Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts On Mixing More Vibrant Color

Beginning a demo in my Landscape class

One key I find to getting more vibrant color is to keep the colors as clean as I can. Do not  mix fresh color on a dirty palette and clean your palette off if you don't have a space to mix a fresh color. I try to mix the color to the hue and value I want as simply as possible. If you can get to the color you want using only only two or three colors (plus white if needed), you'll get fresher color. Color mixing is a subject unto it's own, but I try to keep it as straight forward as I can. Also, I try to avoid mixing my color around too much on the surface of the painting.  Put it down and leave it. A little blending with a clean brush or a little direct mixing while a stroke goes down is OK, but don't mush colors around once they leaves the brush or you'd just make mud. I also try to load my brush every couple of strokes with fresh paint. I load the brush with enough paint so that only the paint on the brush comes off instead of  "picking up" the paint on the surface. You want the paint you carefully mixed to be the paint that stays visible. If you push it around too much it intermixes with what is already there and can make a mess.


If I am changing colors to a drastically different hue, I clean my brush in mineral spirits as the paint in the brush will pollute the new color. If it's only a slight change in hue, I'll just wipe my brush and let part of the existing hue mix into the new color. Also, Squeeze out enough paint on your palette to cover your painting. I find students or beginners are hesitant to use enough for fear that they will waste paint. It's like trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with a thimble full of color. Give yourself enough paint to do the job right. Usually two or three times as much as you think will be enough. Students cringe when I say that, but my philosophy is if the painting turns out great, you didn't waste paint, regardless of whether there is paint left over.


The concept of warm and cool colors could be a whole book if not it's own series of posts. I'll be as simple as I can, but I try to balance warm and cool colors in my painting. If the light source is warm, I go for relatively cool colors in the shadows. If the light source is cool, I try to inject warmth into the shadows. Mixing a cool pigment with a warm will neutralize the temperature and muddy up the color. For instance if you try to make a purple with cadmium red and Ultamarine blue, you just get a muddy brownish color. If you take a cool version of red like Quinacridone Red, and try the same thing, you get a lovely purple. The best way to learn what colors will mix best with others is to try it. Richard Schmid in his book Alla Prima suggests you tape off a grid of squares on canvas panels and paint all the possible mixing combinations from light to dark with two of each of the colors on your palette until you have mixed all possible combinations. That way you'll get a feel for what each color will do when intermixed.

Class Landscape Demo- 6" x 8" oil

My brushes are mostly synthetic nylon bristle brushes. I beat my brushes up pretty good and the synthetics seem to hold up better  for me than the hog hair brushes. I pick ones that have a nice spring to them but I have yet to find the perfect brush. I keep trying different brands and sometime I'll guess I'll settle on a favorite or two. I clean my brushes thoroughly with Gamsol odorless thinner and then with soap and water. After that, I use a little hair conditioner on them to help them hold shape while they dry. I throw a little travel size bottle of it in my paint box in case I am away from home when I clean the brushes. Hope that helps!

3 comments:

Will Terry said...

This is a really nice piece man! Makes me want to get an easel and pack out to some cool location.

Amy said...

Nice piece...this is a beautiful time of year to paint outside!

Greg Newbold said...

Hey Will- come paint with us during class time- we love guest artists.
Thanks for indulging me Amy!