Thursday 27 August 2015

Aerides thibautiana: Bird-like Orchids and Colours Permanency

Blossoms that look like a band of birds praying

When I first time saw Aerides thibautiana while glancing through orchids in my favourite nursery, I almost missed this remarkable subject of painting. The orchid had tiny blossoms and modest, all purple colour, unnoticeable pattern and common petals shape. However, after I could not find what I looked for, I scrutinized again the Indonesian orchids that were blooming. As I paid close attention to the Aerides thibautiana, I was surprised to see what I saw, an orchid that resembled band of birds!

I had seen some pictures of unique orchids that looked like other species, but only on the internet. That day, I finally found one myself and it was native to Indonesia. What a prize!

Do you see what I saw? Doesn't Aerides thibautiana look like a band of bird praying? 
Since the plant was quite expensive, I was so grateful that Mrs. Tarigan (the owner of the nursery) gave me an inflorescence to bring home. She even offered me to take more than one (I refused) and other orchid blossoms as well.

At home I quickly photographed the flowers since I didn't want to miss their prime time. Later, I was happy to be able to paint the illustration based on my photograph and the specimen, which surprisingly remained intact for almost a week.

Colour Permanency

I knew I would want to use Opera Rose to imitate the vivid colours of the blossoms. However, since I learnt that Opera Rose is one of those fugitive colours, I replaced it with WN Quinacridone Magenta, which used the same pigment PR122 but without the fluorescent dye.

Fugitive colours are colours which are based on impermanent pigments or dyes that lighten, darken, or otherwise change in appearance over time. The opposite of fugitive is lightfast, which meant (a dye or pigment) not prone to discoloration when exposed to light and the atmosphere.

The recognised testing system of lightfastness is ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). They rate and classify paints to: I (excellent), II (very good), III (moderate) and IV (poor). If a paint has not been rated, it is described as N/A= No assignation (Not Rated). Reputable paint manufacturers usually provide information about the lightfastness and other qualities of the paints, such as Winsor & Newton. You can check their websites or check the label of your paints. Further, you consult an easy to read yet informative blog post, "What are fugitive colours?" by Katherine Tyrrell or read (and bookmark!) a very useful source, Handprint.

I learnt that some florilegiums and botanical societies and some reputable exhibitions require artists to use only paints with good permanency rating (I and II only). Thus, rather than finding my work got rejected from an exhibition, I resisted my personal satisfaction in seeing vivid opera rose colour for this botanical work. However, I still keep some fugitive but favourite of people paints on my paint box, e.g. Alizarin Crimson, Aureolin, Rose Madder Genuine and of course, Opera Rose and sometimes I use them for short-term or reproduction-orientation commissions.

The replacement paint, Quinacridone Magenta has exactly the same pigment PR122, which "is a lightfast, semitransparent, staining, dark valued, intense violet red pigment", said Bruce MacEvoy from Handprint, "PR122 has the strongest violet hue of any violet red pigment available in watercolors". However, after using it a lot in this painting (along with Winsor Violet (Dioxazine) PV23 and Permanent Rose PV19), I found that it underwent a drying shift. The dried paint was not as bright/saturated as when it was still wet. Sadly it slightly lightened. Adding more layers of the same paint somewhat helped but only to a certain level, not as intense as I wished.

Anyway, I am happy to gain this insight. I love to know how different
each paint behaves (oftentimes not a big deal) and how practice gives me idea on how to deal with it.

Here are my work in progress and scanned illustration of Aerides thibautiana.