Monday, December 31, 2012

Who is Marie Bracquemond?

Ah, a new year. A brand new start. This past year I resolved to get rid of stuff from the house and studio, which I did. This year's resolution is to keep my calendar a bit more sane to give me more time to draw and paint my own projects.

Speaking of painting, this month I'd like to discuss another Impressionist great, but who no one ever talks about:  Marie Bracquemond. So far, I have found it to be amazing that such talented women were historically ignored within the Impressionism movement.

Journalist, art critic and  historian, Gustave Geffroy,  referred to Marie Bracquemond as one of  les trois grande dames--the other two being Mary Cassatt and Bethe Morisot. Unfortunately, Marie's story is the most tragic in the end.

Marie began her life  in humble means near Quimper, Brittany, a town known for its artistic ceramics. I was there just two years ago and was very impressed with the work that is still done to this day (not outsourced to China--yet). But it wasn't in Quimper that Marie started her art career but in a town on the outskirts of Paris, where her family finally settled. She studied under an art restorer, M. Wassar and by the time she was 17, Marie was entering and exhibiting at the government run exhibit, The Salon.

Marie also studied under the famous artist,  Jean-Auguste Ingres  (1780- 1887) and was considered one of his most intelligent students. She began to receive commissions, one of which included the court: the Empress wanting a portrait of Cervantes while in prison,

While at the Louvre, serving as a copyist, she met her future husband Felix Bracquemond. There were engaged for two years and them married in 1869. A year later she gave birth to their beloved son, Pierre.

Felix was and still is a well-known artist, specializing in etching, printing and decorative painting. In fact, he is more well known than Marie and wanted to keep it that way (more on that later). He became the artistic director of  Haviland, a company started by an American, which  became famous for their porcelain pieces. Although Marie wasn't interested in decorative painting or etching, she did produce some work with her husband. But her true love was painting.

Through her husband, Marie was introduced to the Impressionist group and she embraced their use of color, outdoor painting and large canvases. She participated in their independent exhibitions in 1879, 1880, 1886. Much of her color influence came from Gauguin. A few of her drawings were published in the French journal Modern Life in the late 1880's and she also exhibited her paintings in the Dudley Gallery in London.

Except for the portrait shown above of her son, I was unable to find Marie's earliest works.  In the Louvre, they have several of her drawings(see above), which shows her excellent draftsmanship. The bulk of her work on the Internet is of her Impressionistic period with many painting done from her garden in Sèvres.

As I have discussed in classes and workshops, artists will often do studies before they paint their final. I was fortunate enough to find a study done by Marie of her painting,  Three Graces (also referred to as Three Women with Umbrellas). I love looking at studies and then seeing how the artist make changes. I like both versions actually,  but I have to say her final is much more delicate with its high influence of light.
Three Graces

Study of Three Graces

So what happened to Marie? Why don't we ever hear about her and her accomplishments? Well, according to her son, Felix was rather jealous of her success. He was also an overbearing husband who didn't approve of her impressionistic methods. He badgered her so much that she finally gave up painting by 1890. She died in 1916, which means she didn't lift a paint brush again for 26 years.  

I can't even imagine how she must have felt. That's why I say that she is the most tragic of the three female artists we have studied so far. Giving up painting for me would be like giving up breathing. It's so much a part of my life. What a sad ending.

Here are a couple more of her paintings:
Tea Time

Woman in White

Next month, I'll cover the life of Eva Gonzales, another Impressionist and student of Manet.

Upcoming Events in January

New Classes | January Workshops

PCC Workshops: Sylvania Campus
Saturday, January 12 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Basic Drawing  $45
Afraid to draw? Here's your chance to learn how. If you can write your ABCs, I can teach you to draw within a couple of hours. It's a skill, plain and simple. Material fee: $20

Saturday, January 26Visual Journaling Mixed Media and Collage $45

New: Learn basics to Zentangle® 
Journaling is a great way to express yourself. Come to this workshop with only your sketchbook. I supply everything else: paper, paints, pen and ink, glue, patterns and so much more. Material fee: $20

Glastonbury Studios Classes
Please note: 6-Week Session begins week of January 6ends the week of February 10
Tuesday evenings $70/session

7-9 p.m.
Drawing Wild Animals/Mixed media

Wednesday mornings $70/session10 to 12 noon
Sketch’n on the Go™
Botanical Sketching, mixed media

Visual Journaling $70/session
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Collage, Pen & Ink, Painting

New this session: Learnng Zentangle®All supplies provided except sketchbook
Drop in: $20 per class

Thursday evenings $80/session
6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Intermediate /Vincent Van Gogh

Monday, November 26, 2012

December 2012 Newsletter: Berthe Morisot

[My desire] is limited to wanting to capture something that passes; oh, just something! the least of things. And yet that ambition is still unreasonable! A distinctive pose of Julie, a smile, a flower, a fruit, the branch of a tree, and every once in a while a more vivid reminder of my family, just one of these would suffice.    Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

Self-portrait, 1885
As you probably already know, we have been studying the Impressionists in our Thursday evening acrylics class. We have learn a lot by observing their styles and techniques, then putting that knowledge to work with brush and canvas.  I have grown to adore this period in art. Not only were these artists courageous to buck the art establishment, they were also intensively creative. One such member is someone you probably never heard of before, although she sold more paintings  in her 54 years of life than Monet, Renoir, and Sisley.[1] Her name is Berthe Morisot, the first woman to join the Impressionists in 1874.

Born into a weathy family that had an artistic history, her grandfather being the Rococo artist, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Berthe and her sister were given a proper education that included music and art. One of her earlier instructors was Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), who also taught Camillle Pissarro, another Impressionist. Corot was famous for painting outdoors and inspired many of the Impressionists to go outside to paint.  She also studied as a copyist with her sister at the Louvre museum, usually the only place a woman could learn since they were not allowed to attend art schools (in France).

As time and experience moved forward, Morisot became known as an excellent painter. She was even accepted into the annual, government-run, art exhibit, called the Salon, every year from 1864 to 1874. Many of the Impressionists were rejected from this event. 

Bertha Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets,
Manet 1872
In 1868 a memorable meeting occurred that changed everything:  she was introduced to Edouard Manet. They became fast friends and in time, he introduced her to the Impressionist group (or the Independents as they called themselves). One of Manet's famous paintings is of Morisot,which appears above. 

Within six years, Morisot joined the group and even married Manet’s younger brother Eugene. Traditionally, a woman was expected to stop her career (if she even had one) in favor of marriage, but in this case, Morisot kept on track. In fact, she became even more prolific, painting over 350 paintings in her eighteen years of marriage. It didn't hurt either that her husband was independently wealthy.  Most of her paintings were of the ordinary person, especially family life.

What I like most about studying Morisot is that you can actually see the Impressionistic influence, not so much with optical color or subject matter, but more so with how she changed her whites. For instance, the first painting below is a picture of her sister at a window. Notice the white—it's okay.
Young Woman Seated at a Window, 1869
Now notice the second one, painted in 1872. The colors in the white are more outstanding.
The Cradle, 1872
And her 1885 The Bath painting (below) has an even higher key and more colors in the whites.

The Bath. 1885
Many of Morisot’s paintings were of her beloved daughter, Julie (1876-1966), who eventually became an artist herself, and wrote the book, Growing up with the Impressionists.  

Sadly, Eugene Manet died in 1892 and then three years later after nursing Julie  back to health from influenza, Morisot came down with pneumonia and died at the age of 54. Julie was only 16 and was taken in by one of her aunts.

I was introduced to Berthe Morisot in the book, The Private Lives of the Impressionists, by Sue Roe. I liked it so much, I just bought myself a copy. I want to re-read it.

Next month, I will be discussing a third female Impressionist: Marie Bracquemont. In 1894, she was named one of "les trois grandes dames" of Impressionism alongside Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.


Please note: Visual Journaling class meets December 2, 2012 instead of second Sunday.

 2013 Coming Attractions

I can't believe a new year is nearly a month away. What happened? Where was I in 2012? Very busy and time swept by like the wind.

Fortunately, I have some fun classes and workshops up ahead. I will be getting closer to giving you more information on our trip to England in the spring of 2014,  and I'm hoping to bring back the acrylics weekend workshop on Memorial Day weekend. Beyond those two, here are the studio classes and PCC workshops planned for next year. (Website will be updated in mid-December).

2013 Winter Classes

Glastonbury Studios
beginning the week of January 6
ending the week of February 10

Tuesday evenings $70/session

7-9 p.m.
Drawing Wild Animals/Mixed media

Wednesday mornings $70/session

10 to 12 noon
Sketch’n on the Go™
Sketching Botanicals/Pen and ink

Thursday evenings $85/session

6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Intermediate Vincent Van Gogh

Visual Journaling $20 per class

Second Sunday of the Month
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Please note:
December 2012 meeting, December 2

PCC Winter One-Day Workshops
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sylvania campus

Saturday, January 12 
Basic Drawing One-Day Workshop
Saturday, January 26          
Visual Journaling Mixed Media and Collage One-Day Workshop 
Saturday, February 9
Painting: Mixing Colors with Watercolor and Acrylic One-Day Workshop

Saturday, February 23
Beginning Acrylic Painting One-Day Workshop
Saturday, March 2
Colored Pencil One-Day Workshop

Saturday, March 16
Travel Sketching One-Day Workshop

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

November Newsletter: Girl Power 19th Century Style

For the next several issues, I'm going to share with you some incredible stories about five incredible women: Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Marie Bracquemond, Eva Gonzales and Camille Claudel. 

These aren't your ordinary run-of-the-mill women, who accepted that their lives would be confined to getting married, teaching or being a servant.  Instead, all of them fought and said, "I want something more" to everyone—to loved ones, to schools, to society. Each one knew what she wanted and against all odds, went after her dream in the field of art.

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when women were not allowed to attend art school. Although some American schools were progressive enough to allow women to enter their academies, they restricted females from taking life drawing classes with nude models (oo, la, la) and were only allowed to attend on days when the boys weren't on campus.

Figure 1 Art-students and copyists in the Louvre galleryParis, 1868.
These women broke barriers unheard of, beginning in the mid-18th century. Their struggles were difficult at times and desperate at others. In those days, art was considered a hobby for women, not a career!!  All five of these women ended up in Paris where they were only able to take classes from private tutors and/or register as a copyist at the Louvre (see fig. 1). They were forbidden entrance into École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts). Nevertheless, they made a place for themselves. 

Let’s begin with Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). She was born into an affluent Pennsylvanian family and at 15, entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, where she studied throughout the Civil War years. Since instruction for females was so restrictive at the academy, she decided to move to Paris in order to study the masters to the chagrin of her father. Thus In 1866, with her mother  and other family members as chaperones, Cassatt settled in Paris, where she studied under a private tutor from the Academy, named Jean-Léon Gérôme
Figure 2:  Cassatt's first entry in the
Salon: The Mandolin Player

Within two years Cassatt was admitted to the annual, government-run, Exhibition of the Works of Living Arts, or what is known as the Salon (see fig.2). This was a prestigious event for her. Not only was it difficult for most artists to be accepted, but even harder for women, who were represented by just over 10% of the exhibitors. One of the keys though to acceptance was to paint the way the jurors liked: historical or mythological subjects, conservative colors with little or no brush strokes. They must have liked what they saw because another work, Offering the Panal to the Bullfighter, was accepted in 1873, when she returned to Paris after visiting the U.S., Spain and other parts of France, along with working in Italy.
Figure 3: Litle Girl in an Armchair 1878, Oil
This painting was rejected by the Salon in 1878,
 notice the difference,

Then enters Edgar Degas (1834-1917)--a man she would befriend for the next forty years. Perhaps one could say, Cassatt's style changed upon their meeting (fig.3). She had admired his work for awhile, enamored by his use of rough strokes and color. There's even a story that says she used to push her nose against a storefront window to get a closer look at one of his paintings that was for sale.  

Breakfast in Bed, Oil, 1897
An example of Cassatt's many mother/child paintings.
From the start, Cassatt was highly influenced by Degas, eventually exhibiting with his fellow artists, the "Independents" or as we now know them today, the Impressionists. She was known for her mother and child paintings, although many critics couldn't get past the idea of the Madonna and Child, which she wasn't trying to portray. Instead, she, like the Impressionists, was painting people in everyday tasks. 

Degas and Cassatt, although friends for almost a half-century, would experience a turbulent relationship. Some say they had a love affair, some deny it. Both never married, but from what I can I gather, Degas was, what we would say today, a chauvinist. In fact, later when Cassatt left the Independents to work on her new love of drypoint and printmaking, he said, "I am not willing to admit that a woman can draw that well."   In the end, she got back at him, by submitting some of his work, unbeknownst to him, into an exhibit in New York City to fund the suffragette movement.

Figure 4: The Bath 1891
Being a fiercely independent woman, Cassatt left the Impressionist group, and struck out on her own. She put her efforts toward teaching and advising her brother and others in the development of collecting art. After attending an exhibit in 1890 of over 700 Japanese prints in Paris, she began working a series of prints using Drypoint, a delicate form of printmaking (see fig.4)
Figure 5  Sleepy Baby Pastel 1910

Unfortunately, Mary suffered from diabetes and poor eyesight. Some say that she dabbled in pastels (see fig. 5) for years because it allowed her more freedom and compensated for her disability. However, during the last five years of life, she gave up painting altogether. 

Through her continued efforts to promote the Impressionists' works and push for more exhibits in the U.S., I believe she could be called the Mother of American Impressionism. She has given us a legacy that few can match. No matter what the difficulty, she pushed forward.

There is a great clip from the movie Mary Cassatt: American Expressionist that you may want to check out.

Next month: Berthe Morisot

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Newsletter: Monet, vision & his contemporaries

Imagine this.  It’s 1912 and you’ve been told you have cataracts in both eyes. Doctors can surgically remove them, but it’s risky. In fact, one of your friends, another artist, has received the same news.  She eventually goes for cataract surgery and several treatments, but all fail. What would you do?

That’s the dilemma that Claude Monet (1840-1926) faced. Early in the 1900s, Monet noticed his eyes failing. Since he was experiencing the beginning of cataracts, his vision was probably a little bit blurrier and colors didn’t seem quite right. As one doctor has told me, cataracts are like looking through dirty lenses—you can see but it’s a struggle.

Ten years later Monet did have the feared surgery and successfully was able to see and paint until his death in 1926. He destroyed a lot the paintings he created before the surgery. But we do have some available. Below you will see the painting of the bridge at Giverney, his beloved home outside Paris, before his cataracts and after.

You can see what happened. He had difficulty seeing—thus the broad brush stroke and the reddish browns. Before surgery, Monet resorted to reading the labels on his paint tubes and memorizing where the colors were placed on his palette. It didn’t seem to work. After surgery he was able to see like never before and some say he even saw in ultra-violet.

Three of Monet’s contemporaries were also having eye trouble: Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903).  

Mary Cassatt was diagnosed with cataracts the same year as Monet and went on to have surgery and several treatments, which eventually left her blind. Her diabetes probably didn’t help either. She switched from oil painting to pastels, as her friend Degas did, because it allowed for rougher lines and expression. In the paintings below, you can see the difference between the paintings Cassatt did before being affected by cataracts and then after.

Degas started to experience problems after serving in the Franco-Prussian war. A victim of a retinal disease, Degas eyesight continued to decrease throughout the next 30 odd years. You can also see the difference in his paintings as his disease progressed.

Camille Pissarro suffered chronic infection of the tear sac in his right eye and had a very hard time painting en plein air (outside). Many of his later cityscapes were painted behind windows.

I find this subject of interest right now as I’m going to have cataract surgery myself. I’ve been told that it may have been caused by the steroids and chemo I had or just aging itself. The longer we live, the more likely we will have eye trouble. In the case of Monet and Cassatt, they both lived into their 80s. Although this age may not seem too outlandish today, back then when the life expectancy was far lower, this age was amazing. So it’s not that surprising, they fell victim to problems with eyesight. Today we are so lucky because as we age, cataract surgery has been refined and it's success rate is stunningly high.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Color Purple

As I write this newsletter I am on board the Celebrity Century cruise liner. I was recently invited to join the roster of teachers for the Celebrity and the Cunard cruise lines.  I am teaching watercolor—yes, you read correctly, watercolor. Anyone who knows me knows how I’m not a major watercolorist. I like to sketch or draw with a splash of watercolor, even though I enjoy the medium. So when I was approached for this opportunity, I had to step up, take my brush in hand and create several lesson plans for the beginner.

My first class was yesterday. I had 50 people in attendance and only one hour to teach some basic watercolor techniques. I’m proud to say everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. We painted Orcas breaching from the sea.

Today I taught another class on how to draw the Alaskan state flower: the forget-me-not. What fun we all had. Everyone did great washs and splendid texture work. Wow! It’s amazing what people can do when just given a little direction!! Most of these folks have never picked up a brush.

I will teach two more classes and hopefully they will be as successful as the first two. It was a challenge to design a plan, but it always helps when you have students who are willing to be guinea pigs (thank you all) and a PowerPoint presentation to make things run smoothly.

The Color Purple
So now on to the subject at hand: the color purple. I must admit, I always thought purple and violet were basically the same color. After all, we all played with purple crayons, picked violet flowers, sucked on purple lollipops. But alas, I am wrong. While they may seem to look alike, they aren’t. First of all, purple is a mixed color of blue and red, and I believe it is the most difficult to mix. Violet on the other hand is a spectral color; that is, it appears in the visible light spectrum:  rainbow or prism.

So what does this mean? Will it affect your paintings or color drawings? Not really. One suggestion I have read is this: violet is usually a bluish purple and purple is a reddish violet. This may sound like double-talk but I think it helps me visually. To achieve these colors, one can mix various combinations of blue and red but that’s where we can run into trouble.

I remember my first time trying to create purple. I thought it would be easy. Just take a little red, add a little blue and voila! I would have the color. Well, it’s not the easy. If I add too much blue to the red, I have, what I call, a midnight blue (very dark). On the other hand, if I add too much red, I  find myself making a reddish brown. 

What’s more, I need to mix the “right” paints.  In other words, I can’t just pick up any red or any blue and get a perfect purple. For instance alizarin is a cool red, leaning toward blue. Add this red to blue and that’s when you get that dark blue. Pick the warm cadmium red, which leans toward yellow, add blue and the result will be what’s called mud or a reddish brown.

So what should an artist do to create purple? I usually work with just three colors—the primaries—but I do have purple in my palette as well. Sometimes it’s just too much trouble to get the right mixture.  So I make life easy on myself and simply go out and buy a purple like Dioxazine purple (PV37). But if I want to mix colors to create purple, I usually mix magenta with ultramarine blue.  These two partners make a nice rich purple.

As I stated above, I usually purchase Dioxazine purple (PV37). You can find violets already mixed under the following names:
  • ·         Colbalt violet (PV14)
  • ·         Ultramarine violet (PV15)
  • ·         Maganese violet (PV16)
  • ·         Dioxazine violet (PV37)

All of these have different light fastness, values, staining qualities. I have a couple in my paint collection. You may want to try all of them or some.

Next month I’d like to return to the study of artists, beginning with Jackson Pollock, one of my favorite American Expressionists. We just recently studied him in my acrylics class on Thursday evenings  and it was so much fun!! I can’t believe what cool paintings we created and what wonderful freedom we all felt.

Fall Classes and Workshops
The Visual Journaling class this month is scheduled for Sunday, September 16th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. As always, just bring your sketchbook (90# or heavier). I supply all the collage paper, paints, brushes, markers, glue and found items.  Light refreshments will be served.  $20

The balance of my classes and PCC workshops are as follows (these are listed here but not on my website—they will not be listed there until later next week).

Studio Classes
Fall session begins week of September 16th, ends October 21st
$70 per class, per six-week session, at my studio in Tigard
To register for the following classes, please email me at

Tuesday Evenings            7 pm to 9 pm
Drawing in Living Color
Come join us while we learn about color theory while drawing in pen and ink with watercolor wash, pastels and colored pencil. Limited to 12 students, most materials supplied.

Wednesday Mornings  10 a.m. to Noon
Sketch’n on the Go
We will visit various sketching venues in the Portland area on a weekly basis until the weather becomes inclement, then class will be held in my studio in Tigard. Locations will be announced next Friday, September 14th on the class blog:

Thursday Evenings 7pm to 9pm
Paint like an Impressionist
We will cover three Impressionism artists this session, beginning with Monet. Bring your paints, canvases and enthusiasm. Supply list upon registration.

Portland Community College One-Day Workshops
All workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To register for workshops go to
Saturday, September 29              
Basic Drawing
PCC Campus/Sylvania   
Saturday, October 13                     
Drawing with Pastels                                                                    
PCC Sylvania campus

Friday, October 26                          
Drawing with Pen and Ink
Tigard Senior Center  

Saturday, October 27     
Botanical Drawing with Pen and Ink                       
PCC Sylvania campus     

Saturday, November 3                  
Acrylic Painting 101
PCC Sylvania campus 

Saturday, November 17                               
Colored Pencil
PCC Sylvania campus     

Saturday, December 1                  
Travel Sketching
PCC/Sylvania campus  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August: Mixing Greens

Greens--they come in all sorts of hues and shades. Usually you can find everything you would ever need at an art store. Need a darker green--you can always add black, for lighter add white (or more water or yellow for watercolor).

When I started painting in watercolor, I did what most of us do, I went out and bought every type of green I thought was necessary. I think I have at least 15 different kinds of greens in my drawer. Then I learned to color mix and I haven't use those greens at all. I simply put yellow, blue or Payne's gray (black too) to mix my greens.

For this article, I created a new color chart. I used four blues (Pthalo, Ultra Marine, Cerulean, Deft Blue) with Payne's gray. On the other side, I put down Azo, Hansa,  New Gamboge, Lemon Yellow, Cad Yellow and Yellow Ocher. To my delight, I developed 35 new colors. Then on the side I painted a swatch of my paint tube greens. Except for Cobalt, Jadite and Prussian greens, I was able to produce every tube color.

I created the chart below. Unfortunately, my photo doesn't do it exact justice. I even tried to scan the piece and I didn't get the lovely greens under the Yellow Ocher, nor did the Payne's Gray come across as I had hoped. Why not try this yourself with the blues and yellows you have stowed away in your drawers.

By the way, when I was mixing my colors, I used a cool water container--a bait box. It has three sections that are sealed. I used one side for the yellow, mid for the blue and the last for a quick clean up. You can see I didn't keep my yellow quite pristine, but it didn't seem to contaminate the colors too much. I got it in the fishing department at Bi-Mart.

As I used my paints, the water became contaminated,
 but this after I mixed 35 colors!

I love this water container. I can use my three primaries in it and keep the water less muddy.

Next month, I'll cover mixing purple. This is one of the hardest colors to mix--you just can't take any old blue and any old red and get a good purple. Let me show you why and how.
What's ahead
Believe it or not, we're already looking at fall. Didn't summer just get here? PCC has their fall schedule online at My summer classes at the studio will end mid-August and begin again, mid-September. In the meantime, I've been asked to teach watercolor on a Celebrity Cruise ship to Alaska in September. I had a test class here at the studio last Friday to see how well the subjects I chose would go over with students. It was very successful. If this goes well, I will probably pick up the Panama Canal cruise in December. I will again hold a test class in October or November. So if you are interested send me a line at

Visual Journaling Class
  • Learn how to express yourself by creating a visual journal using words and art.
  • Play with pencil, watercolor,  acrylics, sponges, photos, fabrics, papers, pen and ink, plus more.
  • Express your inner self, your dreams, your fears, your successes, hopes…
  • Absolutely no experience necessary.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Glastonbury Studios, Tigard
$20 for supplies. Bring sketchbook.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 2012: Black and White

As I write this newsletter I am at the Sitka Art & Ecology Center on the Coast. I’ve been here teaching drawing, sketching and painting for about a week. It’s been a wonderful time—even with all the misty rain. But alas, I’m headed back to the Portland area tomorrow—a mixed bag of emotions. I miss my home, studio and dog, but oh boy, it’s so beautiful here.

Onto the subject at hand...This month I’m covering the pigments black and white. Of course they both have a wonderful deep history.  Let’s begin with black.

The versatility of black
Back in the mid and late 1800s, the Impressionists changed the world with their canvases dancing with brilliant colors. Black seemed to take a back seat.  Many of the Impressionists simply dropped the color from their palette.

There’s a story that John Singer Sargent and Claude Monet were out painting one day when Sargent  asked if he could use some of Monet’s black. Whereupon, Monet announced that he didn’t use black. "In nature all colors are made by mixing."

This idea of excluding black caught on and to this day there are people who refuse to use the color straight from the tube, instead opting to make their own black by mixing reds, greens and browns. See my article dated, January 2012 below on mixing chromatic blacks.

Interestingly, one Impressionist, Renoir, did hold out and used black. In fact, there’s another story that tells of a group of young artists announcing to Renoir that they had dumped all their tubes of black paint into the Seine River. He replied with surprise, “But black is a very important color, perhaps the most important."

As we can see in his painting, La Loge, he used black in the opera viewer’s  dress, while enhancing the white with dashes of blues, pinks and yellows.

The Impressionists were really saying that the traditional method of always putting brown or black in shadows was not acceptable for them. Instead they saw color in the shadow. I agree, but I disagree with eliminating the color from one’s palette because there is more to black than meets the eye.

Generally black is made from either mineral, plant or animal stuff. The first black was pulled from the fire by early artists—charcoal either created from wood or bones that were burned and charred.There are four popular blacks: Ivory, Lamp, Mars and Payne’s Gray.

Ivory or Bone black, which was a favorite of Rembrandt, is created by carbonizing bone. As far back as 4th century BC, the color was referred to as Elephantium black because it came from elephant tusks, a practice that stopped in 1929. From the early days, the tusk chips were put in clay urns and fired until all that was left was black “dust.”  It’s very opaque and intense—a little goes a long way. With a brownish undertone, Ivory makes warm grays when added to white (to make a tint).

Lamp black comes from the soot collected by the burning of gas or oil—particularly in the past it came from gas lamps. This all-purpose black has a bluish influence and is transparent. When added to white (tint), it creates wonderful  cool grays.

Mars black is artificially made from iron oxide. It has three times the strength of all the others, dries quickly and is warm. I personally like Mars the most.

Payne’s Gray, although not a true black, is very cool in temperature and also goes a long way. In watercolor, especially where you don’t use white, this pigment is great for creating grayish tints. You can make it yourself with Mars black and Ultramarine blue. Try it, it’s fun!

On the lighter side
On the opposite side is white. As said above, white isn’t usually used in watercolor as the artist instead opts to leave the paper to represent the highlight. But in oils, acrylics, colored pencil and/or pastels white is used. Historically, White Lead was used from the earliest times, dating back to ancient China. However, it’s poisonous and is not used any longer.  Today, there are three popular whites used: Titanium, Zinc and Chinese.

Titanium white is made from titanium dioxide. The pigment has been in use since 1916 when it was used for industrial purposes. About five years later it found its way onto the artists’ palette. Titanium is bright, warm, densely opaque. It lies in between lead white and zinc white (see below).

Zinc white is made from zinc oxide, the same stuff we use for medicinal purposes. Created to replace the deadlier White Lead in the 18th century, the paint is heavier than its predecessor, less pliant and can cause cracks in oil paintings. It is cool, clean white and somewhat opaque.

Chinese white was invented by Winsor & Newton. Here is the story from their website:
At the very beginning of their partnership, Winsor and Newton determined to improve artists’ pigments and zinc oxide was an enormous success, the first alternative to lead white. 
Winsor and Newton heated zinc oxide to very high temperatures in [their] ovens and produced what they called Chinese White; at last an alternative white with good opacity.... Chinese White was introduced in 1834 having been tested by Sir Michael Faraday, a pre-eminent scientist of his day.
Usually offered in watercolor and gouache kits, Chinese white is somewhat less opaque than Titanium and is very brilliant. I use it in ink work on occasion, especially to cover up a mistake (Liquid Paper works well too).

Next month I will explore how to make greens. Now that we are in the summer months, it would be nice to know what combinations of paints one can use to create the different tonal values of green. And remember, blue and yellow aren’t the only colors to make green. Yellow and black make a wonderful olive green. Learn more next month!

What's Up for Summer!
To pre-register or receive more information
on Glastonbury Studios classes, please contact me at: or call me at 503.524.6981
2nd Sundays Visual Journaling Class
Glastonbury Studios in Tigard
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Starts this Sunday, July 8th
$20 drop in fee. $100 for entire six weeks (make up are available)
Here’s a chance to journal with words, collage, paint and found items. Just bring your spiral sketchbook and I’ll provide the rest!

Travel Sketching Demo at Dick Blick, Beaverton
Friday, July 13th  2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Come join me while I demonstrate techniques to travel sketching at Dick Blick. I'll cover the materials you should bring to the basics to sketching with watercolor and ink! It's all free! What a deal. Phone number to Beaverton store: (503) 646-9347 

Summer Session Classes
Cost: $70 per class
(make-ups available)

uesday evenings
7-9 p.m.
Still life drawing
Where: Glastonbury Studios

Wednesday mornings

10 to 12 noon
Sketch’n on the Go
Sketching Portland & Environs

Thursday evenings 

7-9 p.m.
Intermediate Acrylics,
American Expressionism
Where: Glastonbury Studios

Summer Session PCC Workshops
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
See for registration and payment

Saturday, July 7
Basic Drawing

Saturday, July 21
Beginning Acrylic Painting

Saturday, August 4

Travel Sketching

Friday, August 17
Nature Sketching, Tigard Senior Center

Saturday, August 18
Pen and Ink