Just like the planet Mars has been around forever, so have R&F Paints’ Mars Encaustic colors, only I just discovered them while at my Brown Pink Residency…my trip to Mars took a few turns, it seems. I’m speaking specifically of Mars Red, Mars Orange and Mars Violet. Although I have all of them in my home studio collection, I’ve never used them. In fact, my Mars Violet is so old it’s still donned with discontinued packaging format and is likely a collectors item at this point.
Why I avoided these colors (and others) is only somewhat relevant to this article and a subject I would like to revisit more in depth in a later post. In terms of the Mars colors, it seems I just reached for colors I was more familiar with using and which happened to be near enough in color for what I wanted-or so I thought. Even after working with encaustic for over twenty years, I often forget that a lot of the colors look wildly different when they’re melted, especially the more earth based tones. Yes, of course, I have my R&F color chart proudly displayed and I consult with it often. However, when I’m in ‘the zone’, it’s difficult to get me to look at anything else other than what I’m painting.
So why did I pick up the Mars colors at Brown Pink? Because they were there, I wasn’t in my home studio where my colors are organized differently and because I was at a paint company’s residency, I was in an ‘experiment with colors’ mindset. For a few years now, I’ve been working with a certain color group; blacks, whites and grays as the base with blues, pinks, reds and browns as highlights. If greens and yellows enter in, it’s more of the dark olives and ochres respectively. I use these colors because they connect to both landscape and the body, the notion of which is conceptually at the core of my work. While I was at the residency, I totally got into the fact that I had the entire R&F color line in front of me so why not try other things. I know what I like, but that doesn’t mean I know everything.
The following is a list of the colors and how they differ from the colors I normally use that are within the same range. I also discuss how I paired them next to and with other colors and you can see some of the results in the images below. Additionally, I have included inspiration photos I’ve recently taken where these colors show up in nature. Take note of the color combinations in the photos, this is what I do for inspiration when creating color palettes. Please check out my favorite encaustic colors blog posts for more about color and how I use it here and here. Going forward, my new studio life on Mars is looking pretty good!
Mars Red I’m so in love with this color! The reds I pick up without fail are Alizarin Crimson, Turkey Red and Warm Pink, with Alizarin Crimson being the one I use most to hint at the body, blood, flesh, etc. However, I was always trying to tone down the violet undertones in AC, it just seemed more lively than a sanguine color. When I picked up the Mars Red, there was an instant recognition that it was the color I was always trying to mix…an aha moment, for sure. I mixed it with Alizarin as well as Brown Pink and all were amazing rich reds. In addition, I can’t tell you how often I search for the Perfect Pink and usually begin with Warm Pink and several other colors to move it toward a salmon, peach or violet pink, but still always left me wanting that Perfect Pink. When mixed with any white, Mars Red makes the pink of my dreams and created the best watercolor sunsets in my landscape mono-prints. Last, a great combination is painting this color next to any blue or blue-toned color to make both colors sing. In the images below, I used combinations of Payne’s Gray, Cerulean Extra Pale, Cerulean Gray and Cobalt Teal.
Mars Orange The oranges I use most are Alizarin Orange and Burnt Sienna and Indian Yellow, which I count as an orange. In fact, I have to say that these are the only oranges I use as I’m not particularly drawn to yellows and oranges. However, I do have a deep love of the ‘red earth’ of the desert as well as the ‘black water’ in Northern Florida where I travel to do my self-made residencies (images below). These are the oranges I’m attracted to in nature and I tend to pick up the Burnt Sienna and Brown Pink when I want to replicate it. Mars Orange by itself is exciting, but it totally pops Burnt Sienna and Brown Pink when they are mixed with it. The best mix is Mars Orange and Mars Red for a very rich, earthy red. For a little extra zing, add in to that mix a small amount of Cobalt Yellow, Cad Lemon or Olive Yellow. Just like Mars Red, Mars Orange sings when paired next to any Blue/Green color and I would add Phthalo Green Pale, Malachite Green, Turkey Umber Greenish and Celadon to the list of pairings.
Mars Violet I never use purples or violets, but this color is deceptively named as it’s very close to Sepia and Brown Pink. Both Sepia and MV have purple(ish) undertones when compared with other browns, Mars Violet being richer, a little more red and a tad brighter, while Sepia is a bit darker, more violet and closer to a classic brown. I likely never picked up the Mars Violet because I’m totally in love with Sepia and Brown Pink and always reach for them first. Mars Violet bridges the gap and adds a richness between Brown Pink and Magenta. In the images below, you’ll see I mixed this color with Payne’s Gray to make a lovely dark gray and when mixed with Neutral White and/or Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale, it makes a still lovelier pale gray with a violet undertone. I found it’s best when painted next to rich oranges and reds, whites and my favorite pairing color, Turkey Umber Greenish.