Thursday, January 22, 2009

From Painter to Artist

QUESTION: Hi Susie! I admire your paintings. When I grow up I want to be just like you! (ha)I've been at this for a few years now and I don't feel like I know where to go next. I do pretty good at painting along with my instructors but when I step out on my own I'm lost. How do I go from painter to artist? I'd appreciate your suggestions. Thankfully, Sally

SUSIE'S REPLY: Hello Sally!
Hmmmm, we might need to look at the Moma Bird who has been preparing her fledglings for the day they would leave the nest for this answer.

I think there is definitely a spot in the road along our artistic journey where we start to rely more and more on our own instincts and what we have learned and less and less on others.
For some of us it does take courage to venture out on our own. But we all need to try! Just like the baby birds we need to try our wings while the nest is still close enough to get back to if we take a fall. Then try again!
Starting out with an easy project is a good confidence builder. Perhaps you could even redo a successful project you worked on during a class session and make it your own using the same steps you learned in class. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by trying to tackle a difficult project too soon. Keep it simple at first while you test those wings!
Repetition is a good teacher! Select a subject you enjoy painting and see how many different ways you can paint it. Rely on the background you have established with your teacher.
I'll bet you know more than you are giving yourself credit for.

So..... how do you know when you are artist and not just a painter? I guess that depends on your definition of an artist and painter. What's the difference?
I read somewhere that an Artist is creative while a Painter is a follower.
An Artist explores from their heart and soul while painters do it with their hands/mind.
An Artist gets rewarded for his creativity, while painter for his labor.

For me personally I believe I am both an artist and a painter. I think I probably allowed myself to identify or call myself "painter" while I was still learning "how-to-paint". But I believe we can also be artists long before we allow ourselves the title. It comes from within.

If you are getting too big for the nest and your "moma bird" hasn't given you a gentle nudge, you need to flap those wings and give it a try! Trust your instincts!

Happy Painting!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Color Basics in a Nutshell

Color Basics in a Nutshell
Definitions of terms as they relate to watercolor

Hue -- The name of a color, such as red, blue, yellow, green, orange, etc.

Intensity -- The strength, brightness, or purity of a color; its chroma.

Saturation -- The measure of brilliance or purity of a color.

Value -- The lightness or darkness of a color; pure colors will vary greatly in value.

Primary Colors are those hues that cannot be mixed from any other colors-- red, yellow, and blue. From these primaries, most other colors can be mixed. Secondary Colors are the resulting hues of mixing two prima ries in equal amounts. (R+Y =Orange, Y+B=Green, B+R=Purple)

Intermediate Colors are products of mixing one primary and a secondary. (R+O=Red-Orange, Y+O=Yellow-Orange, etc.)

Tertiary Colors are products of mixing two secondary colors. (O+G, O+P, G+P, etc)

Complementary Colors are two hues directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Complement to a primary color is the combination of other two primaries. Complement to Red is Green (Y+B), to Yellow is Purple (R+B), to Blue is Orange (R+Y). Neutral Hues are the results of combining all three primaries in various amounts, thus neutralizing the intensity and saturation of a hue. Combining a primary with its complement results in a neutral hue.

Temperature "The warmth or coolness of a color; also relative terms in comparison to other colors in context.
"Both red and yellow are commonly considered warm, while blue is unquestionably cool. More specifically, warm and cool colors are relative to where a color falls on the color wheel. The warmest color is red-orange and the coolest color is blue-green. Everything between those two points has a slightly warmer color on one side of it and a slightly cooler one on the other. Its neighbor is either warmer or cooler depending on the direction you go around the color wheel.
Using a split primary palette, we are working with a warm and a cool of each primary color.
All secondary hues are mixed from these carefully selected primary colors.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Make Your Own Color Chart for Watercolor Paints

The illustration above shows a basic color chart for my core palette colors or what I call the Essential 7. This is a great way to find out what combinations you can mix from these seven paint colors.

To create your own color mixing chart:
  • Use a pencil to draw eight rows and columns as shown above.
  • To show how transparent or opaque each pigment is, make a black line using a permanent marker before you apply the colors. When you paint over the black line if the color disappears it is transparent, if you can see the pigment sitting on top of the black line then it has opaque qualities.
  • Each ROW is about the color/hue in that row and what the other colors in the palette do when mixed with the dominant row color.
  • Each COLUMN contains the same colors placed in the same order as in the rows.
  • Mix less of the column color and more of the row color for the best results.
  • Leave a little white space on either side of the pencil lines (between the color squares) to visually separate the colors.
  • NOTE: Each color will be mixed with itself during this process.
  • This chart shows the secondary and tertiary color combinations that are possible by mixing only two tube colors.
  • It's possible to create many more neutral hues by combining three or more tube colors in the basic split primary palette.
  • When the chart was totally dry I erased the pencil lines.

Of course you can make as many rows and columns as you want but I've found that when I want to add new colors to my core palette all I really need to do is add a new row and show how they interact with my 7 core palette colors. If they work with these 7 then I have a color that I can use successfully. If the color isn't compatible with my core palette then I need to be more careful and selective as to how I choose to use that particular paint.

Split Primary Palette

QUESTION: Susie, I was looking for watercolor palette suggestions and found your website. You mention a split primary palette. Would you please explain what a split primary palette is, what colors I need and how to use it? Much thanks for all your help! Judy S. Texas

SUSIE'S REPLY: Hi Judy! Here's what I refer to as a Split Primary Palette

Use a warm and a cool of each primary hue (a warm red and a cool red; a warm yellow and a cool yellow; a warm blue and a cool blue) to mix bright, high-intensity primary called a Mixed Primary Hue. The secret is in using the right split primary colors and not crossing over the lines into another section!

Here's how the Split Primary Palette works:

Let's start with a color wheel arranged like a clock (illustration above) and divided into three equal sections. At the top of the wheel (12 o'clock) a cool yellow, like Hansa Yellow Medium -- a lemony, slight bias to blue-green is on the right of the line; a warm yellow, like New Gamboge -- a golden, slight bias to red-orange is on the left of the line. Going clockwise around the circle (at 4 o'clock) there is a cool blue, like Phthalo Blue (GS) -- an icy, slight bias to blue-green is above the line; a warm blue, like French Ultramarine -- a purplish blue, slight bias to violet is below the line. Continuing clock wise, (at 8 o'clock) a cool red, Quinacridone Rose -- a rosy, slight bias to red-violet is below the line; a warm red, Pyrrol Scarlet -- a tomatoey red, slight bias to red-orange is above the line.

To mix the oranges, mix the red and yellow within the lines to the left of the circle. First mix orange, and then add more yellow for yellow-or ange and more red for red-orange.
To mix the greens, mix the blue and yellow within the lines to the right of the circle. First mix green (2 o'clock), and then add more yellow for yellow-green (1 o'clock) and more blue for blue-green (3 o'clock).
To mix the purples or violets, mix the pink or rose with the blue within the lines at the bottom of the circle. First mix purple (6 o'clock), and then add more blue for blue-violet (5 o'clock) and red for red-violet (7 o'clock).

Now here's the rule that makes this theory work: When mixing two colors on the wheel to achieve high-intensity color, don't cross over the line/stay in each section. Crossing over the lines and mixing the colors on either side of the line causes the mixtures to become less intense and slightly grayer. Cross two lines and even more graying occurs. This graying is called neutralizing. It is the result of a slight touch of that third color being added to the mix.

Hint: To mix earth colors, you simply cross over the lines or add a warm neutral to your mixtures. That's where Quinacridone Burnt Orange -- the seventh color of our essential 7 basics-enters the scene... it's a versatile warm neutral.

You have several good choices for professional artist grade watercolors to choose from.
My palette is currently filled with Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors.

Materials List for Susie's Split Primary Palette
DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Watercolors

Seven 15ml Tubes - Essential Set offered by Daniel Smith at 40% off regular tube price)
Set contains:
Hansa Yellow Medium
New Gamboge
Phthalo Blue (GS)
French Ultramarine
Quinacridone Rose
Pyrrol Orange
Quinacridone Burnt Orange

Thanks for your questions Judy! Have fun painting and mixing up pretty colors!

For more information about Color check out Nita Leland's book EXPLORING COLOR

and her latest release CONFIDENT COLOR

Color Mixing - Simplified

QUESTION: About color mixing....I'm not looking for the chemical make up of paints but more for the "how to" of mixing paints. Which can be mixed without creating mud. Which colors compliment others visually. How to create a great black or green etc. That type of thing. Thanks.
SUSIE'S REPLY: These are multi-million dollar questions! I'll try to break this down and make it as simple as I can. A quick review of basic color theory reminds us there are three (3) primary colors: RED - YELLOW - BLUE.

We can not make these hues by mixing. We can create variations of each hue by adding one or both of the other colors but we can not mix up a true red, yellow or blue.
Secondary colors or hues (green, orange, and purple) are created by mixing two primaries. Red+yellow=orange; red+blue=purple; blue+yellow=green

Any time the other primary is added chances are the color will be muddy.Example: blue+yellow=green + a tiny bit of red= olive green; not a clean clear true green.
When we use a paint that has the third primary color already premixed into the tube the result is a neutralized or grayed or muddy looking color.

So, in answer to your question about what paint colors can be mixed together without making mud we do need to consider what's already in the tube of paint. Anytime you have a combination of all three primaries you will have a duller more neutralized color. The more equal the amounts of the three colors the muddier or grayer the color will be.

Think about it this way: if a color looks greenish, you know it has blue and yellow in it. If you mix that color with any color that has some red in it the possibility for mixing mud is greater. The more equal the ratio of red + yellow + blue the more neutral the resulting color will be.

Many times we create duller looking colors by over mixing them in our palettes before we apply them to our watercolor paper. If we allow these same colors to "mingle" on our paper and mix together naturally they usually do so in a visually pleasing way.

As for premixed tube color formulas: There are probably as many "formulas" for mixing visually pleasing neutrals as their are watercolorists. For a dark gray or black one very popular combination is Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. Another formula for black is Alizarin Crimson and Hookers Green.
Here are some tips:
  • Testing the colors on your own palette to see what color combinations you can make will be helpful. Make a color chart. Avoid mixing more than three colors, better yet try not to mix more than two premixed tube colors.
  • Read the labels on your paint tubes. If they contain two or more pigments know that they are good candidates for mud makers when mixed with additional colors using multi-pigments.
  • Another thing to consider is that each brand of paint has different ingredients even though it may have the same color name. So one brand of cobalt blue may mix up differently than another brand of cobalt blue.

My personal recommendation for all new painters ( or anyone who is confused about mixing colors) is to use a limited palette of basic compatible core colors. The brand of paint isn't as important as the choice of your basic colors. Stick to using this limited palette for a period of time to allow you to get acquainted with color mixing and learn all you can about what these core colors will and will not do for you. If you are a prolific painter six months may be enough time for you to work with a limited palette. If you don't have time or don't paint very often you may need as much as a year of working with a limited palette to get the hang of color mixing.

For more information look for my article published by Daniel Smith Some Thoughts on Color and using a Split Primary Palette.

Hang in there! The more you practice the better you will get!


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