It has always amazed me how an inkjet printer can produce clean, strong Cobalt and Ultramarine blues from a greenish looking Cyan and Magenta. I always believed Primary colors couldn't be mixed, so I decided to try an experiment using three colors similar to printing process ( CMYK ) colors and an underpainting of black acrylic.
Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Rose and Aureolin were the three watercolors I chose. Permanent Rose would do instead of Quinacridone Rose. I picked a simple landscape subject with some interesting color gradations.
Before starting the painting I made up a color wheel using the three colors. I was surprised how saturated the colors were. A clean range of blues and, surprisingly, a saturated, primary red, from the yellow and Quin. Rose
The subject was shuffled around with a quick charcoal sketch to get things in the right place
Black Acrylic Underpainting
It’s a weird way to start a painting - launching straight into a fresh sheet of paper with a ½” bristle brush full of thick black acrylic paint.
Darks were applied, then the acrylic black was diluted to make the mid tone and paler washes.
The result was a simple monochrome version of the subject, minus any detail.
Phthalo Blue Glaze
The first wash of color was Phthalo Blue, concentrated in the sky, river and middle distant hills. This wash was allowed to dry before applying the next one.
After the Phthalo Blue had dried, Aureolin was applied to the middle distance, foreground and closer trees.
These initial applications of color varied in intensity depending on the strength of the final color required. Each layer must be dry before moving on to the next.
Quinacridone Rose Glaze
Next came a wash of Quinacridone Rose - pale through the sky and distant mountain, a little stronger through the foreground and right hand river flat.
At this stage a range of colors are starting to emerge, but everything is still very soft and insipid.
More Phthalo Blue
Another application of Phthalo Blue through the sky and distant hills gives that area more intensity. Some of the trees were also given a stronger layer of Phthalo Blue.
More Aureolin and Quinacridone Rose
More Quinacridone Rose and Aureolin were built up over the trees, river flats and foreground. Each layer was allowed to dry before the next layer was applied.
The final step was to strengthen the foreground and river flats with a stronger layer of Aureolin before applying detail with a rigger brush and a dark mixture of the three colors.
The dark mass of foreground trees was broken up with a combination of lines scratched in with an exacto knife and fine rigger lines painted on with tinted white Gouache
The result of this color combination surprised me. The individual colors are intense and extreme but, layered over one another, are capable of producing a range of colors from strong, saturated hues through to subtle compound grays and earth colors.
The black acrylic is a little too intense when applied undiluted, so next time I experiment with this combination I will dilute the black first, then darken areas by layering with the three colors. This would yield more subtle darks and allow for greater variation. The process requires concentration and feels very different to mixing colors on the palette, but the results are interesting and the luminous range of colors very appealing.
Author : John Lovett
© John Lovett 2022