Watercolor Artist April 2006

In the April 2006 issue of Watercolor Artist (formerly Watercolor Magic), Butch Krieger introduced Rublev Colours Watercolors for the first time to the magazine's readers. The Rublev Colours Flesh Tint Palette is a triad of traditional earth pigments, which many 18th and 19th century watercolorists used for mixing their flesh tones. The three components of the Flesh Tint Palette are Verona Green Earth, Italian Yellow Earth and Red Sartorius Earth. Each of these three colors is a genuine pigment imported from Italy. In other words, these are the same pigments, which the past masters used in their watercolor paintings.

The Verona Green Earth, unlike most of the green earths on the market, is not "enhanced" by the addition of synthetic pigments (usually viridian or chromium oxide green), but rather is a single pigment. This is significant, because such augmentation can change the working properties of the paint. Chromium oxide green, for example, is opaque, and thus can compromise the transparency of an earth pigment. Rublev Colours Verona Green is a deep, transparent pigment that lends itself well to making flesh tones.

Rublev Colours Flesh Tint Palette

Rublev Colours Flesh Tint Palette of three watercolors consists of Verona Green Earth, Italian Yellow Earth and Sartorious Red Earth.

The Italian Yellow Earth is a rich yellow ocher. Unlike most ochers, though, it is surprisingly clear and transparent. Its transparency, along with its golden hue, makes it an excellent pigment for making flesh tones. It is also useful for painting blonde hair, such as I did with my demonstration portrait.

The Sartorius Red Earth is a rich, orangish red color. The Sartorius Red, although not quite as transparent as the other two pigments, is transparent enough for making beautiful vivid flesh tones. Like the Verona Green and Italian Yellow, Sartorius Red is a single pigment that was mined in Italy.

If you are new at mixing flesh tones, the simplicity of the Flesh Tint trio offers you a particular advantage. Not only do these pigments lend themselves to making flesh tones chromatically, but their inherent transparency enables you to avoid muddy mixtures. (It is the more opaque pigments that tend to get mucky when you combine them.) Thus you can mix these three pigments together all you want, to match the skin color that you desire, without getting the murky mud.

In this article, I have included two illustrations, to introduce you to the Flesh Tint Palette. One of them is a chart, which I made with the palettes three colors. And the other is a two-part illustration that shows you how I used it to do a test portrait. This should give you a good idea how the Flesh Tint Palette works.

Finished portrait using the three watercolors

Finished portrait using the three watercolors of the Rublev Colours Flesh Tint Palette.

Demonstration Portrait

This mini-portrait shows you how I do a trial run with new flesh tone mixtures. The purpose of my trial runs is to try out the new mixtures, before I try to use them in a more formal portrait. In this case I am using an image from one of my watercolor pads. (In my watercolor sketches, I usually just pencil-sketch my subjects on the spot, and then color them it later.) My "model" was a blonde man with a reddish beard, who has very masculine, chiseled facial features.

We have reproduced the finished painting in two sizes. The first is shown on your screen at approximately the same size of the original art, and when you click on that image you can see a second image reproduced at about 200%. The result is an image that is overall four times as big as the original image. (Please note that the image size will vary depending on your monitor. To see the image at the correct size the screen resolution must be 1024 by 768 pixels on a 17-inch monitor.)

I often do my color studies small, because it is faster than doing a larger work of art. It simply takes less time to do a small painting than it does a big one. I have also found that if I do a portrait that is very much bigger, I have a tendency to lapse into an entirely different mental mode. And when that happens, I start treating it like a more formal portrait—and over-develop it. The enlarged image is here so that you can more easily see what I have done, in terms of color application.

Earlier stage of the portrait

Earlier stage of the portrait with only the base flesh tone.

You can also see an image of the painting at an earlier stage. At this point, I have used only the base flesh tone, which I mixed from the three component colors of the Flesh Tint Palette, to do most of the modeling—including the hair, shirt collar and tie. Now that this chromatic foundation is established, I can bring in the modifying colors.

In the finished painting, I have brought in the supplemental colors. I have applied Vermilion to the pinkish parts of the models face, with a little extra on the lower lip. I have also used the Vermilion to make the beard a little redder.

I used a touch of Malachite for the areas on the side of his face, neck, hair and collar that are oblique to the main overhead source of light. In the front areas of his face, I have glazed some Lazurite, to suggest a blue reflected light. I painted his tie with Crimean Hematite, which is a subtle violet hue. I have brought some of the hematite up to the bottom of the models chin. I have used it as well to darken the shadow areas of the blonde hair. And finally, I have glazed just a touch of Yellow Chrome over the top of the head, to liven up the mans blonde hair, particularly in those areas that are getting a solid hit of the dominant light source.

Color chart of a flesh tint continuum

Color chart of a flesh tint continuum

Color Chart

This is a flesh tone chart that I made with the Flesh Tint Palette. This simple graph represents the results of my experiments with that chromatic trio. At the top, you can see the three essential colors of this specialized palette—the Verona Green Earth, Italian Yellow Earth and Sartorius Red Earth.

Beneath these foundation colors, I have made four flesh tone continuums. The first two relate to pale Caucasian complexions, and the other two relate to East Asian complexions. Each of these four continuums is a mixture of just the three Flesh Tint Palette colors.

This article focuses on the two Caucasian continuums. The first of the two is an unadjusted continuum, which, in other words, is a simple tonal value scale. That means that the ratios of the three colors remained constant, from one end of the scale to the other. The only thing that varies across the scale is the degree of lightness or darkness of the mixture.

When I apply this particular mixture diluted enough, as on the far left, it is an excellent blend for the palest tones of many "white" complexions. As the mixture darkens, however, it becomes less and less suitable as a flesh tone. And by the time that it at its darkest, it does not look like a flesh tone at all. Thus I must compensate for this shortcoming.

In the next band, I have made the necessary adjustment. As the tone darkens, I progressively amend the mixture by changing its ratio of colors. In this case, I adjusted it by increasing the relative amount of green. In other words, the darker that the mixture becomes, the more of the green it has in it. This now gives me an adjusted flesh tone continuum, with which I painted the demonstration portrait.