Daffs Details: Lemon vs Cadmium Yellow

daffodil yellowsThere are two yellows I associate with spring in Skye, a cool and a warm: daffodils and gorse. Both have me reaching for tubes of yellow, plus a blue to mix an earthy green. In the daffodil paintings I’m working on, I’m mostly using:

  • Cadmium yellow medium: a warm leans-to-orange yellow that is quite opaque (in the jar on the right in the photo).
  • Lemon yellow: a cool leans-to-green yellow that is transparent (frustratingly so at times, but a bit of titanium white solves this; in the jar on the left)
  • Cadmium orange: I could mix an orange but there’s an intensity about a single-pigment orange that’s wonderful
  • Prussian blue: in acrylic it’s a hue (mixed tube colour) usually based on phthalo but with some black and sometimes a violet pigment, that produces the right shades of green to my eye and a strong dark where needed.

My view: Go with the ‘really good stuff’ when it comes to yellows as this has the pigment loading (artspeak for colour intensity) that gives an inner glow. The jars above are Schmincke, but I also use Golden a lot too.

Daffodil painting detail by Marion Boddy-Evans

Daffodil painting detail by Marion Boddy-Evans

A Visual Answer to the “How Long Did It Take to Paint?” Question

Here’s the just-declared-finished painting:

Flower Painting: Symphony in White and Yellow
“Flower Painting: Symphony in White and Yellow”

Here’s a composite photo showing what’s beneath the final layer of white, starting with the blue:

Flower Painting: Symphony in White and Yellow Stages
Five photos taken at various stages in the creation of “Flower Painting: Symphony in White and Yellow”

So how long did it take me to paint? The answer is: I don’t know because I never count it up; it takes as long as it needs to take. It’s not about the time taken.

Video: Painting White Roses Wet-onto-Wet

This short video shows me adding white onto still-wet purple to create white roses. Working wet-into-wet lets colours mix together in the painting in interesting ways. It helps to keep your brush dry (wipe it clean rather than rinse) so the paint doesn’t become too slippy and end up sliding across the surface rather than sticking and mixing.

That First Texture Paste Layer

Two photos from the very first layer in a new roses painting started on Sunday, in answer to a question about how I use texture paste to create a coloured, textured ground. The first photo was taken moments before I spread it, the second when I’d finished and stopped to let it all dry.

Texture Flower Base Layer no colour yet

Step One: Loosely pencil in composition. A few guidelines only, it’s going to get hidden completely soon. (These spirally squiggles are roses, in my mind’s eye.)

Step Two: Scoop out paste from jar with palette knife and place in strategic spots directly onto canvas. How much comes from practice. (Can easily add more; I use a knife so I don’t contaminate the jar with colour from my brush.)

Step Three: Squeeze out some paint next to texture paste, directly onto canvas. (Again, experience tells me how much, but rather less than more.) Different colours to help me differentiate the roses when I start the next layer.

Step Four: Spread with big bristle brush (at least an inch wide). Occasionally I use the palette knife to scrape texture paste out of bristles, but I clean brush once only, when finished.

Step Five: Check composition, now in texture/colour rather than pencil. Adjust if needed. Leave to dry overnight.

Texture Flower Base Layer
Textured and coloured first layer, following my composition sketch.

There are all sorts of texture mediums available. My favourite is Golden’s Light Molding Paste. This doesn’t shrink too much when it dries, holds its shape, is remarkably light (as the name says) so using it on a big canvas doesn’t make it horribly heavy, and dries to a matte, slightly absorbent surface.

Painting Miss Havisham’s Roses

My bunch of white roses is past its prime and I have to agree with the in-house art critic that there is something of Dicken’s Miss Havisham about them. But the changes in colour, shape and texture as they fade and dry out has been interesting, so I’ve kept them.

Miss Havisham's Roses (photo)

This is the painting that came from them today. Acrylic ink and acrylic paint on A1 cream mountboard.

Miss Havisham's Roses

Work-in-progress photo, before I added magenta.
Miss Havisham Roses

*Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations

Did I Turn an “Almost Good” into an “Almost Ruined” Painting?

Know when you’ve a painting that’s not where you want it to be overall but has parts you’re pleased with and would really like to keep? When the temptation is to paint around these “good bits”, and you end up tweaking and fiddling but things never get better overall? Leading to the temptation to give up or, perhaps worse, settle for “almost good”? That’s where I was yesterday when I finally braved the wind, went out to my studio and confronted a red roses painting I hadn’t looked at for about 10 days. It’s in water-soluble oils which I’ve started using when my studio’s too cold for acrylics (under 10?C).

Rose Painting-in-Progress
The day’s starting point.

After staring at it for a bit, I decided it needed drastic action otherwise I’d tweak and tweak and tweak go nowhere. First I spread a layer of light pink to subdue everything. There’s always a moment or three’s panic hesitation doing this; the key is to remind myself it wasn’t right anyway, so I may as well. Then I took a rigger brush and a dark purple-blue, dancing it around to re-establish some darks, then again with a lighter blue.
Rose Painting-in-Progress

I do have a plan doing this, but it’s more a map seen from a distance than detailed GPS co-ordinates for every brushstroke. This video clip will give you an idea:

There’s always another moment’s hesitation panic about whether I’ve gone too far, whether everything is irredeemably ruined, and oh no what have I done. The key is to remind myself, again, that it wasn’t right anyway and that past experience has taught me this is the route to take. And to keep going.

Rose Painting-in-Progress
Yes, I was working with the canvas upside down at one stage. Makes me see it differently.

Next step was to take a flat brush and add some wider brushmarks to calm the hectic, spidery markmaking somewhat. Repeat with lighter tones of pink.

Rose Painting-in-Progress

Is it totally ruined? It’s certainly no longer “almost good”, more like “almost destroyed”. But I like parts, feel good for having tried, and when it’s surface dry I shall continue. Still a way to go, but the road feels open again.

Rose Painting-in-Progress
The day?s stopping point.


Why Am I “Suddenly” Painting Roses?

It seems from conversations my “suddenly” painting roses and daisies is causing some speculation as to why. No, it’s not a life crisis. No, my pinks-and-frills feminine side isn’t in ascendance. Yes, I’m feeling fine, thank you. The problem lies in that you haven’t been able to follow the machinations of my mind. It’s not “sudden” at all.

To me the roses are a logical development from my painting seascapes, woodlands, and foxgloves. The verdant pink rose hedge (which is budding even though it’s only January) that I look over to see the sea. The joy of roses (and fuchsias) growing so madly they’re almost a weed. Colourfields (think: my love of Rothko’s paintings) based on flowers; patterns and colour tied to reality. The dance between abstract and reality, now you see it as a pattern and now it’s a rose. I won’t ever stop painting sheep or seascapes; I love painting those too much. But do expect more flowers this year.

Rose Painting Detail

Rose Painting vs Roses

Rose Painting on Easel
Work-in-progress photo. 5×7″ canvas,


Video: Deliberately Letting Paint Run

When I say I work with fluid paint, deliberately letting it run, I sometimes get a blank “that’s nice dear” look from people. So here’s a short video clip giving an example, a step in what will be a roses painting where I leave the paint to drip dry. On this occasion I’d been applying fluid white (think: consistency of ink) onto a horizontal canvas (balanced on the feet of my easel), onto a not-entirely-dry underpainting, the colours of which then mix with the white.

That “What Have I Done?” Moment in a Painting

You know when you thought you knew what a painting needed but now you’ve done it things seem worse not better? Doubt kicks in and you feel you have probably irreparably ruined it and what on earth had you been thinking…? Well, this is what me in that moment:

Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in her studio
That “did I just ruin it totally?” moment.

Step by Step: Yellow Roses Painting in ProgressThis is how I got there with my yellow roses painting:
Photo 1: I’d eliminated the white of the canvas with a mixed purple, let it dry overnight, then worked over this with lemon yellow.

Photo 2: The purple + yellow created beautiful greens. I found myself wishing I’d made a note of what I’d used to mix the purple (there are a few possibilities within arm’s reach of my palette).

Photo 3: Adding lighter yellows.

Photo 4: Adding a warmer yellow (cadmium) and some smaller highlights. Propped it on a shelf to dry overnight and staring at it realized I’d created inadvertent rows in the roses, then stared at it some more to decide which to enlarge. Reworking the pattern in the roses the next day, I ended up without enough tonal contrast (no photo).

Photo 5: Needed to dramatically increase the tonal contrast, so added a strong dark (quinacridone magenta + phthalo turquoise mix). Sprayed it with water to soften the brushmark edges and to let the colour run a bit. Worried it was over-the-top.

Photo 6: Added warm cadmium yellow. Doubt came to sit on my shoulder and whispered “you’ve ruined it” in my ear. I listened a bit, then told myself what I needed was to keep going, to add the tonal and colour variations that would subdue the dark.

Photo 7: I added several variations of cool yellow, leaning increasingly towards light green-blue by mixing some phthalo turquoise with the yellows. (Very pale cool blue sometimes reads lighter than even white, to my eyes.)

Photo 8: The painting now had lots of fragmented mark making, so I reached for a larger brush (often the solution!) and worked over with larger areas of cadmium yellow. It still needs some highlights? (which will be done both with light yellow and by darkening some areas with a glaze), but I’m pleased with where the painting is (scroll down to see a detail photo).

Artist Marion Boddy-Evans in her studio
That “I think I did manage to pull it off afterall” moment.

Detail from yellow roses painting