Friday, May 13, 2016

Explorations In My Color Journal

Two-color Mixing Chart in my Color Journal
I keep a Color Journal (a 9x12" Aquabee Superdeluxe sketchbook) for when I want to explore the mixing capabilities of my paints. Yesterday I cleaned up my little black portable palette and reevaluated what paints to keep in it. A great way to understand the paints in your palette is to make a color chart.
This is a chart of two-paint mixes and serves as a quick reference for finding a way to make the colors you may be after in your painting. The black diagonal line through the pure single-paint colors is useful for telling you about the transparency of your paint. If you can see color over your black line, the paint is more opaque.
Upper right of the diagonal line are two-paint mixes that are more saturated than the comparable two-paint mixes lower left of the diagonal line. The lighter-valued mixes contain more water.
Charts like this do not tell the whole story of your paints and mixes, but are a great start. The next step would be to do a series of paint swatches that show different ratios of one paint mixed with another. You start with a pure puddle of one paint, mix in a tiny bit of the second paint, make a swatch, mix in a bit more of the second paint, paint a swatch...and continue until you have an almost pure version of the second paint. I will show an example set later in this post.
This palette is also known as a "Split Primary Palette" because as a baseline, I have a "warm" and "cool" version of each primary color. (For those who love CYM, those colors are here too in Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Rose, and Phthalo Blue Green Shade). A warm yellow, for example, is a yellow that leans towards red; a cool yellow leans towards blue. A warm red leans towards yellow, a cool red leans towards blue. A warm blue leans towards red, a cool blue leans towards yellow. In this palette my split primaries are: Hansa Yellow Medium (cool), New Gamboge (warm), Transparent Pyrrol Orange (warm), Quinacridone Rose (cool), Ultramarine (warm), Phthalo Blue Green Shade (cool).
Why have a warm and cool version of each primary? Because they allow you to mix either bright or muted versions of secondary colors (orange, violet, green). Mixing a cool yellow with a cool blue will yield a bright green; mixing a warm yellow with a warm blue will yield a more muted green. And so on.
While you can technically mix what you need from just these colors, I always include other colors for mixing convenience. Two mixing powerhouses are Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green. When painting in nature, or even on the street, what is the most common colors one encounters? Yes, that's right, browns and greens! Well, when you need browns and greens, these two paints are a quick way to get what you need, mixed with any of your primaries. A standby for soft grays approaching faded blacks is the classic mix of Burnt Sienna plus Ultramarine. Additinally, I can get a deep purplish black with a saturated mixture of Phthalo Green plus Quinacridone Rose.
My other paint choices are also from convenience. Monte Amiata Natural Sienna is a transparent version of raw sienna, and is handy as a base for human skin and desert soil. Cobalt Blue, mixed with Quinacridone Rose, makes nice soft shadow purples, and I also like to use it for the lower portions of a blue sky. It's an expensive pigment, so I don't necessarily advise those starting out to purchase it. Finally, I regard Cobalt Teal Blue as a temporary paint to have in my palette, in anticipation of our Caribbean vacation coming up next month. It's a great color for the waters of the Caribbean near shore. I've also seen it used well for the patina for copper rust.

Graduated Color Mixing Chart
Here is a page in my color journal I just completed. My goal was to explore how to get various gradations of green when mixing two colors. Each row is a unique pairing of two paints.
I paired up my 2 yellow paints with my Phthalo Green and 3 of my most-used blue paints, yielding 8 combinations. I then paired up my Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (my earth yellow) with Phthalo Green and my most greenish blue (Phthalo Blue Green Shade). I then did the same with my Burnt Sienna.
For each row I started with a puddle of the yellow paint first, then gradually added more and more of the green or blue to my puddle, making a swatch in my color journal each time.
As I mentioned above, you can expect to get very bright greens when pairing up a cool yellow (Hansa Yellow Medium) with a cool blue (Phthalo Blue Green Shade), and indeed the color chart bore that out for me. For the most vibrant neon lime green, I can see this is achieved by pairing Hansa Yellow Medium with Phthalo Green Blue Shade.
If I want a more muted or duller green, I do well to pair a cool yellow (Hansa Yellow Medium) with a warm blue (Ultramarine)...or pair a warm yellow (New Gamboge) with a cool blue (Phthalo Green Blue Shade).
For an even more muted green, one can pair a warm yellow (New Gamboge) with a warm blue (Ultramarine). This is actually quite a dull combination therefore I don't often use it.
M. A. Natural Sienna and Burnt Sienna are considered "Earth" colors because they are earthy versions of yellow and orange, respectively. As a result, any greens you produce with these paints can look quite earthy and natural. I love to use the sienna with Phthalo Green for sagebrush-like greens, and for deep forest or olive greens I like the Burnt Sienna plus Phthalo Green mixture.
The greens from M. A. Natural Sienna and Phthalo Blue Green Shade can also be quite nice and natural-looking. But this chart shows me that when I combine Burnt Sienna with Phthalo Blue Green Shade I don't get very much green, but rather a greenish brown.
Note that Phthalo Green and Blue are quite staining and very powerful and dominant in mixtures. It takes a careful hand to only add a tiny bit of these colors in mixture...a little goes a long way!

1 comment:

Herry Johnson said...
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