Color Play

What better time than the dead of winter to play with color? I recently bought a new paint tin from Schmincke (I really just wanted the tin, but decided to get it full instead of empty) and I also received six tubes of QoR watercolors from Golden to try. But before adding any new colors to my palette, I took time this week to test them. What follows is not a brand review, as much as a glimpse into the practice of being a painter.

I set about playing with various triads of primary colors with the goal of figuring out which ones looked promising for future paintings. This may sound simple, but given the huge range of colors that you can make from various reds, yellow, and blues, it quickly becomes a complex proposition. I tend to use a limited palette to create color harmonies, so it’s critical for me to have a sense of which combinations work best. After creating a huge mess of test sheets, I recorded the winning triads in my journal.

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I also needed a refresher on greens, so I created a green page, along with experiments using raw umber (a color I need to get to know better) with cobalt and ultramarine blue (nice blue-grays there, eh?).

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Finally, inspired by Mimi Robinson’s book Local Color, I decided to create a color palette to capture the landscape colors outside my window this morning. After the week’s riot of color mixing, I was quickly back to subdued hues—but at least I felt confident finding them in my paint box.

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Tips and Techniques– The important takeaway here is not to run out and buy a bunch of new paints or even to copy down the combinations I found most promising. Rather, it is to get to know the paints in your own palette. Taking the time to mix colors and figure out which combinations work best will pay huge dividends when you launch into a painting. You’ll gain confidence with color mixing, figure out your favorites, and take out little used paints that clutter your box or result in murky mixes. Start with red, yellow and blue mixes. But also try combinations of blues and browns, which will give you lots of lively and interesting grays.


13 thoughts on “Color Play

  1. I have a tattered and grubby “Test Book” – I recently used up the last page trying out the fancy pencils I got for Christmas this year, and I am at a bit of a loss. I need to bind up a new one, and keep them close because I refer to them constantly. From graphite to ballpoint pen, coffee and tea stains and all watercolours, so much work(fun) goes into testing and recording – I Love my Test Book(s)!!

  2. Very informative – and true. Knowing your media – paint, paper – and vehicle (brushes, water) – all work together like a team.

  3. I love your colour charts Jean – they are beautiful and inspirational. Like Sheryl above I have a sketchbook just for creating watercolour charts, I find it a very useful reference guide plus it’s such a fun, relaxing thing to do….

  4. I learn SO MUCH from reading your blog, and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. I’m sort of teaching myself to draw and paint and resources like this are an invaluable help. Thanks again!!!!

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