Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making water

One of the best ways of learning about the palette of colours you choose for a painting is to create a colour swatch that you can keep as  reference for future use. As artists, we often tend to use the canvas as the palette, mixing colours there and experimenting til we get it right.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not so well and we end up with mud.  That's not always a bad thing, depending on the shade of mud you end up with and if you know how you created the mud.  This is where we fall down when we mix a colour on the support.  We often don't mix enough then spend ages trying to recreate that same colour to continue a passage of the painting.

One exercise I use in classes to familiarize participants with their colours and how they perform is to create a swatch of colour mixes, labelled with the original paint names and showing the changes as colours are added. We're always so anxious to get on with the painting process, we don't take time to do a little prep work that will save us time and frustration in the end.

I start out with primary colours, usually cad yellow light, ultramarine blue and cad red light. Titanium white is added to the palette to lighten colours as needed. Write the name of the colour over the blob of paint for reference. In this case, I used indanthrene blue in this image simply because I'd run out of ultramarine.  And yes, I spelled it incorrectly too.  That's fixed now. Most of the blues will provide a similar effect and each should be experiemented with to see how the colour changes in hue.

Starting with  one of the colours,  pull down some from the squeezed out pile and simply add one of the other primaries to it mixing it on the paper or canvas.  Continue down smoothly, adding white to the mix til a smooth gradation of colour from dark to light is achieved.  This provides a good idea of the range of colours that can be achieved with the three primaries and white.

I add a variety of additional blues and use the same process, adding yellow or red to the mix, then white to achieve a range of colours and understand how the initial colours are different from each other to acheive the 'formula' for painting that I need.   This colour swatch is looking more at blues and turquoises and variants of them.  Another layer can be added using just reds and blues to achieve varying shades of purples or reds and yellows to find those sunset colours.  

There can be no secret formula for any particular painting.  There are too many variables to predict success.  The only way forward is to create your own formula and that will come with experimentation, a little homework and a lot of practice.

This palette, in acrylic, consists of colours that I use in painting water.  The addition of extra colours will depends  on light and if there are other objects such as shore line in the composition.  Additional tubes of paint aren't really necessary and I view them often as shortcuts.  They can be a bit of the 'formula' that buys some extra time or less thinking about what paint to mix to achieve a particular colour.  However, I don't think there is any one colour, besides white that I ever use straight from a tube without mixing it with another colour to adjust it to suit my needs.

So have some fun creating a swatch of colours.  Create your own formula, document it, use it, change it, share it and enjoy the process.

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