My Favourite Colour

Alizarin Crimson  

Every artist has a favourite colour – a shade they use all the time, and which features strongly in their work. Here Steve Higton explains why he could not be without Alizarin Crimson

Is there such a thing as my ‘favourite colour’? I gave this subject a lot of thought, and had a few restless nights thrown in for good measure.

Then the light at the end of the tunnel flashed on and screamed ‘Alizarin Crimson!’ “Rubbish,” I screamed back. “I hardly use it.” Then it slowly dawned on me: I use it all the time and in every painting.

So let’s examine the reasons. With each painting, having first sketched the subject onto my canvas, I start by using a mix of Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine and White to set the tones.

Thinned with odourless turpentine, I can set the ‘feel’ of the work by varying the mixes to give depth and tone. Sometimes the whole canvas is treated in this way, using the mixes sparingly to assist the drying times. Inevitably most of this underpainting will eventually be covered as the painting progresses.

Yet some will always remain as a shadow here or a dark tone there. Living in East Anglia is a joy for me as an artist.

I love the vast open sky, the deserted endless beaches and dunes, but most of all the estuaries, mud flats and river channels that so dominate the coastlines. Brown mud?

Not a bit of it. On a clear day the sky colours sparkle and twinkle on the ground as the tidal waters recede. I see blues, purples and greys in a host of variations changing with each passing minute.

It took a while to arrive at the colour combinations as I see them, and Alizarin Crimson is the key to the whole feel of the painting, mixed again with French Ultramarine and White to give the base colour, combined in various shades from dark to light.

Then, by blending in Burnt Sienna or Naples Yellow one begins to see the wonderful reflective colours emerging.

Not only is Alizarin Crimson invaluable for the landscape but also for the clouds, particularly stormy ones, or where late evening sun touches the clouds: Alizarin Crimson with Naples Yellow and White gives that wonderful ‘peachy’ glow.

So, my favourite colour? Not immediately obvious but a resounding yes: an invaluable member of my palette, hidden initially and then used in all its glory. The king of Reds: Alizarin Crimson. 


My Favourite Colour

Alizarin Crimson  

Every artist has a favourite colour – a shade they use all the time, and which features strongly in their work. Here Steve Higton explains why he could not be without Alizarin Crimson

Is there such a thing as my ‘favourite colour’? I gave this subject a lot of thought, and had a few restless nights thrown in for good measure.

Then the light at the end of the tunnel flashed on and screamed ‘Alizarin Crimson!’ “Rubbish,” I screamed back. “I hardly use it.” Then it slowly dawned on me: I use it all the time and in every painting.

So let’s examine the reasons. With each painting, having first sketched the subject onto my canvas, I start by using a mix of Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine and White to set the tones.

Thinned with odourless turpentine, I can set the ‘feel’ of the work by varying the mixes to give depth and tone. Sometimes the whole canvas is treated in this way, using the mixes sparingly to assist the drying times. Inevitably most of this underpainting will eventually be covered as the painting progresses.

Yet some will always remain as a shadow here or a dark tone there. Living in East Anglia is a joy for me as an artist.

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