Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Six Reasons to Make Color Charts

Color Charts based on two limited palettes:
Basic palette: cad red, cad yellow, ultramarine blue
Masters palette: burnt sienna, yellow ochre, paynes grey

Color is one those great battles that artists spend their lifetimes waging...I have a short artistic history so far, but I know this battle is a fierce one.

Yesterday I read a great quote on lines and colors:
"This is the process of painting your own color charts, in which you mix a value scale of each color, and then value scales of each color in combination with each of the other colors in your basic palette. It is a process that gives you more color mixing knowledge than a truckload of color mixing books and preprinted charts could ever begin to provide."

Charley (and Richard Schmid) are completely right on this one. I did the above charts a few weeks ago at the start of my oil painting career, they have been invaluable since then. People never believe that when you say it, I think because the benefits are difficult to describe. But, I'll try for you...

Benefits of Making Color Charts:
  1. Simplification - you aren't trying to achieve anything, you are just mixing and staring at colors, this helps brings the color into focus.
  2. Color context - when I first tried my "limited masters palette" I was rather aghast at the colors. But, actually, seeing them in the charts, there is great potential there.
  3. Color creativity - having done these charts I am now having ideas based on them...e.g. driving home today I suddenly had a flash of an idea for something that I am currently doing in graphite - an idea of how to translate a drawing I love to a painting in oils.
  4. Confidence - it takes a lot of mixing to make these charts, so you gain familiarity with mixing, changing the values, what direction you are going in when you mix two particular colors, using a palette knife, etc.
  5. Planning - when I am deciding how to get a color onto the canvas, I look at my charts and decide what is closest and then decide if it is going to work or if I am going to have to rethink it.
  6. Company - Charley Parker and Richard Schmid recommend them. Both of these men know alot about art: how to make it, what makes it good - why not take a page from their playbooks?


Jennifer Rose said...

I haven't made a colour chart since high school but they are indeed very handy to have. I should probably make one now and see if it helps me.

Been really enjoying your post about your oil paintings :D

Rose Welty said...

Thanks Jennifer!

Valerie Jones said...

Thanks for the color chart exercise! I've been wanting to do one, but haven't wanted to take the time. Thanks also for the link to the Colors and Lines site. I was just introduced to Richard Schmid's work a couple of weeks ago and his book was highly recommended.