While exploring the woods with my father on Thursday, I put to use the re-discovery of beautiful grays and browns possible when mixing cadmium red light with different blues.

subtle grays of sunlit tree branches


The original intent was to find a blue that would produce a purple when mixed with cadmium red light. Only Ultramarine Blue came close to succeeding. I had forgotten what beautiful neutrals are possible using cadmium red light. I mixed a lovely brown with Cad Red and Ultramarine Blue for dried leaves fallen on the ground in another sketch I posted this morning on Third Time Around. I mixed a miniscule touch of cad red into cobalt for the subtle gray of the branch in the sketch above.

Sketchbook drawing: drawn first with fountain pen filled with black ink, followed by watercolor.

Another example of mixing neutral colors using <a title="Directions and Sample Painting, Color Wheel Five for reference …

Breaking Through Morning Mist

The morning presented minimal contrast and coloring that reminded me more of the lifeless colors I’m trying to avoid mixing.  As the sun attempted to break through the layers of mist, diffused sunlight added a bit of warmth to the backyard, winter landscape.  I exaggerated the hues for my own pleasure.

I continue to refer back to Color Wheel Five to mix neutrals using only two pigments plus white, avoiding mud.  I use my nine-step grayscale to check my values.  For this morning’s painting, I wanted to use a limited value scale, avoiding sharp contrasts that would indicate stronger sunlight.

Painting Sketch:  Oil on gessoed birch wood panel 5″ x 8″

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.