Van Gogh’s box of wool

A red painted box with balls of wool inside. I wondered what the box was used for. Vincent Van Gogh used the balls of wool to consider possible colour combinations.

Van Gogh’s box of wool, Van Gogh Museum,  Amsterdam

Synthetic dyes were discovered in the 1860’s, influencing both fashion and the colours on the palettes of artists.

Colour therapy

I decided to buy some of the Daniel Smith watercolours that I tested last week and a few days later they were in my letterbox. Along with my purchases came yet another sample palette, this time from David Taylor, an Australian watercolour artist. I sat down the other morning to do another test run of this set of colours – but I’ll spare you the details because I realised that I was just having immense fun mixing colours on the page.

What a revelation that I find myself so tied up in drawing and painting specific subjects that I have managed to forget how good it is just to play with colour!

Manganese Blue Hue and French Ochre

Manganese Blue Hue and French Ochre


The earthy tones of Perylene Green and Transparent Red Oxide


LHS, Cobalt Teal Blue with a flash of Cadmium Red; and RHS, Quinacridone Gold blending with Bloodstone Genuine


I’ve decided to make a book of my colour samples, not only because I can use them as a reference, but also because I’m sure they will bring me great joy simply to look at!

If you would like to indulge in other explorations of colour I can highly recommend I Send You This Cadmium Red… A correspondence between John Berger and John Christie, Actar, (English language edition 1999). This book documents an exchange of colours, ideas and exploration of colour and its meaning and expression between Berger, an art theorist and novelist and Christie, a documentary maker and creator of artist’s books.


Since I’ve started to use my coloured pencils again I’ve tried to give a bit more thought as to what brand I prefer to use and the particular colours that I need for a small travelling kit. My current very random selection of pencils has been gathered over the years from various sources and often only on the basis of ‘oh that’s a pretty colour’.

Of all the pencils I currently use I’ve decided that I prefer the Prismacolor for their waxy lushness. I already have a variety of regular and metallic colours and decided to add a box of 24 colours from the local art store. Here is the current colour selection on some of the coloured pastel paper I’m trying to use up.

Prismacolor Premier colored pencils test sheet.

Prismacolor Premier colored pencils test sheet.

To test some of the new colours I drew the teapot and the cushion. I was pretty satisfied with the selection, but I have decided that one or two grey pencils would round the colour range out.

Teapot in the garden, coloured pencil on pastel paper, 12 January 2014.

Teapot in the garden, coloured pencil on pastel paper, 12 January 2014.