On Tuesday I created my first six monoprints. They will, most definitely, not be my last.

Monoprint No. 6

With eight of us crammed around the table working from the same piles of black, white, magenta, cyan and yellow piles of ink, it was difficult to be fussy about choosing and mixing colors.  My first five prints taught me a great deal and pleased me only minimally.  I wanted my last one to have a bit of dynamic movement and for that, I needed to have color contrast.  My favorite, foolproof color contrast (also a powerful value contrast duo) is yellow and purple.

For this print I ripped two squares of newsprint paper and two irregular smaller shapes of paper.  I inked all four and placed them on the plexi plate on top of the two ghost images from the previous two prints.  The clarity of the fibers along the torn edges of the squares is incredible!  I would have loved to make one more, using the ghost images of the squares….. but time ran out.

The banana and the tea tin played Prince and the Pauper this morning while I was eating breakfast.

Banana and Tea Tin disguised as the other

Drawing before I get down to the business of the day is not just a treat, it’s a necessity.  Working in a sketchbook allows me to experiment with playful ideas without the pressure of creating something marketable.  This morning’s playtime planted the seed for another series of 100 drawings and paintings (in addition to the three series that are waiting for the Trumpet Parts Series to be completed ….. only nine more to go!)

Instead of throwing the die, I stuck with reality for a change.  The tea tin needed to be yellow.

Sketchbook drawing:  drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Double split complements

Adjacent Double Near Complements may not be an official Color Scheme but it is one I find I intuitively use quite often.  I generally choose either the warm half of the color wheel (skipping the center two hues) or the cool half of the color wheel (skipping the center two hues).  It works well with the in-between colors as well.  Pick any two adjacent two colors, skip the next two colors in either direction and use the next two colors.  It’s simple and it is beautiful.

Harp Player and Sean Daly, The Grisly Pear

This painting, created during the January 30, 2012 Blues Jam at The Grisly Pear in the West Village, illustrates the ADNC color scheme.  (Violet, Red Violet, Orange Yellow and Yellow.

Drawn first with dip pen and black ink, followed by watercolor.

The subject of the painting can be chosen either before or after the dice are thrown. Yesterday afternoon I chose the subject based on the dominant color chosen by the twelve-sided die.

Rooting Oxalis, red-purple and yellow-green

I threw a two (Complementary Color Scheme) and an eight (Dominant Color = purple / red).  The rooting Oxalis in the kitchen window fit the bill.  I enjoyed both drawing and painting the Oxalis enough to chose it again for my morning subject.  This time I threw the dice after having chosen the Oxalis.

Rooting Oxalis, Analogous Colors

This time I threw a five (Analogous Color Scheme) and a two (Dominant color = Yellow Green)

I find it best to not look at the subject after the drawing stage is complete.  I move to my drafting table to apply the paint.  By not looking at the subject of the drawing, I am able to make decisions based on the value shapes and graphics of the painting rather than the reality that might not really work in my sketch.  This is especially helpful when the color scheme does not fit with the actual colors of my subject.

Sketchbook Drawings playing the Color Scheme Game: drawn first with fountain pen filled with black ink, followed by watercolor.


Top painting:  Limited palette of Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue and Cadmium Yellow Light

Bottom painting: Cadmium Yellow Light, New Gamboge, Cadmium Orange, Ultramarine Blue, Antwerp Blue and a touch of dioxazine purple to neutralize the yellow for the mason jar’s wire.

I can’t bear another gray morning …. so I invent a bit of brightness in the landscape.  My front porch protects me from getting soaked to the bone.

Rainy Winter Morning ... in my dreams

Still the same palette I’ve used all week: Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Lemon, Cobalt Blue and Titanium White.  I omitted the Sap Green.  My focus was on value, not color.  I enhanced the color for my own sanity. Perhaps by the end of winter I’ll figure out how to paint the clusters of thin, bare branches on the outer perimeter of trees without getting fussy.  I’m open to suggestions!  My trees end up looking like they are still wearing leaves.  I’m going for blocking in shapes rather than detail, but I would like to create a more bare branch illusion.

Oil Sketch: oil on prepared birch wood panel 5″ x 5″.  Complementary color scheme … purple / yellow, yellow dominant.

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.

Moving along with this color wheel of neutrals …..

Constantly correcting color mixes

As I move around the wheel it becomes clear where I have to go back and correct the mix of pigments to achieve the results I want.  My goal is to create a smooth transition from segment to segment of beautiful neutrals mixing only two colors plus white.  Both the hue and value often need correcting.  I will complete all segments before correcting again.  At this point, there are at least six segments I will alter.  The Cadmium Lemon plus purple / blue is better, but still not correct.

Color Wheel Five focuses on mixing neutrals from using complements and near complementary colors.

My plan was to experiment with mid value hues of autumn leaves in a hedgerow.

Landscape with splatters

I awoke to a hedgerow of trees stripped bare by wind and rain.  The plan required a bit of improvising and, after trying to alter the color of shadows on the grass, the plan was totally scrubbed, as were the now muddy shadows on the grass.  With nothing to lose I played with complementary colors in an attempt to bring life back into the little sketch.  Yellow / green trees against red / purple mountains and a field of pale orange adjacent to another shape of  neutralized blue ground are the supporting actors for the vivid splatters of bright red against pale green grass.

A sketch is never a total loss.  I look at errors and mistakes as opportunities to play without the pressure of getting it right the first time.  The more paintings I push further after failing, the better my chances are for getting it right the first time in my next painting.  I’ve learned more of what doesn’t work and I’ve learned more about what might work that I hadn’t tried before.

Dominant complements of red and green are tied together with high key (light value) complements of yellow and purple.

Lisa Parry at the Blues Jam

Using watercolor and ink together allows for things to happen on their own.  Colors can bleed into one another, blurring edges beautifully and mixing to just the right color to allow a sketch to come to life.  The red watercolor mixed with the Blue Nose Bear ink to produce a wonderful, subtle (and pale) purple suggesting a slightly shadowed lower face and neck.  It did not bleed enough to reach the cheek and side of the forehead, nor the tip of the ear.  Here, the yellow suggests a bit of light hitting the face.

Sketch: Drawn first with dip pen using Noodler’s Blue Nose Bear ink, followed by watercolor squeezed from a tube.

After a night of color wheels dominating my dreams, the primary and secondary colors escaped, disguised as rectangles woven together.

Disguised as Rectangles

What a relief.

My intention was to draw a montage of my backyard in the morning light.  Obviously my roller tip fountain pen had other ideas.  As the shapes were appearing, the idea of leaving them as shapes of solid color, interwoven by a strip of a complementary color, solidified.  I worked front to back through the color spectrum, yellow to purple, allowing the purple to unite the shapes by weaving through the yellow.

Drawn first with roller tip fountain pen followed by watercolor washes.