Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mixing Colors - Learn by Practice

My studio palette - showing some color mixing practice

Practice makes perfect right? So why do many of us choose not to practice mixing colors? Is it because paint is expensive? Maybe we think there is no need to practice. I for one, look at the overall expense associated with the oil paints I use and shutter at the thought of putting out colors to "practice" mixing. But why? I'll tell you why, because I think every time I put paint out on the palette, I have to make a painting! And I am here to tell you, that is rubbish! Why learn how to mix when you are making a painting? I decided it was better to practice and "see what happens" on the palette, and dispose of the colors than to be frustrated because I can't figure it out when I am working on a painting.

And that my friends is why all this became a post today. I have been playing around with a small plein air painting setup and I am used to a big palette. Therefore, the small palette created several challenges. I went out to paint, and I got frustrated and trashed the painting. I threw it away! I learned nothing. I had wasted so much time, I neglected to take notes, and I really had no idea why I had so much trouble. I decided it was time to practice! I mixed the basics (blue and yellow to make green, red and yellow to make orange, etc.). I determined a lot of things; here are a few important points I learned in regards to my colors, and the plein air setup I plan to use regularly...

  • I like using French Ultramarine rather than Prussian Blue to mix with Cadmium Yellow Pale to make my "landscape greens" color. (I lighten the mix with yellow, but may add white on occasion).
  • I like to keep the colors to a minimum on the small palette (7 colors versus my standard 13)
  • For landscape painting en plein air, I must rely on my ability to mix sky color, and landscape green colors to make the paintings a good representation of what I see.

So there you have it...I plan to practice more often. I also hope to become a better artist by painting en plein air. The small paintings may help my control, and detail; I hope working small keeps me interested in creating paintings en plein air. If anything, I must get faster, the sun has a schedule that refuses to wait for me to get it right!

I hope this post sparks some ideas for you, get out and paint, but don't forget to learn the colors you use.

Happy painting,