Thursday, 10 July 2014

Paynes Gray - Hero or Villain?

The title may be melodramatic but this paint is one of the most controversial there is, damned by some and praised - or at least used - by other artists. Grey is even spelt differently,  `grey' or `gray'!


Maimeri : Paynes Grey on left, Ivory Black on right.

That doyen of Australian artists, Robert Wade, had this to say " My present palette does not include......Paynes Gray (and when you mention that colour, say it in a hushed whisper!)". He also calls it a `dead' colour  (in the same piece he also damns Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre!) . One of his reasons is that the colour dries several values lighter BUT whose Paynes Gray does he refer to since this is a convenience colour? I suspect Winsor & Newton  as he was using W & N at the time he wrote the book  `Robert Wades Watercolor Workshop Handbook'  (International Artist Publishing 2002).

We then go to Ron Ranson who mentioned the controversy in at least one of his many books saying that combined with some yellows Paynes Gray made some interesting greens and concluded by saying it was " a tremendously useful colour". Charles Reid, while not having Paynes Gray in his normal palette certainly used it on occasion, mainly for skies.

What does Handprint say? This from Bruce McEvoy : " The watercolourists four traditional shadow colors were Neutral Tint, Payne's Gray, Indigo (See the Indigo convenience mixtures) and Sepia (see the convenience mixtures under Pbr7)"

Pigment information for Winsor & Newton is PB15 (Blue), PBk6 ( Black) and PV19 (Quinacridone Rose or Red), in other words a blue, black and red combination. Daniel Smith, the flavour of the moment combine PB29 Ultramarine Blue, PBk9 Black and PY42  a yellow often featured in Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna paints. Maimeri on the other hand combine PB29 Ultramarine Blue with PBk9 black. Holbein have four pigments in their version PR83, PB27, PB29 and Pbr7 - note a red, two blues and a black. Schminke offer two versions, Paynes Grey (PR101, PB29, Pbr7) and Paynes Grey bluish (PBk6, PB15:6), which they say was produced `by demand', and finally Daler Rowney who use PBk7 and PB29 - a black and a blue. These are the ones I've looked at but I'm sure you get the picture. What to do and do you really need this colour?

The swatch is from an old tube of Maimeri Payne's Grey I've had for years. It is still viable although I haven't used this colour in recent years. I hesitate to differ from someone as exalted as Robert Wade, a charming man as well as a superb artist, but in my limited experience it was useful for dark storm clouds. As for making greens I wouldn't know.

Do you need this colour? I'm inclined to say no as it is easy to mix an approximate `Payne's Gray' from a combination of Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna. You might have to play around with the  proportions but you get there in the end.

25 comments:

Yvonne Harry said...

Interesting, Peter. I have used it less since I acquired Moonglow, which I love for all sorts of mixing. I take it that you have resolved your problem with blogger.com about the amount of pictures you put on your site. Remember what you did please, in case the same happens to me. See you next week.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Yvonne. I like Moonglow too - another convenience colour but a special, one difficult to duplicate if you don't have all the pigments to do so. The red is unusual.

Yes I've resolved the problem with adding photos.

Ray Maclachlan said...

An excellent summary of PG, Peter. Used PG when I started painting but found it dried too light.

HanaB said...

Hi Peter! I don't use it; tried some and ultimately felt that mixing as you noted was more versatile and useful.
I had a different question for you-- do you save all your paintings? If yes, how do you organize and store, and if not...?

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Ray. Isn't it strange how such divergent views prevail. On the other hand if we all thought the same life would be very boring.

Peter Ward said...

Hello HanaB. As you can see from the pigment mixes manufacturers have quite different approaches to producing a `Paynes Gray'.

As for saving my paintings? I have a large pile of unframed paintings that keeps getting bigger. I hung a god number in our new home and give away some. One is in Australia and two in Miami. Every so often I trawl through them and discard a few. I occasionally sell a few - probably about thirty in total.

HanaB said...

Thank you for sharing that info. My pile of "work" is getting bigger, and for the truly lousy stuff it is tempting to attempt to "fix" and then toss if still awful (I view it as minor progress when I can finally "see" what may be wrong with a painting)...
On the grey/gray, I usually use Pb29 and Pr101; I think the variations within it usually add interest in the painting, and its easy to shift warm or cold as needed, while if using a tube gray, it so consistent as to appear a bit flat (like reflected shadows have other colors in them, its more interesting).

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting HanaB. I quite agree that tube greys tend to be flat. Holbein have a new one though ( I don't know much about it yet) that looks interesting.
Greys are easy to mix in a variety of ways - some that you probably don't want!

Oscar Solis said...

I've often thought about using Payne's Grey but as you've mentioned, greys are easy to mix.

As you mentioned indigo I have to say that is my go to color. I have no idea why, but it is a fascinating color and it mixes well. What are your thoughts on this color?

Oscar Solis said...

Allow me to correct myself. It was Bruce McEvoy who mentioned Indigo.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Oscar. I think Indigo is an entirely different proposition than Paynes Grey. I have had the Maimeri Indigo in the past that was good (2 pigment mix). I think it was Ultramarine or Prussian and Black. Worth considering.

The Daniel Smith version is PB60 Indanthrene Blue and Black, very . very dark.

Not many artists seem to use Indigo though. The late British artist John Lidzey did.

Gali Lutski said...

I love to use Paynes Grey in my oil paintings because oils are my main media at present. I use Winton oilS, and the mix of mid tones of grey and green that you can achieve with paynes grey is pretty impressive.
I haven't used it yet in watercolors but I will definitely buy the paynes grey pan to add to my colors collection. I use White Nights watercolors because I love their pigment intensity and I just have to add this beautiful color to my collection (I already have the 24 and 12 colors sets).
By the way, I want to thank you for the interesting posts you write here! :)

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Gali and welcome. I don't think you can compare watercolour with oil - yopu will get a different result.
I know White Knights are intense colours but they also contain a good number of `fugitive' pigments.

Zvonimir said...

On the other hand, I find Payne's Grey indispensable and versatile paint. Instead of wasting more precious pigments to make 'grey', and polluting each well with a different colour, it is easier to use Payne's Grey and enrich it, make cooler or warmer with a touch of other colour.
It is also suitable in a single colour tonal sketch; use it stiff from the tube, just a little, draw quickly with a brush, later adding water where needed, to establish a quick sketch, a guide to a larger composition. All black colours look flat compared to it. I truly love Payne's Grey.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Zvonimir. Your contribution always welcome.

Bernard Victor said...

Having been put off using Payne's Grey by a tutor, I had not used it for years. However I had two unused tubes of it, so wanting to put in a black background, on a painting I was trying to rescue, I used it, and am very pleased with the result. This is in oils, and they are in fact water soluble paints. However as I said it seems to work well.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Bernard.

magnificolm said...

On mixing Payne's Grey and Yellow.

Very, very successful. I was using Atelier Interactive acrylics: PY74 Transparent Yellow (which is Arylamide, GS) and PB29+PBk7.

I needed a dark green rock wall behind a waterfall, with plenty of variation and dark shadows. I underpainted with Yellow Ochre, which gave a glow under thin passages. Lots of lovely dark greens, very convincing.

I think I'd have been less happy if the grey formulation had more than just Ultramarine + Black, and if I'd used Ultramarine plus my own complementary darkening.

My general conclusion is that if you know what pigments are in your grey, and they fit, then take it to the limit!

Bru said...

What colour would you get if you mixed 50/50 paynes grey and prussian blue together?

Peter Ward said...

Probably a dull muddy blue. Paynes Grey is a convenience paint with different formulations from different makers. Why mix these two anyway?

Bru said...

A girl told me they were her two favourite colours - I wondered what they would make mixed together!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comment Magnificom. Sorry I didn't acknowledge you before.

Peter Ward said...

A strange combination of two favourite colours Bru! Prussian Blue is not the most popular blue and Paynes Grey has it,s supporters and detractors.

Tonya L said...

Hello there, Peter. Fantastic headline that popped up during a recent Google search, so I clicked on it and found your lovely blog. Great points you make, and I'm choosing to sit the fence on this one. When I first began painting, I used Payne's Gray all the time and loved it unless it accidentally touched yellow and then made puce green on my page. Ugh. However, I've since moved past this convenience shade. But to each his own, eh? Thanks for the giggle! May have to link to your post to share the chuckle with my own readers. Well done, and happy to have found you! tonya at scratchmadejournal.com

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Tonya and thanks for comments.