Pigments

March 20, 2016

Being a colorist at heart, I’ve always been curious in seeing raw pigments and learning about where the colors come from, be it minerals or plants, or those that are created in a lab.  My watercolors are infused with color.  In my workshops I show my students ways to mix and layer colors to create richer, glowing colors, rather than using color right out of the tubes.  I know there are plenty of painters who use specific palettes of color, limited to a small assortment of colors to create a certain tone to their paintings.  I’m a color hog, the more the merrier.  I never use any browns or black, and rarely grey.  I mix them or layer them using all sorts of colors to get wonderful rich colors in my paintings.  

Shutters

“Shutters”  Original watercolor on paper. 14″ x 14″. Architecture Collection. Study of classic tuscan windows, shutters and wrought iron. Orange, yellow and plum colored walls with green and blue shutters, the sky reflected in the window glass.      ©Jill Rosoff 2005

And I am curious about where pigments come from.  Typically they come from plants or minerals, and sometimes animals.  Imagine grinding up a lovely piece of lapis lazuli to get that specific blue in your painting!  Blues are purples were most expensive, so its no surprise why they are associated with royalty.   With the Industrial Revolution, color and pigments could be developed in labs, and more especially after the Scientific Revolution in the 18th C.   

I just found this article on My Modern Met about a lab at Harvard that has a collection of over 2,500 pigments from around the world, and you can go see them.  Its the Forbes Pigment Collection at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, part of the Harvard Art Museum.  They have the pigments there to use in art conservation work, to be able to match colors of old paintings that are being maintained and preserved.

forbespigmentcollection3photo from My Modern Met, colors from the Forbes Pigment Collection

Seeing this article made me wistful for an art supply store I went to when I was studying printmaking in Florence way too many years ago.  Its called Zecchi Colori, on via della Studio (evocative name, no?).  Head a couple of blocks toward the Arno from the Santa Maria del Fiori, the Cathedral that dominates Florence’s skyline, Zecchi is on the right side of the street. The first time I went in there I thought I’d died and gone to heaven because around the perimeter of the store on the top shelf of the supplies were huge glass jars of pigments, bright, intense, glorious. I never did get a photo of them, seems ridiculous since I was so taken with them that I just never took a photo.  I did by a crock, though!  But I think I need to get into that lab at Harvard…

Majolica crock from Zecchi Colori, Firenze.

Majolica crock from Zecchi Colori, Firenze.  Its sitting on a new still life of fruit and vegetables that’s in process.  

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Some Inspirations This Week

February 12, 2016

Earlier this week I got to see “Red”, the Tony-award winning play about one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko.  In the first act there’s a terrific back-and-forth between Rothko and the young artist he’s hired to be his studio assistant, of different things colored red.  Its a verbal panoply of all things red, and in my mind’s eye as I visualized each thing they mentioned:  tomatoes, blood, lips, cherries, apple, red pepper, rose, red hair, beets, lobsters (cooked), sunsets, strawberries, pomegranates, poppies, I saw all those different versions of red:  cadmium red, alizarin, vermilion, scarlet, carmine, crimson, garnet and more.  All so different, and all so red.  I use them a lot.  Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot.  In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.

 

Its a fun exercise, and illustrates so well the differences between warm reds and cool reds to boot.  In my workshop 2 nights later we started doing a similar thing, so they could all start envisioning different variations of just the one color.

Next:  I was born in the Year of the Monkey, so it’s ‘my’ year according to the Chinese zodiac calendar.  There have been some interesting illustrations for it online on various social media sites, but I wanted to share one with you all especially.  A friend of mine, Kay, who does sumi-e, created a lovely tribute to this year here.

And finally, speaking of reds, have a lovely Valentines!

Valentine 1

Making for Shows

May 26, 2015

I’ve been doing a few art shows/artwalks recently, so my art-making life has been centered around them.  

purple LoopdeLoudonationcroppedsmLast week I was a vendor in a boutique at a luncheon and fundraiser for the local chapter of the Alzheimers Association,   I’m happy to support the Alzheimers Association, not only because of people I know whose families have been affected by Alzheimers, but also because this luncheon supports the caregivers of those affected by Alzheimers, and honors a caregiver each year.  And I always provide a scarf for the auction they have during the luncheon, which I make just for the occasion in the AA signature purple color.

This event was followed 2 days later by the Balboa Island Art Walk.  I really enjoy both these shows, and they both bring me to my target market clientele.

This was my 8th time in the Balboa Island Art Walk.  Its held every May, on the bayfront walk of Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. The bay front walk goes around the perimeter of the island, and is at most an 8′ walkway.  Artists’ displays can be at most 3′ deep.  So people can easily get up close to see the artwork, and not have to make that socially awkward, unintentional commitment of walking into a 10×10 pop-up booth space to look at the work.  I love that! I wish more art shows could figure this out, that the pass-by rate decreases when people don’t have to walk into a pop-up tent!

Booth-pr-Balboa2015sm

Balboa Island Art Walk 2015 booth, pillowcases & scarves on the left, watercolor paintings on the right

And now I’m replenishing my inventory, especially the scarves, for the upcoming Contemporary Crafts Market in Pasadena, CA, on June 5-7.  

Poppies selections jan-14

“Poppies” and “Poppies on Waves”, 2 of our popular scarf design lines

This is one of the best shows of work by fine art and hand craft makers, where the vendors who are showing are the people who actually hand-make their wares.  There is a fee to get into this show, but if you go to CCM’s website, you can download a pass that gets 2 people in free for the whole three days, a $16.00 value!  There’s only so many passes available, so don’t delay!  

poppies-eyelets-coffee.sm

Pillowcases being painted, with permanent dyes

I’ll be primarily featuring my new line of hand-painted pillowcases, as well as my silk scarf line:  Poppies and Poppies on Waves (above), Olive Branches, Flower Fields, Layers, Koi, Watermelon Wedges, Apples, and hopefully some designs I’m working out  now that I might be able to sneak in!  

Whenever I want browns or greys in a painting, I mix them.  I do not use brown, black or grey paint in my palette.  I’ve just started a new workshop, and realized this is something I tell all my students.  When new students sign up for the workshops I send them a supplies list so they’ll be prepared on day one.  I don’t include white, either.  I like my colors bright, clear, and initially un-muddied.  When black, browns and white are included in a pre-fab set of paints, so be it, but they are never included on my list of colors for a new student to buy.

Why do I believe this?  Because its easier than pie to mix your own greys and browns, and when you do, the colors are much more interesting. Browns and greys can be mixed using different combinations of the primary color triad, or secondary or tertiary triads for that matter.

lav+yellow=brownish

Various warm browns mixed by using violet and yellow or orange (above and below)

warm brown-scarlet&violet

Want a nice chocolaty-brown?  Use Alizarin, a bit of cobalt blue or even purple, and a nice cadmium orange.  Change the amounts of each color you add to get the tint you want.  

brown from red and green

red and green to make a cool brown, using drop-in and mixed methods

How about a nice warm payne’s grey?  Start with Permanent Blue or French Ultramarine, add a little yellow, and then if needed, a touch of red. Or pink.  Again, play around with the amounts you add to change the tint.

grey v.1

a Payne’s grey, mixed from primaries:  blue and yellow

cool grey

a whole different grey using three versions of primary colors

So my thought has been: why buy them, unless of course you use a lot of them?  I don’t use them much.  But also I think that when you mix them either in the palette or on the paper, they’re so much more intriguing.  Shadows and dark areas are much more luscious using darker values of colors, or putting in a layer of an opposing color on the area you want the shadow to be.  There’s so much more to discover in the painting.

Here’s a question: how often does brown occur in nature?  Yes, the ground is brown.  A lot of animals are.  Tree trunks, generally, are brown, but there’s so many different colors.  If you look at a eucalyptus tree, is the trunk the same color, as, say, a redwood?   I find it so much more fun to see what I can come up with.

Cherry Blossoms

Detail, “Cherry Blossoms”, ©Jill Rosoff 2012

I did a painting last year of Cherry Blossoms.  Have you ever noticed that the branches on fruit trees are sometimes more of a rich burgundy color, not at all brown?  If  you look closely at this painting, you may notice that the branches here are indeed a deep, reddish burgundy.  What may not be so obvious is that I painted each branch first with a layer of Alizarin Crimson, a great, rich, deep, cool red.  And while the strokes of color were still wet, I dropped in some Viridian green.  This is a color you just can’t get out of a tube of raw sienna, or burnt umber.  It’s a very complex burgundy.   That’s right, its in the purplish range, and oh so very interesting!  See the full painting here:  Cherry Blossoms.

And by the way, do you know where the two browns’ names, sienna and umber, come from?  Go to northern Italy.  The earth in Sienna, in Tuscany, and in Umbria, which is next to Tuscany, are just about those colors.  And the difference in raw and burnt?  The raw versions are straight from the ground.  The burnt, or warmer, versions, have literally been burned, where the fire brings out the warmer tones.  Don’t you just love knowing that?

This weekend starts a small avalanche of small celebrations:  Ground Hog’s Day, Super Bowl, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day.  Busy busy busy.  The realization of this came to me in the form of a small gift ofa great treasury on Etsy entitled “February“, which includes three of these events, and which featured of my “Valentine 1” small painting.  I thought it was so cool to combine the three holidays in the collection, it was the first time I’d seen them put together in any sort of way.  Many thanks to Cindi Ressler for including me in her very fun treasury.

That painting of hearts that she included, along with the other ones I’ve done recently have ended up being really fun explorations in the quality of transparency (and not) that watercolors can produce.  So I decided to try another simply shape, for fun, one of my favorite shapes, the star.

Stars 1

“Stars 1″ ©Jill Rosoff 2013, 6″ x 11 3/4”

What I’m enjoying in this piece is that the two white stars, and the background as well, are not painted in.  In watercolors, generally any white in a painting is the paper that’s been left untouched.  Its one of the great, fun, confusing conundrums of this medium.  Since the paints are intrinsically transparent, there’s no white paint to use to cover something up.  Because white when it is transparent, is, well, transparent.  So there’s a bit of trompe l’oeil going on, where the white areas are negative space, created by the colored paint that surrounds them.  And they look solid!  These paintings are little celebrations of the transparency of watercolors.  I like it.  Let me know what you think.

You can find all the paintings posted in this blog available to purchase via my shop on Etsy.  Have you looked there yet?

I heart you

January 18, 2013

Valentine 1“Valentine 1″ ©Jill Rosoff 2013, 6″ x 6”

Valentine’s Day is that day when if you’re in love you hope to goodness that you figure out something great to do for your partner, or your partner does something lovely for you.   If you are single, the commercials for jewelry, flower deliveries and certain card companies are annoying reminders that you’re not contributing to the economy like everyone else is.  

For me this year, I have decided to make Valentine’s Day about exploring layering and the wonderful transparent characteristic that watercolors have.  OK, yes, you can get them with acrylics too, but watercolors’ textures, I think, are much more lively.  And watercolors came first (so there! I say in my best Edith Ann voice).  This was another experiment I did for my workshops, where we took the oh-so recognizable image of the heart, and layered on colors, holding onto the transparency, and enjoying the new colors created as one layer overlapped another.  Not to mention the great textures in the blooms!

This along with a few new paintings just in time for Valentines Day can be purchased in my Etsy Store.

Continued from Part 1, posted on September 25th

One of the first things that occurred to me after I made the commitment to pose for this painting group was, “geez, if I could only lose a few pounds before this!”   When I shared this with Connie on the phone a few days later, and she replied, “Oh no! Mom wants you for how you look now!”   For a woman of size, that’s some statement, and rarely heard.  But I got it, it was actually really sweet.   And I remembered from my days as an art undergrad that full-figured women were usually great subjects in my figure drawing and painting classes, their shapes are so, well, round and fleshy.  So I put aside my knee-jerk vanity reaction, and got more into the mindset of the Venus of Willendorf.

I was now going to be the figure being drawn or painted, after years of being the artist/observer in a figure drawing class.  These artists were going to be looking at me, concentrating my pose.  Now, I have a pretty good idea of what to do as a model from all my experience in figure painting classes.  And Pat had told me how she wanted me to pose, so there was no guesswork, really.

When I was in those painting classes, working out the my composition, where to place the figure, getting the gesture the model presented onto my canvas or paper, in the back of my mind, I always sort of wondered what the models were doing or thinking about while holding a long pose.  Were they planning that night’s dinner?  Reflecting on a recent conversation, or a book they’d read?  All the while, they’d keep physically still, and hope that their leg or arm didn’t go to sleep.  Being zen enough to be able to empty my mind and meditate is certainly a goal, and would’ve been a great thing to have perfected for this workshop.  I would do my level best.

Composite of photos I took from my view in the pose.  That’s my foot over on the right.

So there I was, watching artists paint.  I started feeling a little envious, actually, I hadn’t painted the figure in ages, and here I was, in a painting studio, with a model.  I suddenly realized I knew exactly what these artists were doing and what they were going through in their minds as they started working out their compositions.  They were looking at their subject, then back to their canvases or pieces of paper, then back at the model and gradually forming their composition.  Where will I put her on the canvas?  How will I incorporate those  paintings she did that are up behind her on the wall?   Will I keep the scarf she’s wearing on her?  I was watching them looking at me, at my pose, and at the whole setting as all this was going on in their minds.  I started to really enjoy watching them paint me.  

One artist contemplating his painting, stepping back to get a longer view of it…

Another artist concentrating on her drawing.  See how she holds herself while she draws.

Balancing on toes (in fun socks)

I realized that I have this sense memory of the postures I saw each artist in.  They are suddenly posing for me, in a way.  And each pose telegraphs to me ways I’ve felt in their places.  I’m sure I’ve sat or stood those ways countless times.  I identify with them:  the step back to get some perspective on the work in progress, with maybe something to lean back on which temporarily counters the muscle tension of the normal lean-in toward the artwork while working on it.  Or the hunch forward in concentration, elbows on the table holding the rest of the body still, toes pointing in.  And when working so delicately, that ones body moves into delicate positions, even almost on tip toes.  I would sometimes get to the end of a 3 hour session and find that my neck ached, or some part of my body was incredibly tense because I’d been holding myself oddly as I was getting something onto the painting just so.  So even though I’m not painting on this day, I’m having a glorious time with these painters.  And hopefully they did with me.

Part three coming very soon!

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