Art Unboxed

Art Unboxed Mixing Payne’s Gray

Recently I wrote about my search for a true red. I’m happy to report I was successful, and also added two other hues to my palette, which expanded my reds. I also replaced some blues with other blues, changed the purple completely, removed a yellow, added a green, and adjusted my browns. The color I wanted to add, which I did not yet have, was Payne’s Gray.

For those who enjoy mixing all colors from the three primaries, I admire your skill. However, I both enjoy convenience colors, and I like knowing how to mix colors. After buying a few reds, I did not want to spend any more money. Also, my paintbox holds twenty six half pans, it’s designed for twenty four, but I was able to add two more.

All this leads me to the little watercolor in the title. I should mention, I’ve mixed colors for years now, but I did so for a particular painting, never paying a huge amount of attention to an intentional color before. As I’ve wanted Payne’s Gray on my Palette for some time, but faced the roadblock of a full paint box, I decided to make it.

To do this, I mixed my Prussian Blue and my Black, yes I do have a black on my palette. Some don’t care for having convenience colors, but I enjoy having a black and a white on my palette. If you want to mix all colors you can make black using blue and brown. White of course is an opaque, which I do not mind.

I mention all of this to say that I thoroughly enjoyed mixing my own Payne’s Gray. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use a convenience color, but it’s enjoyable to learn something new. It also allowed me to practice tonal painting, and values with the little watercolor in Payne’s Gray.

I have a gray on my watercolor palette, but it’s a warm gray. My favorite color is blue, so I lean to the blues, white, yellows, and greens. Ironically it was finding a true red that started this little experiment. Which is itself not unusual, Prussian Blue was discovered when a chemist was trying to make a particular red.

As most watercolorists will tell you, you can’t mention Payne’s Gray without mentioning William Payne. I will also mention, as he was from Great Britain, they would spell it Payne’ Grey. Gray being the American spelling, and Grey the British spelling.

Many of the techniques that watercolorists use today, including blotting out with a rag or paper towel are tied to William Payne, as well as the color named after him. It reminds me that even in art, we are built on a foundation and stories laid by others. As the writer put it so beautifully, no man is an island.

It’s fitting that I end this post then with an old man on the sea. This forty six year old is still looking to new horizons, things to learn, and adventures to explore, I would encourage you to do the same. Whether it’s in painting or in life, mix up things a little, and pursue not merely something new, but something worth striving towards. It will open up a new spectrum of opportunity to each of us.

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