Undercover White

Wafting” 36 x 28.5 cm. September 2019

During the previous fortnight while I worked on a commission of a Japanese lantern, I reminded myself of the principle of undercover white.  What do I mean by this?  The same colour (let’s say red) when mixed with white, results in a different pink/light-red depending on whether white is put down underneath the red, or over it.  The following diagram illustrates this…

The first swatch in the diagram is Caran d’Ache Permanent Red 061.  In the middle swatch I have put down a layer of Holbein Soft White 501 and THEN layered Permanent Red 061 over the top.  Notice how soft and glowing the result is – perfect for creating luminosity – as in lanterns.  The final swatch is the result of Permanent Red 061 underneath with Soft White on top.  This is the SAME red with white, but mixed in reverse order.  TOTALLY DIFFERENT!

In the above drawing “Wafting”  the entire area of the lantern has Soft White underneath.  White acts like a secret agent; Undercover White.  This method creates glow.

Four years ago I wrote a post about this use of white (which I taught myself) however after doing the current drawing, it seems like a good idea to repeat the lesson.  It is useful knowledge to have up your sleeve.

The delicate-red parasol in “Being There” also employed this technique.

https://juliepodstolski.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/the-power-of-glow/   –  the link to the first post on this subject in 2015.

“Good thinking, 99”.

In case it is still confusing here is another colour chart: –

The first column shows three primary colours; red, yellow and blue. In the second column I have put down a layer of white pencil directly onto the paper and then put colour on top. Compare this to the third column where red, yellow and blue went onto the paper FIRST with a layer of white over the top. Can you see in each case that the colour produced in column 2 is more luminous and bright than the colour in column 3?

Conclusion: The result of putting white underneath a colour is NOT the same as the result of putting white over the top of a colour.

Undercover white is not only a useful method for rendering neon, lanterns, and lamps. It can be used in a universe of subject matter – anything that requires a bit of zing.

10 thoughts on “Undercover White

  1. anna warren portfolio

    First I would like to say how much I love this drawing – the warmth and light are almost palpable. The glow is intense. I think your customer will be delighted! Next – that is such a useful tip about the white. You have a very deep understanding of colour, on both a technical level and an aesthetic level. Both come from years of education and practice and nothing can substitute for these.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      You know me, Anna. (In a whisper) I don’t actually do commissions. Unless I want to and probably if it is for a family member. This drawing is going to live in a little semi in Enmore with my daughter and her partner.
      I’m so glad you like the drawing, and so do Alicia and Lewis. Once I got over the ‘shock’ of not drawing something European (which took three or four days) I relaxed into it. But now I’m heading straight back to Italy. All this travel – without leaving the room!!!

      1. anna warren portfolio

        Commissions are so fraught, but for family a whole different ballgame! I’m doing one at the moment for my one-year old granddaughter, but I wouldn’t do it otherwise! So nice to be able to travel from your desk … and I’m glad a little taste of Japan hasn’t taken you off the Venice track!

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