Kathleen Conover: Spring Thaw and PrimaTek Watercolors

Ever wonder how some artists get those intriguing, granulating washes in their paintings? It is one of the bits of magic that only watercolor can do and a big reason I love watercolor: it has a spirit all its own. The best way to get that up-close interest and texture is with the DANIEL SMITH Primatek line of paints.

After experimenting with the whole Primatek line of watercolors, a few have become essential in my palette and at the top of my list, along with primaries. Most important in my line up is Hematite Genuine. This one color is the best warm neutral ever and will mix nicely with other colors to make the whole mix granulate. Also included in my “must have” Primatek tubes are: Mayan Blue Genuine, Hematite Burnt Scarlet, Green Apatite Genuine, Rhodonite Genuine, Black Tourmaline, and Moonglow, although technically not a mineral based color but it separates beautifully into blues and purples.

To get the best performance from these paints I am sure to use them in my initial, very wet washes, and anytime I will be using enough water the paints can flow. After moving and mixing a bit in the wash, the heavier mineral based pigments settle in the textural divets of the watercolor paper. I let this dry thoroughly before going back into the painting because it is easy to overwork paintings in the first step. I am sure to let the spirit of watercolor, and these special paints, have the time they need to do their magic.

1. wax paper and wet watercolor 1. Torn shapes of wax paper were put down on wet Kilimanjaro watercolor paper. A few applications of paint was put under the edges of the wax paper while everything was wet, encouraging runs, blending and wrinkling of the wax paper. This was left to dry thoroughly before removing the wax paper. I could already see the Primatek paints were working beautifully under the wax paper. (Other pieces I worked on started with plastic wrap, which also gave lovely granulating textures.)

2. Black and White for value study


2. The wax paper was removed and I took this black and white photo. I often do this to better see the existing values of my colors, and to not be distracted by the hue of the colors. From here I made a quick value plan of how to develop this textural start. My goal is to paint a minimum and let the textures, patterns and colors do most of the work.

3. I did not know how I would develop this painting when I started. The colors and textures lent themselves to the season. I have lived on Lake Superior for 40 years and have painted many winter scenes. By March we look forward to the ice thaw…when other parts of the country look forward to apple blossoms. So, “Spring Thaw” seemed an obvious.

4. This close up better shows some of the granulation of 4. Detail of granulationPrimatek colors.

As an “experimental painter” I am always curious about what my tools can do for me. In “Spring Thaw” (15×22″) I played with Primatek colors under wax paper.

The colors included are: Hematite Genuine, Hematite Burnt Scarlet, Mayan Blue Genuine, Moonglow and Burnt Bronzite Genuine.