In a recent discussion on the "Art Workbooks" list, I mentioned my watercolor notebook. Karen asked that I post some of the pages -- did she realize how terribly boring it would be? The first page of the notebook is a diagram of the palette used in my watercolor class, with each color listed and numbered.
The next part of the notebook (which is a 9" x 12" Canson All Media book) has each page divided in half, with each half devoted to a color on the palette. There, I painted a good sized square of the color, never minding that I didn't get a good even wash, obviously! I now have a place to put notes about the color -- notes that I get from class, from various books, from comments on the mailing lists I belong to, or from my own experience. I'm very interested in how the pigment actually acts -- is it transparent or opaque? is it granulating? is it lifting or staining, and how staining is it? how well does it mix with other colors -- does it dominate or get lost in the mix? This is the kind of information that I'm trying to learn and know so completely that my color choices are logical and (hopefully!) intelligent, and based on more than it just being a "pretty color".
The next section of the workbook is a growing number of color charts. So far there are green charts, brown charts, charts of darks and lights, shadow color charts, and so on. All these charts are based on assignments given by my watercolor instructor, who will give us a chart that she has done, and let us work on "matching" her colors at home. I've found that it's one thing to mix a green, it's quite another to exactly MATCH somebody's green. This has been really good practice for me -- the next step, though, will be to match up the how and why you use these mixes, based on the knowledge I'm learning about each individual pigment.
You'll notice on this chart that I really can't ever play completely by the rules. I had to go back on a bunch of the colors and play around with how well they lifted. It's like a compulsion!
Anticipating that there will be lots more charts and other exercises, color mixing notes, etc., I've left plenty of pages blank before I started the next section...
I started this section at the back of the book and am working my way forward with it, which lets me be sure of plenty of blank pages to work on in the center of the book. This section is made up of all my other colors -- what I call my "illegal palette" (since they are not used in my class.) I still collect notes about them, and use them on and off ... several of them will become permanent additions to my palette once the class is over, I'm sure.
This cobalt violet is one of those colors that I never used to appreciate, and now think it would be fun to use in some background mixes for landscapes.
The manganese blue is an old tube of Holbein -- the real thing, not the new "hue", and is therefore precious. Since I've been learning about the behavior of the pigments, I really appreciate its very granular quality. Isn't that something?
Some of the pages are even less organized than this one, and there are plenty of notes referring to another color on another page (for example, Winsor Red on page 6 has a note referring it to Winsor Red Deep on page 46, and so on.) I have this notebook open when I paint now, and can flip around in it as I go, reading notes, as well as adding to my notes. I've only used the front side of each page, leaving myself the back of each page for room to grow.
And that, Karen my dear, is how I use my watercolor workbook! If anyone has any ideas about how to make it an even more useful tool, I would LOVE to hear them!