Deb Ward, GWS, OWS, PWS, WSI - WATERCOLOR/WATER MEDIA - My passion is teaching adult “beginners”. Weekly classes in my home; workshops; classes for Cincinnati Recreation Commission. My work is nationally recognized and published - see “Featured” on my sidebar. I’m a Signature Member of Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana state Watercolor Societies, Cincinnati Art Club, past-President of Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society. Contact info below under “Class Information”

Monday, February 8, 2010


Here’s another peony – only this time “white”.

For me, “white” and “black” are relative terms.

“White” is usually the “white of the paper” – and as you know, that, too, is a relative term! Compare the “white” of Arches to the “white” of Lanaquarelle! And, sometimes, “white” is just the lightest value on my paper after a thin wash of color.

“Black” is also relative. Generally speaking, if you add black to a high key painting, it will look oddly stark – it’s just too much of a value shift. In a high key painting, anything in a mid value range will read as black. But, if you already have some pretty dark values in your painting, you may have to go very black for your darkest darks.

When I began painting, and got to the point when colors started to mean something to me, I would look at paintings that seemed a bit dull to me. That is when I became aware of people using black in a mix to darken a color. I didn’t care for that; to me it looks a bit dirty. Now, in reading through some blogs, it seems that “black is back” and more painters are beginning to use true blacks again. Generally I do mix my blacks, although I do have an ivory black somewhere in my paint stash.  I would still rather mix blacks – that way I can incorporate some of the colors in my painting into my blacks and I think it adds some unity to the painting. 

That doesn’t mean I disagree with using black! That’s your choice as the artist!  Anyway (climbing off the soap box!) . . . this is a “white” peony.

This painting is fluid acrylic, and I began by painting the flower area with a light wash of white. Then I began laying in shadows.

TIP: “High key” refers to a light value painting; think sunshine. “Low key” refers to a darker value painting; think rainy day with dark clouds. I also remember which is which by thinking of a piano! The “high keys” give us a light “plink” of sound, very light, high tones. The “low keys” give us that deep, somber bass that resounds for several seconds.


Gaylynn said...

Great start to the "white" peony. I loved the "soapbox", it was a well taught lesson.

debwardart said...

I am never sure if I'm being too "preachy" but I do realize that some folks are beginning painters looking to the 'net and blogs for instruction so I do try to pass on some info when it fits.

RHCarpenter said...

Very high key...hard for me to do. I tend to darks instead.

Christiane Kingsley said...

Beautiful peony, Deb. I love the colors in your "white" flower:-)

Do you use fluid acrylics in a true watercolor technique, adding a fair amount of water?

I agree with you about avoiding a tube black - it always looks so flat.

debwardart said...

Rhonda - I'm trying to keep it light!!!!! (yeah, right!)
Christiane - usually lots of water, just depends on what I'm trying to accomplish. This one, so far, lots of H2O!

Nancy Van Blaricom said...

Lovely peony. The yellow is very appealing in the white peony.

Black........... hmmm, I'm not one to pay too much attention to rules. If something works for you, go for it.

Deb, this may sound like a silly queation, but what are 'fluid acrylics' ... is this like craft paints? I'm always the last to know about new things..........

Ginny Stiles said...

I think I am a "high key" person. I always say I am a "sunshine" girl. Low key days really pull me down.
I am still not comfortable with fluid acrylic. But I do plan to try more.

deborahspalette said...

Very nice, I like your style. Soft and flowing...New follower, stop by for a visit at
Thanks Deborah

debwardart said...

Nancy - fluid acrylics are a more viscous form of acrylics - same pigment saturation, just more "fluid" or liquid and meant to be "watered down" (up to a ratio of 100/1). I guess they are like "craft paints on steriods!" They are professional grade. I use DaVinci; several other manufacturers also make them.
Ginny - you would not like it here today - dreary and snow falling all day (and me with a sinus headache - yippee!).
Deborah, thanks for stopping by!

Christiane Kingsley said...

If you don't mind, I have another question about fluid acrylics. When you use them with lots of water as watercolors, do you have to frame the painting under glass or can you treat the painting as a regular acrylic?

debwardart said...

Christiane - it depends on my support. If used on watercolor paper or thin w/c board I frame under glass. If I use a heavier support, or canvas, I consider them the same as an acrylic.

Christiane Kingsley said...

Thank you very much, Deb, for the information.