Friday, March 26, 2010

The mystery of the Koi watercolors.

Years and years ago I stopped painting in watercolors. When I stopped I had a watercolor palette that I was using at the time filled with Sakura Koi watercolors. At the time I remember being delighted with them. Apparently, I hadn’t yet experienced the quality of professional watercolors. Anyway, they were in a large covered plastic palette and went into storage.

Flash forward to 2010. As I have just returned to watercolor painting I was interested to discover that this old palette was still in good shape, the paints unmoldy and apparently ready to use. The problem was that I could make only educated guesses as to what the colors were as I had not made any notes at the time. Researching on the web as to what the colors might have been, I have put together a color map of what I think is in there.

Sakura Koi palette map

 I was interested to try them again and see what I thought about them now, after having spent several weeks color testing and using professional grade colors. That process was both interesting and helpful.

 Here’s what I found:

  • The colors are nowhere near as rich and don’t mix nearly as well as the (mainly) Daniel Smith colors that I’ve been using recently. While using them I felt like I was fighting the colors. They were also much more prone to giving me mud then the DS paints. (Of course, this could also have something to do with my ham-handed lack of skill and I’m not denying that).
  • I hated having Chinese White available to me again. I WILL abuse Chinese White if it comes near me. Learning to preserve the paper is much more important to me right now.
  • On the plus side though, because the wells were so deep I experimented with putting A LOT of water in each well. I found that this created pools of color much more suited to rich, color-filled washes. Apparently, I have been quite stingy with both my paints and my water in each well of my new palettes and I realized that I needed more of both. (Who am I saving my paints for anyway?)
  • Finally, I realized how important creating colorful neutrals has become to me. I am not  interested in depending so heavily on the Siennas, Ultramarine, and heaven forbid, Black, right now. (In fact, I’m not even using pre-mixed Black at all right now.)

Perhaps all that time off was good for me. Right now I feel like I’m not painting with any delicacy but that's changing everyday. I look forward to the process that leads me from here to there.

Here’s today’s watercolor sketch. It’s a portrait of an old horse friend of mine named “Jane.” This piece was painted with those old Sakura watercolors.

Watercolor sketch of "Jane."

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