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.  

My palette in my paintings and in my scarves is typically bright colors.  One of the six-week workshops I teach through the local junior college’s community education department is about how being strategic with color combinations can actually enliven colors.   So I find it particularly intriguing to be developing a whole set of color ways for my scarves that are in more neutral colors.  Here are two I did yesterday, pinned to the canvas-covered board while they are drying.  

neutrals1.sm

“Loop de Lou” design, in coffee and brown, and in grey and black.

They are pretty interesting, yes?  Now, I’m a sincere coffee devotee, so the first color way was pretty much a “duh” for me.  This one will look good with black, on white, on oranges, on light blue, on lavender, you get the idea.  The one on the right, the grey, is a nice, cool grey, and will go with everything.  Imagine it on red!  And as much as these are perfect for winter colors, they’ll be perfect accents for spring and summer colors! Imagine they grey one on red!   

Get my scarves online in my Etsy shop.

I just read the transcript of Bob Dylan’s speech last week at MusiCares, when he was honored as their Person of the Year. It’s part of the annual Grammys events.  I wish I could have watched him, but it wasn’t broadcast on television.  However one reporter, Randall Roberts, thought to transcribe it, and the LA Times published it.  Its a hell of a good read.

Pink Fuschias

“Fuchsias” ©Jill Rosoff 2011, 6″ x 17.5″

I think it’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It is almost as if its a redistribution of wealth, that everything that we take in, visually, aurally, emotionally, spiritually, through taste, through feel, through smell, all of it can come back out of us in the art we make, if its painting, cooking, making music, writing, or any other creative endeavor, all of it reflects what we have learned so far.  My artwork is influenced by so many things, by what I learned growing up, what my parents taught me, what I saw in museums, what I tasted.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve usually got a cup of coffee with me while I’m making art.  I’m influenced by a great latte.  Yup, I said that.  

Dylan talks about the music he listens to, how he hears the songs and then writes something that reflect them.  Read especially the part about the “Come all ye” songs, and what he wrote after that.  You’ll have a V-8 slap-your-forehead moment.  I look at Van Gogh, and Thiebaud, and Klimt and Diebenkorn, and so many more, and then I indulge in them as I paint my paintings.  Going to museums to see the actual work of these artist heroes of mine is like plugging me in, I get all excited and fascinated and wish I could paint right then and there.  Thank goodness for my iPhone, I can now take notes on it.  But I still often take a notebook into a show with me to jot down things.  Musically I try to channel Gabby Pahinui as I struggle to get my fingers, which are ingrained in American folk music rhythms and patterns, into playing Hawaiian slack key guitar.  Its my new, great struggle.  

Read the transcript here, even if you don’t subscribe to the LA Times online, you can read up to 10 articles a month there for free.   I’ve downloaded it so I can go reread it now and then.  So can you.

And if you live in or near Orange County, CA, come take one of my watercolor workshops!

"Three Purple Tulips", ©Jill Rosoff, 2007, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", $55.00

“Three Purple Tulips”, ©Jill Rosoff, 2007, 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″

In my workshops, especially the newer students often use the word “dark” when talking about colors that are the opposite of pale.  So I like to ask them, “What do you mean by dark?”  This question usually gets a lot of stumped looks.

The word ‘dark’ means having little or no light, when you look it up.   So it’s really not a very accurate word to use for a descriptor of deep or rich color values.  So I’ve developed a list of contrasting words that I encourage my students to consider instead of the words light and dark.  It opens them up a new way of thinking about how to describe colors, hopefully.  

pale                                                   rich 

diluted                                              saturated

soft                                                    harsh          

weak                                                 strong

muted                                               bright

tint                                                     shade

subdued                                            loud

restrained                                         intense

 

delicate                                             overpowering

 

mild                                                    deep

These comparisons produce a lot of different ideas about colors.  Can you think of any more?

 

Basics and Color

July 19, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Homemade color wheel, approximately 3″ x 3″ 

I made this color “wheel” a few years ago during a one-on-one lesson with a new student from my Watercolor Workshops.  We were going through the primaries and how the other colors were made from them.  I found this little scrap of watercolor paper and painted the colors and numbered them.  The primaries I numbered with “1”, the secondaries “2”, the tertiaries “3”.  This was all new information to my student, an adult, who hadn’t learned it in grade school.  She had gone through her whole life until then not knowing something that is an elemental building block of information, not only to making art, but I think to life.  

This happens more frequently than I had ever thought.  I have been teaching more frequently lately, in the local Jr. College’s community education, to teens at a local library in an after school program, and in my Every Other Saturday Watercolor Workshops.  I’m amazed and sad that art is less and less a part of primary and secondary education.  So soapbox time!  

Kids need to be introduced to art early, so they have the experience of being artistic, creative, think inductively.  And because its documented that art especially helps young brains think more creatively.  There’s so much information available about this, about how art helps people to think in alternative pathways.  Art was a regular part of my primary education, regularly in elementary school, and then I took ceramics for all but one semester of my four years of high school.  I ended up a painter, but though I don’t work in clay any longer, there are things I know from those hours of potting that still inform my art.

So now I have my students paint their own color wheels using their own watercolors. Yes, you can buy very functional color wheels in an art store, but there’s nothing like the experience of creating a new color by mixing two others, or layering one transparent color over another one, to make a third color.  And it lets them know what colors the paints in their palettes will be able to make. Oh the discoveries they’ll make!  

I kept the color wheel I painted, its pinned to the wall next to where I paint.  Not because I need it, but to remind me of the basics, and how fun it is to open others’ horizons about color.    

 

This past Friday I participated in the local chapter of the Orange County Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association‘s Visionary Women’s Luncheon.  Each year they honor caregivers of those touched by Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia.  I was one of the artisan vendors in the Artists’ Gift Faire that was one of the features of the luncheon.  This was my second year in a row participating, and I was pleased to be asked to join them again to support this organization and all the great work they do.  The luncheon also features presentations, awards and a keynote speaker.  This year it was to be Rita Moreno, last year it was Shirley Jones.  Stars of some of my favorite musicals!

When I can, I take my ‘traveling’ silk painting equipment when I know I’ll have the space to demonstrate how the scarves are painted, alongside displaying and selling them.  Its a great attention-getter in the mix of other vendors of artwork, jewelry, and other artisan/hand-made goods.  And its fun to talk to people while I’m demonstrating, get their questions, and show them my process.

set up and ready to goMy set up, with 2 blanks pinned to a padded board, the dyes and brushes lined up in between, and the lovely adult beverage that started the day out so well!

scarfdetail.2

Detail of one of the 2 scarves I worked on that day.

donationI donated this scarf for the silent auction portion of the fund-raiser–purple is their ‘theme’ color.

This woman, in the photo below, came up to my display, and asked, “Will you help me pick out the best scarf for what I’m wearing?”   After ascertaining that she likes longer scarves, I selected the four I thought would look good on her, with  her lavender dress and white jacket.  This is the one she decided she couldn’t live without. 

happy customerVMAADoesn’t she look great in the yellow poppies?

As I mentioned, there’s a keynote speaker at this Luncheon, usually a star who supports the organization.   Rarely do they venture out into the crowds–they usually enter and leave by a private entrance.  So I don’t expect to see them, even from a distance.  Well, as I was painting along, I saw  suddenly someone  watching me.  I looked up, and it was Rita Moreno.  I like to be in America!  I whipped off the latex glove I that wear when I dye, and reached to shake her hand, to thank her for stopping by.  She smiled, looked at all my scarves and said, “You’re very talented!”.  So sweet!  So what did I reply? “Thank you so much, thats so nice of you to say, and so are you!”  Made my day.  Songs from West Side Story ran through my head for the rest of the day.  OK by me in America!

me and Rita Moreno

Rita and me.  Ay ay ay!

Busy Busy Busy

May 1, 2013

I’m getting ready for shows and events in May and June here in Southern California.

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Next weekend, May 11th and 12th, I’ll be showing my hand-painted silk scarves at Unique LA.  This local artisan made show will be at the California Market Center in their Penthouse.  The show is open from 11-6 both days, my location is T106, not far from the coffee bar (you’d think they’ve met me!).  

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Bring your Moms for Mother’s Day!  AND, if you print out and bring this blog post you’ll receive 10% off the price of any scarf (retail sales only).  

*    *    *    *    * 

The following weekend, on May 19th, I’ll be showing for my 5th time at the terrific Balboa Island Art Walk.

Artwalk Postcard-1

This is the Art Walk’s 19th year, and there are more artists than ever showing their work.  I will once again be located between Coral and Apolena Streets, just look for my apple-green umbrellas.  The show is strung all along Balboa Island’s bayfront walk, overlooking lovely Newport Harbor, from Marine Avenue past the Ferry Landing.  The Art Walk lasts from 9 am to 5 pm.    

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy display at the 2012 Balboa Island Art Walk

I hope to see you at one or both events!  Thanks!

How Do You Paint a Tree?

April 18, 2013

Tuscan Hillside

“Tuscan Hillside” ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 9″ x 12″

Imagine how funny it was that this question came up in two different workshops, two completely different groups of people.  We were working on how to paint landscapes in each session, so it’s not a complete surprise.  I love that it did, and it also made me a little curious.  Is painting a tree a paint-by-numbers proposition?  Nope.  The starting point is: lets take a look at the kind of tree you want to paint.  

“Trees have a spirit and personality; none of them are the same.”  Trees come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  The trunks of trees can be all ranges of browns, greys, even green, blue or, as in fruit trees, burgundy.  The leaves are any and all shades of green, with touches of all the other colors used to create contrasts.  The fun here is the learning, observing:  first figuring out what the tree’s shape is, and then deciding how to put it down on the paper.  Is the trunk the more visually interesting element?  Or the way the crown of the tree is shaped?  In watercolor, you put down the lighter elements, then build in the darker, more richly colored ones.  Because, as always, in watercolor you paint light to dark.  The other trees also punctuate, more because they are a textural contrast to the stripes I used in the patchwork of fields.

In the painting above, the trees, especially the pencil cypresses, act like punctuation marks, creating small points of contrast, which keeps the rest of the rich colors from sort of going flat.  Put a finger up and block out the cypress trees and you’ll see what I mean.

Or look at this painting done by a fellow watercolorist/shopowner on Etsy, JC Strong.  You know its a tree, but it’s a deftly shaped tree silhouette of lovely combinations of purples and greens.  

I read this quote the other day on Facebook:  “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”  When I teach my job is to lead people down the path to explore, look and learn by observation.  There’s no one formula.  

See my work on my website, and in my Etsy shops for my paintings and my scarves.

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?

Three-Plus Poppies

“Three-plus Poppies”, ©Jill Rosoff 2013, 4″ x  6″

I have these small pads of watercolor paper that I keep around for quick “jots” of ideas like this one.  In watercolors, any whites in a painting are the paper left untouched, since watercolor is a transparent medium, and the transparent version of white is, well, nothing.  Transparent.  It’s a fun conundrum to play around with.  

In this piece, I wanted to leave no blank paper, no white areas, but instead to paint the whole piece of paper, and to let the shapes of the flowers do most of the talking.  Getting the colors this rich and intense is a fun challenge in watercolors.  And there’s still good contrast between the brightness of the yellow centers, and the dark lines where the green paint overlapped the red.  Unintended, and perfect.  

One other thing:   I love rich, vibrant and maintaining a sense of the transparency in the paint.  In watercolors it is possible to use too much paint, which when it dries, looks dry, dusty and opaque, qualities that you just don’t strive for in watercolors.   I like striving for the saturation and the transparency, especially since they are paradoxical.  Fun!

It’s now available on Esty here.  

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