I have always been excited by colour – I think the term ‘Eye candy’ was coined especially for people like me. Colour cards in paint stores, embroidery silks and wools on display, all are very eye-catching and inspiring.
One of the reasons I enjoy using gouache and acrylics is because of the intensity of the colour and the huge range of tones available: yet I also love the effects water colours can give, so I was delighted when I read late last year about acrylic inks. Here was something to give me the brilliance and permanence of colour which could be coupled with many of the techniques of watercolour. I ordered some, and hey presto! I was hooked!
The first I read about them was an article by Liz Seward Relfe in The Artist magazine where she was demonstrating her painting of flowers. She achieved such luminosity and clarity, I obviously had to try!
I must state firmly, I am no expert!
I’m still in the learning process with these inks but so many friends here on WC! have asked about the medium, this seems a good opportunity to share my little bit of knowledge gained so far.
I shall be delighted if any of you can join in and also share your experiences …….. together we’ll make progress!
The inks I use are Speedry Magic Color, made in England but I know other manufacturers also make the inks – W&N, Daler Rowney – I haven’t used liquid acrylics from other makers, but they may be similar; perhaps those who use them may tell us.
They are semi-transparent generally, although the white is opaque, and come in 28ml dropper bottles. Because they are highly saturated colour, only a few drops are needed, therefore, they seem to be quite economical.
I began with a selection of colours, two yellows, orange, two reds, violet, cobalt blue and green, added white (I had mistakes in mind!!) and have also added cyan blue. There are still another dozen or more to collect!
They can be used with brush, pen, airbrush or any other tool you can think might be appropriate!
I use nylon brushes, pipettes, sponges, old toothbrush, cling film (food wrap),bits of card, cocktail sticks - whatever I can lay my hands on at times!
I work on watercolour paper, at least 140lbs – I’ve tried a variety of makes, I prefer it with some texture, but not rough, and because I often use a lot of water, I stretch my paper first.
So, here’s the set up!
You can see the state the palette is in – the ink dries and is permanent!
It doesn’t wash off, neither does it dissolve with further colour.
I also collect little plastic liners from lids of coffee jars, they make good palettes because we’re dealing with small quantities.
The little bar of soap to keep brushes clean – mustn’t let the colour dry on them; wet wipes for hands, paper towel to remove excess water from brushes during use.
This colour chart
is something we should all do!
Just in case the names are too small to read, they are, in order from the left :-
Astral Yellow. Process Yellow, Omega Orange, Solar scarlet, Mars Red, Delta Violet, Cobalt Blue, Process Cyan and Gamma green. There is also Lunar White, which is opaque.
Colour chart #2 shows the colours overlaid with each other. This will give you some indication of just how transparent some of the colours are. These colours were painted from lightest to darkest, but the effect of painting lighter colours over darker can have interesting effects which are very useful. (Those of you used to watercolours will know that this is not easy with soluble watercolour paint!)
The third colour chart gives some indication of the wet colours mixing together.
I did a whole sheet, but part of it will suffice to give you an idea.
The first column is Astral yellow mixed with each of the other colours in turn.
To allow ‘bleeding’ the colours must be wet – and they dry very quickly!
I don’t know how many of you have colour charts, but with each new set of materials, I prepare charts to see how colours behave with each other, what their properties are etc. It’s worth knowing in advance how strong a colour is, which colours go well together and which combination to avoid!
Shall we look at some paintings then?
I think this Azalea was the first painting I did using the inks, so there was some experimentation here!
The reference was in one of the WDEs of February this year, by Kyle - a beautiful azalea just waiting to be painted!
In the sketchbook, I first studied the flower (file; WIP, initial drawing), exploring with pencil then pen.
The next stage was to do a pen outline drawing on watercolour paper (Hahnemuhle Brittania matt), approx 8 x 10ins (19 x 25cms).
I then soaked the paper and dropped in colour – cobalt, mars red and green, and moved the board around so the colours would bleed and merge together, but trying to keep some areas light or untouched near the centre.
Whilst still wet, I used the cling film to cover the entire piece, scrunched it around a bit and left it to dry.
The colours will dry lighter because of all the water.
After drying, I re-soaked, dropped more of the same colours, shuffled around and added the cling film again. I tried to make shapes to suggest foliage.
This was also allowed to dry.
(My apologies for not having a scan of this stage, I wasn’t intending a WIP at this point!)
Painting the flower came next – I love that bit!
The colours were applied in layers using mars red and the violet. Where extra depth was needed I added touches of cobalt. Some of the light areas in the central section needed the opaque white – but most of this has just the hint of the other colours mixed in.
The stem, sepals and stamens have astral yellow, plus the other colours overlaid to build up the browny/greeny colours there. The reds in the petals were enhanced with scarlet to deepen the magenta colour.
To finish off, I picked out foliage-like shapes in the background using the green, violet and blue with a little bit of negative painting or enhancement of some of the ‘accidental’ shapes made by the cling film.
And this was the result:
I was practising cutting oval mounts, and this seemed to suit! I have also, since February, learned a better way of saving this kind of work (in PSP), so it's usually clearer
Is that enough to be getting on with?
I'll be back later with the next work