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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tools for Watercolor = part 3 of 4

I use an O'Hara palette, upon which the color is a mound on a flat surface.
The reason for this is that sullied color runs off and leaves pure color available on the top of the mound.
A dinner plate or enameled tray has the same advantage. Any palette with color in a depression is mechanically inferior.
Contaminated color becomes a constant problem. Water stays in declivities and when paper is wet you cannot get dry color to put into wet areas. Masterpieces have been painted with color in little holes, but they were made in spite of this handicap.

Eighty percent of my painting is done with a two-inch camel's-hair flat brush and a one-inch red sable flat. In many pictures no other brushes were used. This may be because demonstrating to classes everyday — committed to one hour of drawing and painting, and talking while I paint (students cannot sit still longer) — I find these brushes faster. The large flat brush, however, has the following undeniable virtues:
(1) A ready-made straight edge — most expedient;
(2) it holds more color and covers areas faster;
(3) it is an infinitely better "lifting" tool, because its thousands of hairs at the end, squeezed dry, are "thirstier";
(4) it is the best known antidote for "hemstitching," breadth of effect being aided mechanically;
( 5 ) holding the brush perpendicular to the plane of the paper, with its end touching the paper, gives to small parts the beauty of a "tool mark."

Any calligrapher knows what I mean. In elementary school art exhibitions, the graphic arts are always superior to the paintings, because the dig of a tool in linoleum blocks or the scratch on scratchboard contains the beaut }- of the unmolested mark.
There are fine watercolorists who paint with very few brushes but, confronted with specific problems in specific areas, I prefer having available the one best tool for the solution. What other brush can do certain jobs as well as a number 4 rigger, for instance? Its long hairs hold enough water to complete the stroke of rigging on ships, cables on derricks, or branches in foliage; they also absorb the trembles of a hand and make easy the essence of a rope or cable—its absolutely smooth curve.
So, I have a two-inch "silvering brush" of camel's-hair and a rigger as help. I want all the help I can get.
Standard equipment would include red sable round brushes. I have numbers 14, 10, 6, 3, and 2 (the big brushes lose their points), and a one-inch red sable, flat. My students and I find my "Whitney Rotary" brush of value—a doubleended brush. With water in one brush and color in the other, an edge can be treated or softened instantly by a flip of the hand, then back to the color-filled brush; this method is used as opposed to that of a stroke, shaking the brush clean in the water, softening the edge, then picking up more color with the brush. To construct this double-ended brush, join the two brushes where the diameters are equal-a wedge on one and a "V" that fits the wedge in the other-bind with fine thread a little Duco cement, and cover with waterproof adhesive.
Before leaving the subject of brushes, I want to agree with George Ennis who said "one brush only is necessary" (the italics are mine ) . He suggested a number 12 round red sable.

To students who are concerned with costs, I say, "It takes a specific quantity of paint to paint a given picture or get a required effect. The quantity of paint you have in your box has nothing to do with the cost of the picture." In fact, if you have a large palette, you can mix your paint with less waste. As to the phrase
"disciplined palette," the discipline should be in the artist, not the palette. Arranging them from hot to cold, I use vermilion, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow deep, strontium, viridian, phthalo green, Prussian blue, cobalt, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson.
Those are my brights, kept at the top of my slightly tilted palette, so that the sullied color does not run into them. In a lower row I have Indian red, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, Payne's gray and ivory black All these colors are reasonably permanent. With them any color can be obtained. I know their characteristics. I use strontium in preference to cadmium pale because it is more opaque, and yellow ochre instead of raw sienna for the same reason. Sufficiently diluted, they are not obvious between you and the paper, and when in small areas you need a light over, or in, a dark, you have it. Incidentally opacity in small areas does not seriously compromise transparency, in fact, it complements it-keying the large areas and making them look more transparent by contrast.
Indian red, another opaque color, is splendid with Prussian blue for dark grays Ivory black makes the most glorious silvery neutral washes in high key. It is sooty and should not be used for middle or low values. However, if you do use it, flavor it with a color put on top of it.

A flat water can is preferable to a deep one, so that all the color can be rinsed from the brush by banging it against the bottom. It is also a smaller bulge in your bag or tool kit.

The knife is a splendid tool but use it with restraint, especially in first washes where it is apt to have a raw, monotonous aspect. In second washes, the knife mark or mutilation of too pure areas is less dangerous.

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