Solnedgang om Vinteren, after Ludwig Munthe

Solnedgang om Vinteren, after Ludwig Munthe

Watercolor on paper, 4.25″ x 4.5″

I copied a painting by Ludwig Munthe, seen here, on the back of a different watercolor painting that wasn’t working well. A lot of the paints I used here aren’t normally on my palette. There’s a little white gouache mixed into the paints on the top half of the sky.

Genuine Terracotta Oil Paint

Terracotta Oil Paint 5

Here’s some oil paint that I made from a shard of a broken terracotta pot. Some paint brands like to sell a paint called terracotta, but here I now have the real thing. Genuine broken pot paint. 🙂

I photographed all of this in the afternoon sun. The tints are with titanium white, but I didn’t try too hard to make it exactly even ratios this time. The other two paints in the photo are just there for comparison.

It actually does make sense to do this when you consider what natural red ochres and synthetic mars reds are made of. Basically, red ochre is primarily colored by iron oxides and, depending on the source, also contains large amounts of things like clay, quartz, gypsum, etc. Mars red is made through chemical reactions using ingredients like powdered iron and is baked at high temperatures. A mars red is very similar to a natural red earth but without the mineral impurities. To make a terracotta pot (or red bricks) that mars red is then mixed with things like clay. So, as I’m understanding it, a powdered terracotta pot really isn’t much different from a natural red ochre.

All I used was this one small shard of the pot. Before now I had actually been putting the pieces into the bottoms of other pots to improve the drainage. To grind it into powder I switched back to my old granite mortar and pestle. It actually broke down a lot easier than I expected, and I only ended up using a about a third of the powder.

To make it into paint I mulled the powder with a mix of linseed and poppyseed oils. Of all the drying oils used to make oil paint for artists, linseed oil has the highest percent of linolenic acid. It dries the fastest and makes the strongest paint film, but it also yellows the most over time. Poppyseed oil has little if any linolenic acid, but one of the highest percentages of linoleic acid. It’s one of the slowest to dry and doesn’t make as strong of a film, but has a lighter color to begin with and is supposed to not yellow nearly as much. That’s why some brands specifically use it for very light colors such as white, where even a small amount of yellowing would be noticeable. The mix of the two oils should produce a paint with a stronger film than just poppyseed and that doesn’t yellow as much as linseed with a drying time between the two. Some brands of paint do also mix oils for reasons like that. Mostly though I did the mix because I’m running low on linseed oil but I have plenty of poppyseed. 🙂

Warm Evening Light

Warm Evening Light

Watercolor on paper, 8″ x 4.75″

I painted this on the back of some paper that I think is from Moulin du Roy. I used the back because it had an interesting texture, different from the front, that left little flecks of white in the black paint and looked like light glistening. Unfortunately that texture just looks more like graininess when I shrink the image to fit here. A closer look-

Warm Evening Light Detail

I used mostly carbon black (self made, pigment from Pebeo) and Venetian red (Rublev), plus some German vine black (also Rublev).

While I was going through my usual struggle to think of a good title, before eventually settling on a plain description as always, I came across a quote about it in the Bible, in which Jesus said “When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Mat 16:2-3) At certain latitudes a red sky in the evening means the next day will probably have good weather, because of the direction that wind blows, but a red sky in the morning means a storm is probably coming.

Over here is a photo that I was thinking of when I was painting the colors.

Memory of Summer

Memory of Summer

Oil on linen, 7″ x 5″

I was experimenting with some paints and decided to make something using what I had on my palette, which were mostly earth colors. I started by painting it all with burnt sienna dark, and then when it was dry I painted the scene on top.

Paints used in this mostly include-
burnt sienna dark (PBr7, self made, pigment from Natural Pigments)
orange ochre (PY43, self made, pigment from Natural Pigments)
yellow ochre light (PBr24, Rembrandt)
cobalt yellow (PY40, Daniel Smith)
titanium white (PW6, Williamsburg)
and a few random dabs of various natural siennas and red ochres

I really like the burnt sienna dark and orange ochres from Natural Pigments. Those are both high up on my list of earth colors that I like and they go together well.

Red Sunrise

Red Sunrise

Oil on canvas, 8″ x 10″

I was looking at Yellow and Gold by Mark Rothko yesterday and I thought I’d like to paint something like it, but… I figured it could use a few mountains. 🙂

I used three recently gotten paints that I haven’t used on anything yet, plus white. Transparent yellow medium (PY128, Rembrandt), Indian yellow (PY83, Michael Harding), and pink madder (PR221, Holbein). All three of them are very transparent paints. The sky is a mix of the two yellows and the mountains are a mix of Indian yellow and pink madder. I was really impressed with the reds and oranges that I got from that. The reddest area is an extremely intense vermilion but very transparent.

It was hard getting a good photo and I ended up doing a little editing to it and combining two different photos. In the real painting the sky is a little more yellow and isn’t quite so blended together, being more bands of color. The reds of the mountains are actually not far off from how they really look, but the brushstrokes aren’t really showing up. One of these days I need to either figure out my camera better or get a better lighting setup than just going outside into the sunlight…

Mountains and Mist

Mountains and Mist

Oil on canvas, 5″ x 7″

For this painting I wanted to try out three paints I recently bought. Flake white hue (Winsor & Newton), yellow ochre (Grumbacher pre-tested) and light red (Holbein).

The white is suppose to mimic flake white, which is made with lead. Since I don’t use or have the real flake white I don’t know how good of a job this paint does at being like it, but I actually liked how it mixed with the colors. It’s a mix of titanium and zinc white that wasn’t too strong so it was easier to adjust the other colors by a small amount than when using regular titanium white. This is good for me because I prefer mixing most of my paint on the canvas instead of on the palette. If the white is too strong then I find that small adjustments are harder to make, but if it’s too weak then I end up with too much paint on the canvas. I got this from Hobby Lobby (a hobby/craft/art store chain in the US) with a 40% off coupon, so it was very inexpensive.

I was actually impressed with the yellow ochre. I haven’t bought or used anything from Grumbacher in many years and they tend to have less expensive paint compared to many other brands. I found this tube in the sale bin of another art store because its cap was crooked and it had leaked a bit of oil, so instead of their usual price of $6 I got it for $3. The paint inside the tube was perfectly fine though. It’s a mix of both natural yellow ochre and synthetic mars yellow, and its consistency is like soft butter. I would be interested in trying out another tube of their paint in the future.

The light red is one of those many different terms for both natural and synthetic red ochres. This one from Holbein is synthetic and I also found this in the sale bin. Although I do have an assortment of Holbein oil and watercolor paints I haven’t actually bought any for a long time now. The consistency is also like butter, but shorter and not quite as soft as the yellow ochre.

Hidden Waterfall

Hidden Waterfall

Watercolor on 140lb rough paper, 11″x15″

I made a copy of a small portion of a Chinese landscape painting in my watercolor book. The original painting is black and white. I don’t think the colors worked very well for this, but it was interesting to try. Two of the three paints I used are ones that I haven’t used in a long time so I wasn’t sure what they’d look like. The yellow I used I made myself using mars yellow pigment, but instead of using gum arabic which is what watercolors are normally made from I used powdered peach tree sap.

Red Ochre Oil Paints

PR101 and PR102 (Pigment Red 101 and 102) are among my favorite pigments for paint and they come in a large variety of colors. PR102 is a natural red iron oxide (red ochre) and PR101 is the synthetic version. Below is my collection of oil paints using either of these as a single pigment paint with nothing else added. I photographed this in direct sunlight during the afternoon. All of the paints were mixed twice with about an equal 50/50 mix with white.

PR101 PR102 samples

Old Holland Yellow Ochre Burnt
This is my only natural red ochre in oil paint. As I understand it this pigment is made by roasting natural yellow ochre pigment until it turns reddish. It could make a good alternative to burnt sienna. It’s a little lighter and brighter, and has a stronger color.

Winsor & Newton Transparent Red Ochre
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got this because the name sounds like it’d be what’s normally called Transparent Red Oxide, which is the variety of PR101 that W&N already uses in their “Burnt Sienna”, but this is really very different. I think it’s close to the same as the Yellow Ochre Burnt above it but this is a slightly cleaner and more pure color. As the name suggests, this paint is semi transparent. The tinting strength isn’t as overpowering as some of the others in this list so it’s a bit easier to work with. This is one of those paints that I wish I had gotten years ago. It might even be my favorite red ochre.

Rembrandt Burnt Sienna
Although real Burnt Sienna is made from either PBr6 or PBr7, there are a few brands of paint that use a Transparent Red Oxide version of PR101 instead, which has a much stronger color, higher transparency, and higher tinting strength than actual burnt sienna. It doesn’t show up well in the photo but this particular one is lighter in masstone than the “burnt sienna” below it from W&N.

Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna
A nice example of Transparent Red Oxide. It has good transparency. I tend to prefer paints like this over actual burnt sienna for the greater color strength.

Blue Ridge Transparent Red Oxide
Very similar to the above paint, but not as transparent. This one also seems to have a slightly higher tinting strength, but I can’t guarantee that I got the mix with white an exact 50/50 mix on any of these.

Old Holland English Red
Now we’re getting into the slightly cooler temperature colors for red ochres. This is a very high tinting strength paint, and easily overpowers most other paints that I mix it with unless I use extremely small amounts of this. Because of that, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of this one when you consider how little of it is needed in each paint mix. This one it so similar to the venetian red below that I actually mixed up the labels on the image at first. I’m 99% sure I have it right now since I kept the tubes lined up in the same order that I placed the paint on the palette and because this paint has a thicker, more viscous consistency.

Winsor & Newton Venetian Red
There’s a little bit of variety of colors that are referred to by different brands as “venetian red” but this name is generally given to a semi-cool earth red that’s not as cool as something like an Indian Red.

Blockx Mars Violet
As far as I know this is about as cool as red ochres can get. I bought this one from Blockx because when I looked at a paint chart someone else had made of different brands of mars violet the one from Blockx looked like the coolest. On an earth palette of red and yellow ochres this could be a very useful.

A similar comparison of yellow ochre oil paints can be found here.

Self Made Paint: Mars Red


Two things finally happened- I got my internet access back after not having it for a couple of weeks (I had to resort to books!) and I got a glass muller so I can start making some proper paints.

This one is the large muller from Natural Pigments. I ordered this over the phone (I hate phones!) because my internet was down at the time and the Russian lady I talked to was very nice. I have to say though that when I first unwrapped it I was kind of worried that the handle was too thin. It’s a lot thinner than the one in the photo on their website, but maybe it’s an old photo or maybe there’s variation in production since it is a handmade product (from a monastery in Russia!). Once I started working with it I felt like the handle will work out just fine, and in fact may even fit my hand better than the thick one in the photo.


Here’s the small blob of watercolor paint I made. I have a variety of pigments from Natural Pigments, but earlier this week I had gotten some from Blue Ridge to try out and I decided to go with the Mars Red (PR101) for my first paint.

I didn’t get any photos of actually making the paint though because this is all new to me – thus far I’ve just been mixing things with a palette knife – and I was focused on figuring out just how to get the paint to come out like I wanted. I ended up using gum arabic from Daniel Smith since I already had a bottle of it, a drop of glycerin, and a drop of honey to make this.


Here’s a scan of the paint on soft press paper from Fabriano. It dried duller than I had hoped, and I’m not sure that the color in this scan is accurate, but I like the softness of the color in tints. It was surprisingly hard to lift out of the paper. At the top I tried lifting the paint with a wet brush a few minutes after it had dried and at first it refused to even move or bleed at all. The most I got was eventually picking up enough paint to spread it around a little.

I have a lot of different pigments from a few sources and I’m really looking forward to trying out more of them with this muller and then posting my results.