Annapurna Sunrise

Mountain Sunrise
Oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

The process for this painting is similar to the last one, using a watercolor canvas with extra gesso again, except instead of sketching with acrylic I just went straight to oil paint.

The photo reference is from Ilja on Paint my Photo of the sun rising on Annapurna, Nepal. I selected a Bible verse to go with this one: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18, NIV)

In the first stage I tried to be conservative with the line placement for the skyline because it was easily moved lower but I wanted to avoid moving it too low and having blue paint under an area that would be painted yellow later.

After the yellow area was blocked in I felt like it should have been more thinly applied and tried to remove some of the excess. Even though titanium white is opaque, it wasn’t as opaque as I would have liked, so it was necessary to apply it thickly to cover the yellow and to avoid too much mixing between the two. A little mixing was fine though, because the white snow also had a warm glow from the morning sun.

The paints used were mostly French ultramarine, synthetic yellow and red ochres, titanium white, and mars black. There was a little bit of some other blues added to the ultramarine, some bright primary yellow added to the yellow ochre, and a little zinc white buff used too.

Grand Tetons and Clouds

Mountains and Clouds
Oil on canvas, 9″ x 12″

Finally a new post. I’ve been active on Instagram but haven’t felt like I had something substantial enough to put here. This new painting was an experiment using oil paint on a watercolor canvas because I liked its fine weave. The photo reference is from Nancy Winn on Paint my Photo.

I think the package said it was acrylic primed for all media, but to be sure that it was sealed well enough for oil paint I applied an extra coat of gesso. Mixed in with that gesso was a little grey acrylic paint that was leftover from an attempt at a different painting. Immediately after I roughly sketched the scene with diluted black acrylic and a small synthetic dagger brush.

Before beginning with oil paint I let acrylic gesso dry for at least four hours, or until it’s no longer cool to the touch, to be sure that it’s finished whatever mysterious chemical processes are happening as it dries. Since it was late, this was left overnight before starting the next day.

I tried roughly blocking in different areas slowly and at the same time so I’d be able to see how their color was affecting each other. Adjustments needed to be made, such as the lower clouds needing more warmth in their subtle highlights and the sky just not actually having the faint blue that I originally put there. I guess it was a diffuse warm light from a cloud behind the mountains rather than seeing all the way through to the sky. That’s the sort of thing you may not notice at first and at a glance until you’re actually painting a scene and purposefully examining each component of it, so I had just assumed the gap in the clouds was showing all the way through.

This watercolor canvas turned out to be really nice to paint on. It has enough texture that it’s not a slick surface the way some gesso boards can be, but it’s fine enough to allow for much more control of details and for the paint to glide across it more smoothly than it would on a heavier weave canvas. I wouldn’t say the quality control is especially high though, since there’s a lot of little knots and dents in the canvas, but it was good to work on.

If you haven’t check out my Instagram, here, there’s a lot of sketches and paintings there that aren’t posted on this blog.

Limited Palette Paintings – Waterlilies and Sunset

Sunset in Winter Mountains
Winter Sunset, watercolor on paper, 7.25″ x 5.25″

This past week I’ve been using a palette with a little more spring potential, with the inclusion of chromium oxide green, but I also wanted to paint some clouds too. This painting above is from a photo I took last winter in the Rocky Mountains.

It was a snowy landscape with little light from the overcast sky late in the day, but then the clouds started to slowly part enough for sunlit clouds to be seen through them in a long rift. Thinking about it now reminds me of this quote I’ve read- “When Satan thrusts his threatenings upon you, turn from them, and comfort your soul with the promises of God. The cloud may be dark in itself, but when filled with the light of heaven, it turns to the brightness of gold; for the glory of God rests upon it.” -Ellen White

Waterlilies, watercolor on paper, 7″ x 5″

Because of the green on the palette I made sure to also paint some plants. This waterlily was painted from a photo I took at the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s called Black Princess, and apparently has blackish red flowers when they’re blooming.

For the palette this week cobalt blue was a very good, strong blue, but granulated a little too much to get the smoothness of the water. It made nice greys when mixed with the red earth, which was otherwise not used much. The real stand out was the chromium oxide, which is the one that I made myself from dry pigment. It’s very strong and also opaque. About 12 of the 25 mixes above are green because so many of these are either green or combine to make green. Ivory black actually wasn’t used very much, except in the trees of the sunset painting, but I wanted the option of something darker than the grey made from mixing cobalt blue and the red earth.

Limited Palette Paintings – Cat and Tree

Siamese Cat
Cat and Wagon Wheel, watercolor on paper, 5.25″ x 6″

For the paintings this week I used a limited palette of five paints – genuine turquoise, raw sienna, Minnesota pipestone, and black hematite – which I’ll post at the end here.

This painting above was the second attempt because the first was an experiment that didn’t work well. I originally drew this on heavy printmaking paper and then decided to try covering it all with transparent watercolor ground before painting over it. The paint lifted off the transparent ground too easily, behaved differently in areas where the ground was a little thicker, and just didn’t feel the same as paper.

It would have still worked though, but I had tried painting it much darker so it’d look like it was lit by a candle or fireplace, and that was didn’t look as good as I wanted. There were a few other problems too, like the expression not being right. So after finishing that first try I started over and made it again. This one is on normal, good watercolor paper from Twinrocker. The reference photo is from Pauline Govaert on Paint my Photo.

Tree on a Windy Hillside
Wind and Rocks, watercolor on printmaking paper, 4.25″ x 6.25″

The week started with this painting. The sky was a challenge to get right because the palette didn’t have a normal blue. The turquoise was very greenish, and since my color vision isn’t very good with greens and reds it was hard to get the right balance of manganese violet added into it to cancel out the green without going too far into violet.

Turquoise is a color that I really like but almost never use, so I wanted to make a point of including it and as a challenge to not have a normal blue to fall back on. Looking around there’s not much turquoise, except maybe distant mountains, so it seems mostly for mixing. The pipestone is like a red ochre, but a bit weaker and more pinkish. I didn’t use it that much, but it did make a good grey with the turquoise. Manganese violet is the one paint here that I made myself from dry pigment. It turned out to be very useful, especially for mixing with the raw sienna for a range of reddish browns. The cat is mostly just those two colors mixed, plus some hematite in the darkest areas.

The chart was posted here on my Instagram last Sunday, which is when the weekly palette for most weeks from here on will be posted.

Front Range Morning

Morning Train
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 6.75″ x 5.75″

This scene is from a few months ago, when I got to see this area at a different time of day than normal because my train was very late due to snow earlier on its route. It’s the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains again. From this point we’re looking south. To the right is the mountains, and just off the paper to the left is a view of the plains and most of the urban corridor that’s up against the mountains.

I used a mix of watercolor and gouache because they were both already on my palette. Most of it was painted with a small flat brush, but I also used a few others. One was a small filbert that was working very well. For watercolor brushes I only have a few filberts but they’re so versatile that I think I should have gotten more filberts instead of mostly rounds. Didn’t go dark enough with a lot of the colors though.

Resting Tiger

Relaxed Tiger
Ink and white gouache on tan paper, 7″ x 7.5″

Lately I’ve been practicing with a newly bought dip pen. I like the tactile sense of the nib on the paper. The white is white gouache, thinned with a little water and applied to the nib with a brush. It’s not as convenient as ink, but opens more possibilities.

The reference photo was one I recently took at the new tiger exhibit at the Denver Zoo. I had wanted to practice sumi-e painting and tried it with an ink stick on an old roll of paper. Then I started trying other papers, and on every painting tried a different brush. In the end they didn’t seem very successful, so I’ll have to more practice again, but after a few days I decided to revisit the same photo with the dip pen.

Materials used (Amazon affiliate links)
Leonardt dip pen set
Noodler’s black ink
Winsor & Newton white gouache
Strathmore toned tan sketchbook

Zirconium Blue and Cerulean Comparison

Zirconium cerulean (PB71) watercolor in center, surrounded by similar blues on Arches 140 lb paper.

I was asked recently about zirconium blue, PB71, which is called zirconium cerulean by Kremer Pigments because of its similarity to cerulean. Unlike normal cerulean it doesn’t contain cobalt, so I presume that it’s less toxic, but it does cost about the same or a little more.

In the chart above zirconium blue is in the center, surrounded by all of the watercolor ceruleans (both PB35 and PB36) that I have access to and also some cobalt teals that I thought would be similar, plus manganese blue. The tartan blue was a limited edition variety of cerulean that I don’t think is made anymore, and the pigment for manganese blue isn’t made anymore either.

Zirconium blue is basically a heavily granulating turquoise or greenish teal. Some of the ceruleans and cobalt teals granulate more than others, but zirconium blue is only matched by genuine manganese blue. It seems to be a bit weaker tinting than the other paints here. The lifting is partly affected by the medium used to make the paint, but what I made here does lift very well, as does the “cobalt blue light” (actually cerulean) seen at the center left and the cerulean grey from Blockx in the bottom left.

The medium that I used to make each of the self-made paints was an experiment. Each time I make watercolor medium it’s a little different to explore how changes in proportions affect the paint. This time I used 5.5 grams of gum arabic powder dissolved into about 12-13ml of water that was heated to 140-150°F (60-65°C). Then about 2-3ml of light colored honey and 1-2ml of glycerin was added, which is less of both of those than I normally use. After shaking it gently but thoroughly 4 drops of synthetic ox gall from QoR were added. As a preservative I dipped the end of a brush handle into a bottle of clove oil, getting just a thin coating of it on the tip, and I put that into the medium. So far the medium seems to be working well. All of the self-made paints were just made justing a palette knife to combine the pigment with medium. Update- the paint was a little dry, so I approximately doubled the amount of glycerin.