Own Your Encore

My Encore Excursions

A Brush with Phthalo Blue

In Color Week 42 we are exploring brushes and the color Phthalo Blue.

There are so many brushes! There are real hair brushes like sable and camel, synthetic brushes, water brushes and specialty brushes such as bamboo and sumi brushes.

everyone has a favorite brush, here we do a simple exploration of the options

  • Round – these brushes come to a point. They provide long even lines. Sizes range from very fine to broad – shown here are 000, 00 and 6
  • Flat – these brushes end in a square, blunt edge. They come in different widths, 1/2″ shown. They’re good for washes.
  • Angled – this brush is like a flat brush only angled. That small point is great for detailing and getting into corners.
  • Rigger or Script – the much longer hair on this brush is used for painting lines, squiggles and adds a nice finishing touch.
  • Mop – this is a generous brush used to lay down washes and big swaths of color. Shown upper right.
  • Fan – shown lower right this is a ‘modified’ fan brush done by clipping the hairs with scissors. Cutting the uneven edge on the fan shape creates a wonderful brush for making splatters and uneven stippling (especially useful in paining birds and nature).
  • Specialty travel – Shown below are two types of travel brushes. The bluish ‘aqua/water brush’ has a built in water reservoir and comes in a variety if brush sizes. I like this brush for urban sketching or when minimal supplies are allowed – we were able to use this in a museum, and it fits in a tiny purse when checked bags are required. The 2 Da Vinci brushes are intended for travel. This type of travel brush is a solution to having an elegant brush in your travel pouch. The brush is 2 part, the black plastic body unscrews to expose the brush and when closed protects the brush, there is even a tiny hole on the bottom to allow the hair to dry!

Our color – Phthalo blue is an organic blue developed by chemists under the trade name “monastral blue”. The color was presented as a pigment in London in November 1935. At the time, it was claimed to be the most important blue discovery since Prussian blue in 1704 and artificial ultramarine in 1824 – and many even argued that it was a superior pigment to both.

In a watercolor palette today you can typically find a Phthalo Blue. Daniel Smith Phthalo Blue (green shade) is the color used in this post. Defined as color for cool, clean staining shadows and reflected light on windows. Winsor Newton defines their Phthalo as a deep intense blue. M Graham is defined as a brilliant green shade blue. Vibrant and very strong. As a note, M Graham paints are made with pure honey and do not dry up!

Here are works from prior posts that use a variety of brushes:

Hue Strings

Hue Strings

Keeping it simple… Color Week 41 explores ‘Hue Strings’. An example of a hue string is shown below for cobalt blue gouache. This string is pure color + white. The exercise is to develop skill in mixing and in recognizing small changes in value. So we create lots of strings!

Cobalt Blue

Color is inseparable of it’s context

Color + White
Mixed color no white, no black
Mixed color + white

Below is a monochromatic sketch using Napthol Red. This starts to show how value changes work in relation to surrounding color. The gray scale version helps to determine if the sketch ‘works’.

box in bright light

Naphthol Red was patented as a pigment in 1899. Napthol Red is a primary red with a clean, intense value. Here a monochromatic chart using Napthol Red.

Color Theory Talk

  • Tint = color + white
  • Tone = color + gray
  • Shade = color + black


Color Week 40 explores Green Apatite Genuine. This is a fascinating sedimentary and granulating color that ranges from a fresh yellow-green to dark olive. My acquisition of the color was by accident – it was included in a boxed set that was on sale. I was getting started in watercolor and thought the colors looked like interesting additions to my palette. They were all highly granulating colors, and not understood or appreciated by someone starting in watercolor so they went to the back of the box… three years later I am beginning to use the colors with some appreciation.

Apatite is a mineral named in 1786. It is said that Apatite was often mistaken for other minerals and this tendency is reflected in the name which is derived from the Greek word apatein which means to deceive or to be misleading. Apatite is not a glamorous mineral, its primary use is in the manufacture of fertilizer. A bit of trivia: in 3rd-century China ground apatite was used as a pigment for the Terracotta Army.

As a watercolor it is acclaimed

Green Apatite Genuine is goreous for foliage…is a fabulous granulating watercolour…moves from brighter greens in soft dilutions to rich olive greens in masstone…


Before doing this research on Green Apatite Genuine I decided to use the green for a fall leaves sketch. Descovering the lovely range of the color sparked the interest in the color for this post. The granulation also reminded me of how lovely these colors can be, especially when using a rough cold press paper.

Granulation is by far one of the most interesting characteristics of watercolor to explore and Green Apatite has plenty of granulation and broad spectrum of hue.

As a note: my Fundamentals of Color class continues, this week working on Hue at the Value level. Many more scales and time needed to develop the skill to see the gradations within a hue. It all starts here.

Color Fundamentals. VALUE

How do we learn to see what we cannot yet see? 

Aimee Erickson

Color Week 39 we will start to explore the fundamental characteristics of color through the teachings of a class that I am taking with instructor Aimee Erickson. Erickson has laid out 3 fundamental characteristics of color which will be explored over the next 4 weeks – HUE. VALUE. CHROMA

  • Hue is the color family as on the color wheel
  • Value is how light or dark
  • Chroma is the intensity or saturation

Erickson also talked about the ‘poetic dimension’ of color, how we each describe a color using our own words and connotation… it conveys emotion.

This week our focus is on VALUE, starting with a dark to light 9 value scale. We are using black and white, mixing a 50/50 mid tone and filling the scale, she wants us to do lots of scales! Just like piano scales, to learn to read the intervals, practice, practice, practice.

We are using a gray background notebook for the class. In addition you can see a scale page with white/gray/black, this starts to show how the exact same color is perceived to have different value relative to the background. That scale and the following checkerboard assignment is showing the point where your eye is not reliable as to value because it is [almost always] relative and must be considered in context.


I am at the edge of my knowledge. Back to scales!