Getting the blues

French ultramarine is without doubt my favourite blue – I use gallons of it. It does pay, though to vary your colours, not excessively, but in an endeavour to avoid all your paintings having too similar a colour scheme. Blue is especially important as I use it very much as a base colour for landscape work, mixing the chosen one with many colours for different parts of a watercolour. Pthalocyanine, Winsor, Manganese, cobalt and cerulean blues also have their uses, but it’s always marvellous when you find a new one that is versatile in rendering skies and water.

I’m always looking for new blues to try for my Arctic scenes, and one that caught my eye recently was the Daniel Smith Lunar Blue, a rather steely blue that granulates and mixes well, and able to produce a fine range of tones. You can see it in use on the watercolour to the right for the darker clouds. Applying it very wet, my aim was to create darker and lighter tonal variations within the lower sky cloud mass, and also to achieve a ‘lost and found’ effect whereby in some places you see the cloud edge while in other places it becomes lost, thus maintaining interest throughout the whole mass. This method involved smudging in darker mixtures in certain areas, but still only using the same colour throughout. The granulations are especially visible near the lower sky centre. In the foreground I added in some Lunar Violet to warm up the water in the stream running down the beach, while keeping the wet sand as a highlight by applying little colour to it.