Sunday, March 12, 2006
Warm and Cool Pigments
I have felt like a received a most enlightened lesson this week. Awhile back one of the members of the "artworkbooks" yahoo group spoke about Jeanne Dobie's book "Making Color Sing". I have read about it before on Bruce MacEvoy's great website Handprint but Bruce hammer's away at the "old school" who espouses the use of fugitive pigments like Rose Madder Genuine and Alizarin Crimson or Aureolin. I liked his review of her book but since she used these pigments I thought it wasn't worth the time- how wrong I was. Her palette discussion is just one of a treasure load of excellent color theory lessons.
One of which rang so true and made so much sense was on warm and cool pigments in your palette. I always thought of colors by hue and chroma. I didn't think that there were inherent characteristics that prejudged the outcome of mixtures. Like mixing French Ultramarine blue (FU) and Cadmium Yellow (CY). I always got mud from this combination but didn't understand why- FU gave beautiful violets when mixed with Permanent Rose (PR) why did it fail at creating green. One reason is that CY has a little red in it as well as FU and when combined it gave a orange bias to the mix which cancels the blue. Therefore a better choice would to use a cool yellow like Winsor Yellow or Hansa Yellow Light and a cool blue like cobalt blue or even better- phthalo blue which bends a little towards the green and makes better greens. Well, there are many other such discoveries that I made that I am questioning my current palette even more. Pigments such as Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber are pigments made from 3 pure pigments. Jeanne makes a great case against such "impure" pigments; by using more pure pigments you have a greater chance of getting more exciting mixes. I'll have to experiment a bit and we'll see, but I feel my next uses of color will be more informed. I am a little unsure I have to throw all of the earth pigments out- as they provide such a easy way of creating deep browns and grays- but I will be a little more educated as I continue painting.
One other quick discovery is the spare use of opaques which I've always agreed on but never understood why. Using an opaque with another opaque creates dull and unmanageable mixtures. Although I haven't done many experiments with the Opaque Triad- I could see her point. Whenever I've used two opaques the mixture was hard to work with - even frustrating.