Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Vandy Massey - Week #41

Making the Blues

Warning: This post contains a higher than usual number of images.

Olivia's choice of challenge this month was perfectly timed. On a visit to Venice last week a fascinating little art shop was pointed out to me by fellow Running With Brushes artist, Seonaid Parnell. The shop is a treasure trove for colour enthusiasts. Shelves lined with jewel-like jars of vibrant raw pigments. Naturally, I had to buy their collection of blues: 

Raw pigments
Many of the colours are unfamiliar to me - at least their names are. The lovely Alice who served me, kindly wrote the names of each one on the bag so I can research the pigments.

 So rather than making this post about a particular image, I'm going to write about the process of making my first two blue paints.

The Ingredients
Having bought the pigments on impulse, I then had to work out how to make paint. Google came to the rescue and I found a couple of recipes. They were slightly different so I'm experimenting and sharing the process here.
For those who are interested: Recipe 1  (Earth Pigments)
Recipe 2 (Artists & Illustrators)

To start with, the list of ingredients:
Pigment, gum arabic, boiled water, glycerine (optional in all recipes) and honey

The Gum Mixture
My process:
Make the Gum mixture: 1 part gum arabic, 3 parts very hot water, 1 part glycerine and 1 part honey. Mix until smooth. 

First colour: Herculaneum Blue (also known as Egyptian Blue)

Herculaneum Blue mix

Next step is to mix in the pigment - I used equal parts of gum mixture and pigment powder.
If anyone decides to make watercolour paint - be warned - the mixing takes a while. Its important to put in the time to get rid of all the little lumps of powdered pigment - and they can me small and very tenacious.
This paint has a lovely creamy consistency and a super vibrant colour.

First brushstrokes - Herculaneum Blue

This recipe makes paint for pans (good thing as I don't have any unfilled tubes lying around).
 Second colour - Prussian Blue

Prussian Blue being mixed

I had a larger amount of pigment and gum mix for this colour. In the photo above you can see the powdered pigment at the bottom and he granules still not completely mixed at the top.

Thicker mix of Prussian Blue

My first lesson was that different pigments have different consistencies despite being mixed in the same ratios. The Prussian Blue came out a lot thicker and needs more water to get it to creamy consistency.

Recycling pudding ramekins to make very large pans

I have a substantial collection of glass ramekins which come with puddings in them from the supermarket. They struck me as being perfect for keeping my mixed paints. They are made of robust glass, stack quite neatly and provide a nice big mixing area.

And now to test my first 2 blues:
On HP Arches - can you see the little dark specks in the Prussian?

I tried it on 3 types of paper to see whether it reacts differently on any of them:

In each case I painted the pure colours wet on dry (left hand side of swatch) and then wet on wet directly next to that on the right hand side. Then I painted a strip of each wet on dry, and then put clean water inbetween to see how they would blend. Finally two small wet on dry strokes on their own to see how the paint would feel on the paper.

On NOT Langford

Both paints on NOT and dispersed with sprayed water. Lovely diffusion textures in both colours

On hand made Two Rivers paper (rough)

On hand made Two Rivers paper (rough)
Overall, I'm thrilled with my first hand made paints. The Herculean blue granulates much like Cerulean blue (not entirely surprising as they share some ingredients)
Both colours are beautifully intense and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of my blues soon.

I'll post them all as I make them. More blues coming soon.