Saturday, February 28, 2015

Using Raw Umber to acheive rivulets and granulation, pt. 2- My Experiments!

So, I bought a big 37 ml tube of Raw Umber for this technique, and that has been invaluable, as I'm no longer stingy about squeezing it out of the tube (which you can't be, if you want the technique to work).  I've not used Da Vinci's yet (got a tube on order), but their 37ml tube is only 7$ or so on Amazon.  An amazing price, if the product works as well as the Winsor Newton I bought.

The basic principle is that you apply the first wash of color as a sort "transit agent" for the Raw Umber.  It helps the Raw Umber move and disperse, and the two colors interact in various ways, pullin the Raw Umber around the color circle visually.  So, into the first wash you very thickly dab the Raw Umber, almost straight from the tube (opened up with water just a tiny bit).  Then, as you tilt the paper, you either gently spritz the page or you daub water into it with you brush.  The water pushes through, and you get these fantastically interesting affects.   Susan Murphy goes over it all in the video I shared in the last post, and I talk about it (and show some in progress pics) from this post on Bjorn Bernstrom's methods.

Below I used Burnt Sienna/Napthol Red on the left and, if I remember correctly, Cerulean Blue on the right.  Cerulean Blue clearly pulled the Raw Umber into green.

I applied a wet wash of Cad Yellow here on the left, and Dioxazine Purple on the right.  There was a throw away image on the page originally, and you can see how the red of it (dry when  I started) showed through nicely.  I really liked this effect, and think there's interesting possibilities to explore, where you could lay certain colors down first, then let them show through later.

Here I actually pre-mixed the Raw Umber with Neutral Tint very gently, then applied it as such in certain sections.  This darkens and greys out the Raw Umber, but still allows it to granulate and make rivulets.

This was a wet wash of Magenta (PR122).  It was a beautiful combo, but I couldn't think of anything to do with it...??

This was mixing Viridian and Yellow Cad for the base wash, then applying the super-thick Raw Umber as before, with the other samples, wet into wet.

What was fun was that I then found images in these, and pulled them out, just playing around- adding some Chinese White, or putting in darker shadows, etc.  Below are the samples.  Nothing earth shattering, all in all, but a lot of fun, and a good way to spend an afternoon using up the backs of "mistake" paintings.

I darkened some of the shadows, put the ripples in the water, and lay some very fine lines of Cad Yellow in there as highlights on the green.

I was playing with the idea of a mountain.  A very rough version of an earlier snowy painting I did.

Here, I was also playing with the idea of distant mountains- also from a different painting I did back in October.

After that, I thought, "Sweet, I've got it."  And so had a go at the mountain scene.  Nope.  Too dang dark!!!

The major things I learned are that-

1) Raw Umber makes everything a rich, dark valued brown.  It's hard to paint a distant object using this technique, because the color is just too dark in value and too high in chroma right from the beginning.
2) It works well in the foreground (much like Bjorn's images up top), or as a backround/ textural effect in images that lack heavy depth (like the Susan Murphy example).
3) How you apply the water, after you've laid down the Raw Umber, affects the way the final effect looks.  Take your brush in and dab the water/watery pigment in, and you'll get heavy "rivers" for your rivulets, as the point of entry for the water is in fewer locations.  Spritz the water on, and you'll more likely get tiny little rivulets like on a windshield.  The look is relatively different.
4) The visual "oomph" of the rivulets goes away pretty quick when you begin to glaze on top of it with shadows, etc.
5) I need to find some sort of greyer, lighter valued, opaque pigment to combine with it to stretch the values I'll have available to me when I use the technique.  I can already make it darker by mixing the Raw Umber with Neutral Tint or Lunar Black.  Now I need something paler.  Then I think I could really use it in a greater variety of compositions.

In the next post, I share some more experiments and successes.  I did a lot of testers using Chinese White and Lunar Black, to varying levels of success, and also tried glazing Chinese White over things to push them back.  I'll share them in the next post.


  1. it! Kinda scary, but want to try it.

    I think the mountain scene is beautiful. Thanks for this.

  2. Many thanks for share this technique so well. Really interested, to try and then try again courageously and with great patience. I'll try!

  3. Hi Silvia,
    Thanks for commenting. My suggestion is to start small, and just try stuff out without really thinking about painting something. I used the backs of many bad paintings, and that was a decision I was happy with. I could just do stuff and explore, and not worry about ruining a good painting. Don't forget to look up Susan Avis Murphy's website, if you really want to give it a go. Good luck!!