Color Wheels

March 26, 2016

Color Wheel Color 101Workshops A chriscarterartist 102715 900.jpeg

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While preparing for the recent watercolor demonstrations I’ve been doing, I cut open the tube of Cadmium Red Deep that I never use.  I don’t use it because I think it is as ugly as Cadmium Red Light is beautiful.  After making the Color Scheme Game color wheel using Cad Red Deep as my primary red, I discovered the potential of beauty within that color I deemed as ugly.

No. 1 - Artist Trading Card - Watercolor

No. 1  – Watercolor – 2.5″ x 3.5″

This limited palette of raw sienna, cadmium red deep and ultramarine blue produces lovely neutrals.  The watercolor demos are over for the next two months, but I continue to use this odd palette.  In fact, I have replaced a dozen of the paintings I originally planned to hang in the upcoming solo exhibit at Connexions Gallery with new paintings created with this palette.  I can’t help but be reminded of the story The Ugly Duckling.

Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red Deep and Ultramarine Blue

Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red Deep and Ultramarine Blue

The second throw of the die gave me yellow-green as a dominant color.  Rules are meant to be broken or re-interpreted.

Glass Inkwells No. 5

The first throw of the die gave me an analogous color scheme with one complement.  That means I use three colors adjacent to one another on the twelve hue color wheel plus one complement of any of those three hues.  The traditional interpretation of that color scheme with yellow-green as the dominant color would be: Yellow-Green and the two colors on either side of Yellow-Green which would be Yellow and Green …. plus either Red, Red-Violet or Violet.

When I looked at my ink drawing I kept seeing the two large rectangles as Yellow-Green, almost a yellow.  I didn’t want to use the colors on either side (yellow or green) in the painting.  Instead, I used my dominant color Yellow-Green as the complement of the analogous trio Red-Violet, Violet and Blue-Violet.  The rule that I try not to break is the rule of Being Flexible.

When I teach the Color Scheme Game Workshops, I am reminded that it is difficult for many people to break the rules.  I encourage you to do so!

I have listed below the variations possible, and totally permissible, that I could have chosen when I threw the die this morning.

1. Traditional Combination …. Yellow, Yellow-Green, Green with either Red, Red-Violet or Violet

2. Yellow-Green, Green, Blue-Green with either Red-Violet, Red or Red-Orange

3. Yellow-Green, Yellow, Yellow-Orange with either Red-Violet, Violet or Blue-Violet

4. Red-Violet, Red, Red-Orange with Yellow-Green

5. Violet, Red-Violet, Red with Yellow-Green

6. Blue-Violet, Violet, Red-Violet with Yellow-Green

Remember that the purpose of playing the game is to sharpen your tools so that when you are painting your more ‘serious’ work, you can craft it more masterfully and have more confidence (and more fun) doing so.

Sketchbook drawing: Glass Inkwells No. 5 – drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink followed by watercolor using a limited palette of Yellow-Green, Red-Violet, Violet and Blue-Violet.

I highly recommend making small color wheels using only three colors. Label them carefully with both the manufacturer and the name of the color.

Possible combinations of six pigments, warm and cool

Professional grade can differ greatly from student grade.  A “hue” will contain more binder and less pigment.  Manufacturers also differ significantly.

Looking at photos of color wheels is not the same as making your own.  by making your own you will immediately understand the characteristics of the pigments, the transparency or opacity, the tinting strength and the tendency toward warm or cool.  The mystery of mixing greens and purples will vanish.  The little color wheels can be carried with you when you paint en plein air.

In The Color Scheme Game Workshops, I ask the students to bring one tube each of any red, yellow and blue watercolor.  Each student makes one color wheel.  We end up with a variety of pigments being used and a variety of oranges, purples and greens to compare with one another when the color wheels are completed.

The ideal limited palette includes a warm yellow, cool yellow, warm red, cool red, warm blue and cool blue.  With those six pigments almost any color can be mixed, including all the beautiful neutrals.  A few of my favorite colors that can’t be mixed are the cobalt violets and the turquoise blues.  when travel space allows, I usually bring viridian and burnt sienna for convenience and economy.  I can mix those two colors but it is more costly in time and money to do so.

I used the following colors to make the eight wheels shown above.

Aureolin (Winsor Newton) – cool yellow, transparent, professional grade

Gamboge Hue (Grumbacher) – warm yellow, slightly opaque, professional grade

Phthalo Blue (Sennelier Aquarelle Extra Fine) – cool blue, fairly transparent, professional grade

Ultramarine Blue (Cotman) – warm blue, slightly opaque, student grade

Carmine (Holbein) – cool red, transparent, professional grade

Cadmium Red Light (Grumbacher) – warm red, opaque, professional grade

At first glance the Aureolin and the Gamboge Hue might appear identical.  However, their unique characteristics become apparent when mixed with other pigments.

Note that no matter what the proportions of cadmium red light to phthalo blue might be, one will never arrive at a purple, only variations (often beautiful) of browns and grays.  There is too much yellow in both the cadmium red light and the phthalo blue.  The yellow negates any purple that might be tempted to appear.

The following are the eight combinations possible with six pigments, a warm and cool of yellow, red and blue:

Warm yellow, warm red, warm blue

Warm yellow, warm red, cool blue

Warm yellow, cool red, warm blue

Warm yellow, cool red, cool blue

Cool yellow, warm red, warm blue

Cool yellow, warm red, cool blue

Cool yellow, cool red, warm blue

Cool yellow, cool red, cool blue

It’s worth the time to create the color wheels.  Please believe me!  Let me know, after making the wheels, if you agree.

Instinctively, I avoided using both red and blue in today’s morning sketch of my mother’s tin of wooden thread spools.  This proves to be an excellent example of the Foolproof Color Scheme I was introduced to in Jane R. Hofstetter’s book 7 Keys to Great Paintings.  This remains one of my favorite books to keep me on a path towards better paintings.

Family Treasures No. 16

The inspiration is my mother’s green tin filled with wooden spools of thread.  I found it when clearing out my father’s house last October.  For as long as I can remember, thread was kept in this tin, in spite of several other sewing baskets my mother acquired over the years.  I recall that it was “much handier than a sewing basket” for keeping track of her collection of thread for mending.  The bright stripes are a variation on the bright colored placemats I bought in Avignon several years ago.

I think this is the first time I have drawn objects in one cell overlaying another cell.  I often allow objects to work their way across the edge of the cell into the non-cell background.  After a recent dialogue with DB regarding the disparity of scale on road maps when details of cities are shown, I decided to see how she feels about the presence of two different scales appearing in the space of one cell.  Maybe I’ll play with overlaps in a Venn Diagram mode. Hmmmmmm.

detail of ink and watercolor painting. Family Treasures No. 16 Green Tin of wooden spools of sewing threads

Painting: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor.  Arches Watercolor Paper

Color Scheme:  Foolproof…. Five analogous colors, skip one on each end and include the last three analogous colors on a twelve hue color wheel.

The palettes arrived!

Step One: Primary Colors Yellow, Blue, Red

I was amazed by how difficult it was to find an inexpensive, round palette that provided the necessary quantity of wells to work for The Color Scheme Game workshops.  Most of the palettes had only ten wells.  This one has ten wells on the outer ring, but the six wells on the inner ring make it acceptable.

Step Two: Secondary Colors: Orange, Green and Purple

Colors can be kept separate and clean.

Step Three: Warm and cool variations of each primary and secondary color

This is where it gets a little dodgy because the wells are out of alignment and there are only ten.

Step Four: Adjustments and additions…. the fun begins!

Adjustments can be made and additional colors mixed to create more even transitions.  It’s perfect!  Two extra little wells in the center …. perhaps for ultra dark mixes?  Perhaps for ultra translucent mixes …. whatever your pleasure1

I am delighted with these little palettes.

I purchased them on ebay from a vendor called ‘shinykingdom’.  They were half the price that I saw listed on other sites …. though I saw them on very few sites.

This weekend I revised The Color Scheme Game to include two, extremely useful, color schemes.

Trumpet Parts No. 88

The new color schemes and the number they relate to on the dice are now listed on The Color Scheme Game page.  New cards have been printed and are available on Etsy.  Workshop palettes are in transit, color wheel templates are completed and brushes are on order.  Everything is ready for stress-free, fun workshops to begin.  Please contact me if you are interested in hosting either a demonstration, workshop or an Art Party.

Scheduled Color Scheme Game Events:

September 6, 2012:  Roxbury Art Association, New Jersey.  Demonstration.

September 12, 2012:  The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster, New Jersey – Half Day Color Scheme Game Workshop, 10 am – 2 pm.

March 10, 2013:  Essex Watercolor Club, New Jersey. Demonstration.

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