Turner’s blues and a few others

I am currently reading Anthony Bailey’s biography of JMW Turner, Standing in the Sun, (2013 paperback edition). So having just posted about Smalt Blue, I was very interested to read the following lines from Henry Syer Trimmer’s account of Turner’s studio, after Turner’s death, ” … and cobalt to be sure there was, but also several bottles of ultramarine of various depths and smalts of various intensities, of which I think he made great use.” Trimmer goes on to report, “I was told by his housekeeper [Hannah Danby] that ultramarine was employed by him sparingly, and that Smalt and cobalt were his usual blues.” ( pps 87-88).

In this case Trimmer is referring to Turner’s oil paints, rather than his watercolour paints. I am trying to find out whether Turner used the same pigments in his watercolours. It seems quite likely, as it is a matter of selecting the relevant binder for your pigment and ensuring that the particles are ground down to the correct specification that are the key. I need to do some more research!

To give you some idea of the colours Trimmer is referring to, above, I have swatched out the three blues referred to, Ultramarine, Smalt Blue and Cobalt Blue, in watercolours. In addition I have also included three other blues, Indanthrone Blue (AKA Delft Blue), Mayan Blue Genuine and Pthalo Blue (green shade) for comparison.

Most interesting of all these pigments to me is Mayan Blue which, according to Wikipedia is “a composite of organic and inorganic constituents, primarily indigo dyes derived from the leaves of añil (Indigofera suffruticosa) plants combined with palygorskite, a natural clay which, mysteriously, is not known to exist in abundant deposits in Mesoamerica.

Indanthrone Blue, PB 60, also goes by more than one name, including Delft Blue and sometimes indigo blue. I would be wary of using the latter common name as the indigo blues I have looked up on line are made from a varying range of pigments. White Nights Indigo (Nevskya Palitra) is a blend of PBk 7, PB 15 and PV 3; Windsor and Newton Indigo is a blend of PBk 6, PV 19 and PB 15.

When choosing a watercolour to add to your palette the general advice is to select a paint made from a single pigment. This will generally give better results when mixing colours. If you are selecting a multi-pigment paint you are more likely to mix a muddy colour. This is because some of the pigments may work well in the mix and others may not thereby cancelling each other out and making mud.

Small beauty

It’s been a while, but I am moving forward again with my opening stitches project. This time a most beautiful piece of fabric and thread, (both made by Deb Lacativa, http://morewgalo.blogspot.com) contributed by Mo Orkiszewski.

Mo’s original submission.

Mo’s current exhibition ‘I dream of a world where love is the answer’ at Artsite Gallery Sydney, seems more relevant than ever given the awful events in Christchurch, New Zealand. Mo’s exhibition closes 24 March. (https://www.artsite.com.au/exhibition/2019-03-mo-orkiszewski-catalogue.php).

This was a piece that had me thinking of complex wetlands, filled with intense colours and flashes of light, glinting off the water. Couching the threads down proved quite challenging, so choosing to use some slippery rayon thread was possibly more challenging than necessary. Here are the photos of the front and back sides, now that I have worked on it.

The front side.

The back side.

The opening stitches project is still open to new contributions, check of the link to get the full details if you would like to join in.

Happy 6th Birthday ? Sort of …

I have just received word that I have been blogging with WordPress for 6 years, although when I look at my archives I started this blog in March 2011. Even I can tell that doesn’t quite add up.

In reality I started my blog on a platform, Posterous, that subsequently became defunct after a company takeover. Such is the way of social media.

Anyway I have decided to honour my 6 years on this platform because at least I have maintained a reasonably regular presence here, which is something to celebrate.

I leave you with a random piece of vernacular architecture and it’s somewhat singular decorative adornment that I came cross over the weekend, in the central western town of Dunnedoo in New South Wales. For non-Australians the term ‘dunny’ is slang for toilet so this town has, and continues to be on the receiving end of much unwanted mirth.

Christmas flowers

I thought I had better sketch my Christmas flowers before they were past their best. They are Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) and Red Flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia). The flowering gum is allready dropping it’s stamens at an alarming, though beautiful, rate.

Relaxing and sketching on Boxing Day.

Before the lunchtime devastation!

Rome is your friend!

The latest ‘blockbuster’ exhibition at the National Museum of Australia is ‘Rome’, something of a novelty for those of us who live far away from the marching legions. The exhibition is from the collection of the British Museum.

Head of Faustina

Luckily for us the British Museum has packed up plenty of booty and sent it down under. The sculptures are the most impressive elements of the show. I was particularly intrigued by the decorative detail on the armour of Hadrian.

A view of the central section of the exhibition.

I had lots of fun trying to capture those details with my pencil. The watercolour background was added in while we were having lunch in the cafe.

My sketch of the statue of Hadrian.

A more poignant statue was a commemorative work of a woman holding a bust of her, presumably dead husband. A nice touch was a small figure at her left shoulder, which is carved like the end of a sofa (see the photo below), which concealed a vase for placing flowers.

Funary monument of a woman holding a bust.

I was interested to see that many of the pieces in the exhibition were excavated in the British Isles, which was a bit different from what I had expected. Many visitors were particularly taken by the coin hoardes and the legionary’s helmet.

Carved end of a sofa.

The fun will continue until 3 February 2019. Until then signs on our local roadways are reminding us that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.

Swatched

Behold my beautiful colour swatch! If you look closely you will see that this is two colour swatches, with some slightly different colours in each.

I can’t say that I am very good at making ‘proper’ swatches. Indeed I think this is the first time I have done this since going to art school.

l was spurred on to paint this chart while watching one of Teoh Yi Chie (aka Parka) Parka blog’s videos where he demonstrated that one of the uses of a colour swatch was to work out if two ‘similar’ colours were worth keeping in your palatte.

Given my inability to stop adding new colours to my palette I thought a bit of testing might be in order.

In this case Cobalt Light Turquoise (3rd from the top right) and Cobalt Turquoise Green (4th from the bottom left), looked similar in the tube but gave different results when mixing. In contrast Burnt Umber (2nd from the left on the top row) and Quinacridone Burnt Orange (2nd down on the left hand side), mixed almost identical colours, the burnt umber being less intense.

Painting this took ages, really. Keeping the colours in the correct order nearly drove me crazy, however I found the result was worth it. The downside is having finished the book I painted it in I now have to resort to checking a photo in my smart phone gallery if I want to refer to it.

If I remember correctly Parka shows, in the video, a number of swatches he has created over his years of reviewing all sorts of art materials. If you aren’t familiar with his reviews and video channel I can highly recommend them. You can find his website here, including all the relevant links.