I was very impressed by Maurice Sapiro’s latest work called Flash Point. It is a wonderful Turneresque scene. I’ve often wondered how Turner created his color transitions to infuse his work with such drama.  Sapiro also suffuses his painting with atmosphere.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Although Flash Point and many of Turner’s works are oil on canvas, I would like to create such color transitions and atmosphere with my watercolors.  I started my experiment today, with a test. How do the browns and yellows or oranges interact? There are some quite pleasant color interactions that can happen when pools of watercolor pigments interact. However there are many variables with which to contend: the wetness of the paper; the type of pigment; how different pigments interact with each other chemically/physically; the resultant color that appears when mixing two, three, or even more of them together.

My test sheet was not comprehensive. I tested Van Dyke Brown and Warm Sepia with Sennelier Yellow, Perinone Orange, Cadmium Orange and Warm Orange. However, I found that Quinacridone Burnt Orange together with Sennelier Yellow gave me the interaction I was looking for.

Watercolor: Brown, Yellow, Orange Tests

Post test study:

I wanted to organize my painting in the same general way as Flash Point, dark foreground, a middle ground with a suggestion of a tree line, the fire colors, culminating with a dark sky.

I began by wetting the entire paper, applying Van Dyke brown and Shadow Green to the foreground. I felt very rushed by the wet paper, not knowing how long it would be wet enough to mix the colors… (I have yet to devise such a test.)

I painted the top portion next with Warm Sepia, leaving the middle ground unpainted.

Middle ground:

It all happened so fast that I’m not sure what I did next. I must have applied the Quinacridone Burnt Orange below the Warm Sepia, and a lemon yellow next to the green tree line. The green tint of the lemon yellow prompted me to place it near the other green in the composition.  The Shadow Green didn’t give me the look I wanted so I used a slash of Hooker’s green along the tree line. I went back to directly apply the lemon yellow at places by the tree line. Its thickness and the fact that the paper had probably dried a bit, allowed the yellow to persist.

Watercolor: Fire - First Pass

9″x12″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


I will probably work on this piece some more. Perhaps darkening the foreground and the sky would help. There is nothing very dramatic about this composition except perhaps the middle ground. More glazing of this area might also improve the painting.

If I don’t muck it up too badly, I’ll post an update of this study tomorrow.

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