Sunday 30 October 2011


habit, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.
At our tiny primary school in Wales, we traipsed across the road to the church hall once a week for our art lesson. Big sheets of paper on the trestle tables, big cans of powder watercolours for mixing into that browny-purply sludge colour that you always seem to end up with when you get too enthusiastic.

The teacher explained how to make skin colour; mostly white, with a dash of red and just a touch of yellow, but not too much.

And that is pretty much how I've been doing it ever since.

Yesterday I was looking at the slightly grubby block of white in my palette, and thought, "I wonder?"

...and did a bit of Googling, and found that loads of other people used different ways of getting skin colour in their watercolour paintings.

Burnt sienna seemed a popular place to start.

So I did.


Only took me forty years to start thinking outside that particular box.

Yet again, it shows how deeply ingrained habit can be. Quite chastening, in a quiet sort of way.


  1. Perhpas we had the same teacher, or was it what they were told when they were trained? Between the ages of 6 and 9 I had a teacher who was a bully and shouldn't have been anywhere near children. He could paint. We learnt a lot more in art than most other children (as we found out when we arrived at the 'big school')Music too.

    It's strange how suddenly we realise something we've been doing all our lives could be changed...

  2. Sadly we had music and art aversion therapy at the school I attended! Shame since at ten when I went for my entrance interview with the headmaster I told him that I wanted to be an architect and like a fool I thought their job was to teach me enough to head off in that direction. They also said I was too clever to go to "Art College"!

    Silent screaming!!

  3. Caroline: Funny you should say that about art college. A friend of mine who was a maths teacher introduced me to her SIL for English lessons. She told me not to expect much as she was only an art teacher... She spoke excellent English and I was paid to just drink tea and chatter.

  4. I'm impressed at your primary school art teaching, in rural Oxfordshire I don't ever remember being instructed in the niceties of flesh tones. Mind you my medium was always the pencil and it took my mother to instruct me on the nuances of human proportion 'cos I was always way more interested in drawing machinery. If only a living could have been wrought from pencil drawings of our neighbour's articulated Massey Ferguson!

    Nice looking apples.

  5. Well, that's *one* kind of skin colour! ;)

  6. I was really lucky, both at primary and secondary; at the former, the headmaster, Mr Bertram, was always doing things to get our brains working- reading poetry, getting us to stand in line and become a binary calculator, and painting... mind you, all the teachers were really good at Llanfrechfa (big up, there!)

    It is indeed, Nix, and in that part of Wales at that time, it was the only skin colour. Except that it wasn't quite; the native Welsh are quite dark, and there was a smattering of Basque genes across the area from a refugee ship in the 30s. But Caucasian pink was indeed the default skin tone in our paintings!

  7. I think the crayons we had in prep (i.e. first year of school after kinder) were even labelled "flesh tone" - they were a horrid apricot/coral blend!

  8. I imagine any attempt to market something as 'flesh tone' is doomed! Think elasticated support garments. Actually, on second thoughts, yuk, too late.