As I sat outside Artfully Elegant (next to the historic Bethlehem Hotel), I sketched the street and the people enjoying the monthly Art Walk.

Art Walk, Bethlehem, PA, August 2012

A fountain pen, a waterbrush and a cd case with pieces of Peerless Watercolor Papers taped to the inside works incredibly well to add touches of color to a drawing.  Everything is conveniently on my lap and I’m able to stop at any moment to talk with people about the paintings I have displayed on the table beside me.

En Plein Air Sketchbook drawings: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Rome Burning Ink, followed by washes of Peerless Watercolor.

When you have a tube of paint with a generic sort of name like “Speedball Red”, it’s difficult to know what it will do when mixed with your other pigments.  Will it behave more like a cadmium red or like an Alizarin Crimson?  Can a purple be created when mixed with a blue?

Color Mix comparisons

Comparing the results of these color wheels, Speedball Red is a cooler red than I had imagined it would be.  It’s much closer to Alizarin Crimson than to Cadmium Red Light.  I will make another sample mix using a Cadmium Red Medium and a Vermillion.

Notice that using Cadmium Red Light and Joe’s blue (Phthalo) the mix is more of a brown than any sort of purple.  Good to know!  There is far too much yellow in the Cadmium Red Light, preventing a purple from appearing.

Color Wheels created using watercolor paints.


When I first arrived in Maryland I tinted about thirty canvases and boards to have them ready for a week of painting.  I painted more than half of them with a wash of Terra Rosa, my standard underpainting color.  As an experiment, I painted eight or nine with a wash of Permanent Mauve, a color that I have not been using on my palette lately.  It is not one of the colors on my Richard Schmid Color Charts.

View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland

After the first day of painting I found that the Terra Rosa underpainting was too warm and didn’t work as well with the colors of the landscape around me.  After the third day of painting I had used all of the canvases and boards that had been washed with the Permanent Mauve.  Those paintings were more satisfying.

the second wash on the remaining panels

As I became more tuned in to the marshes, I liked the Terra Rosa even less.  It’s great for the farmland surrounding me in New Jersey, but doesn’t make it for me in the Chesapeake Bay area.  After setting up my easel at Broad Creek, I brushed a wash of Permanent Mauve over the remaining Terra Rosa panels and let them dry in the sun on the trunk of my K-car.

En plein air easel setup at Broad Creek

Here is my Broad Creek setup.  This was the last of the canvases that had been originally washed with Permanent Mauve.  It felt as if the marshes painted themselves over this underpainting color.

Close up of painting and palette at Broad Creek

That big glob of cadmium red on my palette remained a big glob throughout the week.  I used this color the least, only a touch every now and then to tone down the greens.  Viridian took the prize for the most used color.  Thanks to the Richard Schmid Color Charts I was able to use it to mix all the various greens as well as some gorgeous purple/lavendars ! with it.  Viridian and Alizarin plus white surprised me.  I had forgotten that the mix can lean toward purple.

With all of these new color experiences in mind, I will experiment with other underpainting wash colors to create various moods and illusions of light.

Painting:  painted en plein air, 5″ x 5″ oil painting on gessoed birch panel washed with dilution of Terra Rosa oil paint. View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland.

I ended up drawing several variations of the laminated wood salt and pepper shakers.

Trumpet Parts No. 85 with Laminated Wood Salt Shaker

When I travel, I bring my favorite trumpet part, “T2P2”, with me.  It hung out on the table with the salt and pepper shaker, urging me to keep drawing all those laminated layers!  I liked the ink bleed in the previous attempts, but it only worked well in the wider layers.  The ink overpowered the color in the thinner layers.  I drew this in pencil first and applied brighter colors to create a more realistic rendering of the salt shaker.  I even used perspective to draw in the ovals at different intervals and diameters before indicating the lines of the thin layers.  Whew…. I haven’t done that in a long time.

Sketchbook drawing/painting: drawn first with pencil followed by watercolor washes.

I’m back.  Great trip!  No bugs until the last day!

Multiple attempts at drawing the Laminated Wood Pepper Mill

Before heading out to the marshes for a good eight hours of plein hour painting, I sat at the table sipping strong coffee, gazing out at the Wicomico River and drawing the laminated Pepper Mill, sometimes with my little traveling trumpet part and sometimes all by itself.  What is striking about this pepper mill is that it is constructed of laminated wood slices that have been stained different colors of reds, greens, blues and yellows.

Sketchbook Drawing: Drawn with fountain pen filled with black ink followed by watercolor.

Correlating each color, in its full intensity, to a percentage of gray on the value scale is often challenging.  Often, it is a new concept for artists, especially beginning artists.

Diamond Shaped Color Value Chart

The above chart is not a perfect example of basic color value as it applies to a twelve hue color wheel, but it serves as an example of a valuable exercise in relating color hues to values.  I highly recommend taking the time to create one.  I also suggest that you use quality watercolor paper when doing this so that you don’t run into the same problems I did when laying down the washes.

The images on left and center are the chart in its first and second stage.  The image on the right is the finished chart (the one shown in the middle) converted to grayscale in my computer.  I will, in the near future, create the same chart in either acrylic or oil so as not to complicate matters with the issue of transparency and dilution of hue intensity.

Diamond color value charts: Watercolor media.

Color Scheme Game page is now posted.

Color Scheme Game Page

Link to Rule Page

Use any medium you wish… oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, casein, pastel ……. All feedback is welcome!  Enjoy!

Knowing what limited palette to chose when traveling is important.  Making a new, twelve hue color wheel from a random choice of yellow, red and blue to play the color scheme game is both time consuming and rewarding.  the color wheels provide both answers as well as questions.

Reds and Blues that don't mix to produce purples

While making sample wheels for the Color Scheme Game I ran into trouble trying to achieve purple, red-purple and blue-purple when I used Cadmium Red Light.    The mix went immediately to brown or gray.  I decided to do linear test strips showing gradual mixes of cadmium red with an assortment of blues.

Over the years I have skirted around the issue of choosing between cobalt blue and ultramarine blue, often thinking they are interchangeable.  They aren’t.  There is debate over the warm/cool nature of blues.  I have read that French Ultramarine Blue is the coldest of blues.  I don’t find that true at all.  In my mind, the blues closer to green are cooler than the blues closer to purple.  Purple is a warmer color than green.  Ultramarine blue is definitely closer to purple than any of the other blues.  The chart above, in my mind, proves that point of view.  It is only Ultramarine Blue Light and French Ultramarine Blue that produce a hue close to purple when mixed with Cadmium Red Light.

On the other hand… Ultramarine Blue gives a much muddier green when mixed wit yellow than any of the other blues.  Makes perfect sense to me since Ultramarine has more red in it.  The red neutralizes the green.  All of the other blues are closer to green.  There is no red to neutralize the green.  As a result, the greens are more vibrant.

It is easier for me to see the characteristics of the pigment when I make my color wheels with watercolor.

As of January 21st I will again be a full-time artist!

The zig-zag of the road

A year and a half ago I sketched the zig-zag of the road and have wanted to do a simple, little oil sketch, en plein air, of the pattern created by the two driveways meeting the road in front of my house.  The first thing I did after sending my notice of leaving my job at the prop shop as of January 20th was to celebrate my return to full-time painting by painting the long overdue oil sketch of sky, land and roads. The pattern of the road, the pattern of clouds in the sky and the pattern of value shapes were my primary concerns.

Color Wheel Five, en plein air

What a great way to begin 2012!

Painting:  oil sketch on stretched canvas

Seven hours of corrections is enough for today.  I might just leave it this way.  The abrupt transitions give me additional important information that I’ll find useful when painting en plein air as well as in the studio.

Before and After adjustments

During the last seven hours spent adjusting hues to fit into the three value ranges of light, middle and dark, the fog in my brain that shrouded a clear and simple understanding of mixing colors cleared.  I will sleep well tonight.

Neutrals mixed from complements and near complements

One of the challenges was accepting that I can’t mix a Value 8 yellow without having to call it something other than yellow.  It becomes a green or a red.  Another challenge was working with the transparency of colors such as alizarin crimson, cobalt violet and ultramarine violet.

Color Wheel Five is a single sheet of rag mat board.  I found that I referred to the Richard Schmid color charts I made only when I painted in the studio.  When I paint en plein air I like to travel light.  Carrying the eleven boards with me when I paint outdoors is something I did only once.  Color Wheel Five is an excellent reference for both values and hues, showing distinct nuances between neutrals mixed with complements and neutrals mixed with near complements.

I will post the directions for Color Wheel Five within the week.