals. If I'm working in a journal that doesn't have watercolor paper and I'm doing a full line of tests then I'll test on watercolor paper that I stick into the journal. For triads and other spur of the moment tests I can pretty much do them on the journal paper I'm working on because of the paper choices I make. The exception of course would be any toned papers I use because the color of the paper would come through the transparency of the paint and alter the visual result.

I hope these charts are helpful to you. If you are adding a new color to your palette, or if you haven't used a selection of paints in a long while, take a few moments to play with the paints and see what they actually will do for you. It can save you hours, and hours of frustration later! Also, any holes in your palette will start to show up when you look at it in this way. That leads to some carefully considered choices at the paint store and that means savings. Savings you could always use to buy more paper so you could make more paintings with colors that really work for you.

    • Katy
    • April 30, 2009

    I have read several times recently of artists mixing watercolors on paper, but I wasn’t sure how it was done. Thank you for your explanation and for another excellent post!

    • Owen
    • April 30, 2009

    I’m impressed. I usually just grab the box or drawer of tubes and kinda go at it. As an ‘artist’ I really should get into theory sometime.

    • Roz
    • April 30, 2009

    Katy, the swatches I make are just one way, the goal here to see each pigment and the blends. More typical in the painting situation is to load the brush with the two desired colors, but not blended, just dipped in both, and then start painting, letting things blend. Also some folks blend on paper by putting down one color on the paper and then going back into that color with the second color, which is similar to the swatch thing, but is built around the needs of the subject for dimensionality and such.

    Also some folks fill an area with water (clean) and then load a pigment on the brush and drop it or blend it into the wet area. Then they pick up another color and return to that wet area, dropping in the second color by touching with the brush. (You have to control your water pigment ratios and also be careful the brush has more wetness than the paper or you suck up the wet paint on the page into the brush.) Colors dropped into a wet area like this blend and make some really interesting effects. I find working like this on Claybord™ is very effective.

    Practice on some scraps of paper to see how much paint, water, etc. works for you.

    • Roz
    • April 30, 2009

    Owen, some people do color theory on the fly so to speak, or have an innate grasp of it. Because I teach I wanted to be able to articulate “issues” with students. Then in my own work I wanted to work towards harmonies in an more orderly fashion, and hope to continue to do so.

    Check out either of Quiller’s books on color theory, both fab.

    But keep grabbing those paints and getting out there. You’ll find things that you’ll do again and again that are pleasing to you.

    • Katy
    • April 30, 2009

    Thanks, Roz! I really appreciate the additional instructions!

  1. Reply

    Hi Roz, please don’t think my earlier comment was a slight, if it was it was a slight towards myself. 🙂 One needs to know the rules before one breaks them – goes the old adage. Sometimes I’m just in a silly mood.

    • Roz
    • May 5, 2009

    Owen, nope, I didn’t think your earlier comment was a slight at all. (Do I have to worry that mine back to you was? Hope not.)

    I love that some people have an innate sense of color and they should go for it.

    My mom studied color and then forgot it all, but lives her life in the most amazing casually, but artfully coordinated whirl.

  2. Reply

    Nope. No worries back 🙂 I think my sense of colour might be more primate than innate though 😉

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