Color schemes have become another fine-tuned skill in my toolbox.  As with any tool, a lifetime can be spent learning new uses for tools.

Photo of Glass Inkwells and Travel Palette

Photo of Glass Inkwells and Travel Palette

Unexpected possibilities now present themselves during my morning practice of the Color Scheme Game.

Line Drawing

Line Drawing

Normally, I would continue the line drawing adding the pans of watercolor and the indications of the mixing wells.  At this point, I stopped.  There was something about the large, open shape of the palette without details that I liked.  It gave contrast to the smaller shapes that describe the inkwells.

Painting in the Inkwells

Painting in the Inkwells

I decided to throw the die and paint in only the inkwells leaving me the option of drawing the pans of pigment before painting the palette shape.  I came up with the Basic Triad Color Scheme with red as one of the colors.


One more step

I went one step further to paint the inside lip of the travel palette.  I put the drawing aside until the next morning to see if I felt the same way about it.  In the middle of the night I awoke with the idea of indicating the paint in the palette as splats rather than pans of pigment.


Glass Inkwells No.18 with pigment splats

I’m pleased with the results and glad that I allowed for something new to happen.

Sketchbook Drawing: Glass Inkwells No. 18, Ink and Watercolor. Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black ink followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Basic Triad of yellow, red and blue.

Limite palette: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Red Light, French Ultramarine Blue

Continuing to play the “Seasonal” version of The Color Scheme Game ….

Glass Inkwells No. 12

Playing the Seasonal version of The Color Scheme Game triggers different creative activity in my brain.  It’s perfect for bridging the gap between my morning drawing exercises and my larger work.  I find I search harder for what I want and try to fix that image on the canvas of my mind, not permitting myself to veer off into another direction of color mood.  The glass inkwells work well for this exercise.  They act like chameleons.

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

When I threw the die this morning it came up “Winter – Morning”.  I opted for a bright, clear, crisp morning … colors reflecting off the snow.  One of my inkwells cooperated, acting as a model without complaining about the chill.

Glass Inkwell No. 11 in Winter Morning Light
Color and grayscale mode comparison

The violet is the color of the bramble bushes in the hedgerows that cut across the fields.

Sketchbook drawing:  Glass Ink Wells No. 11 – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor mixing gorgeous neutrals from crimson, phthalo blue, ultramarine blue and aureolin.  Color Scheme Game variation …. “Seasons”


Another set of rules …. to be broken, of course ….

Glass Inkwells No. 9, Hiding  …

The goal has always been to increase my Color Vocabulary and to use that expanded vocabulary in my plein air and studio work.  My morning color exercises are so much fun for me that it is not unusual to spend the entire day playing The Color Scheme game instead of grabbing my plein air bag and heading outside.  The Painting The Seasons variation is meant to bridge the gap between my morning exercises and easel painting.  It can be played with or without throwing for a color scheme.  I do not throw for a dominant color since the colors are determined by the season and the time of day.  Neutrals are determined by the real or imagined weather conditions.

The drawing above is  “Autumn Evening”, indicated by nine dots on the twelve-sided die.

#1 … Spring Morning

#2 … Spring Afternoon

#3 … Spring Evening

#4 … Summer Morning

#5 … Summer Afternoon

#6 … Summer Evening

#7 … Autumn Morning

#8 … Autumn Afternoon

#9 … Autumn Evening

#10 … Winter Morning

#11 … Winter Afternoon

#12 … Winter Evening

Sketchbook Drawing:  Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor washes using a palette that relates to the colors seen as the sun is going down on a crisp evening in autumn.

When the twelve-sided die indicates green as my dominant color, I groan.  It is a mid-value hue when fully saturated.

Glass Inkwells No. 6

When painting en plein air I love playing with the variations of greens.  When playing The Color Scheme Game I am not as enthusiastic.  Fortunately, in this case, my color scheme was a Semi Triad (Green, Yellow and Violet).  The yellow provided a high value hue and the violet provided a low value hue.

Sketchbook Drawing: Glass Inkwells No. 6 drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor washes.

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.

Glass Inkwells No. 4 …

Basic Triad Color Scheme

A quick note ….. the moose has not yet returned.  It’s either having the time of its life or in real trouble.  Dressed in turquoise, anything could have happened.

As the trees begin to turn I find myself being pulled back to plein air painting.  My ink lines were looser, more free flowing like the drawings of musicians.  There are only seven pages left in my original, coptic bound sketchbook.  The next one is ready to go.  My intent is to fill it with plein air landscapes as I travel through New Jersey, Maryland and California over the next few months, jumping back and forth between reality and the color scheme game.

Morning Sketchbook Drawing: Glass Inkwells No. 4, Color Scheme: Basic Triad (Yellow-Orange, Blue-Green, Red-Violet)  I leaned more toward yellow than Orange. Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor

Color value is as important if not more important than color scheme.

Before and after adjusting values with a few more washes of watercolor without changing the hue (color).

This morning’s Color Scheme Game indicated a Complementary Triad, two complements with one color equidistant between the two …. Yellow and Violet with Blue-Green.  My dominant color was Blue-Green.  In an attempt to maintain the blue-green as dominant color, I used a pale wash of violet for the background. The result was less than thrilling.  Curious to see how the painting would change, I created stronger contrast between the glass inkwells and the background.  Abandoning my concern for any specific color being dominant, I applied another wash of a darker violet to the background.  In addition I darkened a few of the other shapes in the bottles as well as the shadow shapes.  The result is a stronger painting that reads well from across the room in spite of its small size (5.75″ x 7.75″)

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