Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pouring colours

This is not theory, it's my experience.

Many artists start their paintings with what is often called "pourings". In watercolour it is standard procedure for many artists. For figurative work they usually draw their motif in pencil first so that they know where the various colours will be highlighting the painting. For instance, you would not want a really dark sky unless it's a night scene or there was going to be a terrific storm. But that does not mean the sky has to be black! If you want a black sky, go ahead and paint one, but make sure you aren't using a black that leans towards brown!

There are no strict rules for pouring. If you want a full range of colours, you will have to chose a colour from each of the three main categories; red, blue, yellow, and I personally go for SINGLE PIGMENTS because if they are already blends of pigments I am not using basic colours. This doesn't mean I shouldn't, but I need to realize that mixed pigment paints go different ways from single pigments! A  good example of this is Indigo, which is not a single pigment! Paynes Grey and Neutral Tint are two other much used paints which actually contain black, as does Indigo. I would not want to pour with those colours unless I am looking for effects that can only be attained with a black component.

The rule that watercolour paintings may not contain black is fortunately antiquated. The rule that white in watercolours is always the colour of the paper is also out of date.This is especially good because watercolour paper is often ivory coloured. so if you are painting a snow scene without using white - perfectly possible - choose white paper!  Many accomplished watercolourists use white gouache (or Chinese white) to enhance or reinstate highlights. It is not normally used for pouring though it's usful if things get really out of hand! But once you involve white in pouring you are using pastel colours.

Of course, you don't have to choose three basic colours to pour with, though I tend to avoid green and orange. Green is a problem in all mediums. Green out of the tube is disliked by many artists. To make a really good olive green you could use a clear yellow and black; for a bright green just do some experimenting. Remember that some yellows are a bit reddish, so it's harder to mix green with them. Depending on the make, ultramarine is not usually ideal for mixing green due to its red/purple tinge. Black pourings are actually sensational, but that is not really what watercolour is all about and you would probably end up with a shade of grey depending on how much pigment you pour! If you are looking for translucency in your pourings DO NOT use thick paint. It is better to make layers than try to achieve all possible effects in one go.

Incidentally, almost any three colours will eventually produce black (if intensive enough) or grey as a tertiary - or mud if you really got it wrong i.e. if you don't want a muddy painting! Secondary colours include green, orange and purple. Consult a colour chart for exact information. There are plenty of them around. Almost every book on painting includes one.

The following demo shows the results of a single pouring i.e. in one session. You can also pour several times (always on dry paper) and even build up entire paintings by pouring. For abstracts this is easy as the results are what you make them, but for figurative work it's tricky. On Youtube there are excellent demonstrations of this technique.

Here, the pouring on the first watercolour was done with cadmium yellow (light or lemon), ultramarine blue (which has a purple tinge) and a signal red (or cadmium medium red), all colours by Lukas, but other artist quality (i.e. high pigmentation) makes are just as good.  The paper is 50x70cm Fabriano watercolour paper. Always use sturdy watercolour paper for this technique. It's sensible to mix from tubes of paint rather than struggle with pans. Mixing a large amout of watery paint is almost impossible if you are scrubbing it out of a little pan with a paintbrush. Pouring literally means pouring!

I will not start talking about warm and cool colours. That choice is a matter of trial and error till you get what you want. For this a colour chart is useful, but should show how the colours work when layered.

My other tools were a syringe without the needle to draw water out of any puddles that invariably turn into grey or mud, or are simply in the way, and 100% proof isopropyl alcohol, which I also fill into a syringe and use very sparingly.  Keep out of reach of children!!!!! Do not inhale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the whole pouring. The fluffy looking areas have been made with isopropyl alcohol. The detailed photos below come from a later edition that has been slightly retouched because I started working on the painting, then for some reason did not continue.

This shows a little editing to emphasize certain areas. The details below are taken from this image.

Here you can see all three colours. The little round things were made with drops of isoproyl. Use the alcohol only on wet paint,
though you can use it with an old hog's hair paintbrush to weaken blemishes or even lighten areas. I did not do this in this example. The white is the paper. One of the joys of this technique is what you can see in the pourings. I saw a buddha type face
 in the strong yellow and marked it with two darkck strokes.

What can you see here? Is it someone smiling? Is the black area top right a flower, the head of a monster, or what?
Or is it just abstract colour? You decide where your painting is going! I will continue with this painting soon (I hope) to complete this demonstration. One option would be to continue in pastels or acrylics. I'll have to think about that.
I would not use oil paint on this paper, but pourings on primed canvas are great fun to do! 

 The blue doesn't show up well on the photo. The layered effect is made by the layers of wet in wet colour. The cauliflower on the right shows how wet the paper was. Cauliflowers and backruns are two of the hazards of watercolour. You either embrace them or avoid them. The paper must always be flat for pouring, but if you attach it to a drawing board or a piece of plexiglass, you can move the paper round easily while keeping it flat, to get the paint to go where you want it to. The colours have been premixed with water in three receptacles and only meet on the paper.  I did not use any additives. You can also go back and do more pouring once the first layer is dry, but I didn't. There were already enough dark layers,  but adding more paint would produce more depth and colour intensity as needed.

The painting of daisies in the previous post was also started with this technique.

 Here are two more examples of 3 colour pourings:

This 3 colour pouring uses pthalo blue, a clear red and a lemon yellow, but no alcohol. 

This 3 colour pouring uses ultramarine instead of pthalo blue.
For oil paint pouring, dilute with white spirit (unless you are using water-soluble oil paints, but I haven't tried that yet!) and use isopropyl to make those interesting round shapes. You can actually draw into wet paint with isopropyl by applying it through a syringe needle. You could then create what are often called "gestural" effects. They are very common in modern abstracts.
Isopropyl disoved pigment while it is creeping through the wet paint. It's fascinating to watch, but if the paint is too wet you will find it closing in on the isopropyl effects and often destroying them. It's really a matter of trial and error.
You don't have to use isopropyl. It isn't always a good idea!

little dragon, oils, started with several colours.

When the pouring sequence is over, you will have to decide what to do next. Is it going to be an abstract? If it's figurative, do the colours make sense? Have you got the colour balance you want? Would adding another colour improve the result? Or would you prefer to take it to the bathroom and run it under cold water, using a nail brush to remove the paint? Depending on whether you have used staining paints, you will be left with a little or nothing of that pouring. but sometimes it's the road you have to go down.

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