Color Exercises


When Tom is away, meals don’t happen. While I baked cookies, Deb came to the rescue and prepared dinner.

Lime, Apple and Fork

Lime, Apple and Fork

Sketchbook drawing: Lime, Apple and Fork – Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black ink, followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Analogous with one complement (Yellow-Orange, Yellow, Yellow-Green and Red-Violet) The fork is a neutral gray.

Limited Palette: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Aureolin, Cadmium Red, Permanent Aliazrin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue

Painting by color value does not always need to result in high contrast paintings.

Comparing Full Color to Grayscale Mode

Though there are extreme darks and a few strong lights, the overall feeling of the painting is more of a mid range contrast of values.  The leaves don’t contrast strongly against the background.  When violets are part of the adjacent colors, an extended analogous with one complement color scheme  provides an excellent selection of hues for any value range (High, mid or low contrast) even when painting with full saturation colors.

Spiderwort, Wandering Jew
Tradescantia Pallida

Sketchbook Drawing:  Spiderwort, Wandering Jew, Tradescantia Pallida – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Limited palette:  Aureolin, Permanent Alizarin, French Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue and a touch of Cerulean.

Art can be about creating believable illusions.

Star Ornament

The geometric overlay shapes don’t really make sense.  If the circles and the yellow square were translucent acetate sheets, where the yellow square overlaps the red circle, the circle would appear orange through the yellow square.  Where the yellow square overlaps the blue circle, the circle would look green.  The only way you might see part of the blue circle looking blue would be if the yellow square had that shape cut out of it so that the blue color of the circle could be seen.  The blue circle would have to be opaque to block the red circle from being seen.  Sometimes reality doesn’t matter.  I like the blue shape and it was fun playing with the primary and secondary colors.

Sketchbook Drawing: drawn first with pencil followed by watercolor.

My pressed clipping from a Red Tip Photinia long ago lost it’s brilliant color.

Pressed,dried, Red Tip Photinia clipping

The last couple of days I have painted samples of Color Value Painting, choosing hue according to its intrinsic value at full saturation rather than choosing hue according to the color of the object I am painting.  I want to show an example of completely arbitrary hue choices but I couldn’t bring myself to place full saturation red next to full saturation green.  Instead, I stayed with the left side of the color hue/value diamond.

Color hue/value

If it didn’t take so long to do the drawing, I would do another painting of the Red Tip Photinia using the right side of the diamond.

Comparing Full Color to Grayscale Mode

Sketchbook Drawing:  Pressed, Dried Red Tip Photinia – drawn first with pencil, followed by watercolor.

Limited Palette: Aureolin, French Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Alizarin (all Winsor Newton watercolor tube paints)

Continuing with example of painting by color value rather than color hue …

Still Life No.3 shown in grayscale mode

After trying a few color value paintings, you might notice that paintings created by color value often fall into standard color schemes.

Still Life No. 3 in full color

Though it may appear that painting by color value is too limited, I find the possibilities to be infinite and feel more playful and inventive with each new painting.

Color Value Still Life No.3 – ink vial and paint brushes: Drawn first with dip pen using Scribal Work Shop “Siren” ink, followed by watercolor washes choosing my colors by color value rather than hue.  Example for Color Value Workshops.

Limited palette: Three tubes of watercolor paint – Aureolin, French Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Alizarin …. all Winsor Newton pigments.

To read the history of this Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper, read today’s post on Third Time Around.

Hair Clipper – Full Color and Grayscale

One method of painting by color value is to use full intensity colors, choosing the hue based on its intrinsic value at full intensity.

Intrinsic Color Value at Full Intensity

This is not a perfect color value scale.  The blue and the green were too diluted and dried lighter than I would like.  However, you get the idea …. I hope.

As you can see, yellow is always your lightest light.  Violet is always your darkest dark.  When it comes to everything between white and black, you can choose from either side of the diamond.  If you haven’t played around with this before, I suggest you use the left side (oranges and reds) for the surfaces that are illuminated by your light source.  Use the right side (greens and blues) for the surfaces in shadow.

Or, if you are really adventurous, mix and match all you want and you will still come out with a strong painting as long as you choose your hues to correspond correctly to the values seen on the objects you are using as models.

Grayscale

I began with a line drawing using a dip pen and “Nessie” ink. Using a limited palette of only three hues (Aureolin, Permanent Alizarin and French Ultramarine Blue) I mixed the other hues I needed to correspond with the values I wanted.  I mixed a yellow-orange, orange, yellow-green, green, and a slightly darker green moving toward blue-green.

First I painted the darkest dark, the shadows.  I let that dry completely so that I could see exactly how dark the violet shadows ended up. The second wash was the background, the yellow-orange.  These two washes define my value range, my lightest light (other than the white paper) and my darkest dark.  I then worked dark to light starting on the shadow side of the clipper and making my way around the surfaces from shadow to illuminated planes.

When I got to the clipper attachment I totally forgot what my goal was and simply played with the ink bleeding into a diluted blue-violet mix.  It is difficult to shut off my intuitive actions.

Family Treasures No.47 – Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper

I present this and other methods of painting by color value in the Color Value Workshops.

Tom’s bow ties are too hysterical for me to stop at only one painting.  This second study is an example of painting by color value.  I’ll be teaching a Color Value Workshop in Santa Rosa, CA at the end of January and another at the Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster, NJ in the spring.  One may also be scheduled in Salisbury, MD in the next few months.

Comparing the grayscale values

The image on the right shows the painting before adding another wash of violet to darken the shadows.

Grayscale mode of photograph

For variety, I lightened the value of the tie on the right.  Notice that the shadows are much darker than the bow ties.  When I mixed the violet for the shadows, I used too much water and the result was a wash that dried much too light.  I painted the rest of the painting before adjusting thew shadow value.  Had I painted using oil paints, the value of the mixed violet would not have lightened unless I added white.  The Color Value Workshop may be presented in either watercolor or oil.

Comparison in full color

Getting the values right is more important than getting the colors (hues) right!

Sketchbook drawings, color value studies: Family Treasures No. 46, Tom’s Bow Ties.  Drawn first with Sheaffer, snorkel, white dot fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness Ink, followed by watercolor washes.

For the past several years a small group of women artists met in homes and coffee shops to share ideas and support one another in our journey along the creative path.  B gifted each one of us with a small, cardboard chair as a symbol of our friendship.  She discovered the chairs in Paris.  Each is made from one piece of flat cardboard folded into the shape of the chair.

Cardboard Chair No.1

After playing the Color Scheme Game for a couple of years now, the world of neutrals sprawls out before me like an unexplored territory.  I feel as if I rounded a corner and now find myself in the Yosemite Valley of possibilities and beauty.

Cardboard Chair No.2

Sketchbook Drawings:

Cardboard Chair No. 1 – drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor and gouache.

Cardboard Chair No. 2 – drawn first with carbon pencil followed by watercolor and gouache.

My eyes are transforming into hue, tone and value meters!  It’s great.  It does, however, make driving a car more challenging.

Morning Watercolor Sketch, 8 am on a gray, rainy day

It’s no wonder plein air painting is such a challenge.  The colors vary, in every way possible, from day to day, from moment to moment.  Yesterday morning was also gray, but a cool gray rather than the warm gray that illuminates my backyard today.

When I get bold enough, I will try this same exercise on a large piece of watercolor paper, just to see what the impact might be.

Morning watercolor sketch of the light and weather conditions at that moment of the day.

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know by now that I get distracted easily.  Every time I clear space in my head, a new idea for a series of paintings fills the gap.

Early morning light… 6:30 am and 7:30 am

In addition to experimenting with the new, Seasonal Variation of The Color Scheme Game, I am exploring the colors of the landscape through the day.  I attempt to match the colors as closely as I can with little, if any, concern for describing the landscape itself.  I make note of the date, time, weather conditions and the colors I mix.  the BFK Rives printmaking paper that I have been using in my handmade sketchbooks may not be the best paper for this purpose.  I find I am using more water, diluting the pigment more than I usually do when playing the game.

Journal of Landscape Light: painted with watercolors on BFK paper, early morning on September 26, 2012

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