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

2 Replies to “Daffs Details: Lemon vs Cadmium Yellow”

    1. I’ve tried all sorts – daffodils aren’t difficult to colour match, a Cad Yellow mixed with a bit of lemon, and a touch of pure Cad Orange for that bit in the middle (never was good about botanical terms: the sticky-out bit) usually does it.

      But gorse – or whin, or furze …. They’re difficult. Partly because they vary a lot depending on the time of year, but at their peak there’s a heat in there that I find very hard to match, even though where I live, up on the Downs just a few miles away, there’s a lot of gorse. It helps to get the colurs that surround the flowers right – the very dark greens (Prussian Blue, and/or Pthalo Blue with your yellow), and brown bits (technical term, again, urgently required) that surround them (Raw Umber? Burnt Umber and white? A hotter brown in there too, like Venetian Red, perhaps?) But the yellow …. it tends to orange, but only very slightly; overdo it and you lose that shock of bright colour that can knock your eye out when you breast a hill and suddenly see the gorse in full flower. The intensity is so easy to lose – and if you lose that, you’ve lost the impact and possibly ruined your painting. I think the juxtaposition of bright Cadmium Orange, and Cad Yellow heightened with white but not overdone, can begin to approach the colour, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really succeeded in oil or acrylic.

      It’s a bit like sky blue – we all make a stab at representing it, but surely we all know that our sky blue and the actual colour of a blue sky are miles apart. I don’t have any answers, I’m afraid – we just have to keep experimenting.

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