Monday, November 30, 2009

Color HarMonday

Looking for a relaxing and fun painting class? I teach students as individuals or in pairs in the comfort of my home studio. I work with students from beginner to advanced in watercolor, oils, and acrylics.

For more information about my painting classes (located in Central Denver), please send me a note at

As a painter who loves to work with color, I'm always seeking an appealing and satisfying color harmony. One simple way to achieve this is discipline. I've learned over the years to work with a limited palette.

I tell my students a good way to start is to pick 1 or 2 primaries (reds, blues, yellows) and a white. From there, you can easily create what I call these color harmony boards. I always find that they give me ideas and inspiration for colors that I would have not considered before. As an organic painter, I like these rather random circles of colors but you could certainly make a grid of squares, etc. if you want to be more organized about it.

In this example, planning for a landscape oil painting, I had the student start with three primary pigment circles: Cad Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue, and Alizarin Crimson. Tip: Be sure to label the back of your board with exact colors, paint brands, etc. in case you want to refer to at a later date.

Then we mixed "around the color wheel" making orange, red-orange, violet, red-violet, green, an blue violet. Then each of those hues was mixed with white which is the tint of that color. Finally, we mixed all the colors together for what I call the "magic" neutral (it's the brownish circle here). A "trick" I often use is to use this "magic" neutral somewhere in the painting at the end to tie all the colors together.

Note too that three pigments plus white give us a stunning range of harmonious colors and values from dark violet to creamy light yellow (I call this lemon meringue). Almost immediately I get ideas from this for an abstract as well as landscape. Happy painting and have a great week!

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