6 Common Problems with Artwork

Having taught art for a few years now, there are some common problems that I keep seeing so I thought I would share them and offer my advice on how they can be fixed.

Colours are dull and muddy 

This is usually caused by the overuse of brown tones like burnt sienna and ochres. Another contributing factor might be not having clean water for brushes so every colour is being muddied.  This is a common problem with watercolour, where colours can very readily become muddy.  I have also seen learners not allowing an under-layer of paint to dry so that the colour layered on top mixes into it, which is not always the desired result.  One way to solve this issue is to mix your own browns from the three primary colours (red, yellow and blue) and mix a range of neutral tones rather than using neutral colours straight from the tubes.  Use browns with some caution, like black it is a colour that can make things look dull very quickly.

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Ultramarine Blue or French Ultramarine Blue?

I got asked just this week by a learner what was the difference between Ultramarine Blue paint and French Ultramarine Blue?

The short answers is not a great deal.  In the early 19th century the cost of ultramarine made from lapis lazuli was much higher than any of the other pigments, so much so that some artists did not use much blue in their work if any. 

French Ultramarine Blue
French Ultramarine Blue

Two French chemists discovered some blue residue in a soda furnace one day and wondered if this could be developed into a blue paint to replace the costly ultramarine pigment.  After lots of development work an alternative was developed which was cheaper and soon came into production.  In order to differentiate it from the lapis lazuli it was called ‘French’ Ultramarine.

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