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Eco experiment: Working with whites

This week I have been experimenting with eco household paint samples in my khadi paper sketchbook.

Before adding some finishing touches to an eco-painting I am preparing for the Portsmouth exhibition, I wanted to check out what textures could be achieved and which of the paints would be suitable for some light collaging.

One of the advantages of acrylic paint is that it is effectively a coloured glue, and I am always on the lookout for plastic-free alternatives. I was pleasantly surprised that my test paper successfully adhered to all the paints samples, including the thin wood wash paint. The main difference was the drying speed - I had to work much faster with the lime wash and clay-based paints.

Another difference I noticed were the colours. The paints were all from the same supplier (Lakelands) and were all labelled as "pure white" (apart from the Satin gloss paint, which was simply called "white") - to my eye, all the paints had a colour cast, with the purest white achieved with the gloss paint. On the lighter coloured khadi paper, the differences are more noticeable.

For my purposes, the differences between the different whites allow me to add interest and subtle variations.

I just wish I had thought of using the sample pots when we were asked to paint the different (off-)whites we could see in an impromptu still-life!

My colours are anything but subtle (I had given myself the additional challenge of working in oils), but I remember being amazed how purple some shadows looked.

In our exercise, we had to name at least 20 hues we could see, using a description that made sense to us: Did the "white" remind us of clotted cream, butter, tofu, chalk, snow? Was it relatively cooler or warmer than the area next to it?

Back then I did not see the point of the naming exercise, but having seen the different qualities of whites, I shall ask myself what kind of white a painting needs...

Here are my takeaways for this week:

  1. There are many different "shades" of white.

  2. Don't rely on the manufacturer's description, but test the whiteness of the white, remembering that the background colour and other colours in the environment will change the viewer's experience.


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