Friday, January 18, 2008

Value Board - Subtle Grays are not Mud

I love playing with color. On my palette I have a limited number of tube colors, but from these I can mix endless varieties of subtle grays. Some of these mixes can be classified as blue green, reddish purple, salmon, mauve etc. Others are harder to name. Because I mix my colors like this there is a harmony even among all these subtle grays.
Each of these subtle grays has a hue ( what color it is) and a value ( how light or dark it is). They also have chroma ( the intensity of the color).
As I paint, my palette fills with leftovers from my color mixes. To keep my mixing area clean I occasionally scrape leftover piles of similar color together and save them along the top of my palette. I'll use these grays to tint my new color mixes. (I'll write more on that and my palette in a separate post).
I have a little 6x8 board in my studio that I have been playing with. At the end of the day I'll take some bits from these piles of grays that are left and place them on my little value board. There is no real method to this madness, I am just playing. I want to practice matching different hues that are the same value and at the same time play with new color combos and see how they affect each other. I have been trying to place them in a kind of value scale from light to dark. It is not something super serious like mixing color charts. Sometimes I get them in the right spot, other times I really miss. It may look like a certain value to me when it is on my palette knife, but when I place it among the other colors on my board, it looks different than I thought it would. You see value is all relative. It all depends on the other colors that are surrounding. Sixty Minute Artist, Jerry Lebo, has great posts on relative value and learning to see values. If you are interested in learning more about this you should read what he has to say.
Some of these grays have a high chroma or are "purer" and others are "duller" or more neutral. when a high chroma color is placed amongst the "dull" ones it really pops. Like that orange one on the middle left or those lime greens along the top or that red on the top right. When seen in the black and white image they fall into place value wise. If I were to put a pure color straight from the tube imagine how it would look compared to all of these grays.
Along the bottom of this board I mixed a simple scale of ten values from black to white. My subtle grays are placed from light to dark in the opposite direction. There is no reason for that it is just how I did it. I have shown the same board in black and white so you can see the values without being distracted by the color. The ones I got in the wrong place really stand out huh?
I'll be writing more about my color mixing and limited palette soon.


Marc R. Hanson said...

Here, here!!! I hate and refuse to acknowledge that word....MUD. Okay, I shouldn't hate anything my mom always said. But it's a much misused term that isn't really even applicable in painting.

This is good stuff Frank. Your board looks just like my old Munsell Color swatch charts from art school. That is so beautiful, those grays.

Ambera said...

I love your gray palette pictures! I would hang that on the wall in an instant. One of the most valuable things I've learned in school so far is how to mix a neutral gray with compliments. There's such a huge range of gorgeous grays, and it takes great skill to find the one you want. Some of my most favorite paintings are those that have achieved a gray that enhances all the other colours around it.

Barbara Pask said...

Thank you for the lesson in grays. I took a workshop last summer and the artist teaching it worked with a "soup" as he called it. He mixed it a certain way. We would look out in the landscape, pick one of the primary colors we see the most, say red then mix yellow and blue and make green. Then mix green and red half and half then add enough white to take it to a value 5. You add it to everything in your painting. It's a colorful soup not just mud. It does make your painting more uniform. I need to start using it again maybe it would help. Take care, Barb

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Marc. I would have to add that I would call a color MUD if it just has just been mixed and pushed and pushed some more so much that the color is just dead beat out of it. Then it is time to wipe it off the palette or painting and re mix a fresh one.

Frank Gardner said...

I love mixing grays Ambera. They are so important to creating harmony and light effects in a painting.
Hang it on your wall huh? Now THAT is a compliment.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Barb, I've worked with that "Soup" method before , but in a slightly different way. Not such a neutral soup.
Working with a limited palette creates the harmony just the same if you mix properly.
Edgar Payne talks about the "Soup" in his book "Composition of Outdoor Painting". It is one of the books I recomend to students in my workshops. He talks about landscape, but the ideas he puts out would translate to your still life work as well.
I'll post my recommended reading list next week.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this Frank. Really interesting, I've been thinking about colour lately and trying to grey down my stuff a bit.

Frank Gardner said...

Hope it was useful to you Eric. It is a fun way to learn about grays.

Jason Waskey said...

Grey-t post, Frank.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks for the comment Jason.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

This hits a painter viscerally!
Look at all those incredibly vibrant grays. Thanks for explaining your process.

Frank Gardner said...

I'm so glad that you found this useful Mary. I'll post more stuff on color and mixing soon.

Anonymous said...

Well......color. I was wondering, just now, whether other world cultures organize color the way "we" do - primary, secondary, complimentary; hue, intensity, etc.

Music/sound - the wave spectrum perceived by human ears - is NOT organized the same, worldwide. It's a fascinating study, actually, the way so-called western music is calibrated and organized. I'd never thought about the possibility that color is also not universally organized the same way. Do you know?


p.s. i'm actually "practicing" - trying to simply do it daily, as my "work" back to "work". i wish there were a way to put it on a blog, like you all do....

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Solveg. I have no knowledge of a different system of organizing color. But I am no expert.
Practice makes perfect, or at least better.
You could use youtube, or a blog with video clips or ustreamtv.
I know nothing about that either, but I have seen it put to good use.