Purple Woods

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Yesterday’s preliminary experiment in purple was a first step in my investigation of purple-yellow interactions. I was hoping for a result analogous to the orange-blue exercise shown in the latter part of the post, yesterday. In this expansion of my sketch shown in my post, From a Magazine, the goldfish were separated from the background using the complementary blue to outline their shapes. Orange-blue mixtures of different proportions colored the rocks, the figures in the background. The varying proportion of complementary color in the mix created an illusion of different levels of depth in the composition.

My attempt to use this technique with purple, was not very successful. The subject of my composition was supposed to be analogous with the goldfish/rock design. However, yellow finches and trees didn’t seem to be an appropriate design. Nor was I too comfortable with the particular yellow/purple combination.


My paint strip (below) tested two purples against nine separate yellow pigments in my paintbox. The upper row tests the yellow combination with permanent mauve (PV23) and the bottom row tests the same yellows with ultramarine purple (PV15).

Watercolor : Test Strips - Purple-Yellow

Purple-Yellow Combinations

The more orange of the ‘yellows’  (Indian Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep and Gamboge) didn’t combine with either purple to give a neutral tint.  I opted for the mauve/lemon yellow combination, which yielded the most neutral color.


I sketched an imaginary forest. As with the goldfish composition, I outlined my sketch of the larger trees with an undiluted mauve, using water to draw away from the sharp edge adjacent to the tree itself. My intention was to create washes adding increasing amounts of yellow to the mauve. With each glaze, the idea was that the space would recede.  In general, this turned out to be the case. For example, the deepest part of the composition is almost entirely yellow. However I used some yellow in the foreground to indicate light glancing off the sunny side of the tree branches.

Watercolor: Woods, Purple-Yellow Combination

Purple Woods
4.5″x6.5″ Watercolor Paper


I am much more satisfied with this composition than I am with yesterday’s (Watch the Birdie). The goldfish/goldfinch analogy did not work, so I omitted the animals altogether.  Looking at the composition above, I realized how I could make it even better. If my first application of undiluted permanent mauve was inside the trunk of the tree rather than outside, it would make it that much easier to show recession in space with the added drops of yellow in subsequent washes.

I love it when I figure things out. We’ll see if it actually works, tomorrow.

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