Thursday, January 28, 2016

How to Get Started Mixing Colors for Fine Art Painters

Color, beautiful color!
Recently I have been hearing artists talk about how challenging mixing colors can be. Do you think so too?

A long time ago, I dated a guy who was incredibly talented with drawing in black and white. He was afraid of color. The idea of mixing color and how to do it befuddled him. Being a painter who adored color, I thought him silly. Mixing color is easy to me. But for some, not so much.

This Christmas, I gifted my neighbor and friend a painting session. She was so excited. She began mixing colors on her palette with her brush. The painting started out fine with her first attempt of color brushed onto paper. Then, she kept adding colors and mixing them on the same palette with the same brush. Yikes, before I knew it, she was mixing mud. I was taking the approach of letting her go and have fun painting. So, I just stood back and let her play. She was having a blast and seemed to like the muddy colors. She went home all excited and hung the painting in her bedroom. A week or so later I asked her how the painting was doing. She told me that she had taken it down and did not continue to paint on it. She felt totally overwhelmed with it. She is sticking with black and white for now, she says. So, there you go, another one bites the dust of color mixing.

Mixing colors for a plain air landscape painting.
Using a limited color palette helps.
Plain Air Painting, see my color palette below.

The plain air painting above required only a few colors.
Each painting dictates your color mixes.
And, just as I'm writing this, a beginner artist friend messaged me a photo of her current painting. Guess what she told me? She is having a hard time with mixing color! For her, it's brown and gray that are difficult. She's copying another painting, so I imagine the browns and grays are specific to that painting and she's trying to match them.

Colors sometimes mix themselves on the palette.
So, how do you get started mixing colors? My advice is to start small and keep it simple. There are so many different colors available to us. How many blues, greens, reds, and yellows does an artist need anyway? You might be able to shirk the color mixing entirely, just by buying the exact color you want. This method could get costly and could take up a lot of space.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Titanium White is opaque, Zinc White is translucent.

White: Zinc white will stay true white, but it is quite transparent. Titanium White is opaque, but can turn some colors gray and dull. Experiment with these two whites to lighten your colors. Take a red, add Zinc white and mix. Take the same red and add Titanium white. What happened? How different are the results? When will you prefer Zinc white over Titanium white? You could try this for any other color as well. Ultramarine blue is one of my favorite blues. Adding Titanium white makes it turn into a purply / lavender / periwinkle color, which I love.

Blue: My favorite blues right now are: Ultramarine blue, Cerulean blue, and Manganese blue. Try mixing all three of these and you will see that it comes out to the most glorious blue I have ever experienced. I'm sure there must be a blue on the market that I could buy, but it's really so much fun mixing colors to please myself and the painting before me. So, go back to the whites, and add each white to each of these blues and see what you get. Try mixing combinations of two of the blues together and see what blue you end up with. Mix those colors with each of the whites and see what happens.
Can you guess which blues are located where in this painting?
I learned a lot about my favorite blues while painting this one.

Purple: For years, I could not figure out how to mix purple. Recently, I discovered how to do it! The secret is Primary Magenta. Mix that with one of the blues, Cerulean or Manganese, for a delicious purple. Add the whites for lavender. The painting to the right is an example of mixing purple and lavendar with this combination.

As you can imagine, that is just the tip of the colorful iceberg on color mixing.

So, tell me, do you have trouble mixing colors? What happens when you try it? Are you good at it? What are you favorite color mixes? What is your greatest challenge with color mixing?

Until Next Week

• Create art
• Appreciate art
• Buy art

Mary Gravelle (Mary Rae Rush)

Sir Kitty

About the author: Mary Rae Rush (Mary Gravelle) is an artist and writer who resides in Sedona, Arizona with her beloved assistant, Sir Kitty. Her art can be seen on her website.

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