21 July 2009

Color Charts

My lack of color knowledge slowed me down in the introductory painting classes I just finished. There was some discussion in class about mixing, but the palettes we used were limited to just a few colors. I realized the only way around the problem was to pick some colors for a starter palette and do some color charting. Since I just finished reading Alla Prima, which has a good chapter on color, that seemed like a reasonable place to start.

Richard Schmid claims he can mix most other commercially-available tube colors from a palette of 11 colors which includes 4 yellows (cad lemon, cad yellow pale , yellow ochre pale, cad yellow deep), 4 reds (cad red, alizarin permanent, terra rosa, transparent oxide red), a green (viridian), and 2 blues (cobalt light, ultramarine). I like the idea of learning to mix with a set number of choices.
Schmid describes how to prepare the charts in detail in his book. Briefly, I gessoed a dozen 8" x 15" pieces of heavy illustration board, taped off 5 rows x 11 columns of 1" squares with 1/4" masking tape, then mixed and applied the colors. Each board represents a predominant hue mixed with a smaller amount of each of the other hues. Each of these mixtures is then combined with white to produce 5 graduated values. It took about 3 hours per chart.

I took my time and tried to spot the similarities and differences between colors within each family; made mental notes on how to mix common hues; noted the shift in hue of a color combination as one color predominated, then the other. It was really exciting to pull the tape off the finished charts. They're gorgeous in real life. I felt like I was printing money, generating this wealth of beautiful colors. I didn't post the individual charts here because the reproductions are so inferior to the real thing, but if you click on the group image above you get an idea of the color diversity. The upper left chart shows the gradations of the original tube colors.

I mounted the charts on the wall near my easel for easy reference. A good exercise is to pick a color in the surroundings, name the combination of 2 tube colors to arrive at that color, then check that guess against the charts. Only 2 tube colors per mixture to avoid the mud. Also, if you haven't yet, take a look at David Rourke's discussion on color mixing in his blog, All The Strange Hours. Finally, Bruce MacEvoy offers a complete discussion of color at his blog Handprint, with some useful value and color mixing charts (TY to David for mentioning Handprint).

11 comments:

  1. So happy for you Atelier experience, I know you love it. Your blog is full and extremely enjoyable, we seem to enjoy much of the same when it comes to figures. My best to you.

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  2. Color is so beautiful. I know these are a lot of work , but a priceless wealth of knowledge. Very inspiring. Thank you!

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  3. Tina, Thanks for your visit and comment. The human figure is such a great subject. And to do it well...what a challenge. Best regards.

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  4. Dori, A lot of artists seem to resist doing them, but what a great way to speed up the learning curve. And they're beautiful, too. Visited your blog, lovely landscapes, your passion comes through. Thanks for your comment and visit.

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  5. Great post! I've been hemming and hawing about getting Richard Schmid's book.Well you've convinced me. Thanks Pete.

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  6. Pete, This book belongs in your library. Stand on the shoulders of giants...or re-invent the wheel. I choose the shoulders. C

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  7. Love your site it is full of useful information.

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  8. David, Thank you. The opinion is mutual.

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  9. Hi Candace,
    I am delighted to find your blog. My blogger friend Jala led me to you and for that I am grateful. (thanks Jala) Your work is impressive and your posts are extremely informative. Thanks for all you give!
    Loriann
    PS I am a pastel artist struggling as I try to use oil paint in a way consistent to my pastel. I will be back to visit often!

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  10. Good work with the charts! I have just started doing mine. I noticed you changed the order of the colors compared to Schmid´s. Do you know why he put the colors the way he did? I think alizarin should be closer to the red like you did. And also i dont know how i should place terra rosa. T. oxide red is a more yellow color but still he placed it farther away. Maybe he wanted it to be closer to Viridian...

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  11. Hey, tobz,

    I think you'll get a lot out of those charts. I still refer to them often, have them hanging on my studio wall. A couple suggestions. Cobalt blue and Ultramarine are very similar on the charts, almost interchangeable for this mixing scheme (even though they definitely serve different purposes on the palette). I would suggest you consider adding cobalt violet or another violet of your choice, since this palette is weak on the purple side. I find in figurative work that I like to have violets around for neutralizing and halftones, so it would be nice to see how a nice violet behaves with the other members of this palette.

    Best of luck on it. Candace.

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