Again, I’m starting this entry without a picture in hand, 🙂 but recent events have gotten me to the point of realizing another something very special: “Appreciate what you have, before buying more.” This applies in a number of areas: paints, paintbrushes, books, beads, pens, inks, papers.

I’ve also come to the point where I know I am a bit tired of what I have been working on. The painting, that is. I’ve been working on it for months, very sporadically. It is an echo of someone else’s work which I took on because M desired to have a more permanent version of it. I can feel myself wanting to do something else, however.

Probably, this is understandable, given that there are creative boundaries going on here — I’m not sure to what extent to “copy” the work, and to what extent to build upon the foundation given. Most particularly, this applies to the color scheme: the original is mostly in earth tones and blues. It’s also characteristic of what has happened when I’ve taken on projects with design input or requests from others. It’s just not, totally, mine. And actually, I think I went over this very problem on one of my other blogs. It’s why I decided not to do custom work for payment — I give up too much autonomy. Where is the room for my vision?

It’s very…apparent, to me, where I have an incomprehensible, unexplainable love of color, and the painting I’m re-making does not take advantage of that, at all.

Today I just tested out two different red pigments, and actually understood what people were talking about online when they mentioned, “color overtone,” as versus, “color undertone,” and, “masstone.”

Unfortunately, I literally have little to no idea where the initial explanation (the one that actually explained something about the phenomena, and made sense) is. My best recollection is that it is somewhere on WetCanvas, but I have no idea which thread (or in what year I even accessed it). I’ve linked to a discussion which does go over the differences, though. (You’ll see some of the main players repeating the same information in different threads on the same site.)

Fortunately, if the differences distinguishing between “undertone” and “overtone” remain constant, there’s the chance that the distinctions between the terms may also remain relatively constant between explanations. (Note that I am not referencing definitions for the same terms when used in cosmetics, or the same terms as used in music…)

An undertone, in this sense, may be the color that displays itself when paint is applied as a glaze or wash (applied thinly with a palette knife, or diluted with a clear medium [like acrylic gel medium] or water), whereas an overtone is the direction the color leans when it is physically mixed with white. (Overtone and undertone do not necessarily show the same hue shifts.) A masstone, then, would be the color which appears in a thick application (as on the color swatches applied to the tubes I used — this is something Golden does which is, actually, very nice).

An image showing swatches of color of the paint contained inside the tubes. On the left is Naphthol Red Light; on the right is Pyrrole Red Light. They look almost the same, except the Pyrrole is more opaque.
Paint swatches indicating masstone and opacity at the top of Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Paint tubes.

This has been very apparent in my experimenting with Golden’s Naphthol Red Light (PR112), as versus Golden’s Pyrrole Red Light (PR255). In looking at the masstone, especially on a computer screen, these colors…well, let me say that trying to communicate subtle color differences through a computer screen from a digital photo or scan is almost a useless thing, although in some cases, it works. At best, you get a good approximation of the actual color, and an idea of the relationships between different colors within the same image.

Caveat: I have not calibrated the screen I normally use to match, as closely as possible, true color: I have long ago forgotten how to do this (if I ever knew)!

In real life, however: Naphthol Red Light and Pyrrole Red Light appear almost indistinguishable, in masstone. The above image compares the masstone and opacity swatches on both paint tubes. I’ve tried to use indirect daylight here (in all but my last image, which was taken years ago), in an attempt to approximate the actual colors.

PR255 (Pyrrole) is noticeably warmer in temperature and oranger in overtone, even in a photo, but the (relatively) blue-leaning tendency, or overtone, of PR112 (Naphthol) is mostly not noticeable until adding white. At that point, it looks a bit more like a floral than a flesh tone (though who says flesh tones have to be what any one person thinks they are?). In these mixes, I used Golden Titanium White (PW6), which does lean a little bluish.

Along the top, I've mixed Pyrrole Red Light plus Titanium White in a scale of tints. Just below this, I've mixed Naphthol Red Light plus Titanium White, in the same scale. The Pyrrole leans orange, while the Naphthol leans relatively bluer.
Pyrrole Red Light plus Titanium White (top); Naphthol Red Light plus the same white (bottom).

When Naphthol Red Light is mixed with Liquitex Ultramarine (PB29), the violet that results is not the stark blue-violet which I’m used to (rivaling Liquitex Dioxazine Purple [PV23 RS] — from mixing Ultramarine [PB29], with Liquitex Quinacridone Magenta [PR122]), but something warmer, just a little too bluish to be eggplant (of course, that could be due to my proportions: I had to end my mixing session before I could fully investigate). This mixture of Naphthol Red Light and Ultramarine, also greys out very quickly when mixed with Titanium White.

An area of pink drops down into a violet patch on a white background. At the bottom of the image is a single brushstroke which is violet at the bottom and red at the top.

I would expect Pyrrole Red Light to make a much duller violet when mixed with Ultramarine, as it has a strong orange bias — but the orange bias is, in fact, the reason I got it. Having primaries with differing color biases does seriously affect the colors you can mix with them. Because I predicted such poor results in attempting a violet with the Pyrrole, I did not get around to mixing it in this session.

I also tried mixing both reds with Liquitex Yellow Medium Azo (PY74), to see if there were appreciable differences in the oranges that would result. I predicted the Pyrrole Red Light would make a more luminous orange, as I was using an orange-leaning red with an middling, intense yellow. It did make oranges which were easily more yellow in tone than the Naphthol Red Light.

Along the right side, I've brushed out mixed color between a mid-orange and a dark yellow. At the bottom of the image is a patch of mixed red-orange to orange, curling back on itself.
The Naphthol Red Light did have a much higher tinting strength than the Pyrrole Red Light.

Kind of predictably, the Naphthol Red Light resulted in more intense red-oranges; I don’t know why just a little violet bias in the red makes a mixture look, “redder,” but then, there is the fact that magenta plus yellow makes red (in a subtractive color model, at least).

What we’re told in elementary school about “red” being a primary color, and thus unobtainable from the mixture of any other colors, is an oversimplification. Red isn’t exactly the same as magenta, anymore than blue is exactly the same as cyan. Both “red” and “blue” may be classes which contain colors such as “magenta” and “cyan” as members, respectively. Magenta is red enough for my mixing purposes, however (it could only otherwise be considered a violet), and I don’t think there’s currently any PM color designation. 🙂 Not like that matters, but…well, let me just say that color names (and to some extent, color models) are cultural in nature.

There is a bit of a violet color bias present in the magenta. Does this similarity in color bias between Naphthol Red Light and magenta, create a more intensely “red” red-orange too, as versus an orange-leaning red plus the same yellow? It makes sense somehow, but it’s hard to think out, analytically.

Somewhat less predictably, the Naphthol was much more powerful at tinting the Yellow Medium Azo, than was Pyrrole Red Light. Maybe I had too much on my brush, but it was very difficult to get rid of that last hint of Naphthol! Did I overload my brush? Is it possible to overload my brush? The Pyrrole made a bright red-orange through a glowing yellow-orange, but without the unusually high tinting strength.

After rinsing my brush, I’ve got to remember to put Glazing Medium into the bristles, before dipping it into the paint. Otherwise, I can get weird paint bleeds when trying to do wet-in-wet blending (as in my second photo with the Naphthol color).

In any case, the big-picture differences between the Naphthol Red and the Pyrrole Red appear so minor as not to be greatly significant — with the possible (uninvestigated) exception of the mixed violets which are always so troublesome to the new painter. What is significant, I can see, is using a consistent set of colors for a painting. In mixing the oranges and the one violet, plus creating the tints of each red, I can see the Pyrrole Red harmonizing with the oranges made with the Pyrrole Red. I also see harmony between the Naphthol Red and the red-oranges and violet I mixed with it — though moreso, with the pinks and the violet. I don’t know why the red-orange isn’t as aligned…maybe it is because Naphthol Red Light leans blue, and both the pinks and violet are bluish?

Because of this, I’m considering intentionally using a limited palette in the near future, to see what moods I can get to arise; although using more than one primary red could be interesting, so long as I blended them. I actually have a drawing I did a while back — and the reference photo to go with it — in which I could use these warm colors and see where I could take it:

A drawing in red, orange, and yellow done in Neocolor I wax pastels on a black background. This image is based on succulent plants I saw, years ago.
From February 2016.

I did the above in NeoColor I wax pastels, years ago. The black paper, I have now realized, cannot be Artagain paper, which I originally thought it was: it’s way too thin, and still has indented lines from how it was made. It’s also much larger than my largest Artagain pad, at 15″ x 25″. I recalled Artagain coal black paper to be prone to fading, but — after having been through much of my archive, just now — I’m not sure exactly which black paper I used, where (at this point I have at least two large pads of heavy black paper of different brands), and should probably withdraw the statement at this point in time.

I should also note that the original drawing is (at least, now) much fainter than the image, above — which is even more reason to rework it in paints.

I did not use any medium to liquefy the NeoColors, but they also come in water-soluble form (NeoColor IIs), in more colors than the water resistant NeoColor Is (I think there are 40 different NeoColor Is, and 84 different NeoColor IIs, at present. EDIT, 5/18/22: There are 50 different NeoColor Is; ten of them are metallics). I found the Neocolor IIs so grainy when liquefied, however, that I decided to stick with the water-resistant originals. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that means that I then cannot use these as underdrawings on canvas…if I’m working in acrylics (which are water-based), that is. Oil painters may have a different experience.

I’m surprised at the painterly quality of these…it does look like a good idea to use them for preliminary studies for paintings (even if not underdrawings)! This is as versus doing line drawings in pencil: I need to get more into using value and blocks of color.

Maybe that will energize my work more, at this point?

In any case — I have realized that I’ve been doing a lot of buying and not a lot of work, with what I’m buying. I believe that if I did the work, it would relieve the urge to buy more (the latter of which, may stem from feeling starved for the work) — although I did find some brushes which are so beautiful that it really makes me want to get more. No, I haven’t used them yet. Ugh.

The hog-bristle brushes which I’m using (I’m sorry — I said these were not interlocked-bristle, but they are), are just a bit inaccurate and hairy, at the beginning and end of a stroke. The thing is, it’s not like they are unusable. They just are what they are. They have texture, and there is a place for texture. Is that all the time what I want, though?

And I can kind of see why people used to point brushes with their mouths, being entirely ignorant of toxicology (or otherwise having a death wish…which would not be unusual). Pointing a brush with your mouth is never advised, by the way. It can kill you, depending on your pigments (see, for example, the book Radium Girls by Kate Moore), and poisoning isn’t a nice way to go. It’s better just to buy a brush that will hold a point at the same time as it will disperse your paint in the way you want it to.

Holding a point isn’t always the hard part. It’s the paint release that gets me — but maybe this is less of a problem when using heavy-body paints, than with watercolors. I haven’t returned to the canvas for long enough to really know how my brushes are performing, or what size and shape brushes I actually may need, if I were to purchase more.

It’s always easier to shop than it is to work, however.

I think I’ll get back to that painting — you know, the one of which, I said I was getting tired. I can make some good progress on it today, while the sun is up. The quicker it’s done, that is, the quicker I can get on to other things…

%d bloggers like this: