Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q Could you give me some advice about painting using a daylight lamp or light bulb? I like to paint late evening using the light from an ordinary lamp, but this doesn’t compare with bright daylight. Some of the special lamps on the SAA Home Shop seem quite expensive, do they justify the cost?
George Howden

A I wouldn't recommend using an ordinary filament bulb for painting, as the spectral output is toward the red, and if you mix colours and paint under this light you'll find that the next day, in daylight, your painting will look different because of the absorption of different colours and the reflection.

If you match any colour in one light source, then look at it under a different light emission, then the colour won’t look the same – it’s a process known as metamerism. You can buy special ‘daylight’ lamps, but it’s cheaper to use daylight filament bulbs in normal lamps.

These are usually coated with a pale blue to counteract the red shift, and are reasonably effective - certainly better than normal bulbs - and give the closest approximation of natural north light. Energy saving daylight bulbs are available from the SAA Home Shop, and these are excellent value due to their long life and low wattage, making them very efficient and cheap to run for the initial outlay.

Q As a painter of only 18 months, I seem to remember someone saying there is a difference between Ultramarine and French Ultramarine, and that one ‘separates’ when mixed with other colours. I made a real mess of my tropical sea, and think this could be why - but maybe I'm confused?
Charlotte Dunn

A The ‘separating’ effect you describe is known as granulation, and is a phenomenon generally relating to certain groups of pigments, blues being one of those affected.

However, this is not a fault, and you can buy Granulation Medium which encourages non granulating pigment to achieve that effect. Regarding the difference between the two Ultramarines, generally French Ultramarine tends to be stronger with a more violet tone than Ultramarine, and this can enhance the granulation effect, though this can vary between suppliers.

What happens is that particles of certain colours react with each other and form conglomerates of slightly stronger colour, which can be more pronounced on certain watercolour papers, notably the NOT or rougher surfaces. Some artists use this effect to great advantage when painting something like stone textures in watercolour, with a mixture of French Ultramarine and Raw Sienna or Burnt Sienna.

Regarding your tropical seascapes, we all have our favourite mixes for sea colour, but I would use a little Viridian Green mixed with Cobalt Blue. For a brighter tropical colour, try Cerulean Blue with a little Viridian Green. Give both a go and see which works for you.

If you have a question for Steve, please email expert@saa.co.uk or write to Head Office marking your envelope ‘Ask our Expert’


Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q Could you give me some advice about painting using a daylight lamp or light bulb? I like to paint late evening using the light from an ordinary lamp, but this doesn’t compare with bright daylight. Some of the special lamps on the SAA Home Shop seem quite expensive, do they justify the cost?
George Howden

A I wouldn't recommend using an ordinary filament bulb for painting, as the spectral output is toward the red, and if you mix colours and paint under this light you'll find that the next day, in daylight, your painting will look different because of the absorption of different colours and the reflection.

If you match any colour in one light source, then look at it under a different light emission, then the colour won’t look the same – it’s a process known as metamerism. You can buy special ‘daylight’ lamps, but it’s cheaper to use daylight filament bulbs in normal lamps.

These are usually coated with a pale blue to counteract the red shift, and are reasonably effective - certainly better than normal bulbs - and give the closest approximation of natural north light. Energy saving daylight bulbs are available from the SAA Home Shop, and these are excellent value due to their long life and low wattage, making them very efficient and cheap to run for the initial outlay.

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