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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Basics and Color

July 19, 2013

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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.    

 

Lavender poppies on red patterns“Lavender Poppies on red patterns” ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 10″ x 7″

I started this piece in the fall, as a demonstration piece once again in one of my workshops.  This piece actually started me on the intention of loosening up on color ‘rules’ I have consciously and unconsciously obeyed.  Since I often use a subject I know when I’m playing around with ideas, and I have been painting Iceland poppies forever, so shape, color and composition are like second nature to me,  I find it really easy to go for changes and experimentation with them as my subject.  

There is no such thing as a lavender Iceland poppy.  Yellow, orange, reds, pink, and white yes, but nothing in the blue spectrum.  And I’ve always wanted them.  So ‘tada!’ I made them.  In the grand scheme of things its really not much of a huge plunge, but then again, baby steps are just fine to start out on new paths.  I also broke another covenant I heard early on in my painting education, that paintings with red backgrounds can be difficult to make work, let alone sell.  Thank goodness Henri Matisse didn’t believe that!  There are essentially four different reds used in the background, but with layers and some mixing, it looks like more.  I am really enjoying how this piece turned out.  You?

This piece is now available through my Etsy shop.

Leaves, wet-in-wet

November 12, 2012

 

“Leaves, wet in wet, purples” ©Jill Rosoff 2012.  12″ h x 6″ w

This painting came out of a demonstration I wanted to do for my watercolor workshops exploring wet-in-wet and dropping in color.  It was also to show the physical properties of water in watercolor, and how it can be used, exploited, but also how it can be a great tool.   I lightly sketched the leaf shapes onto the paper first.  Then one by one, I painted each leaf in clear water, then dropped color into the wet areas with strong watercolors, diluted enough to make the paint liquid but to hold on to the intensity of the color.  As each drop of color spread out when it hit the wet paper, I dropped more color into the tips and the stem to hold on to that intensity of color.  It was lots of fun to do, but what was truly fun was watching my students observe what the paint does as the water dries.  

This piece is now for sale via my shop on Etsy.  If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas, you can now purchase a gift card for my shop on Etsy and let the person your giving the gift to choose what they want!

Fall Fruit

October 31, 2012

“Fall Fruit” ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 15″ x 15″

Its starting to really feel like Fall at last!  So it’s perfect to show off some Fall Fruit.  I actually did this piece a few years ago, I was playing with the idea of making a pattern for textiles, maybe wrapping paper, or wallpaper.  It was an experiment in using different colors than I typically would, especially the wonderful pomegranate red with the greens of the pears, the bay leaves and the tangerine leaves.  

Lately I’ve been teaching an introduction to watercolor techniques at the local junior college, which has been great fun, and I’m thrilled that the workshop has been picked up again for February.  But between that, preparing for and doing festivals and boutiques with my silk scarves, and my other watercolor workshops, I haven’t had the chance to complete paintings I’ve been working on to show you here.  I’ve got a few really fun ones going on though, many were started as demonstrations in the workshops, which I’ve been developing at the painting table later on.  So you’ll see those new pieces up here soon.  

By the way!  For those of you in Southern California, the next festival where I’m showing my hand-painted scarves is on November 11th in Long Beach, at the Patchwork Indie Arts & Crafts Show.  I’ll be doing a demonstration on how I paint my designs onto the silk, and also showing some scarf tying and knotting, too.  Come find me, I’m in Space #6, just opposite the food trucks!  AND I’ll be sharing the space with Susan Haldeman of LadyBIM, with her wonderful hand-embellished sachets, pillows, bamboo baby wear and more.   And we’ll be next to our friend Lucky Zelda to boot!  Hope we see you there!

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!

Last week I participated with the local Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Visionary Women Luncheon, which honors caregivers.  What a lovely thing to do, to honor these individuals who are caring for people with Alzheimers, or a working to find ways to treat this devastating disease.  One aspect of the event is during the social time before and after the luncheon, where this year they featured eight artists demonstrating ad presenting their work.  I showed my scarf-painting technique, and of course brought my scarves to sell.  It was a really good day, I enjoyed showing the dying process, and sharing my scarves with a new audience. 

While setting up the scarf-painting demonstration, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio

I had a lovely time, talking with everyone, showing and  describing how I paint my designs, that each scarf is individually painted, and then signed and numbered.  So each scarf is really a piece of wearable art, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make the scarves in the first place.  

I have envisioned some of my paintings printed on textiles, because for the longest time I thought it would be fun to be able to wear designs from some of my paintings.  I’ve always loved Liberty patterns, and vintage Lanz and Villager, too.   The methods of painting on silk with dye are very different from painting watercolors, but can be done in a way so that many of the same themes and colors that I do in my paintings can be adapted for my scarf designs.  I am constantly working out ways to make the scarves evoke similar imagery to my paintings.  

And some designs come about simply for the scarves.  One of these, my new “Leaves” design, is one of three I’ve recently developed.  Here is the first new design, modeled beautifully by my friend and colleague Susan Haldeman, who helped me with sales at the event while I was demonstrating.  And the great thing about this pattern is that it can be done in any color combination.  As a matter of fact, I’d love to hear what combinations of colors you’d like to see it in!  Use the Comment button below!

“Leaves” scarf design, in grass green and light olive with red dots, @Jill Rosoff 2012

So I got to the event early, unloaded my scarf boards, on which I pin and then paint the raw scarves.  You can also see my scarf display rack, with more of my scarves on it.

Setting up, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio


      Talking with people while demonstrating my Dragonfly design, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio

Satisfied customer and Alzheimers’ Association supporter in her new Leaves scarf in lavender and turquoise, next to the event Sponsor Board.  Yes, that’s Shirley Jones there on the board, who was the keynote speaker for the event. 

photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio

All in all it was a terrific day, and I was particularly pleased for the opportunity to work with the Alzheimer’s Association.  Look for my upcoming post featuring more new scarf designs!  And also Part 2 about modeling for the painting class!

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