I was always taught that effective color mixing starts with
discovering the tinting strength of each color on your palette. For me, that is
the basis of understanding how to mix colors, because it tells me how they will
react when combined.
|A Breath Away by Joseph McGurl, oil on canvas, 24 x 36.
I'm a bit embarrassed to say that until a professor pointed this
out to me in school, I was oblivious to it. I assumed all colors would tint
similarly when lightened with the same amount of white. But, as I am sure many
of you know, that couldn't be further from the truth. For example, Prussian
blue and alizarin crimson have very strong tinting strengths—just a small
amount of either color added to white makes a vivid tint. On the other hand,
terre verte and raw umber have weaker tinting strength and turn pale when mixed
with just a little bit of white.
Once I understood this, I went a little crazy with my art
colors to better understand how each color has its own quirks and personality.
At the end of all my experiments, I came away with a color-mixing guide—more
like a chart, really. I painted a dab of each color on my palette and mixed it
with different colors to see the result. I started by adding the same amount of
white to each color on my palette to see how each pigment was affected, and I went
on from there.
|Camelback Twilight by Joseph McGurl, oil on canvas, 22 x 34.
That chart now is more like a free-form color-mixing guide.
It's more disorganized than a formal color wheel, but it works for me, and I refer back to it often when I
can't remember quite how a color will mix with another. If you've made a
similar "cheat sheet" marking your color schemes, you'll know how useful they
can be—especially when you are trying to eke out the delicate nuances of color.
A great way to apply what you know about your own art colors
and learn more from an expert is with Brian Keeler's new art instruction DVDs, Skies and Light. The artist shows you how to achieve clean color, adjust
color values, and add dimension all in one sitting, which you'll be able to
apply to every painting you create from here on out. Enjoy!