I'm wondering about what colours to buy for encaustic painting... indeed I'm beginning to worry that I may have to make my own colours using pigments...
Sometime in the 80s I got Arthur Stern's "How to see Color and paint it" (now sadly out of print). I worked through many of the exercises at the time... but I don't seem to have kept any of the still lives (in oil) that I painted... the greatest tool in the book was what he called a spot screen - to make one cut out a 2" x 4" piece of neutral grey card - I use the backs of old sketchbooks - and punch a small round hole centrally about 1" from one one end:
|Spot Screen held at arm's length|
You use it to observe what a colour really is rather than what it appears to be when seen in context.
To do this hold the spot screen at arms length, close one eye and half-close the other - look through the hole in the spot screen at the colour area you want to match - name it - he uses a system based on the colour wheel and one that I've used ever since - red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, etc...., its luminosity that is light, medium or dark, and its saturation e.g. bright, middling, dull... then of course if one is painting one mixes a colour to match what one has observed... but what is so illuminating is that one looks at something one would say was obviously red, then when looking through the spot screen it turns out to be a shade of blue!
Which is all a lovely diversion from what I'm really looking for today... I want a palette of colours that I know how to use and that will give me the whole range of colours I've been used to paint in... which is why I originally got this book off the shelf...
Stern's oil colour palette suggestion is:
- Alizarin crimson (see warning below)
- Cadmium red light
- Cadmium orange
- Cadmium yellow pale
- Phthalocyanine green
- Phthalocyanine blue
- Ultramarine blue
- Titanium white
Another book with a similar take on the mixing of colours is Michael Wilcox's "Blue and Yellow don't make Green"... though it doesn't have that great spot finder tool in it... it does go into great detail about how colours work... he also covers transparency and permanence which are important aspects of pigments though in his examples he uses a lot of cadmiums too... his principle however is to have a warm and cool version of red, blue and yellow which is what I've always aimed to have since doing Stern's exercises.
BTW the pedant in me has always wanted to change Wilcox's title to "Violet-Blue mixed with Orange-Red doesn't make bright pure Green".... though I realise that lacks a certain punch!
Wilcox's suggested palette is:
- Orange-biased red - Cadmuim red
- Violet-biased red - Alizarin Crimson (see warning below)
- Green-biased blue - Cerulean Blue
- Violet-biased blue - French Ultramarine
- Orange-biased yellow - Cadmium yellow pale
- Green-biased yellow - Lemon yellow (Arylide yellow preferred, otherwise he suggests cadmium or barium).
Doing a virtual shop from R&F for encaustic paints:
- Orange-biased red - unfortunately the most obvious choice is Cadmium Red Medium, though an orange-red that looks worth playing with instead is Alizarin-orange, if one could cope without the sheer redness of the cadmium... also worth a look is Rose Madder... which is the one I like the look of most but there is a warning about it not being light fast in tints...so not suitable as the only orange-biased red in one's palette...
- Violet-biased red - Quinacridone Red...
- Green-biased blue - Phthalo Blue...
- Violet-biased blue - Ultramarine Blue
- Orange-biased yellow - hard to avoid the Cadmium Yellow medium here... though Indian Yellow (quite orange looking) might be worth using
- Green-biased yellow - Cobalt Yellow
I would like to know which pigments people have had most success using to make their own, Judy demonstrated using Titanium White for instance... anyone have any other really good choices for home made paints?
Update: Warning about Alizarin Crimson - see next post - Avoid Alizarin Crimson!