Own Your Encore

My Encore Excursions

Color Week 25

Cherries in dry brush watercolor

This week we are exploring the colors and technique of my recent class ‘Cherries in Dry Brush Watercolor’ by excellent artist and instructor Carrie Di Costanzo.

My logic for enrolling in a watercolor class that is truly the anthesis of my personal sketching style was twofold- it’s a standard in botanical illustration and its a good technique to use when you need to slow down and study the light. This was my first try with this method so the dry brush technique is explained here by a botanical artist.

This was a 5 hour online class with demos, sharing of work and excellent feedback. Carrie had us start by identifying and mixing colors for the following phases of the painting:

  • Local color
  • Reflected light
  • Dark value
  • Stem
  • Light side of Cherry, stem

The following shows a progression of my phases of painting and colors selected

You lost your reflective edges! You painted over them instead of painting up to them.

my self tutoring voice

Currant Colors

Last year I planted a black currant, ribes nigrum, this week black currant is our focus – Color Week 24. My primary objective for planting a black currant was to harvest the berries to make my own Cassis for cocktail making. I like to delve into the history and uses of each plant I grow and in this case Amy Stewart and her book The Drunken Botanist have been most helpful. Her book is fascinating, I recommend if you are curious as to the plants used to make great cocktails. Historically here are a few curious notes about the black currant

  • In 12th century the leaves were mixed with wolf grease ‘to cure one’s ills’
  • The medicinal uses of black currants became well known in Britain during World War II. Oranges were in short supply and black currant juice was distributed free to children because it was high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, it kept many children from malnutrition
  • In the US, Black currants were banned in the 1920s for spreading a pine blister rust, in the 1960s that ban was lifted In most States.
  • Felix Kir of Dijon France poured a drink for visiting dignitaries that consisted of creme de Cassis and white wine which became known worldwide as the Kir.

colors of black currants
sketch of black currants

Permanent Magenta is the key for achieving the mix of colors of the ripening black currant berries. The color magenta has a history equal to the black currant plant. The name derives from the town Magenta Italy where an important military battle was won concurrent to the color discovery.

Developed from anilines, Magenta first came on the scene in 1859, this was a very elite colour reserved for the wealthy and the military, as a symbol of greatness, because aniline was expensive. Quite quickly though, as the public clamoured for access to beautifully coloured fabrics for themselves, anilines became more affordable and a whole range of colours came onto the market. Ironically, this also led to the decline of Magenta. Once it became commonplace, Magenta was less of a fashion statement and demand fell. Also, these new colours of the early twentieth century had disturbing levels of arsenic content, making them unsafe. Today, Permanent Magenta is a modern formulation of the original.


I am starting my Creme de Cassis today by crushing and masurating the crushed berries in straight alcohol for 2 months

Ready to crush!


Dried Hibiscus Flowers brewing

Color Week 23 brings us to matching the color of hibiscus flower tea. This color came to mind as I was making some deliciously tart tea from dried hibiscus flowers purchased in bulk at the asian market.

As a color match I have chosen Anthraquinoid Red.

Warm violet-red, this slightly granular, super-staining vat pigment is one of DANIEL SMITH’s greatest creations.   Anthraquinoid Red is bold and dashing. Deep and cool enough for a variation on shadow tones, this impressive red-violet has an amazing range.


I was introduced to Anthra Red [easier to say than Anthraquinoid] in a Birds Watercolor class by Ian de Hoog. I have not had the opportunity to use the color much. I can see it will be great for fruits & flowers coming into season – raspberries, hollyhocks and plums.

Hibiscus Tea

Here is a recipe for the tea from Martha Stewart site. It can be sweetened with any type of sweetner, its very tart alone. Typically I will use sugar or agave syrup plus a squeeze of lime for a refreshing cooler… in the color of anthraquinoid red!


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar


brewing hibiscus tea
Hibiscus is typically not used as a natural dye… but it stains!

CORAL watercolor

Quinacrodone Coral

Color Week 22 welcomes Coral. Coral is a blend of Orange and Pink and is named from the marine intervertebrae, specifically the Pink/ Orange skeleton of precious coral.

When visiting Perdido Beach near Pensacola Florida I would always walk the beach in the morning. One day I stopped a fellow beach walker who was walking slowly and examining the small shells and debris that had washed up with the waves. When I asked her what she was finding she showed me tiny coral fragments… so it became my challenge also to find some coral fragments.

Perdido Beach coral fragments

The Coral fragments I found were were pale burnt sienna in tone. The color this week as shown in watercolor is fashioned after the vibrant live coral [that grows in many vibrant colors]. Percious red coral has been traded and worn for protection since ancient times. Coral was chosen as the Pantone color of the year 2019. Here is a nice post on the history of coral jewelry.

CORAL is a warm color that looks terrific in the bright daylight.