Saturday, August 14, 2010
I wanted to begin the post tonight by drawing your attention to an excellent series of posts being written over on the Underpaintings blog by Mathew Innis. He has been writing about Ebauche which is the formal system of underpainting popular with 19th century artists. It is illustrated with examples from that era as well as our own. The link I have provided is to the first in the series. The internet is so cool. Information like this was nearly unavailable in my student days. I am not someone who works in this manner, but it is good to know about, maybe you might. It is a very logical way to build a picture in the studio, and of particular use to figure painters.
Ocher is my second yellow, I actually use gold ocher from RGH. It is like yellow ocher but has golden yellow color as it's name implies. It is made with a synthetic iron oxide. The real ochers are often muddy looing and I like the clear strong synthetic versions better.That is the only ocher on my palette,(well technically you could call burnt sienna an ocher) but here are many varieties of ochers. This is mankind's oldest pigment, and the earliest paintings were executed in ochers on the walls of caves. Naturally occurring clay bearing oxides of iron is the source for this pigment and it can vary widely in color from, a pale yellow through red to brown. There are even some blueish ochers.
Yellow ocher ( that's probably what you use, so I will use that example) is a dependable, permanent and semi-transparent pigment. It is not "clean" like a cadmium but has a wonderful brownish tone and covers very well. When I look at old paintings it is obvious that ochers were used extensively. I have worked using only yellow ocher, ivory black and sienna. It is a basic workhorse color that I use routinely. Many painters today have only three colors and don't use earth colors, but I like the look they give in a painting and would part with them only reluctantly. If I could have only one yellow though, it would be Cadmium yellow.
Iron oxide yellow can be made in a more highly colored version in the lab. This is mars yellow. I believe that many yellow ochers are enhanced with Mars yellow today. That doesn't seem to me to be a drawback. I have experimented some with mars colors and while they are not currently on my palette, I like them, they are sort of an ocher on steroids. They too are permanent and reliable colors. Yellow ocher and indeed all ochers vary widely from one manufacturer to another, and some are very strong and others quite gray and seem dirty next to the more powerful gold ocher I use.
Because it is an inexpensive pigment and absolutely reliable if you must paint on a tight budget, ocher is a color you should include on your palette. It is also handy if you are trying to obtain an old master look. It is useful in skies as its slightly reddish color provides warmth. Ocher is also good for painting rocks and foliage in sunlight. It mixes with various blues, or viridian to form less assertive greens than the cadmiums.
Red ocher or mars red are nice colors too, I sometimes add mars red to my palette, it is a little like Indian red but cleaner. Those red Venetian buildings in Sargents paintings look like mars red to me. I have never used a blue ocher, or even seen one. I suspect it might be useful to a portrait painter, but I can't imagine it having any usefulness to me outside.
Last night I recommended RGH Naples yellow, and I realized today that I haven't bought it in a while and I should make sure it is still authentic, although they are good about that kind of thing, which is one of the reasons I like their paint. I will get back to you on that, but if you want to order it, call them and ask.