John Salminen and Golden Watercolors: Road Test

Known for its acrylics, the Golden Artist Colors launches a new line of watercolors. 

This article is from The Artist’s Magazine (July/August 2014). Subscribe, for 10 full issues of instruction per year, or read the entire issue for more great art and tips.

 

Golden Artist Colors has developed a line of watercolors, called QoR Modern Watercolor. Given the fact that there’s already an abundance of professional grade watercolors on the market, I asked Mark Golden, CEO of Golden Artist Colors, Inc., what distinguishes QoR. He replied, “The most basic and exciting difference between QoR Modern Watercolor and the existing brands is that the exclusive binder provides more rich, intense color in every brushstroke, while still retaining the best qualities of traditional watercolors.” Needless to say, I was eager to begin testing these colors.

I had requested my usual palette choices, and when the paints arrived, I was happy to see that the colors were identified by their common names. For example, alizarin crimson is called alizarin crimson rather than a new name that could be confusing. I began working with the paints by making a grid of color swatches, trying out some experimental lifts and creating graduated washes. The QoR watercolors performed well in these tests, with no red flags, and I moved on to testing the paints in the only meaningful way—using them to paint an actual painting.

 

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La Place de la Concorde (watercolor, 24 1/2 x 37)

Intensely Strong

My immediate impression of QoR watercolors substantiated Mark Golden’s claim. The colors have a remarkable intensity. I was a bit shocked by how strongly some of them presented when I used my normal water-to-paint ratio. I think this could be an advantage to artists wishing for a strong color impact. It could also make QoR paints economical.

My paintings are, for the most part, composed of varying shades of mixed colors, and I was happy to see that in addition to the vibrancy of the pure color, the paints also mixed well. One aspect of these rich mixed colors that I especially appreciated was their ability to provide very dark values that dried, even when generously applied, with no irregular surface texture or dense hot spots. QoR watercolors enabled me to create flat, featureless dark values that lent themselves well to deep shadows.

From Bold to Subtle

While QoR watercolors performed well in terms of my overall expectations for professional grade watercolors, I found they excelled in color strength, offering the opportunity for bold, dynamic color statements. In addition, the paints handled well in their ability to create subtle, rich neutrals. It’s this ability to blend and modify intensity from bold to subtle that makes QoR paints an excellent choice for creating rich paintings.

I consider myself a value painter, and I approach subjects with an eye toward creating mood and atmosphere. I like the saying,“Value does the work but color takes the credit.” In reality, though, value and color are inseparable. Value is light and light is color.

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Correo (watercolor, 21×23)

Three Tries

I experimented with warm and cool colors and complementary colors in Louvre (page 38). I worked with bright, intense colors in Correo (page 39). The question was how well QoR pigments could create strong darks. To paint the fountain in La Place de la Concorde (page 36) I used two of my favorite combinations: alizarin crimson and phthalo green and ultramarine blue and burnt umber/burnt sienna. For the lampposts and the figure, I strengthened a mix of alizarin crimson and phthalo green with some Payne’s gray to create deeper intensity. In all of the dark mixes, the QoR pigment strength yielded the appearance of smooth surfaces with no light patches or shiny hot spots.

Creating Controlled Texture

One interesting aspect of QoR watercolors that I discovered while painting the fountain in La Place de la Concorde was that, as I continued to work in a particular area and the water in the paint mixture started to dry, the pigment (on the paper) started to granulate, which offered an interesting way to create a textural surface that I could control. Often we want the effect of granulation but have to depend on luck to achieve it. Because of the amount of pigment in suspension in these paints, working a bit dryer seemed to be one way to create a subtle surface texture, when desired.

Golden QoR Modern Watercolors at Work: December in Paris

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A. Warm Colors: In this detail of what would become Louvre, you can see quinacridone gold and Hansa yellow light in the passages that are warm in color temperature. The quinacridone gold is intense so I modified that intensity with small additions of burnt sienna (natural) and permanent alizarin crimson.

 

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B. Cool Colors: To achieve the cool shadow effect, I used dioxazine purple, quinacridone magenta, and both ultramarine blue and phthalo blue (green shade). The boldest and most assertive colors seemed to be quinacridone gold and phthalo blue, so to achieve harmony and create a subtle transition from warm to cool, I modified both colors by adding their complements: violet to the gold and orange to the blue.

 

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C. In Louvre (watercolor on paper, 29×21), I wanted to replicate the low winter sunlight of December in Paris. The challenge was to move very gradually from warm sun to cool shadow, and this required a smooth transition from yellow to blue/purple. The QoR watercolors performed well and enabled me to neutralize both the warm colors and cool shadow colors by mixing warms into cools and cools into warms. Even though the colors are strong, they behaved well when mixed, allowing me to create those wonderful, hard-to-define, neutral colors that can add subtle mood to a painting—colors that draw the viewer back for a second look.

 


John Salminen was one of the international judges of the Shenzhen Watercolor Biennial in 2013; he was also one of six international artists invited to participate in the exhibition, “Flowing Melody,” at the Nannin Museum in 2013. Salminen’s instructional videos are on sale at www.northlightshop.com. Visit his website at www.johnsalminen.com.