Monday, 2 June 2014

Colour theory by K. and my field kit

I started this blog post with the intention of describing my field kit. But ended up with a resume of my whole painting ”career” in order to explain why I use the colours I do.
I have been painting for many years now. I was not the wonder kid who did everything perfect at a young age, but I liked to draw and paint. And eventually I also studied art as a part of my elementary school. But since then I’m self-taught apart from some watercolour courses – so I have formed my art much at my own pace and manner.

This is not the palette of a botanical painter. It has evolved over a long period (>20 years) - starting with rusty machinery.
I painted this part of a pipe system in 1997, 38x53 cm. The colours are mainly Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black and some blue I don’t know – probably the one who came in my first standard watercolour kit. I didn’t know anything about colours back then, and why they behave the way they do. I trashed lots of brushes, I sort of stippled the paint to get the rusty effect I was after. That destroys tips at a good speed.

After many years down that road I switched to insects. One morning I accidently killed a small fly without destroying it, I looked at it and thought “I can paint that…” I enlarged it and painted it in a quite imaginary style. Crane flies and mosquitos was then my companions for some time.
I added Winsor Blue (green shade) and Quinacridone Gold to my palette – colours with character!
After some years I discovered tube paints, and then also that each and every colour has its own temperament and way of behaving. The wings on this mosquito (2006, 12*17 cm) is painted with Quinacridone Gold and lots of water. I love the edges it make!

After a while I wanted to put my insects in an environment and I started on the path towards botanical painting. But in the beginning I only painted withered and dry objects. Now I only used three colours, Burnt Sienna, Sepia and Quinacridone Gold. And I did not paint in a botanical style!
These two Echinacea purpurea, 35x26 cm, was admitted and accepted to the The Nordic Watercolour Society Triennal in 2010.

As I wanted to include a green colour I found out about Perylene Green, and later on also added Perylene Maroon to my palette. Fruits of a lime-tree, the green has a nice weight, 20*20 cm.

And one thing lead to another and later to the SBA. Currently I’m struggling whit blending my old styles with the botanical style, and of course also mix in “my” colours. To let the steam blow of in that fight I periodically do some sketching in the field and also urban sketching, where I can do absolutely whatever I want.
To my surprise I now include colours like Aureolin, Transparent Yellow, Permanent Rose, Cobolt Blue, Prussian Blue and others in “my” colours. Raw Sienna is also a nice new friendship.
Rose for the Assignment 'Greeting card', the rose itself is 10*9 cm.

And now the field kit
So, what do I bring with me out in the field. I have collected 12 colours in my Winsor Newton field box:

Winsor Yellow – one bright yellow seems to be necessary.
Yellow Ochre – in the beginning I learned that this colour was a must, I’m not so sure any more. But it is great to have if you have Ivory Black and want to paint stones with yellow lava on. Anyway the sort that you can find at the West Coast of Sweden.
Burnt Sienna – one of my favourite colours, makes wonderful greens and are excellent when you want to paint rust.
Burnt Umber – hm, this one I’m not so sure about either, haven’t figured it out yet.
Quinacridone Gold – this is the colour that can do everything. Light yellow to rusty brown and together with Sepia, and Perylene Green and many others – just waow. You have to try it if you have not.
Sepia – I like the challenge that it is staining. You must be certain when you use it, once it down – it stays there. Dark and beautiful.
Perylene Green – I had a period when I only used Q. Gold, B. Sienna and Sepia – but I felt that I needed some more green. I tried this, and was hooked. I like to mix it with T.Yellow.
Payne´s Gray – blue, dark blue.
Scarlet Lake – I read somewhere that this was the most red of them all, I don’t know but mixed with W. Yellow it gives a good orange.
Perylene Maroon – love this, excellent to mix with almost anything.
Winsor Blue (green shade) – I don’t like blue that much. But this one is fabulous to mix on the paper with Q. Gold, then you really got the gold. But it is also a staining colour, can’t remove it. It is somewhat chemical in colour.
French Ultramarine – one neutral blue, ok.

I have two Pentel waterbrush which are ok when it comes to quick field sketches and urban sketching. I can paint for a long period of time without refilling them, if the painting benefits of a messy manner.  But if I want to do more detailed and neat work I have to bring better brushes. 
I have two kinds of sketchbooks. One Moleskin and one Fabriano Venezia Book, the latter is 200 g/m2, acid free and can withstand almost everything. When you think you ruined the paper, just let it dry and it is ok again. I have recently acquired the 23*30 cm book, it is just perfect for me, it's the one in the picture above. The only negative thing with the Fabriano is that the paper dries very fast, the Moleskin is a bit slower. And it is also tricky to lift out highlights in the Fabriano. I also bring loose sheets of paper, mostly Fabriano with rough grain (300 or 600 g/m2), if I want to do several paintings at a time. Which don’t happen that often.
I have a tree legged chair, a Walkstool. And a foldable very orange Neverlost sitmat, if I want to sit on the ground or a wet bench.
I’m thinking of making a small tripod easel /table, even if my bike work well if I want to work standing up.

I also bring water, cold and hot, depending on the location I am going to, and instant coffee if I plan to stay out for a longer period. I am always considering my comfort when I’m planning an outing!
Unfortunately I don’t do as many field trips as I want to, I have a slight problem with too much bright light. So I always have sunglasses and a peaked cap on, the ideal is to sit in the shade and don’t look too much up in the sky. Maybe that’s why I never learn to paint trees …. And of course, the sunglasses distort the colour ….
But most if the time I enjoy the experience and the outcome of my effort! 

The incects never landed on my flowers, I have to wait and see if they will return.


  1. Fantastic blog post, really interesting to read your painting story and your palette. Happy sketching :)