These are all done in my homemade watercolour sketchbook. I was stressed one day, and the way I cope is throwing myself into a project. So I taught myself bookbinding! I took an old Arches hot press paper block that was separating, and transformed it into a sketchbook.
Author: Sonia Sulaiman
Awe: art windsor-essex
I’ll be teaching art at AWE: Art Windsor-Essex this April! This will be my first time teaching at the old Art Gallery of Windsor, a beautiful building on the Detroit River.
Bringing it all together
Working out the composition of one of the Bride pieces, I’m putting together all that I’ve learned from testing and testing and testing materials and techniques!
Let’s see, theres’s graphitint paint, ballpoint pen, and gouache.
One last test
Ok, I’m done studying this Tissot painting. As much as I appreciate it, I’ve been working with it too long now. I looked up the artist who inspired this particular exploration, Dina Brodsky, and came across this tutorial by one of her students. It was exactly what I needed.
I’m still not sure that I want to use this technique in the finished paintings, but I think it’s putting me on the right track!
And lastly, I did some swatches with my new graphite paints. The first swatch set is with Derwent graphitint paints, and the second are the Kuretake gansai tambi graphite colours.
I was inspired by the sketchbooks of Dina Brodsky, who uses text and gouache to great effect. This project of mine is going to have a text element, so I was excited to see how she incorporated it. I’ve done a similar thing with an acrylic painting I contributed to the Detroit 300 exhibit.
I’m playing around with the order of using each medium, as well as the direction of the writing. I chose a detail from one of my favourite paintings: the Magnificat by James Tissot, one of the few paintings to show Mary in traditional Palestinian clothes, the ‘royal dress’ of Bethlehem. I was a little looser with the second one, but both use watercolour, gouache, and graphite pencil.
Which one do you prefer?
I’m determined to add granulation to these pieces, so I’ve nabbed some primatek colours from the Daniel Smith brand: zoisite and kyanite. The zoicite has massive separation. Basically, the binder just flowed out all syrupy and sticky while the pigment remained in the tube. I had to give it a swirl with a toothpick.
I have a few more granulation and special effect materials to test out before I compose the larger pieces for this project.
So much granulation! Both of them came out really nicely, but the kyanite has some glitter in it. I didn’t expect that, and wasn’t sure if it would show up. That’s going to make these pieces really special, I think.
Texture experiments and replacing teal
Not feeling great today, but I did manage to do some important experiments in my sketchbook. I’m looking for a good alternative to a ‘fake’ cobalt teal watercolor that I picked up (spoiler alert: it has cobalt in it!). On a whim, I thought it would be a good idea to swatch out all of my blues and teal/turquoise colours to do a comparison:
Here we have them more or less arranged from warm to cool. I like the Amazonite for a good ‘Detroit River Blue.’ But it’s not the workhorse colour I’m looking for to replace either Sap Green or the Cobalt Teal. My next attempt will be adding some Chinese White to each of these to see if that gets me closer to the cobalt teal, without the heavy metals.
I’ve also, for the first time, tried sea sponges as a painting tool! Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. It was a lot of fun, and it has promise for getting more texture out of my non-granulating colours. I really feel like granulation and texture are going to be key factors in this project, where the atmosphere and background is going to have a lot of context.
The Bride- A concept
I decided to try a different approach, and look for inspiring photos. I put together a ‘mood board’ of sorts, and realized something: the backgrounds of all of the photos were either monochrome or desaturated. This could be what I’ve been looking for… some way to show the menace and allure of the Bride without breaking with that tension, the perfect effect of the uncanny. After all, men approach her willingly. The streaks and speckles were accidental but I really love how they seem almost like a trail of blood on the stones. Definitely want to explore that further!
I really would love to try some granulating colours but I don’t have many. Maybe something to save up for…
Now for my boring notes: this was done with Jane’s Grey, Phthalo Turquoise, and Pyrrole Scarlet watercolour. I used Ivory Black, Titanium White, and Pure Blue gouache.
Let’s go a little deeper into colour
I admit, this is where I get to indulge myself a little. I really wanted a blog post that compared all of the colours I’m using in one place. Hopefully you’ll find this interesting or amusing. We’ll see!
Let’s start with my gouache. These colours are from the Holbein Artists’ Gouache brand which is made in Japan. They are part of one of the many sets that are available. It is difficult to find open stock in Canada, as this medium is not very popular here. Thankfully, I’ve seen some promising leads on Aliexpress. To fill the gaps, I have added one M.Graham gouache colour (raw umber). Let’s see what I have:
Magenta: BV15 fluorescent Blue-Violet 15
Carmine: PR170 Naphthol Red
Flame Red: PR9: Naphthol Red
Violet: BV15, PB29: Fluorescent Blue-Violet 15+ ultramarine
Permanent Yellow Orange: PY6: hanza yellow 3G Plv
Lemon Yellow: PY3 hanza yellow 10G
Permanent Yellow Deep: hanza yellow G
Brilliant Orange: PO13: vibfast orange
Leaf Green: PY13, PG7 hanza yellow + phthalo green
Pure Blue: PB17 pthalo cyan
Ultramarine Deep: PB29: ultramarine
Permanent Green Deep: PY3, PG7, PB15 phthalo green + hanza yellow
Ivory Black: PBk6: lamp black
Yellow Ochre: PY42, 43: yellow iron oxide + yellow ochre
Burnt Sienna: PBr7, PR101: burnt sienna + transparent red oxide
Raw Umber: (M.Graham) PBr7 raw umber.
Permanent White: (Winsor and Newton) Pw6: titanium white
Well, that explains why my yellow ochre seemed so red in mixes- it has iron oxide in it!
Hanza Yellow Light: PY3-Hansa Yellow 10G
New Gamboge: PY97-Permanent Yellow + PY110-Isoindolinone Yellow
Quinacridone Rose: PV19-Quinacridone Violet
Pyrrole Scarlet: PR255-Coral Red
Phthalo Blue (GS): PB15-Phthalo Blue
French Ultramarine: PB29-Ultramarine [Blue]
Burnt Sienna: PBr7-Burnt Sienna
Yellow Ochre: PY43-Yellow Ochre
Pyrrole Orange: PO73-Transparent Pyrrole Orange
Sap Green: PO48-Quinacridone Gold + PG7-Phthalo Green + PY150-Nickel Azo Yellow
Carbazole Violet: PV23RS-Dioxazine Violet
Sepia: PBr7-Burnt Sienna+ PBk9-Ivory Black
Jane’s Grey: PBr7-Burnt Umber + PB29-Ultramarine [Blue]
Moonglow: PR177- Anthraquinone Red + PB29-Ultramarine [Blue] + PG18-Viridian
Phthalo Blue Turquoise: PB16-Phthalo Blue
…I think I’ll be swapping out the Sap Green. I’m trying to keep my palette non-toxic, and nickel azo yellow is mildly toxic. Pity, it’s such a nice colour that is useful for so many things!