Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chinese Brush: Color

After working in grays and black for so long, color feels like a breath of fresh air.

After much searching on amazon, I found the set we use in class:

Our instructor showed us the powered color that her master used to use. They are brilliant, vivid colors. Half are from rocks that have been grounded into dust and half are organic --but almost all of them are poisonous. Which makes sense, all the brightest colors in nature usually warn predators of poison.

Because half the colors are minerals and half are organic, if you see ancient paintings, half the colors will still be bright and vivid (the minerals) and half the colors will be fading away (the organic colors).

Another interesting not about these powdered colors is that since they are nothing but dust, they need to be mixed with a type of glue to get them to hold together and actually be usable to paint.

Thankfully we have the set of paints from above. They are much cheaper than the powers, you don't have to do any work to make them usable and they come directly from china, using the same materials they've used for thousands of years.

Using Color

The tubes are a very thin metal. GENTLY squeeze them from the BOTTOM. They are known to break under the wrong kind of pressure. So if you squeeze from the center, you'll probably create a hole in the bottom end which just leads to a mess. If the opening has dried up, just use a push-pin or something to make a fresh hole.

Squeeze out the colors you're going to use into the sections of your pallet from lightest to darkest. The most common colors (the ones I often see on my instructor's pallet) are yellow, indigo (blue), burnt sienna (brown), carmine red, rouge (dark red), and a bright orange.

The first thing you'll notice is that there is no green. We mix yellow and indigo blue to create green, but we never premix the colors. Leave yellow and indigo separate.

The same way we have been loading the brush from lightest gray to straight black, we also load colors from lightest to darkest. So when we make green, we load the brush with a good amount of yellow, then put some indigo on the tip. Then we move to an empty cell on the pallet and just smear the tip a little so we have a green tip and the rest of the brush is yellow. No when you make a stroke, it will start as green and fade to yellow each time you use it.

This is why we don't premix our green. Take a look at my poppy flower's stem. That's one stroke from top to bottom. The way the yellow breaks through give it a warm feeling, like being hit by sunlight. You can't get this effect if you premix the green.

When you feel your brush is two yellow, you can just go straight to the indigo again and add more blue to the tip. (no reason to waste all that yellow that's already on the brush).

Also note: in my stem, it breaks up a little on the left side. This is because I was moving my brush too fast. Straight color doesn't absorb and spread the way our watery grays do. So slow down a little (unless you're purposely using watery colors, which is a different topic all together).

The same technique with two colors on the brush was used for the poppy's leaves and petals. Remember, we don't layer our colors like other styles of painting, so when we painted the petals of the flower, we painted front to back. The petals are just dabs, not strokes. We laid the brush down on it's side and lifted it off the paper. For the petals in the front, I laid the brush all the way down on it's side. For the petals in the back, I just didn't lay the brush down as much and instead held it at a 45 degree angle when I made the dab. The dabs themselves are slow. I laid it on the paper, pushed a little for a second or so, then lifted. It wasn't a fast tapping motion.

For the leaves, you see I used the same colors as the petals, but this time I laid the brush on the paper on it's side, pushed a little, rubbed in a small circle, then lifted. It's the rubbing that gives the leaves a more blended, softer look compared to the petals.

*DON'T* Clean Up

When you're done, there's no need to clean up your pallet. Place the entire thing in a zip-lock bag. Later, even if the colors dry, you can reactivate them with some water. An easy way to do this is to get a bottle that sprays a mist of water (like breath freshener or hairspray does)

You can also use the mist of water on colors that get a little dry while you're painting.

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