Saturday, April 3, 2010

Deer's Done

And here's the completed Celtic deers. Instructions call for using gouache but I opted for watercolor. Something like six hours.

I have read about pigments available in the past. What did Celtic artists work with? In spirit, I tried working with earth colors--Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber. But, I did use dabs of Winsor Violet and Cerulean Blue. Today I was reading about limited palettes, in particular the Velasquez, so I tried to make my purple with Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue but only got to a nice brown. I've not done much with watercolor so there's plenty to learn about color mixing. Where I had fun and surprise was in simply diluting a paint. I found wonderful colors trapped within a dark pigment.


  1. I really like this; I think the watercolor gives it a 'life' that gouache may not have allowed. You are so right about color mixing- that is one area where one can experiment forever.
    Check out the Daniel Smith line of watercolors, particularly the' Primatek' colors as they are made of earth pigments/minerals exclusively. I have a couple of their older/discontinued colors that are quite unique.
    After all is said and done though, personally I work with a very limited palette, changing out a color here and there over the years, but rarely do I ever have more than about 12 colors total. Then each piece of artwork will probably only use half of those colors.
    Just like finding "your" paper, you will develop your own distinctive palette of colors as well.

  2. I think that for now I will stick with watercolor, using gouache only for the sparkly effect. Just yesterday I was on the Daniel Smith website checking out the Primateks. They have a "Best of Show" set on sale right now that I might bite on. Catalog's on the way, too.

    With a watercolor class coming up in less than two months, I figure that getting oriented now makes sense. Plus, it is so much fun to use color!

    By the way, that Dover book is awesome. Thank you so much for the tip. I'll probably have more to say in an upcoming post, that is, once I get a chance to really dig in.

  3. Been away for a few days, came back to find your Celtic zoomorphs! They are great. The way you have handled the colour fill in relation to the outlines (variegated, darker in the centre of the beasts, darker round their outlines in the background) -- and the limited palette of earth colours -- show off the form and emphasises the splashes of lighter, brighter colour -- as well as giving the composition unity and historical sensitivity.

    I love modern work with Celtic design but sometimes enthusiasts go overboard with pure, brilliant, opaque pigment and the overall result is flat and gaudy. Your watercolour much more closely approaches what happens when paint is applied on vellum, ie slight patchiness and colour variation according to the background texture and translucency of the paint.

    Re Celtic illumination and gold: they mixed a yellow which you can approximate with cadmium yellow, titanium white or similar, and a dab of ochre to break it. On the original mss it's noticeable that this yellow 'glows' more brilliantly because the surrounding background vellum has darkened with time and fingerprints to a shade which is slightly duller than the yellow.

    Re colour mixing I fell utterly in love with Michael Wilcox's Blue And Yellow Don't Make Green for its simple redefinition of colour combinations. Made life a whole heap easier because it lets you predict what any combination will look like before mixing.

    In terms of knotwork I have not got more than the basic principles and practice exercises up on my site yet, but for more about the geometry behind the designs you might like the Aidan Meehan books which are relatively inexpensive ...

  4. Hey thanks, Katharine! That is, for the review and all the tips. Your book recommendations are on the way.

    I'll be picking up some titanium white watercolor. Very interested in seeing how I can make that work out.