The colour of joy is a mixed pigment


Over the past couple years I have primarily been focusing on watercolour as a medium, and building up my collection of watercolours one tube at a time.  I’ve been focusing on single-pigment colours, especially those rated “very lightfast” by independent testers. I now have quite a large selection of different colours, fairly well distributed around the colour wheel, yet I still felt like something was missing.

A couple of months ago, I was swatching out dot sheets by Schmincke.  I got to the colour “May Green” and squealed out loud.  It is such a lovely, happy green!  Of course, it was also a mixed pigment (PG151 and PG7) so I debated whether I should get it, since I could just mix it myself.

Around the same time, the single pigment Py117 Greenish Yellow by Holbein had caught my eye.  Although I love the colour, I was put off by Handprint’s review, which showed less-than-perfect lightfastness (Holbein ranks the lightfastness as “excellent”)

Greenish Yellow by Holbein (Py117) and May Green by Schmincke (PG7, PY151)
Two lovely yellowish greens. One has debatable lightfastness, the other is a convenience mix of two greens

I debated whether to buy these paints for a while.  I really, really wanted them, but my dogmatic side prevented me from pulling the trigger, until one day, while working on a coloured pencil piece, I noticed which pencils were worn down to stubs in each of my sets.  Without fail, it was all my yellowish greens in the light olive to bright spring green family.

Favourite greens in other media
Most used colours in other media (Neon Green by Prismacolour scanned teal for some reason, it actually is a neon yellow-green)

This should not come as a surprise.  A fun fact that few people know about me is that I have synaesthesia.  In fact, I only found out a few years ago that I have it.

Synaesthesia is a quirk in brain wiring that affects something like 3% of the population – causing different senses or concepts to be associated/linked in unusual ways.  When I first read about synaesthesia, the article used some examples that seemed really foreign and crazy to me, such as one person who has shape-smell synaesthesia (ie- cubes smell like carrots, etc), and another who uses her number-depth synaesthesia as a way to perform complex arithmetic really quickly by “balancing” distances.  I was kind of jealous that other people  had these crazy, weird superpowers when my brain was just normal (or so I thought).

The second time I read about synaesthesia was in a much more in-depth article that gave examples of more common types of synaesthesia.  This time I was very confused, because several of the examples given were things that I do experience.  For example, as I am writing this in my cold basement, my fingers feel a very nearly white, icy blue, whereas my arms and hands are more of a teal.   I have temperature-colour synaesthesia.  Since I’ve experienced temperatures as colours as long as I can remember, I have trouble imagining the concept of a warm day that is NOT orange-yellow,  or of cold fingers that are not icy blue.  I thought, since people often discuss the concept of warm vs. cool colours, and that water taps are labelled with blue/red, that this was the universal experience of temperature (although I always did find it odd that the cold tap is labelled with ultramarine, which is most definitely not the “cold” blue).

In fact, I have many types of experience/colour synaesthesia.  Among other things, I experience emotions as colours, some kinds of sounds have colour associations,  people have colour associations.


Testing Greens
“Joy” and “Self” greens in various media


Notably, my colour association for the emotion “Joy” is a bright, spring green, nearly a perfect match for Schmincke’s May Green watercolour.  You can see similar examples in the top row of the swatches of my most used/favourite colours in other media below.   No surprise then, that my reaction to painting it out was so giddy. (Again, ignore Prismacolor’s neon green.  It is neon green, not teal)

On the second row of swatches are some more olive yellow-greens.  These are all near matches for the colour I associate with myself.  The truest match for “Lee Green” is between Faber Castell Polychromos May Green, and Lyra Polycolor Apple Green.  Holbein’s Greenish Yellow is among the closest single pigment watercolours, although a little too muted and yellow.  Daniel Smith’s Serpentine Genuine (from the Primatek line) is also fairly close, but a little too cool, and not as transparent as I often want.

So, needless to say I bought both of the watercolour paints.  I will conduct independant lightfastness tests for the Holbein paint, but even if I am not satisfied it will have a place in my travel/sketch palette.  May Green may be a mixed pigment, but Joy should always be available in my palette.

I hope you will all join me in hoping for more single pigment greens to be discovered and developed for watercolour!


Boathouse Botanicals


Mark your calendars! I’m thrilled to announce my first solo art exhibit.  Boathouse Botanicals will be a selection of my botanical art work, which I will be displaying at The Boathouse in Kitchener’s Victoria Park.   The collection will include existing as well as never before seen work.

Boathouse Botanicals
Boathouse Botanicals – Selected works by Lee Angold, opens June 8th at The Boathouse

The Boathouse Botanicals exhibit opens on June 8th, coinciding perfectly with the beginning of patio season.  Drop into the Boathouse, browse some vibrant botanical art, and enjoy a cold beer or cider on the Boathouse patio overlooking the pond in Victoria Park.

Better yet, join me at the Boathouse Botanicals opening reception on June 8th for a first crack at purchasing one of the new pieces on display.  I will be available to discuss my process and answer any questions you may have about my pieces and their subjects.

Drawing Fruit – A study of shape and light

Pyrus communis (Starkrimson, Bartlett, & Bosc)

Art is strange.  Sometimes, drawing feels like an endless struggle.  Other times, I sit down with a cup of tea, and in what feels like a blink (but is actually several hours) I have a complete drawing in front of me.  Luckily for me, these pears fell into the latter category.

Based on feedback from previous assignments, I tried to focus on lighting, and creating a very 3-dimensional shape for each of my 3 pears.  I chose a simple composition to give myself time to focus on lighting and colour.

The skin textures seem a bit off, and I am still a little too heavy handed/impatient with my pencils, but overall I am pleased with how this piece turned out.

Composition and Depth – Drawing invasive species

Himalayan Balsam.pngAssignment 5 for the SBA’s Distance Learning Diploma Course was a composition study of a single variety of flower, with leaves.

Recognizing that I have used extremely amateur compositions in much of my past work (single thing being illustrated in one blob in the middle of the painting), and eager to be working in coloured pencil again, I decided to really push out of my comfort zone in this piece, choosing a subject with lots of dimension and depth creating potential for negative space.

While walking along the Spur Line trail that runs behind the KW Artist’s Co-op  in late august, I was struck by a thick mass of small, brilliant pink flowers.  Research revealed them to be himalayan balsam, an invasive garden-escapee originally marketed as an easy-maintenance, low-budget floral.

I quickly returned with garden shears – the exuberant dangly pink flowers hanging from thick woody stalks with barbed textured leaves, heavy exploding seed pods and deep fuschia buds would provide a very complex and interesting composition indeed.  I wanted to show the plant in all it’s messy, woody glory.

I must have been suffering from a cold when I started this illustration, because it wasn’t until the third day of drawing that I started noticing the overwhelming, pungent, sickly sweet mildewy scent of himalayan balsam, which would become my constant companion for the next several weeks.

As frequently happens, I gradually started to hate both my illustration and my subject.  The once thrillingly unique little flowers became twisted and vulgar.  The exploding seedpods became a constant annoyance as I spent days and weeks carefully positioning stalks and leaves to be both scientifically accurate but still aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand.  As the short Canadian summer drew to an end and I had to depend on sketches and photos to complete my work, I second-guessed my colour balance and shadows

I still can’t look at this drawing objectively.  I think that I was successful from a negative space/composition side, but it might have come out too cluttered despite my best efforts.  I was torn between overusing cast shadows (a big no-no in traditional botanical art) or rendering unnatural looking textural detail, and I can’t discern how well I walked that line.