50 Watercolors 50 Oil Paintings inspired by my retreat in Tuscany
Living in the tiny hilltop village of Poggio Alla Croce for two months, I have been able to focus on painting. Exploring color for the pure pleasure of feeling its flow and vibrancy is a treat. I hope you will join me in my studio in Cobbs Creek, Virginia. Come experience the color and joy of a retreat in Tuscany!
The important thing about experimental watercolor painting is using good pigments. Not because you think you are going to make good paintings ~ because good pigments give rich colors your heart can feel. THIS is important!
If your heart doesn’t beat a little faster when you see the color hit your paper, you haven’t made the connection!
You will know you’ve made the all important connection when you feel your heart say, “oh wow I love that,”
Artist’s paints are true pigments with rich formulations. Student paints are not. They are diluted synthetic substitutes. It will be very difficult (if not impossible) for your heart to feel the energy of color resonance with them. If you are trying to save money, buy only a few good artist’s colors and use them. Don’t waste your money on student grade paint.
Artist Quality Pigments
My watercolor palette consists of only 6 colors. I use two reds, Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red Medium; two blues, Ultramarine Blue and Cerulian Blue; and two yellows, Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Medium. With watercolor you do not need white paint.
One small tube of each will last a long time. Each brush stroke is 80% water and 20% pigment. This is another reason good pigments are so important.
My palette will help you learn to mix colors. The three primary colors, red, blue and yellow, are used to create most secondary and tertiary colors. By the time you need other colors on your palette, you will know which ones you can’t mix with these.
What to Paint On?
How color feels depends on what it is next to. If you paint a stroke of brilliant red paint on a greenish sheet of paper, it will look dull and lifeless. You will think you can’t paint! And you will give up and never feel the thrill of color beating in your heart.
Use good quality watercolor paper like ARCHES. Or make your own painting panels with Absorbent White Gesso so your colors will make your heart sing. This is why you are painting in the first place?
When I picked watercolor back up after 30 years, I bought 4 packs of Strathmore Watercolor Postcards for pocket change. Painting 30 of them changed my life.
Brushes, Pens & Palette
Two brushes are sufficient. I use one 1/2″ flat and one #8 pointed round brush. I currently use Creative Mark’s Minik brushes because they are less expensive than sables and hold up well to my abuse.
The biggest mistake is using a brush that is small. My two brushes look too big to many beginners. A big brush helps you see the big shapes of color. Keep it simple, bold and big ~ especially on a postcard sized painting.
Felt Tip Pens
On my way to France, I picked up two felt tip pens, one sage green the other sienna. These colors are earthy, so when I draw back into my painting with a few squiggly lines it grounds the fluid dream to the page. You might prefer different colors. Use your gut and pick two.
A flat 9 x 12 plastic palette is inexpensive, less than $8 and can be slipped into a plastic bag. It does not matter if the watercolor paint dries out on the palette. Just add water to soften the paint. To wash it off, simply rinse under a faucet and wipe with a paper towel.
Eight small wells are for paint squeezed from the tube. 12 large wells are for mixing colors together with lots of water. LOTS OF WATER is the key to painting with watercolors.
I have seen people use white plastic plates as palettes. This could work, but would be awkward and get expensive. Without separate wells to mix colors, you would going through plates quickly.
We’ve all heard of pastel colors, jewel tones, and earth colors. But what are they ~ really? What makes them what they are? And why should you care?
If you don’t already know which of these 3 palettes is YOU, take a moment to scan the 3 images below.
Which one draws you in?
Which feels most comfortable to you?
Which one IS you?
Is there one you hate?
Jewel Tones Palette
How do the Jewel tones make you feel?
Jewel tones are pure pigment, or nearly pure pigment. Very saturated colors. Intense.
The colors in this painting; Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Violet, Vermilion, Magenta, Veridian, Cadmium Yellow, Turquoise have been mixed with just enough white to bring the color identity to light.
The dark center of the flowers is Prussian Blue pure pigment. It appears black, but is not. If black were substituted for this color, it would appear lifeless and dead.
Charvin Jewel Colors
Ruby Red, Rubine Lake, French Red Light, Diamond Orange,
French Yellow Orange, French Yellow, Anise, Meadow Green, Peacock, Emerald, Intense Turquoise, Deep Turquoise, French Cobalt Blue, Deep Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Rembrandt Vermilion, Rembrandt Quinacridone Rose, Sennelier Rose
Now let’s look at the colors in this pastel palette. How do these colors feel to you?
Pastel tones are the same pure pigments, mixed with white. This dilutes the pigment. The dark in this example is actually Shadow Green. Mixed with Provence Blue, the color beside the full strength Shadow Green feels pastel.
Please note: this is an oil painting, not a pastel painting. My discussion here is about pastel tones, not the medium of pastels.
Charvin Pastel Colors
Naples Yellow, Incarnat, Celadon Green, Green Gray Light, Water Green, Tropical Green, St Remy Green, Deep Opaline Green, St Remy Blue, Caraibes, Royal Blue, Bright Linen, Leaded Gray
Earth Tones Palette
How do Earth Colors make you feel?
Earth colors are created from pigments found in the earth, Carmine, Red Earth, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Siena, Charcoal, Zinc White. These elements are literally dug from the earth and ground up fine like sugar. This granular pigment is then used to create oil paint, acrylics, watercolors and pastels.
Charvin Earth Colors
Yellow Ochre, Raw Siena, Transparent Yellow Ochre, Pouzzoles Red, Aubere Pink, Raw Umber, Savana, Green Shell, Deep Celadon Green
Here is a section of my pastel palette with one of my color charts. Which palette would you say this is?
HINT There may be more than one right answer!
I see y’all are voting heavily for the Jewel Tone Palette! Me too! However, there’s something I’ve discovered about balancing colors that requires all three. In doing my artist residencies in France and Italy, I’ve discovered a Color Fusion Palette that creates harmony. Here’s an example.
Can you see the difference between Waking Dreams IV and Blooming? Waking Dreams incorporates all three palettes. Learn more about my Color Fusion Palette in my Awakening Hearts Series and how you can use it in your home to create wellness, serenity, and vitality.