Farewell to Sienna

Farewell-Sienna-1 (2)

  • 1: Burnt Sienna from tube (Windsor and Newton Alkyd);
  • 2: Alarizon Crimson and Ultramarine Blue (Windsor & Newton Artist Oil);
  • 3: Mix 2 plus some W&N Indian Yellow;
  • 4: Mix 3 plus more W&N Indian Yellow (very little);
  • 5: Mix 4 plus more W&N Indian Yellow (very little);
  • 6: Mix 5 plus more W&N Indian Yellow (very little, + maybe some white, cannot remember!);

I am becoming painfully aware of how much I still have to learn about colour mixing. Interestingly, this happens especially when I am trying to get at an abstract image I have in my mind.

I recently read again Kevin MacPherson’s great book on landscape painting. Ever since reading the well-known statement on simplicity by Thoreau in On Walden Pond (below), I am striving to maximise simplicity. In the case of painting, that means a small palette of colour balanced by a large set of skills in mixing colour.

So a few weekends ago I spent the day mixing colour using McPherson’s demonstrations. One of the things I tried was to mix a match for the last bit of Burnt Sienna I had. The above shows one way to get quite close without using any white. In this case I started from purple. Note that I am not looking to match the colour 100% in terms of chromatic properties, but merely to get an approximate match in terms of warmth and emotional tone.

The image below shows another way to get at it, this time starting from orange and adding white:

Farewell-Sienna-2 (2)

  1. Burnt Sienna from tube (Windsor and Newton Alkyd)
  2. Alarizon Crimson and Indian Yellow (Windsor and Newston Artist Oil)
  3. Mix 2 plus some W&N Ultramarine Blue
  4. Mix 3 plus W&N Titanium White (very little)
  5. Mix 4 plus more W&N Titanium White (very little)

These exercises were very informative to me, and gave me confidence that my very limited palette of earth colours could easily mix most of what I am after. Interestingly, I still have the colour mixes (done on canvas paper), and in both cases the mixed versions have retained their intensity while the burnt sienna out of the tube has gone a bit dead. This may be because it is Alkyd and not pure artist quality Oil, I am not sure.

For different reasons, I have decided to keep as part of my limited palette an earth red instead of Alarizon Crimzon. But after many years I am going to switch from Burnt Sienna to Old Holland’s Transparent Oxide Red. My recently posted Moon Landscape (Painting #50) and also my next post will feature an underpainting done with this beautiful colour.

As promised, here are some wise words by Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

This quote copied from The Walden Woods Project

Many thanks to all of you who have encouraged me with likes, comments and especially to all followers of my blog.

7 thoughts on “Farewell to Sienna

  1. You are moving towards the above mixtures to get to a better “sienna like” color but that exhibits life in the mix…. Does this apply as well to watercolor? Your swatches above definitely show BS to be insipid….. Simplicity, yes! lately I have been brow beating myself on thinking that my work is not intricate or complex enough and yet, I am not after complex and detailed, so why fret? I am after feeling and affect without all the jewelry. I suspect it is the same with you, which is ludicrous to even point out to you come to think of it. Your paintings are chock full of feeling and yet you manage to convey that with a minimum of detail. Without you knowing it, you have helped my personal angst/personal cause against my chasing complexity. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Margaret. I have to say I do dislike detail in my own paintings, though some modern masters can pull off details to wonderful effect.
      Regarding burnt sienna in watercolor – that is a different story for me compared to oil. In watercolor, I can get really beautiful gray using Ult. Blue and B. Sienna, and I don’t think I will be able to do without it. I have never had A. Crimzon on my watercolor palette. In watercolor I mix colour by overlaying single colours, one dry layer over another. I seldom mix colours on my palette, although I know that is the way most masters – including you! – probably do it. Sometimes when laying down a first wash I may bleed some other colours into an area, but I do not mix extensively on my palette.
      So in summary, I cannot really comment on whether one would be able to achieve the same mix in watercolor. Nice exercise to do though!

      Liked by 1 person

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