Santa Claus was good to me and left a box of shiny new paint from Japan. These trays of watercolor are handmade by the Ueba company in Kyoto. They were established in 1751 and still operate out of the same premises, so they must be doing something right. The main ingredient of the paint is finely ground scallop shells. The process they use to create these paints can be seen on their website (click on Factory Tour)
To experiment with these new paints I painted this Barramundi.
Starting with a loose charcoal line drawing, I then washed in some shadows with a mixture of the rich purple color and the yellow ochre. The pigments are very intense and more transparent than I expected, considering the high ground shell content.
After the first washes dried, more detail was built up with Indigo and the pale Turquoise. Scale shapes were painted on and some fine detail marks were applied with a rigger brush. A patchy wash of the orange/red was worked through the upper half of the fish before some spots of the white pigment were applied. I expected the white to be similar to white gouache, but it is more transparent and dries to a beautiful, pearl like sheen. When the white is used to tint other colors the resulting mixture also dries with this unusual sheen.
Finally, because the Barramundi is an elusive, almost mythical fish, I decided he shouldn’t be presented so blatantly. A big rough brush full of gesso and some scribbly white charcoal marks pushed him back into murky water. A green/grey wash around the head suggests the milky green of a tropical waterhole.
I love these new paints and look forward to playing with them some more. My only fear is that I’ll become hooked on them and then they will run out!