Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Hue Shift Bit, Part I

These are a series of limited palette colour charts done at the start of the year- they are a simplified version of the legendary Richard Schmid colour mixing exercise. It's a relatively simple means of understanding your pigments- in this case, the charts are meant for figurative and portraiture painting in the studio. Also, I get to learn a lot more about specific characteristics of some of the paints currently floating about in my studio. Gotta do them while I still am young and reckless enough to have free time, I suppose ;)

First chart shows all the colours used in the limited palette- the subsequent charts are each column from the top-most chart (pure colours on the left-most sides of each subsequent charts) mixed with the other colours from the limited set (so the top row on the second chart is Yellow Ochre, then yellow ochre + Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna, etc all lightened down with white). Colours used are (from left) Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna, Terra Verte, Cobalt Blue, and Mars Black.

Several observations:

  1. Yellow Ochre, or more specifically, the variety that I was using, was too brickish and low value (so by default I cannot get relatively chromatic greens and oranges, even when mixed with Cadmium Red). The remedy to this would be to replace the ochre with a lighter value equivalent, or to use an earth colour like Mars Yellow, giving slightly richer secondaries.
  2. Using a limited set or palette of convenience means that it's more difficult to get vibrant mixtures. You don't have the luxury of selecting a warm/cool set for each colour (something like Cad. Red/Crimson Alizarin, Lemon Yellow/Cad. Yellow Deep, Cobalt Blue/Phthalo Blue Deep), so the pigments you have should be of the highest quality and specific to the task at hand. The Munsell Student Colour Book is pretty helpful in this regard, there's a chapter on practical pigments for successful colour mixing.
  3. Drying times- cadmiums take a relatively long time to dry compared with the earth pigments, so there might be problems with a figure painting pose that is to be continued the day after (you will inevitably smudge the support when oiling it at the start of a new session the next day), so substituting it with a similar red, like Pyrrole-based reds (comparatively faster drying with the same relative chroma, and cheap!), much like using Mars Black instead of Ivory Black. Then again, you can just mix a bit of drying oil or Liquin into your white paint or red mixture (or use lead white instead).

With something as technical as this, it's pretty easy to get caught up with specifics, and mechanically finishing off these charts as part of a 'to do' list. It's no shortcut to becoming a colour boss, but it'll greatly help it if you've got some sort of reference lying about in the studio environment- would be quite handy in the long run and you get to understand the specifics of the pigments you are using. Cuts the time wasted trying paints when painting out in the field. Know your materials!

Will definitely revisit these colour charts several years from now with these points in mind. There's more practical things to do in the meantime (like, actually starting to draw and paint).

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