watercolor


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.

Six variations are possible given three shapes painted using three colors …  3 times 2 times 1. (An early math lesson I use often to remind myself of the choices possible when putting brush to paper or canvas.

Six Variations …. plus two more by altering color

The six variations using green, yellow and purple are shown above.  If I add red to the variables there are now twenty-four variations ….. 4 times 3 times 2 times 1!

For this exercise I chose yellow, green and purple to illustrate not only color changes but also value changes and the spacial illusions created by each variation.  Yellow is a light value, green is a middle value and the purple is the dark value.  My morning color exercises remind me daily the importance of thinking value first …. then color.

Sketchbook color study in watercolor.

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.  www.ArtAssociationInRoxbury.org

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

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

After sifting through the photos I shot in Keyport yesterday, I forced myself to do a quick sketch from one of them.  I don’t enjoy working from photographs.  They don’t give me information regarding color, values or the energy of the places I’ve been.  Maybe I’m just a got-to-be-there snob.

Enjoying the afternoon at Keyport Harbor, NJ

What I decided is that I need to know what it is I want from my plein air paintings and why I am entering the weekend Plein Air Events in my area.  My intention was to visit the harbor prior to next weekend’s event in order to decide where I want to set up.  Driving home, I thought only of the people I met, not of the boats floating in the water or the landscape.

When I tossed the die to see what color scheme would be chosen for me, it came up Extended Analogous Color Scheme with Green as my dominant color.  That would have been fine if there hadn’t been people in the image.  The last thing I wanted to do was to have the people disappear into the shrubbery.  Sometimes rules work and sometimes they don’t.

My plan is to work from the photos all week. Hopefully, I’ll get over my aversion to them and have a better idea of where I want to be next weekend.  Only the paintings done during the weekend event may be entered in the event exhibition or competition (if there is one).

I look forward to seeing the two men on the bench, Joe, Don and Judy Pie (the tiny dog hidden under the bench) next weekend.  They told me they would save me a spot on the bench in case I want to sit down when I’m painting next weekend.  I just might take them up on their offer.

Drawing: Working from a photograph rather than life …. drawn first with fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

When painting dancers or musicians during a performance there is no time to contemplate what I’m drawing, what colors I’m using or even why I think I can express the energy of the moment in less than a minute with a pen and a brush.  I paint whatever grabs my attention and provides me with a starting point.

Saucon Valley High School Jazz Ensemble

The Saucon Valley High School Jazz Ensemble won second place in the High School Jazz Band competition at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA.  As a reward, they opened for Kevin Eubanks last Friday evening.  I was given a table to paint on at the back of the room giving me front, slightly distant view of the stage.  What I saw was a mass of musicians dressed in black sitting on black chairs behind black music stands.  The only shapes that stood out were the brass instruments as the stage lights struck them and ……. the bright red neckties worn by each of the band members.

Two students, Two trombones, Two red neckties

A little bit of color can go a long way to save the day.

Drawings: drawn first with dip pen followed by watercolor

This is the season for mixing greens if you are a plein air landscape painter.  A little time making quick color wheels can save hours of time in the field as well as a great deal of heartache when the greens on your paper or canvas don’t work well together.

Comparing greens resulting from two different blues

The little color wheels using only three pigments each are valuable tools, saving far more than the fifteen minutes it takes to make each one.  The two wheels illustrated here were painted with only one variation…. the blue.  Both wheels show Winsor Newton – New Gamboge as the yellow and  Winsor Newton – Permanent Carmine as the red.  The wheel on the left shows American Journey – Joe’s Blue (Phthalo) as the blue.  The wheel on the right shows Grumbacher – Ultramarine Blue as the blue.  Obviously the orange mixes are the same.  Notice that the purple mixes are fairly close.  The green mixes, however, are strikingly different.  Hopefully your monitor shows this difference.

When the wheels are placed atop one another, showing the greens of the two wheels next to one another as they might appear if you mixed them and used them in your painting, you will see that they don’t work well together at all.  Why? because they describe a different kind of light illumination on a landscape, perhaps a different weather condition or a different global location. I feel safe to say that it would be close to impossible to make them work well together in a painting.

One of the reasons many painters add a green to their palette (such as Viridian or Hookers) is to resolve this conflict of greens mixed with different blues.  By adding a pigment that falls between the yellow and the blue, the temperature of your yellow plus blue mixes can be altered without turning to mud.  Once again …. charts should be made so you know what works well together for you.

The color wheels are created using watercolor.  Oil and acrylics will mix giving similar results, but I recommend making comparison color wheels in those mediums, too, in addition to the quick watercolor wheels.

 

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