Monday 26 December 2011


As readers might have noted I have suffered something of a relapse in my landscape paintings, not helped by a very limited number of plein air outings this year. This has resulted in a reliance on photographs. Concentration on portraiture and still lifes has brought about improvement in those areas but one step (or more) backwards with landscapes. What actually defines a definitive landscape? Is it just a rural scene depicting trees and fields, perhaps dotted with animals like sheep, cows or horses? How do you define a scene with buildings the main shapes? Does it all depend on the variety  or which are the major players?

A few weeks ago I showed the painting below of a scene in Keynsham park, somewhere I know well and have painted several times in the past. I've lost count of the number of times I've walked around this relatively small area bisected by the River Chew.

Keynsham Park looking along the River Chew.

Painting No.1 Gerstaeker Acquarell 16" x 12" Not

This is the original painting which failed to get  single vote at Bathampton and generally went down like a lead baloon with most others. I rather liked it (!)

When at first..... I then thought hard about this subject and consulted both Gerda Mertens (`A way with Trees' )  and John Palmer to see if their approach might help.

Keynsham Park Version No.2 Waterford (?) Not 16" x 12"

I rather liked this initially but the more I study it the more I can see it is overworked,and much too busy with too many trees crowded in, and a more simplified approach would have been better. Still progress of a sort or not? I frequently do more than one version until I arrive at a better result.

 Keynsham Park Version Number 3. 16" x 12" Centenaire Not

This is my `definitive' version and I am quietly pleased with it. This has been simplified and the large tree stump at the front eliminated. Although essentially a `cool' painting I have added some warm colours. Brushes for all three paintings  Isabey 6228 No.8, Da Vinci Artissimo 44 No.2 mop, Da Vinci Maestro Size 6 and Isabey 6201 retractable Size 6, together with a Pro-Arte Series 103 Size 4 rigger. The rigger is a synthetic, all the rest Kolinsky sable.

My usual palette featured with much reliance on  the earth colours, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Gold Ochre (W & N). I mixed the greens mainly with various blues and yellows, the yellow the Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97). The blues primarily Cerulean (W & N) and Ultramarine with some Cobalt Bue (+ Phalo Blue?). I do like Grahams Prussian Blue and it is in there somewhere. I also incorporated some Graham Hookers Green, a colour I like a lot as it is, in my opinion, more natural looking than other Hooker Greens. For darks I seem to frequently use Ultramarine with Burnt Sienna, or less often Burnt Umber, not overmixed but the Charles Reid way in which you can still see the original colours and let them intermix on the paper. There are many other combinations that make good darks and I will probably do a post on this in the future. Not an expert view just mine as a hobby painter.

I'm not absolutely certain what the paper is on number two (or is it three?), as it was painted on the back of a failure. I've gone off the Gerstaeker Acquarelle paper completely. I don't know if this latest block is somehow different but it doesn't take the paint terribly well. In future I'll just use it for  drawings with perhaps a small amount of paint.  I like Centenaire and both Yvonne and Jan from my AVA group have given it  qualified approval, especially at the current price. This is exclusive to Great Art

What do you think? Comments welcome.

Sunday 18 December 2011

John Palmer

In my highlighting of  artists I now want to introduce a local one, whom I've met several times and seen demonstrate. I first heard of John Palmer via Judi Whitton who was using Papermate disposable pencils.  She explained that she'd originally seen John using them. John has this amazing and unique drawing tecnique. He doesn't have a website nor has he made a video. He did tutor courses at one time for EPC in Catalonia but doesn't feature in their current schedule. John is a member of the prestigious Bristol Savages and a full biography is  on the website.   Some of his paintings are also shown. Essentially his paintings are primarily drawings with a wash or two added, usually fairly nondescript. The drawing is the thing. His paintings have appeared in several books by other artists including  Judi's `Loosen up your Watercolours' (Collins 2005).

 A friend of mine knows him well and suggested John should really be better known. He usually exhibits at the RWA (Royal West of England Academy) at their annual exhibition at Clifton, Bristol and also features in at least one gallery in Bath.

Fortunately there are two books, in the `Ron Ranson Painting School series' (Anaya Press 1993/4), that showcase John's talent. In my view by far the better book is `Drawing and Sketching' which is attributed only to John, whereas the `Watercolour Landscape' book is shown as joint authorship with Ron Ranson. The drawing book showcases his skills in amazing detail and I haven't come across another comparable artist. John is different! The Watercolour book, while interesting, isn't in the same class. When I originally tried to obtain these books, several years ago, they were hard to find but I eventually managed to buy the drawing book. Recently I felt I needed to revitalise my landscape painting and also look at other artists, even if very different to my `guru' Charles Reid. This is something he recommends. No tunnel vision here! I wouldn't try to emulate his style even if I could but there are things to be learned, as from many other artists, and who knows maybe a slight touch of the magic will rub off!

Both the copies I have of the above books are in excellent condition. I obtained the Watercolour book only recently with a slight hiccup, as the first bookseller could not find it, despite advertising on the Abebooks website. Fortunately a second did have a copy although at a slightly higher price. Prices vary enormously between booksellers and I've just checked Abebooks , a brilliant website, and the Drawing book is available at 0.64p plus carriage from one or two UK booksellers rising to over £20 from American sources, while the inferior ( in my opinion) Watercolour book starts at £24 - £25 from the UK to over £65 including carriage from Canada. Note added 19/12: I've had another close look at the watercolour book and perhaps I should have been more positive about it. I stand by my view that his drawing book is superior but the second book has much to commend it. 

To sum up I can understand some will look at John Palmer and think him quite tight and realistic - verging on super realistic at times. Actually this is a simplistic view as he is very versatile with often a loose impressionistic approach. 

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Cadmium Orange - Pigment Orange 20 (PO20)

Cadmium Orange (Cadmium Sulfoselenide) is an interesting pigment, although not a staple of many artists palettes, especially those restricted to 12 colours or less. Nevertheless Handprint rate it a `Top Forty' pigment.

 A few years ago I was on one of Judi Whittons courses in Cornwall and Judi was demonstrating. In the demo one of the colours she used was Cadmium Orange and she made the comment her preference was Maimeri because  the Winsor & Newton version behaved differently in mixtures.   As it happened I was able to explain that the Maimeri version was `true' Cadmium Orange Pigment PO20 which leans towards red, whereas the W & N Cadmium Orange was actually a `hue' comprising a mixture of Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow, consequently with a yellow bias. Winsor &  Newton also have Winsor Orange (PO62). Since then I have explored what is on offer from other makers.

 Here we have four oranges,. Maimeri is the only true PO20 version and notice how it is quite dark, very opaque and shows a red tinge.  The Daler Rowney Cadmium Orange  is strongly influenced by the addition of PY35 and shows a strong yellow bias. Use these for mixing and you get a totally different result. There are several other mostly newer oranges, two of which are shown. Apart from being transparent they are a different shade. The main drawback of Cadmium Orange as offered by Maimeri is that, being a Cadmium, it is toxic and quite opaque. I rather like it but some think it dull.  The main alternatives seem to be Perinone Orange (PO43) and Pyrrole orange (PO73). We also have PO36, PO71, and PO62. None are identical in hue or colour to PO20 but are transparent or semi-transparent.

What is the situation with leading makes?  Daniel Smith do not offer a `true' Cadmium Orange at all having discontinued this one in 2006. Why I wonder? Not having received replies to two previous e-mails to DS I doubt I'll bother to ask them. Smith list a Cadmium Orange Hue, a mixture of three pigments comprising two yellows and an orange, Permanent Orange (PO62), Pyrrole Orange (PO73), Transparent Pyrrole Orange (PO71), Perinone Orange (PO43) and finally Mayan Orange (PR N/A), mostly transparent or semi-transparent. Spoiled for choice! Which to choose is the dilemma? 

Looking at other leading makers Rembrandt follow Rowneys path with an identical PO20/PY35 mixture as do Sennelier (Cadmium Yellow Orange). Graham have Cadmium Orange PO20 as have Da Vinci who also list `Orange' and `Orange Deep', PO73 and PO36 respectively and finally Benzimida Orange (PO62).

This gets heavier when we look at Scminke the leading German firm. Scminke have  four paints listed as PO20, Cadmium Orange Light, Cadmium Orange Deep, Cadmium Red Orange and , would you believe Cadmium Red Light! Their Cadmium Yellow Deep is the same pigment mix as the Rowney and Rembrandt Cadmium Oranges! They also offer Translucent Orange (PO71) and Chrome Orange (PO62). The PO20 mixtures range from a light orange to a deeper reddish version.

I'll confine the rest of my summary to those companies that offer true PO20 - Cadmium Orange paints. Art Spectrum have one but they call it Cadmium Yellow Deep. Lukas and Old Holland Cadmium Orange while Bloxx list Cadmium Yellow Orange and Cadmium Red Orange.

 Finally Holbein. They miss out completely except for including PO20 in several mixtures notably the two Jaune Brilliant paints. Charles Reid likes the Holbein Cadmium Yellow Orange but this is PR108 - Cadmium Red.

What to make of all this? Despite Orange being a secondary colour, easily mixed from red and yellow (which red and yellow?), as you can see paint manufacturers list a whole range of alternatives with the newer pigments appearing in an increasing number of paints. 

The mixing compliments of Cadmium Orange (PO20) as listed by Bruce McEvoy of Handprint are Phalo Blue (PB15), Prussian (PB27) and Cerulean (PB35/36). I have mixed very good neutral greys using Phalo Blue (PB15-3) Green Shade but with some trial and error first.