Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Strong, soft light on a beautiful child's face. It was a true pleasure to paint this portrait.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I painted this while preparing my new course which focuses on people and animals. Direct, weak light is always a challenge, just like ageing.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A five hour pose

The two last sessions of the course we dwelled on a single position for five hours alltogether (with a lot of breaks in between of course). It was nice not to be interrupted, and I think I learn a lot from switching between long and short poses, as between large and small paintings and drawings. No faces this time but that's my next project: portraits.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Three sketches

During one of the long stands I took the opportunity to draw the same pose from three different directions. Challenging my 3D thinking this way was very fun and very worthwile.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

In memoriam

Photo by Kurt Stüber
Indigofera tinctoria is a shrub belonging to the bean family. Nobody knows exactly where it's from originally but its leaves have long been the source for blue dye in India and made its way to Europe a couple of millennia ago. Farther north the same pigment, although much less concentrated, used to be extracted from the woad plant by fermenting it in urine, preferably from drunken men. That was once the color of blue jeans, the Swedish flag and the soldiers' uniforms.

However, Indigo pigment is fugitive and all paint manufacturers have replaced it with synthetic, lightfast dyes. For example Winsor & Newton blends Lamp Black (soot) with Phthalocyanine Blue (aerugo) and the violet Beta Quinacridone. Daniel Smith makes it with Indanthrone Blue and Lamp Black, while Lukas has it Benzimidazolone Carmine, Phthalocyanine Blue and Lamp Black.

In other words: real Indigo is another pigment no longer among us in the world of watercolor, although it is still available for dyeing hair and yarn. As my followers may know, I stick to single pigments but once in a while I take out some of the convenience colors including Winsor & Newton's composite Indigo, which I find very beautiful.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sitting women

I am back after a break from both teaching watercolor and attending Peter's model drawing course. I don't think you can ever become fully trained when it comes to drawing and painting. There is always something new around the corner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

To be discontinued

The Quinacridones is a large family of transparent pigments with high tinting strength, its most widespread member being "printer's magenta", named after the battle of Magenta in 1859 and in the world of watercolor best known as Permanent Rose.

Another member, Quinacridone Gold, has become incredibly popular among Swedish watercolor painters, surprisingly enough after the real pigment was discontinued in 2001 because the car coating industry dropped it.

Daniel Smith was the only paint manufacturer to stack it up before the production ceased, while others imitate it with different blends. For example, Winsor & Newton mixes Nickel Azometine, Quinacridone Maroon, and Gamma Quinacridone for a "Quinacridone Gold" glowing in any gallery out there. Daniel Smith keeps the genuine article as well as a new mixture of Quinacridone Orange and Nickel Azometine.

Quinacridone Orange is even more beautiful, particularly with the new colorless binder Aquazol. Unfortunately that pigment is facing extinction too but I hope the paint makers have learnt a lesson and stockpiled enough for a couple of decades.

Personally I stick to the old earth colors Raw and Burnt Sienna, timeless and in use since 100 000 years ago, but I keep a couple of (real) quinacridones on the side for occasional use.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Prussian blue

In 1704 the German chemist Diesbach mixed the shells of the Cochineal beetle with alum, ferrous sulfate and potash. He intended to make a red pigment called Florentine Lake but ended up with a blue stuff. The potash was contaminated with animal blood, and that's how the first synthetic pigment was discovered.

Prussian blue proved stable, lightfast, and cheap, so it became a popular complement to the ochres that people painted their furniture with. In watercolor it has been used since around 1730 and much appreciated for its transparency and intensity. Among its other properties it tends to make greens when mixed and dryes considerably lighter. I use it as a primary color despite the fact that it's a bit duller and greener than the real primary blue. If only one blue was allowed, Prussian would be my choice.

By the way, if you heat it up to 140 °C you get Hydrogen cyanide, perhaps better known as Zyklon B. Don't do that!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sitting men

"A stack of bodyparts is not enough. Look at the twists and the points of tension and draw what you feel, not what you see". Peter's course is very inspiring.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Towards the exit

Sometimes my students ask me why I don't recommend certain colors and here is one of those I find very useful but still don't talk very much about. A company in Germany manufactured real Manganese Blue pigment until new environmental regulations were passed 25 years ago. Because the industrial use was limited to tinting concrete, this pigment is heading for the exit, Lukas being the only paint maker that still keeps any amounts of it. The other manufacturers produce "hues" that are completely different. So what do I do? Well, Prussian is the only blue I actually need and my paintings do benefit from a limited palette, so I keep this beauty out of my harem but reserve a spot for it up my sleeve as long as it lasts.