Oil Painting: Timothy R. Thies' Color Charts

14 Nov 2006

In the fall 2006 issue of Workshop magazine, Timothy R. Thies taught students how to capture the temperatures of light and shadow in their landscape paintings. Here, we offer an excerpt from the article regarding color charts.

by Edith Zimmerman

A few weeks before the workshop, Thies sent each of his students a packet of information about how to make color charts before arriving for the three-day event. He encouraged the artists to complete the color charts to better understand not only the colors they were using but also how they interact with one another. “How many times have you looked at an object in nature and thought, What color is that and how do I mix it?” Thies asked in his letter to students. “By mixing two colors plus white from your palette, you will begin to learn and then memorize color mixtures that are quite beautiful. What could be more satisfying and fun?”

0611theistease21_600x400Each color chart focuses on a dominant color—sap green, for example—and how it interacts with each of the other colors on a palette. Thies’ charts—which he recommends painting on canvas panels, one square inch for each color block, sectioned off with 1/8" white graphic arts tape—are always five horizontal rows deep, with the top row always the darkest value and the bottom row always the lightest. The number of vertical columns depends on the number of colors experimented with—ideally, enough to accommodate the number of colors on the palette. The horizontal color rows are composed of mixtures of each color on the palette combined in varying percentages with the dominant color. The first column of paint in every chart is the dominant hue mixed with only white. Begin by painting Box 5—the top box—right out of the tube so it is the solid dominant color. Next, mix the dominant color with a lot of white, so the mixture is only slightly darker than white. That mixture goes in Box 1 at the bottom of the chart. Now Box 5 and Box 1 are complete. Box 3 is an even mixture of white and the dominant color—say, sap green. Boxes 2 and 4 are in between the values of 1 and 3 and 3 and 5, respectively. Squinting at the column should reveal an even gradation of colors from top to bottom. Now mix colors for column two. The rest of the columns are combinations of the dominant color with other colors, for instance sap green with ultramarine deep, sap green with cobalt blue light, sap green with viridian, and so on. “There is no perfect way to paint color charts,” Thies reminded the students, “but just be patient with yourself. It’s a lengthy process, but the results are beautiful and very satisfying.”

To read the feature article on this artist, check out the fall 2006 issue of Workshop magazine.


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