I have learned throughout life to ‘never say never’ HOWEVER, I can. honestly say that I never use black when watercolour painting.

The strong darks you see in this spontaneous demonstration of Cala Lilies…and all the other images in this blog are made up from a mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. All the whites are dry white paper…and the greenish hue is one of the many values I can get from these two pigments simply by adding water.

Some Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna swatches. 1) pure Prussian Blue. 2) pure Burnt Sienna. 3.4 &5 are all Burnt Sienna/Prussian blue mixes. If you make your own swatches you will find that there are countless values that can be achieved depending on the amounts of pigment and water used. Give it a go and of course PLAY.

This quick sketch of my dear friend Patricia is made up from Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna and dry white paper.

I made this sketch of Amish children when visiting my son and his partner’s farm in Pennsylvania two years ago.. Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. mix.

I love to sketch the birds at the River Thames close to where I live….All I need to take with me on for a days sketching is Prussian Blue/Burnt Sienna, brush, paper and water.

Another bird sketch from the River Thames

I cheated a little on this one – note that there is some violet in the negative space but the main attraction, Jenny the dog is all Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna.

In this quick watercolour sketch of a young woman in David’s Bar in Olhao Portugal – I worked from an orange ground….but only used Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna for the portrait.

As I look through my many sketchbooks I find countless images painted this way….

Although I am talking about watercolour in this post, here is an example of how I use the same mix in an oil painting. This large alla prima (Direct painting) self portrait, oil on canvas is made up from the same mix.

Strong darks can be made by using other blues and browns….the key is, like everything else, to explore and PLAY.

An interesting note. I first came across this mix when I was living in Chester County, Pa. in Andrew Wyeth territory. I never really fit into the Brandywine Tradition, but I learned from it like everything else in life, and took what works for me.

I hope everyone enjoys a lovely weekend and that the brushes are flying:) Janet.


  1. Gareth Rees

    Amazing Janet. Beautiful paintings. (You already know that I love the powerful self-portrait.) The Amish figures are superb!

  2. Jet Eliot

    I found this lesson on paint pigments fascinating, Janet, thank you so much. The swatch photo and explanations had me captivated. And the different examples in your outstanding paintings was truly wonderful. I found the birds at the River Thames and the Amish children espec. attractive.

  3. Ka Malana -

    That first bird sketch from the river Thames captures an essence that feels so unique to those birds in that moment! How delightful! Your post made me laugh with how you started it out, how you never use black and the “never say never” axiom—yet, how you stay true to your aims. 🙂

  4. davidjrogersftw

    Lovely artwork Janet and nice clear writing as always. I hope you are well. I understand innoculating is going well over there. Good. Best wishes.

    You probably know that “never say never” was spoken by Paul Newman in the movie The Long Hot Summer. Happens to be Diana’s favorite movie.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you David. In the UK we are. somewhat concerned that there might be a third wave….coming from Europe. and so as always we take this virus one step at a time.
      Tell Diana – I also love the film The Long Hot Summer…Stay well. Janet 🙂

  5. jkaybay

    Phenomenal! I especially love the second Thames bird one (a heron?).
    Paintings from limited pallets are often interesting, if done well (as yours are).
    Is your work for sale?


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