Girly, 8 x 10 Watercolor (O, P)

Girly, 8 x 10 Watercolor (O, P)

This is an experiment: a new technique and a slightly new style I’m trying.  Same old subject matter.

The September meeting of the Pittsford Art Group included a demo by Stu Chait, abstract watercolorist.  He drops paint onto a flat surface by either squeezing the paint out of a big brush, or pouring it from a cup.

portrait by Leanne Sarubbi

portrait by Leanne Sarubbi

I thought this might work well for an idea I got at the Roco 6×6 show.  I was inspired by this portrait at the left, and so I thought maybe one could combine Chait’s abstract big drop idea and Sarubbi’s high-contrast simplification.  I ended up modifying it significantly as you see, by putting in eye and ear color, and I chickened out on leaving the chest all white, instead putting in a light drop-in of the same colors to set the chest back from the face.  I loved how the “black” came out, and that has no subtle shading on it on purpose, requiring the shape to tell your eye what the form is.  I feel I made the background too bold, but other than that I like it.  I did the whiskers with white gouache again.

This work is painted with 4 colors: Intense Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Deep, and Burnt Umber, the “black” being all but Yellow Ochre.  I almost never use more than 5 colors in a painting.


Tertiary Intensities

Tertiary Intensities: yellow-green v. red-violet, blue-green v. red-orange, blue-violet v. yellow-orange

Tertiary Intensities: yellow-green v. red-violet, blue-green v. red-orange, blue-violet v. yellow-orange

I think these are the last gouache color charts I’m going to do in my quest to understand color (see previous posts).  These charts show what happens when you mix complementary tertiary colors such as yellow-green and red-violet.

I had to mix the original tertiaries myself, which is a bit of a guessing game, so as I went through the charts, if I seemed to be skewing to one side or the other of the color wheel, I tried to adjust by adding a bit from the opposite side (of the four colors I was using).  For these charts, I started with one tertiary, mixed all the way to the other, and then started back again.  I did this three times, one for each complementary pair.

With these charts in hand, and with several hours of analyzing finished artworks, I had another go at the photos we were supposed to analyze in Color Theory Made Really Easy, and found I could do it easily.

I never mix watercolors like this, but am very glad I did this exercise.  Next up, finding my pastels on these charts.

Primary-Secondary Intensities

I’m continuing my epic quest to fill up a watercolor pad with little dots of color.  I think my friends think I’m nuts, but I continue to learn a lot.

I made these charts first with gouache and then watercolors, and they’re called intensities.  They showed me what happens as you gradually dull or “grey” a color.  In doing them I realized I was making a line directly across the color wheel, and that most color wheels are utterly insufficient.  I always wondered where grey and brown were on the color wheel, how you “get there.”  The answer that I discovered from these exercises is that the center of the color wheel, which color-wheel manufacturers fill up with text and “this is what happens when you add red” should be filled with colors which mute down until the exact center is a perfect grey.

I did a Google search for a color wheel showing what should really be there, and couldn’t find anything until I added “gray” to the search terms.  Even then, it was not easy, but I found this FABULOUS explanation by Jeff Mellem, which took what I had discovered and added value to make a 3-D model which contains all the colors.  Check it out!

I’m not sure this image at the right, from Mr. Mellem’s site, is exactly what I want, since the colors seem to go straight from fairly intense to grey.  Do you see brown, olive or eggplant on there?  I really don’t.  The search continues.

Getting back to my intensity charts, I began to realize that only if your colors are perfectly across from each other will you hit grey in the middle, so that charts like this are a good test of your particular hues.  For example, if you’re adding blue to orange, and on the way through you make green, and never really get to perfect grey, one (or both) of your colors was too yellow – the yellow skewed the line across the color chart towards the yellow-green side of grey.  Not that that means those colors are no good, but that you should be aware, “These hues make a lovely deep grey green, but they won’t go any greyer unless I add something opposite to yellow-green, such as a violet, to pull the color back into the center, and if I want grey, other paints might be easier.”

During these charts I decided to stop wasting white gouache on white paper and just use water to lighten the value.

I’m doing these exercises based on the course Color Theory Made Really Easy by Sandra Angelo, which I’m ready to resell.

Tertiary Values

Color Chart Value TertiariesOver five days I painted value charts of all six tertiaries, red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green-blue, blue-violet, and violet-red.  This is a continuation of exercises from the packet, Color Theory Made Really Easy.  I decided not to do all the watercolor values like before.  I did add little dots of primaries and secondaries at the bottoms of the stacks, so I could compare them to the tertiaries, very useful.  The gouache came with two blues so I used the yellow one with green and the red one with purple.

My gouache set coming with all the secondaries premixed made these assignments much easier than they would have been had I had to use just the primaries, or worse, the off-primary hues I have to work with in watercolor.  I was mostly able to just mix equal blobs of color.

I think the most useful part of this exercise is going around afterwards matching the colors to things in my house.  I can’t believe how much I learn from doing that.

(UPDATE: I’m done and selling the course.)

Secondary Values

Over three days I painted three pages of secondaries going from full strength to almost nothing.  Just as with the Primary Values, I started with gouache and then any single watercolors I had, but I don’t have many of those, preferring to mix my own.  So I started showing values of mixed secondaries.

For the curious artist or random pedants, the oranges are Bright Orange gouache, then watercolors Cadmium Red Light (RY), Perm Rose (Rb) + Cadmium Yellow Light (Yr), Cadmium Red Deep (Ry) + Cadmium Yellow Deep (Yr), Alizarin Crimson (Rb) + Lemon Yellow Hue (Yb), Alizarin Crimson (Rb) + Yellow Ochre (Yrb), and Cadmium Red Deep (Ry) + Yellow Ochre (Yrb).   So per this previous post, any time there is a “b” in the mixing code, you can expect a dull or greyed orange.

The greens are Permanent Green gouache, then watercolors Hookers Green Dark, Intense Blue (By) + Burnt Umber (gorgeous deep color), Intense Blue (By) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), Ultramarine (Br) + Cadmium Yellow Light (Yr), Ultramarine (Br) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), Indigo (Byr) + Lemon Yellow (Yb), and Paynes Grey (BYR) + Lemon Yellow (Yb).  With four blues and five yellows/browns, I needed a little more room, so at the top I added Intense Blue (By) + Burnt Sienna (Ybr), Payne’s Grey (BYR) + Yellow Ochre (Ybr), and Ultramarine (Br) + Yellow Ochre (Ybr).

Indigo and Intense Blue make beautiful darks, but I find them difficult to work with.  Indigo lifts too easily and Intense Blue has so much pigment it is difficult to get it to softly fade to white – as soon as I touch a dry edge with fresh water, it colors all the water and makes a new boundary.  They are both fine if you’re not going to touch them again – that just doesn’t seem to be my style.  Ultramarine seems to be in the sweet spot, mixes well, and even adds lovely granulation, but it doesn’t make particularly exciting darks.

The purples are Deep Violet gouache, then watercolors Ultramarine (Br) + Permanent Rose (Rb), Indigo (Bry) + Alizarin Crimson (Rb), Ultramarine (Br) + Alizarin Crimson (Rb), and Intense Blue (By) + Permament Rose (Rb).  I was tired of doing whole value runs, so at the top I added single mixes which I’m not going to type out.

Value Color Charts

I have a pretty good idea of color theory, but wanted to get better at using it, with a specific plan for practice, so I bought the books for Color Theory Made Really Easy by Sandra Angelo.  I’m not ready to give a final review of it, but I thought I’d share how the practices are going so far.  (UPDATE: I’m done and selling it.)

First you read a couple of booklets on color theory which I mostly already knew, but then she lays out a series of color charts for you to make.  I was disappointed that she did not include a list of materials, but only an order form for buying the kit from her, with the warning that the system wouldn’t work with the wrong supplies.  I emailed to her for a list but haven’t heard back.  I’m very unhappy about that, but she may have a good reason such as illness.

She recommends acrylics for learning to mix, but since I don’t know exactly which ones and have no interest in acrylic I decided to buy some gouache, which is opaque watercolor.  I verified that Savoir Faire gouache is vegan and of reasonable quality and bought a set of ten tubes.  So far I think watercolors would have been fine since I’m used to them, but maybe gouache will be helpful later.

She has you start by mixing the primaries but I decided to skip ahead to start with the easiest, pure values of single colors, and I’ve done three so far, one a day.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this.  The left column is gouache (two columns for blue, since the gouache came with both Primary Blue and Ultramarine).  You mix the gouache by putting down a puddle of white at the top and then slowly adding color.  I then made columns for all my watercolors of that hue, starting at the bottom practically straight out of the tube and adding water with a dropper as I went up.  I thought about leaving room for pastels but I think that would just make a mess.

There’s nothing revolutionary about doing this, and yet I took my time and really thought about the colors, warm or cool for instance, and then went around my house trying to match items to the color chart.  I think taking time to do this was important. If I’d just done the gouaches I don’t think I would have learned much, but seeing the various hues, the paints I use, laid out was great.

Next to the watercolor names I have put the mixing code.  This is a neat idea I got from Peter Saw’s site many years ago.  Look around, there are several pages and he does a great job of explaining a practical approach to mixing I’ve been using since my first teacher confused me.