Appreciating the Brown Colors

I think the color brown is vastly underappreciated. Think about it. It’s the earthiest of our earthy colors. The base of all the palettes of nature. Something that exists in such abundance is also called ‘ubiquitous’. By its very virtue of being ever present, it becomes almost invisible.

But to a nature artist, the color brown, in all of its various expressions, is an important color.

Sometimes I just want simply ‘brown’. I’ve written about my excited discovery of a rock that gives me a true ‘brown’. It’s over at my Wild Ozark site because I wrote that post before I started keeping the color posts over here at Paleo Paints. And actually, the discovery goes to my youngest son, because he’s the one that brought me the first rock like this and asked if I wanted it.

A black rock that gives me brown paint.
A black rock that gives me brown paint.

When you look around with a more discerning eye, you’ll start to notice the many shades of this abundant color. They range the gamut from red, to yellow, all the way to the tint in my shale gray that is not quite black.

Brown exists in so many variations and shades, it’s impossible to pick one color and call it ‘brown’. And they’re all beautiful. But today I needed a brown that was ‘just brown’, without other color undertones. So I pulled out the black sandstone and got to work.

Not the Brown I Expected

Black sandstone usually gives me a nice brown with no other color hints. Today that rock defied expectations, though, and gave me one with reddish tints.

While it was a pretty color, that’s not what I needed. So I reached into my collection of already ground up pigments and pulled out Murdock Heavies. This one is a fairly neutral, light tan in color. I wondered if it might work as a modifier to more strongly pigmented colors. Until now I hadn’t tried blending it with anything.

After I’d scraped all I could of the (what was supposed to be the ordinary untinted one) off of the plate, there was still a lot of pigment left behind. So I dumped a pile of Murdock Heavies on it. After a bit of blending and mulling, it was hard to tell the difference between the brown I’d just finished scraping off, and the brown that was on the plate now.

The one on the right is what I got with the rock I thought would give me plain old brown. It’s a lot redder than usual. The one on the left is Murdock Heavies mulled on the plate with the leftovers of the one on the right.

A paint swatch showed a difference, though. Just enough moderation to take the red out of the first one. Much better, and exactly the shade I needed to begin with.

Ordinarily I call the original one ‘Earthy Delight’. But I don’t want to name it that with the red tones. I’ll call this variation ‘Earthy Surprise’.

I’ll call the new one made with the Murdock Heavies ‘Earthy Murdock’.

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