Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Old Holland - Pigments


 September 21, 1993


Before starting to write about brushes, canvas, paper, mediums or colours (paints) I start with the hart which is the pig­ment.

By adding different liquids into the same pigment you obtain: watercolour-eggtempera-oilcolour-postercolour or gouache-poly­mercolour-alkydcolour-acryliccolour-soft pastel-oilpastel etc.
The quality of the pigment and the quantity of cheap fillers on one side and the kind of liquid indicates the type of colour mentioned here above. And that colour has more quali­ties as classic, artist, student and schoolquality.

The pigments can easy be divided in two sections:
1. organic pigments: chemical complexes
2. anorganic pigments: elements from earth

The chemical complexes are created during this century and carry names such as: pthaloblue, pthalog­reen, azoyellow, naphtolred, quinacridone-rose etc. These colours you find be labeled under fantasienames as
Old Holland blue, Winsor blue, Grumbacher red, Scheveningen rose, Rembrandt blue, Hortensia blue (LB) etc.

The elements form earth carry names as cadmium, cobalt, iron­oxide, chromium oxide, zinc, lead, manganese etc. Those co­lours carry names as cadmiumyellow, cadmiumred, cobaltblue, cobaltvio­let, cobaltgreen, marscolours, persian-indian-en­glish-venetian reds, chrome-oxidegreen and viridian, zincwhi­te, lead- or Crem­nitzwhite, manganese blue -and violet. If you see a label with one of the above names followed by imitation or hue it is allways a cheaper replacement for the good pig­ment.

After we know now the two basic sections organic and anorganic, the quality of the pigment is next. Pigment-manufacturers can deliver the SAME shade $ 6,00 and also $ 70,00 a pound. Why­??
The difference in price is caused by the next six points:
1. lightfastness (no colourchange in the sun by ultraviolet light)
2. colourpower or tintingstrength (a lot of white with a little bit of colour)
3. brightness (the colour stays clean even mixed with a lot of white)
4. intensity (the deepness of the colour close to the flo­wer)
5. coveringpower (pure cadmium must cover at once even you paint thin)
6. filler which is already in the pigment (decreases the co­lourpo­wer)

Cadmiumpigment can be obtained from the pigmentfactory pure or mixed with bariumsulfate which is a cheap filler like chalk. If this cadmium contains 50% filler the name is cadmium bari­um. This gives no guarantee for the label in your shop. I have tested tubes of cadmium barium which contained more pure cadmium as tubes with the name concentrated cadmium.
How is this possible? The manufacturer used 10% pure cadmium and added the filler by himselves and the truth is "he used concen­trated cadmium". To solve this problem for the artist the most easy way is to compare the different brands cadmium bij mixing into the same white by volume. The deepest is the most powerful. Fillers are bringing all six above mentioned properties DOWN.

In TEACHING LETTER 2 I will explain the different liquids added into the same pigment to get different kind of paints.

Please keep this and the following letters in file,
so you build an extraordinary serie of professional art advices.

Prof. Th. de Beer

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Landscape notes

The following sentences were taken from a recent workshop given by James Richards in Tucker, Georgia. 

James Richards Workshop Notes
 Composition/ Value

     Composition is the abstract arrangement of dark and light masses.

     Value is the lightness or darkness of a color.

     A landscape painting needs a center of interest which dominates the rest of the painting.   This area is enhanced by the following:
       - most detailed drawing
       - sharpest edges, strongest contrast
       - most saturated colors
       - addition of manmade structures, animals, or people
       - complimentary colors
       - should not be placed in the center of the canvas.

     Make your single statement clear and forceful.  Don’t try to say too much.  Many paintings are ruined by this.

     Create at least three planes: foreground, middle ground, and background.  Each has its own dominant value.

     General rule is that there are four planes in a landscape and their value is relevant to their angle to the source of light.  The sky(source of light)- is the lightest.  Ground planes are next lightest.  Slanted planes are next.   Upright planes are darkest.

     Keep your value range tight.  Holding back on value and color creates a certain power in a painting

     It is upon sound values that a picture depends for its solidity and convincing power. 

     Try to visualize the finished painting before you begin.   Do several thumbnails and value studies to help develop a strong idea and design.
Keep it simple.

     Don’t be afraid of editing and moving objects around to help emphasize the main idea.

     Try having a rest area in front of the center of interest.  This allows for some breathing room and really helps set the stage.

     Make sure you use horizontals, verticals, and diagonals, and that one dominates.

     Lean objects inward not outward.

     Try limiting your painting to seven or fewer masses.

     Try to find a way to connect all of the lights or all of the darks.

     Relate every value to one another.  Value relationships are the most import thing in making a painting read.

     Within each mass in a painting, keep the values closer together than what you actually see in nature.

     Remember that the closer together you can paint your lights and shadows in value and still distinguish light from shadow, the better you are as a painter.

     The one unbreakable rule in painting is unequal distribution.
          -of masses
          -light and shadow
          -warm and cool colors
          -soft and hard edges
          -thick and thin paint
          -horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines

Common errors to avoid

- Lines that come from or go to the corners
- Parallel lines
- Repetition of the same size mass
- Dividing the canvas in half
- Kissing edges
- Too many sharp edges
- Equal spacing between objects

Light, Color,  and Atmospheric Perspective

      Light and shadows are opposite in temperature.  Temperature is relevant within each painting.

     Yellow is the warmest color.  Also the first to drop out as you recede in distance.

     The darkest darks are dark and warm up close.  They then lighten, purple, and blue off  as they recede.

     Colors lighten and cool off as they recede.

     It’s good to have one color dominate.

     Compare trees to trees and trees to grass.  You don’t want both the same color.  Nor do you want all of your trees to be the same color.  Look for variety.

     Texture comes forward and thin paint recedes.

     There are subtle temperature shifts within just about every mass.



     An edge is formed where two colors, values, or objects meet.  An edge is either sharp, soft, or somewhere in between.

     Sharp edges can be used with great effectiveness in leading the eye around a painting.

     The strongest contrasts are found up front.  Contrast decreases with distance.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gray - The base for everything

     One of the building blocks that I've been working on with my art is in mixing grays to use in a number of different ways to make the more vibrant colors sing.   Generally mixing  complimentary colors together to get the grays work.    More often mixing ultramarine blue with either burnt sienna and white or raw umber work for a soft gray but vary the gray in your painting by adding some yellow or oranges to it and work the values.

    Always mix a puddle of the colors used in your painting  together  and see if it leans to the cool side or the warm side before adding white for your final gray and again... check your values.   You may need a warm gray or cool gray, darker or lighter... you are the artist.  You choose what is best for your painting, your inspiration, your view, your song. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work of art. The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.

The Principles of design can be thought of as what we do to the elements of design. How we apply the Principles of design determines how successful we are in creating a work of art.

note - the hyperlinks within the text of this page will open information in a new browser window. After you have read that information the window can then be closed leaving this window open.

Line can be considered in two ways. The linear marks made with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes meet.

A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric or organic form. A positive shape in a painting automatically creates a negative shape.

All lines have direction - Horizontal, Vertical or Oblique. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and tranquillity. Vertical gives a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and action
see notes on direction

Size is simply the relationship of the area occupied by one shape to that of another.

Texture is the surface quality of a shape - rough, smooth, soft hard glossy etc. Texture can be physical (tactile) or visual.
see notes on texture

Also called Hue
see notes on colour

Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour. Value is also called Tone
see notes on tonal contrast

Balance in design is similar to balance in physics

A large shape close to the center can be balanced
by a small shape close to the edge. A large light
toned shape will be balanced by a small dark toned
shape (the darker the shape the heavier it appears to be)

Gradation of size and direction produce linear perspective. Gradation of of colour from warm to cool and tone from dark to light produce aerial perspective. Gradation can add interest and movement to a shape. A gradation from dark to light will cause the eye to move along a shape.

Repetition with variation is interesting, without variation repetition can become monotonous.

The five squares above are all the same. They can be taken in and understood with a single glance.

When variation is introduced, the five squares, although similar, are much more interesting to look at. They can no longer be absorbed properly with a single glance. The individual character of each square needs to be considered.

If you wish to create interest, any repeating element should include a degree of variation.

Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements eg. opposite colours on the colour wheel - red / green, blue / orange etc. Contrast in tone or value - light / dark. Contrast in direction - horizontal / vertical.
The major contrast in a painting should be located at the center of interest. Too much contrast scattered throughout a painting can destroy unity and make a work difficult to look at. Unless a feeling of chaos and confusion are what you are seeking, it is a good idea to carefully consider where to place your areas of maximum contrast.

Harmony in painting is the visually satisfying effect of combining similar, related elements. eg.adjacent colours on the colour wheel, similar shapes etc.

Dominance gives a painting interest, counteracting confusion and monotony. Dominance can be applied to one or more of the elements to give emphasis

Relating the design elements to the the idea being expressed in a painting reinforces the principal of a painting with an active aggressive subject would work better with a dominant oblique direction, course, rough texture, angular lines etc. whereas a quiet passive subject would benefit from horizontal lines, soft texture and less tonal contrast.

Unity in a painting also refers to the visual linking of various elements of the work.

After studying these notes on the elements and principals of design, try this exercise


image to see an enlarged view.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Papa, Mama, baby

Color and the composition Balance Formula (1,2,3 or Papa, Mama, baby, or mostly, some and a bit you choose how you can best remember)

Color IS part of composition and especially in the landscape. One sure way to make a boring painting is to use your colors equally dispersed throughout your painting. As an example, if you use equal quantities of warm and cool colors there will be no dominance and no variety making your painting uninteresting.

You can study color theory and try to apply what you know but above all if you can remember to check your color balance then your chances of making a successful painting will be greater. Try this 1,2,3 formula checklist:

1. Does your painting colors lean more to cool, warm or an equal mix of color? If your painting leans more to cool, then you need to consider where you will use some warmer colors to give the painting zip. Or, if you painting shows mostly warm colors you need to consider where you could use some cool colors. A good rule is to use the 1 part, 2 part, three part formula to keep the painting from being boring.
2. Does your painting have mostly dark, mostly light or an equal mix? Again, use the 1 part, 2 part, 3 part formula to keep the painting interesting.
3. Does your painting carry mostly pure colors, tints, shades or tones? Would your painting benefit from the using the 1 part, 2 part, three part formula in this regard?
4. Have you placed some color in your painting that contrasts with the main color balance in your painting but still with consideration to the balance formula? (Think red-green, yellow-purple, blue-orange.)
5. Are all your colors distributed equally or would your painting benefit from thinking 1 part, 2 part, three part?
6. Does your painting show color value ranges, temperature, intensity, various color planes, color textures and color shapes.

Color notes

Color notes

Review what Complementary colors are

Things to remember

1. Remember how our eye sees when looking through air. Value differences decrease with distance: the lights get darker and the darks get lighter. Values get closer together. You will not use pure white or pure black in distant areas of your painting.

2. All things have a basic color. This color (hue) does not change. We can only alter the basic color of objects. If we want to paint a red apple, then we will use variations of the red color. In other words, we will use red as our mother color and just add other colors to it to make variations we see in the apple which help us make the apple have volume instead of laying flat on the paper.

3. It helps to remember to use three values for our darks and three for our lights.

4. Colors in the light sides of objects are painted using warm colors.

5. Colors in the distant side of objects are painted with cool colors, but note that distant objects with light sides are painted with warms, but have cools mixed in too. The exception can be the light side of clouds. For clouds in the sun, you begin with ice cold white, tined with warms such as orange, cad red or cad yellow.

6. Colors in the dark side of objects are painted using cool colors.

When in doubt about a shadow color, use FUB.

&. Shadows are lighter as they move away from the object making the shadow.

Warm colors (light sides)

Cad Yellow Medium

Cadmium Orange (high value)

Burnt Sienna (Dark Value Orange)

Cadmium Red

Sap Green

Thalo Blue

Cool Colors (Dark sides)

Lemon yellow (Hansa yellow/Azo yellow or Yellow ochre

Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber mixed with yellow Ochre

Burnt Umber

Alizarin Crimson

Thalo Green

Ultramarine Blue