Color Theory #3

This is one of the llamas at Clove Cottages in New York State. I drew the llama here. She was painted (for a color theory class at the local community college) using a double-split color scheme, which means I used two pairs of complementary colors.  Magenta and green, and blue-violet and yellow.

This is close to the palette I normally use.  But I’m usually pretty disorganized, and choose colors randomly. I’ve never restricted myself to only a few pure tube colors. (I had no tube color for blue-violet, so I mixed up a big puddle of ultramarine blue and  alizarin crimson. The pigments did tend to separate out, but when remixed, they made a familiar blue-violet of which I am very fond.)

Sometimes restrictions upon artwork conversely allow you more freedom. With only four colors available to my paintbrush,  I first spent a lot of time playing around, figuring out how those paints would mix. Then I planned the painting—colors and temperatures of the shadows and the highlights. Only then did I start splashing on paint.

The actual painting took very little time. After so much preparation, making the picture was exhilarating. It felt like skateboarding down a steep hill; there were some bumpy spots, but mostly it was fast and furious. And I didn’t fall off once.

Color theory #2

The Henny Penny in this post  was painted using an analogous color scheme. That is, all the hues came from the same corner of the color wheel. Transparent pyrrol orange, quinacridone red, and perylene maroon (all Daniel Smith watercolors). Not exactly analogous, but pretty close.

The analogous colors are interesting to work with. When mixed, they often increase in intensity. I used the perylene maroon, a dark value, dusky pigment to try to tone things down a bit.

The trouble with the analagous palette in watercolors is that, unless you use black paint, which I don’t, the paints will often not create as dark a value as you might need. They are inherently incapable of making a dark dark. So to make the eye dark enough, I had to mix in a touch of sap green to the violet. It made a nice dark eye. Too dark, I see now. I need to add a little highlight.

Color theory #1

Orange and Blue
Watercolor © 2011 Margaret Sloan

This picture is part one of a three-part final for an online color theory class I took with the local community college.

We were learning about color harmonies. This color scheme is complimentary; I painted this using only two colors across each other on the color wheel. I guess I cheated a little bit, because I used quinacridone orange (my favorite orange right now), and ultramarine blue. Not exactly across from each other (I should have used cyan, but I am never very good at following instructions.)

But, oh! the color combinations from mixing orange and blue! I especially love the good, rich browns, which could then be lightly washed with pure color—orange or blue—to warm  or cool the area.

(This image is a photo I took at the local farm Hidden Villa. I’ve drawn their animals many times, which made the photo simply a placeholder for the shadows forms and values.)

Color theory

I’m finally taking a color theory class (at a local community college). I’ve never studied color formally, but I finally decided that it was time. So last Monday night I spent the evening sorting by value 314 Color-aid swatches.

This was no picnic. By the end of the evening my eyes felt like a bad sunburn in sandy bluejeans. They became hypersensitive to colors; I took a break from my sorting and went to the restroom; in the institutional gray of the college bathroom, any thing with any color in it seemed to burn and glow.


One of the things that my watercolor guru, Steve Curl, is always on to me about is my value range. “Your painting is all in the mid-value range,” he admonishes. “Go darker.”

Go Darker. It’s a mantra in my studio. But until I struggled through the Color-aid deck, I don’t think I had an idea of what “go darker” meant, or where to place along a grey scale any particular alizaron crimson, quinacridone orange, or pthalo green.

After I wrote this post, this poem popped up in the recommendations from WordPress. It’s lovely. Read it.