Final directions for Color Wheels Three and Four are updated.  Now its time to start using the color wheels in daily painting to help keep your colors clean and your values within the right range.

Complete Color Wheel Four

Whew…… Color Wheels Three and Four are complete.  I have updated the pages with the final instructions:

Directions for creating Color Wheel Three – based on Seven Step Grayscale

Directions for creating Color Wheel Four – based on Nine Step Grayscale

In my own experiments, I plan to paint at least a dozen little studies without neutralizing the colors to make sure I am paying attention to Value rather than trying to imitate reality.  By that time I will be craving neutrals, but I hope that I will retain what I have learned about establishing correct values with my higher intensity colors.  I believe that this exercise will result in cleaner neutrals that will enhance the higher intensity colors.

The second color wheel that you will make requires eighteen colors.  For our purposes, choose pigments that can be applied directly out of the tube.  I would have been able to do this if I hadn’t misplaced my Cinnabar.  Though most people think of cinnabar as a red, in oil paint, it is a lovely shade of yellow green.

Eighteen Hue Color Wheel

To evaluate the intrinsic value of each hue I have used oil paints for the color wheels in both Lesson One and Lesson Two.

Draw a 7″ diameter circle.  Using a protractor, carefully mark off 20 degree segments.  With the same yellow you used for the Color Wheel in Lesson One, paint one of the segments. Moving counter-clockwise, skip two segments and paint the next with the same orange you used for the Color Wheel in Lesson One.  Skip two segments and paint the next with the red you used before.  Skip two and paint the next with the purple you used before.  Skip two and paint the next with the blue you used before.  Skip two and paint the next with the green you used before.  Skip two and you find yourself at the yellow.  Well done!

Digging through your supply of paints, or mixing if you have to, paint the segment to the left of the yellow with a yellow/orange color.  Paint the segment to the right of the yellow with a yellow/green pigment (this is the one I would paint with Cinnabar if I could find it).  Work your way around the color wheel…paint thinly but opaquely.

Yellow/Green ….. Yellow …. Yellow/Orange …. Orange/Yellow …. Orange …. Orange/Red …. Red/Orange …. Red …. Red/Purple …. Purple/Red …. Purple …. Purple/Blue …. Blue/Purple …. Blue …. Blue/ Green …. Green/Blue …. Green …. Green/Yellow.

Whew…… That was incredibly labor intensive, wasn’t it?  I hope you had a glass of wine or single malt scotch handy and that you had your favorite music playing.

18 hue color wheel and grayscale mode

Let that dry for a day or two.  Place your grayscale overlay on top of the color wheel and determine the intrinsic value of each hue.  Scan or photograph the overlay on the wheel and transform it into grayscale mode.  See how accurately you evaluated the values of each hue.

color wheel with grayscale overlay

Try the overlay wheel in all three positions: covering the primary and secondary hues, covering the hues to the right of each primary and secondary, covering the hues to the left of each primary and secondary.

If you have made it this far I applaud you!  You have set the foundation upon which to build an understanding of color.  By understanding color, it becomes a tool that will bring you both joy and frustration, but mostly joy.  You will begin to understand how the sun and the sky work together to paint the landscape of our world.  Not only will you begin to understand it, you will be able to paint it with confidence and pleasure.  With the confidence gained by the ability to paint what you see, you will be able to expand reality, transforming it into what you imagine and what you feel.

I will jump back and forth between the science of color and the artist’s application of color.

During the next two weeks I will post examples of painting from these two color wheels before moving on to Lesson Three.  I want to make sure that everyone has time to complete both color wheels as well as the value scale overlay.

The Colors I used are as follows:

Yellow: Cadmium Yellow Light Hue (Couleurs a l’Huile)

Yellow / Orange: Cadmium Yellow (Winsor & Newton)

Orange / Yellow: Cadmium Barium Orange (Permanent Pigments)

Orange: Cadmium Orange (Winsor & Newton)

Orange / Red: Winsor Orange (Winsor & Newton)

Red / Orange: Cadmium Red Light (Winsor & Newton, Winton)

Red: Grumbacher Red (Grumbacher)

Red / Purple: Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Winsor & Newton)

Purple / Red: Mauve (Grumbacher)

Purple: Ultramarine Violet (Winsor & Newton)

Purple / Blue: French Ultramarine Blue (Winton)

***Blue / Purple: French Ultramarine Blue (Winton) mixed with Cobalt Blue (Winsor & Newton)

Blue: Cobalt Blue (Grumbacher)

Blue / Green: Phthalo Turquoise (Winsor & Newton)

Green / Blue: Viridian (Winsor & Newton, Winton)

Green: Permanent Green Light (Winsor & Newton)

Green / Yellow: Cadmium Green Pale (Winsor & Newton)

Yellow / Green: Cinnabar if I had it…. I mixed Cadmium Green Pale (Winsor & Newton) with Cadmium Yellow Light Hue (Couleurs a l’Huile)

*** The Blues and Purples are a challenge to present in oil.  The warm and cool characteristics of the blues and purples are more apparent in watercolor. (See the Color Wheel below)  I want the wheel to show the ability of the  purples and blues to carry the lower end of the value range when applied in full saturation.  Manganese, Cerulean and Cobalt Violet are fabulous colors.  In full saturation, however, they are lighter in value than cobalts, ultramarines, prussians and phthalos.

Color Wheel in Watercolor

As I mentioned in Lesson One, move on.  Don’t let the imperfections stop you from completing the task.  This watercolor Color Wheel is one I painted almost forty years ago when I was attending a school for Commercial Arts.  Clearly, I had problems with the orange segments ( and others ).  I still have this wheel because it has been incredibly useful to me over the years, in spite of its imperfections.

I’m finding that my scanner interprets the colors in its own way.  Please take the time to make your own color wheels.  I promise that you will be glad you did.  Pour another glass of wine and enjoy the music.

The temptation to soften the shadow was too much for me and I went against my policy of moving on to a new painting rather than rework an unsuccessful painting.  As a result I now have a painting that is not quite as unsuccessful as it was though it has acquired a few new problems.

My printer is not working at the moment.  That means that I was not able to print out a reference photo to refer to as I went back into the painting.  I lost one of the spools of yarn and in doing so the composition, the movement through the painting has been compromised.  On the positive side, the values are better and the shadow is more pleasing to me now that it has lost its hard edge.  Color variations are still wanting.  A new start on a new painting is in order.

Spools of Yarn found at the flea market

Nicole, Tom and I set out early this morning for the Route 46 flea market.  One of the treasures that ended up coming home with us is a box full of spools of wool yarns dyed in various shades of reds.  I piled the yarn into my large wooden bowl and set it outside on the grass so that I could paint it in the sunlight rather than interior lighting.

I continue to misjudge the value of reds.  I shot a photo for future reference.  Turning both the photo of the yarn and the photo of my little oil sketch into grayscale is helpful to clarify my misjudgment.  I will try again on another sunny day, concentrating more carefully on the values and the beautiful, subtle color changes within the rosey red family.  It was difficult to create a light value of the yarn without it losing the richness of its local color.  Lightening the red with white tends to make it a bit pasty.  I was using my limited palette of cadmium scarlet, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium yellow medium, french ultramarine blue, viridian and permalba white.  The highlights on the spools should be at least as light in value as the background green.  Many of the spools can go a step or two darker to create a better feel of form and movement through the space around the spools.  I’ll pay closer attention next time around.

Herb Sprig Among the Rocks 5" x 5" oil sketch

Not wanting to shy away from a challenge, I chose to paint a sprig of herbs growing between rocks in the southeast corner of our yard.  The morning painting of the rocks beneath the trees had been challenge enough, but the day was gorgeous and I felt ambitious.  The sun was high in the sky providing flat lighting, no dramatic shadow shapes and uninteresting color.  I struggled again with rock colors.  Trying not to get fussy with the sprig of herbs, I ignored them until the end when the few shadows that had been inspiring had vanished.

Transforming the painting to grayscale illustrates the compressed value range and minimal value shape contrasts.

Grayscale of Herb Sprig Among the Rocks

Morning Daffodils, Oil 5" x 8"

Morning Daffodils, 5″ x 8″ oil painting on gessoed board.

Palette: Cadmium Yellow pale, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Permalba White

I don’t think I could mix a good color for cool, blue/green leaves of the daffodils without viridian added to the limited palette.  Viridian also helps to keep the darks from being too purple.

Pine Trees oil sketch

Pine Trees oil sketch 5″ x 8″ en plein  air.  Thirty minute study.

By adding viridian to the limited palette (Cadmium yellow pale, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Titanium white) I was able to create warmer darks.  Viridian helps, not so much because it is green, but because it is a dark value green that is able to temper the combination of alizarin and ultramarine by reflecting a quantity of yellow.  When I add cadmium yellow pale to the alizarin/ultramarine mix for a dark, it simply lightens the mixture and makes it muddy.  The addition of Viridian to the palette also allows for a nice mix for the blue spruce.

March 18, 2010 No.1 (2 hours)

Oil Painting, painted outside from 12:30 pm until 2:30 pm. 5″ x 8″ primed wood panel.

I spent far too long picking at this painting, frustrated by the self–imposed limited palette consisting of titanium white, cadmium yellow pale, alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue.  My old bad habits continued to attack the new habits I’ve been working so hard to develop.  Instead of mixing the pure pigments before adding white, I found myself adding the pigments to a blob of white on my palette, killing the color intensity I might have had.  I should have stuck to my limit of painting no more than one hour en plein air.  The light changes too drastically over a two hour period.  Beginning at noon was not optimal.  Regardless of difficulties I was delighted to finally be painting outdoors again.

March 18, 2010 No.2 (20 minutes)

Oil painting, painted outside, 3:00 pm until 3:20 pm. 5″ x 8″ primed wood panel

My second attempt was more direct and simplified.  I stopped before getting picky.  I used the same limited palette as the first painting.  I think I will stick with one yellow, one red and one blue for awhile, changing the selection of those primaries and remembering to mix the pure pigments before adding white.

The biggest challenge was mixing a nice dark without it either being too purple or losing its darkness by adding yellow to temper the purple.  The addition of viridian to the palette would have been helpful to make a greater variety of darks that would allow for purples as well as browns without going to mud.

Exercise 7 – Bananas and Beets – is now posted.  Click on the Color Exercises tab at the top of the page.

Bananas and Beets Number One

Out of 140 tubes of paint, all but about twenty had not been opened for at least ten years, some for over twenty years.  With matches and a pair of pliers I was able to open all but two.  The awl was helpful when the paint had hardened, creating a plug at the opening of the tube.  Only three tubes of paint required the use of the awl.  This method may be used with oil, watercolor, acrylic, casein, gouache, etc.

I find wooden matches to be better for the job than the cardboard matches.  They burn longer and are easier to strike.  By holding the flame beneath the tube at the base of the cap and rotating the tube over the flame, the paint becomes softened and the cap, with the help of the pliers, can be loosened.  Some tubes require two or even three matches.  Turn the cap firmly but gently or the tube might give way before the cap and paint will squirt out from the crack in the tube.  When this happens, I wrap the tube in plastic wrap or keep it in a zip-lock bag to prevent it from hardening.

Two delightful discoveries during the continued Color Value Chart painting session (Color Exercise #4) were Cinnabar Green and Olive Green.  Cinnabar is a beautiful, light value yellow green.  Olive is almost black.  Two other discoveries in the almost black category were Purple Lake and Indigo.

Another example of drastic differences between pigments can be seen by the example below of the swatches of Cobalt Violet.  Cobalt Violet manufactured by Winsor Newton is quite cool whereas the Cobalt Violet manufactured by Couleurs  is rather warm.  Notice that the pigment by Couleurs is labeled “light hue”.  “Light” and “hue” are clues that the pigments will be different, even if the pigments are created by the same manufacturer.  It is important to make color swatches to have a record of both the value and the temperature of your pigments.