Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TOP 10: Ten Things Every Watercolorist Should Know About RED

This week's theme is bold and bright RED !

Red is the color we associate with dynamic qualities like passion, sexuality, energy, and action; but, it also conjures up things like fire, heat, and danger.  So, it seemed like the perfect theme for the end of July -- with all the record-breaking heat across the country, and of course, the wildfires out here in Colorado.  (Thank God for the rain in the last few weeks.)

For centuries, red has been an important color on artists' palettes.  It's one of the most exuberant colors an artist can add to a painting -- creating excitement and warmth.





Here are 10 important things about the color RED that I think everyone who paints in watercolor should know:



1)  YOU WILL NEED MORE THAN ONE RED ON YOUR PALETTE -- All reds are not created equal, and within the RED family, there is an amazing variety of reds to choose from -- ranging from the warmest red-orange to the coolest magenta.  It can get a little confusing; for example, a "true red" is warmer than a "hot pink".  Basically, you should have 1 or 2 WARM REDS and 3 or 4 COOL REDS.



2)  WARM REDS MAKE BEAUTIFUL ORANGES, when mixed with yellow.  You really don't need to have a tube orange.  WARM REDS MAKE UGLY VIOLETS, when mixed with any blue.  You really only need one warm red (2 at the most).  Some possible warm reds are Cadmium Red, Winsor Red, Permanent Red, Quinacridone Red, and Scarlet Lake.  (Cadmium Red is not as toxic as cadmium red pastels, since no dry particles are breathed in with watercolor -- just don't lick your brush).  Winsor Red is a brilliant hue and very transparent for a warm red.  Still, any warm red can take on an opaque quality, if applied too heavily.



3)  ALIZARIN CRIMSON (A COOL RED) MAKES A BEAUTIFUL BLACK, when mixed with Winsor (Pthalo) Green, and IT MAKES A GORGEOUS VIOLET, when mixed with either Pthalo Blue or French Ultramarine.  Alizarin Crimson used to be a "fugitive" color, meaning that it would fade over time.  But, you can now buy -- and should buy -- a "Permanent Alizarin Crimson".  This is a transparent, staining color, that spreads like crazy when applied wet-in-wet.  It can easily take over a mixture, since it's so strong, which is why it's main use is for dark applications.



4)  QUINACRIDONE ROSE (A COOL RED) CREATES A LOVELY WARM GLOW WHEN USED FOR GLAZING.  This cool transparent red (rose) is also necessary when painting flowers and flesh tones.  And, it's great when used as an accent color in cool areas of a painting.  Mingle Quinacridone Rose with Cobalt Blue -- wet-in-wet -- for clouds, or for shadows on light objects.



5)  TWO OTHER COOL REDS THAT ARE NICE TO HAVE ON YOUR PALETTE ARE QUINACRIDONE MAGENTA AND PERYLENE MAROON -- not NECESSARY, but NICE.
Quinacridone Magenta is a strange but beautiful contradiction -- a very cool red that wants to be a violet.  Perylene Maroon is a fairly new color for me, but I am growing to love this deep cool brick-red.



6)  ARRANGE YOUR REDS ON YOUR PALETTE NEXT TO THEIR "FRIENDLY NEIGHBORS" -- Your Warm Reds (Cadmium Red & Winsor Red) should be closest to your orange; then your Cool Reds (Alizarin Crimson & Quinacridone Rose); then, your coolest reds (Perylene Maroon & Quinacridone Magenta) are closest to your violet.



7)  The inherent value of a RED is medium, or mid tone.  TO LIGHTEN THE VALUE OF A RED, JUST ADD WATER, NOT WHITE.  TO DARKEN THE VALUE OF A RED, ADD A VIOLET OR A LITTLE BLUE, NOT BLACK.



8)  RED FLOWERS HAVE THEIR COMPLEMENTARY COLOR (GREEN) RIGHT NEXT TO THEM IN NATURE, WHICH MAKES THE RED FLOWERS LOOK EVEN BRIGHTER.  Complements enhance each other when placed NEXT to each other.  A green leaf will visually magnify a pink or red flower.  The red color will look closer to you than the green color.  You can also lower the intensity of the red flower by adding a touch of green to it, which neutralizes it.



9)  WHEN PAINTING A RED SUBJECT, USE BOTH THE WARM AND COOL VERSIONS OF RED, WITHIN THE SAME SUBJECT.  Red can look dull and boring very easily, believe it or not.  So, mingle the warm and cool reds together.  Also, a yellow underpainting can add vibrancy and warmth to your mingled reds.  And, after the red dries, losing some of its intensity, you can apply a 2nd wash of the mingled reds, to achieve saturation, but still be transparent.



10)  RED CATCHES YOUR EYE AND ADVANCES IN YOUR COMPOSITION, BUT TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING, WITH NO CONTRAST, CAN HAVE THE OPPOSITE EFFECT.  Contrast can be more powerful than the intrinsic power of a color.  Red will demand your attention and appear to come forward, when compared to other colors, like dark blue, which appears to recede in space.  When surrounded by other warm colors, like warm greens and golds, red will shine.

5 comments:

  1. I do so enjoy reading your posts---I will make a copy of this to go in my notebook---great info!!!
    Madelyn

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    1. Thanks, Madelyn! I'm glad to know that my posts have been helpful to you . . . makes it more fun for me when I'm writing them. And, that's great that you have an info/inspiration notebook. I appreciate your comment!

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  2. I am just getting started out with watercolors, have been quite confused by all of the reds. Thank you for clearing this up a bit!

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  3. Replies
    1. Some good alternatives to Winsor Red, would be: Permanent Red, Quinacridone Red, Scarlet Lake, or Cadmium Red.

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