Phtalo blue + burnt sienna


I'm not super excited by restricted palettes. I'm pretty sure painters like Vermeer or Van Gogh would have loved more access to cheaper, high quality colors like we do. I feel a bit self conscious to have the luxury of the choice.

Sometimes a restricted palette is really practical, or a good idea to focus on values or structure. But the one reason I paint on paper is because I find the RGB palette too restricted. It sadly goes from A to B without a bump.  I'm excited about pigments, the more the better, full of surprises and wonderful stories. Pigments have also their way tooo circumvent the color wheel,  it delights me to no ends.

When winter comes and the weather is a bit gloomy, I'm always a bit frustrated. I'm not too fond of greys. Aren't you surprised.

But the more I study watercolor, especially artists like James Fletcher Watson, the more I learn about subdued colors. There's wonders to explore there. I'm discovering myself a taste for unexpected mixes.

I already posted about Payne's Grey here. I also learned this year about the pleasure of mixing cobalt blue with raw sienna, to make warm greys, cold greys, and beiges. It has its own little magic, you know, because it's a blue and a yellow, but they mix well and make very useful colors... but hardly no green. Pigments don't care about what you learned in kindergarten.

A few days ago I learned how to make some cool greens out of phthalo blue (green shade) and burnt sienna. Which is basically like mixing blue and red to get a green. My kind of fun! The two paints I have (Daniel smith for the burnt sienna, and Holbein for phthalo blue yellow shade) don't mix well and separate on the palette while drying. The mix is more stable on paper, but still will make plenty of fun effects with some granularity. It goes from brown red to teal with shades of olive green and some almost black greens depending on how you mix. That's an amazingly versatile palette of colors, from only two pigments. Isn’t it exciting?

I made the following watercolor mostly by mixing phthalo blue and burnt sienna, with a little bit of indian yellow to create lighter, luminous greens (a staple in California in the winter), and a bit of cerulean and raw sienna for the sky. But I'm quite tempted to try another version with only 3 colors, just to see what it would look like!

 There was a beautiful pollution smog the other day. It's not healthy but I enjoyed the light. Click on the page spread to enjoy a bigger version!

I have a big question for you : what are your favorite color mixes? Do you have some favorite you always go back to?