"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Why Blue? Stories of color

"Why Blue?" Today's #watercolor, 5 x 7 140 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
I couldn't paint without blue.
"What's your favorite color?" my wife asked this weekend. She knew the answer.
"Blue," I blurted.
"Why blue?" She has the habit asking unanticipated questions, I don't know the answer to.
"Come here," I said, and we went down the hall to where I paint.
"Look," I said, as I proceeded to pull out all the different blues I use in watercolor, putting them down on paper one-by-one, side by side.
That's when I realized, more than ever, I couldn't paint without a blue.
My standby is Ultramarine Blue, using more of it than any other color; but there are others, and all have stories.
Artists I study with usually mention one or two they use often. Some I try, and then rarely or never use. Others become, as one teacher said, "friends."
Others, like Ultramarine, are essential.
This afternoon's watercolor has nine different blues melded together. Stories.

  • Ultramarine. Strong. Deep skies. Mixed for great grays for clouds, and greens.
  • Cobalt. Weaker skies. Mixed for far away skies, certain grays, and strong shadows. Also for shades for chimisa plants. (New Mexico, get it?)
  • Thalo (Phalo). A stainer. Great for adding distance over backgrounds, adding evening moods.
  • Turquoise. I'm from New Mexico. Any questions?
  • Royal. Most recent. Strong, dark. Great for contrast.
  • Prussian. Dark. Makes dark greens.
  • Indigo. Darkest of the darkest. Less is more. Mix with Prussian for dark forests, more. Overdone becomes muddy.
  • Peacock. Almost thalo, less stain, brilliant. A "juice" color, according to one teacher, Tom Lynch. Grabs eye.
  • Antwerp. One teacher used it. Not sure of difference. Maybe more subdued for English countryside.
Yes, blue is a primary color--can be used in many mixes for other colors. Don't need many. So of those above about three are the most common on my palette.
But they all express emotions, stories, that may fit my mood when I'm trying to paint.
Interestingly, I never say "I'm feeling blue," when I'm sad or depressed.  
Blue is a color of life and art and experience. For me, it is indeed "primary."
--Next, the colors I can make with blue.

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