For the past several years a small group of women artists met in homes and coffee shops to share ideas and support one another in our journey along the creative path.  B gifted each one of us with a small, cardboard chair as a symbol of our friendship.  She discovered the chairs in Paris.  Each is made from one piece of flat cardboard folded into the shape of the chair.

Cardboard Chair No.1

After playing the Color Scheme Game for a couple of years now, the world of neutrals sprawls out before me like an unexplored territory.  I feel as if I rounded a corner and now find myself in the Yosemite Valley of possibilities and beauty.

Cardboard Chair No.2

Sketchbook Drawings:

Cardboard Chair No. 1 – drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor and gouache.

Cardboard Chair No. 2 – drawn first with carbon pencil followed by watercolor and gouache.

Autumn is a perfect time of year to focus on the illusions created by high contrast values.  Watercolor is my choice of mediums for color/value studies that will result in capturing that gorgeous glow of sunlight passing through the translucent oak leaves of yellow and orange.

Oak Leaves at 3 pm, bathed in sunlight

Neutrals of the palette strengthen the apparent brilliance of fully saturated colors, creating an even stronger illusion of sunlight passing through translucent oak leaves in the late afternoon.

What I thought might be a quick sample of using Color Wheel Five to paint the view through and beyond my kitchen turned into an all day struggle.

View beyond the kitchen

The problem spot in the painting is the table.  I changed the hue and value of the both the top and the draping cloth at least a dozen times. The light through the windows continued to change and my value sketch offered little help.  In spite of the struggle, I enjoyed every minute of the challenge, keeping colors clean and using both full intensity and neutralized hues.

Painting:  oil sketch on gessoed birch wood panel 5″ x 7″

Now it’s time for fine tuning.  It’s obvious when looking at the original (the scan is a bit skewed) where adjustments need to be made.

Before Fine Tuning, Color Wheel Five

Flexibility and breaking rules is essential for the successful outcome of Color Wheel Five.  To create a value of One (Black being a value of Zero) without moving away from the initial color dominance is impossible for segments of yellow, yellow / orange and orange.  Example:  When neutralizing yellow with purple, so much purple must be added to darken the value of yellow that it can no longer be called a yellow.  On the other hand, a Value of Nine ( almost white ) can be created for any hue simply by adding white.

The Purple / Blue also presents problems for me.  It’s the left side of my brain that wants to know if Ultramarine Blue is considered a warm blue or a cool blue.  I get hung up on labeling the temperature of my pigments rather than simply seeing how they work on the wheel.  I’ve had many discussions, some rather heated, regarding Ultramarine Blue.  After a bit of surfing on line I found that there is no conclusive truth about the temperature of Ultramarine Blue, nor any other blue for that matter.  (Link to WetCanvas discussion of the temperature of blue). I’ve now discarded my need for truth of any kind when it comes to blues.  Having done so, I’m released of the need to be concerned about whether to call it warm or cool.  All I need to know is where it falls in the spectrum in relationship to all the other blues.  Thinking about it this way is easier and far less stressful.

I’ll post Color Wheel Five again when I have adjusted it to my satisfaction.

Color Wheel Five:  Mixing neutrals from complementary and near complementary colors in four ranges of values.

I will post my progress on Color Wheel Five, but I will not post the directions until I have completed it.  Already I see the need for tweaking.

Color Wheel 5, Neutrals and Value Range

The original plan was to pick twelve pigments and use them straight out of the tube to keep a measure of control and consistency.  I needed yellow, yellow-orange, orange, orange-red, red, red-purple, purple, purple-blue, blue, blue-green, green and green-yellow.

The purple-blue has been the first major problem.  I know that Thalo Blue is not purple-blue, yet I thought it still might work in the color wheel.  Clearly it doesn’t.  There is nothing neutral about adding Thalo Blue to Cadmium Yellow.  The result is green, a saturated green rather than a neutral green.

I will be over-painting many segments, as I adjust the hue and the value.

Color Wheel Five: oil on gessoed rag board.

When painting in the dark it is difficult to know exactly how I’m mixing my colors.

Bill Lance playing saxophone at the Blues Jam

The stage lighting at the Tuesday Night Blues Jam often directs my brush into the strong yellows and reds both as background color and as flesh tones.

My palette usually consists of cadmium yellow light, lemon yellow, aurolean yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, alizarin crimson or Red Violet, Cerulean Blue, French ultramarine blue and dioxazine purple.  This week I squeezed out a bit of cobalt violet, a beautiful, slightly opaque pigment.

As the evening progressed I noticed that my tendency was to work with analogous colors, the cobalt violet blending with each of the other colors to create lovely transitions.  At the same time, the paintings asked for a bit of deviation from the violet variations.  Green, my last choice for just about any painting, came to the rescue as a muted, neutral mixed (I think) from french ultramarine, aurolean and a touch of cobalt violet and perhaps a bit of something else that was on my small palette.  Even in the dark I could see that the green was playing its part well in the paintings, supporting the other colors and letting them shine rather than taking front stage as green often does.  I will have to explore the possibilities of using a neutral, olive green in more of my work.

Painting of Bill Lance playing saxophone: drawn first in black ink using dip pen, followed by washes of watercolor.  Painted on location during the Tuesday Night, Todd Wolfe Blues Jam at the Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA.