Colour charts….”I did it my way”

Here in China you often hear something described as “Such and such”….with Chinese characteristics, which generally means that it is not at all similar to “Such and such” as we know and understand the concept and actually has a completely different interpretation!

Update: 2013-08-18 – Maggie Latham has removed her blog and the series on Exploring Colour.

In a similar way, I have set up to work on some of Maggie Latham’s colour charts, but as usual I don’t want to “follow the crowd” so I have put my own spin on it! I have decided to re-interpret the charts that Maggie describes as:

Colour charts

…..with my characteristics…..

incorporating Jean Haines’ washes

+ Judith’s colour planets

+ Laura’s overlapping geometric shapes

Maggie Latham’s charts are based on mixing 3 primary colours: variations of Yellow, Blue and Red to get the tertiary colours. All good. But then I realised that while this was great for getting to know the colours in my palette better, I usually try to mix pigment directly on the paper – a technique that Jean Haines recommends.

So….not wanting to err on the side of simplicity or caution, I decided to incorporate some of Judith Farnworth’s colour planets – wet the paper, pick your colours, drop them into the wet area and DON’T FIDDLE – let the colours mix of their own accord.

But…. the other way I often paint is by glazing, or overlapping layers of paint over other dry layers – and I remembered that Laura Moore recently posted a blog entry of an exercise with colours painted in layers….so I added those in too!

And then I wanted to combine all of this with Jean’s encouragement to experiment with lots of washes to test how the pigments behave together in background washes.

So all of a sudden these charts/experiments started getting really complicated – but very exciting too!

In Round 1, I started off simply with 2 combos of 3 colours – standard colour charts and colour planets – in the first round, I underestimated the number of segments I needed – not enough tertiary colours in the result….

Round 1A
Lemon Yellow – Pthalo Blue – Quin Magenta

In the 2nd part of Round 1, I decided to count the correct number of segments and introduce an inner circle with a lighter value of the same colours that were parading around the outside.

Round 1B
Transparent Yellow – Winsor Red -Ultramarine Blue

Then the mathematician inside of me was feeling left out and wanted to get involved too – where was she when I needed help setting up the first circle, I have to ask? Unfortunately she got a bit carried away and took over the process.

Mathematician worked out that I have 6 blues, 6 yellows and 6 reds that I can combine – not all of them are “pure” primary colours, but I don’t want any of them to feel left out and I feel that I should get to know how they mix with their buddies too. After working through various possible formulae in my head,  Mathematician worked out that I would need to put together 36 combinations – no two colours should appear in the same combination more than once:

xn-1  – where x is the number of shades (6) of a colour and n is the number of colours (3).

That’s a lot of charts…..

So for Round 2, I decided to do two combos at once – setting up and inner circle and an outer circle. At the same time, I incorporated the overlapping colours concept to compare how the overlapping colours contrasted with the mixed colours. I had to drop the lighter value circle in favour of the doubling-up of combinations.

Round 2A
Lemon Yellow – PthaloBlue – Quin Magenta
Transparent Yellow -Winsor Red – Ultramarine Blue

Round 2B
Raw Sienna – Prussian Blue – Scarlet Red
Gamboge – Cobalt Blue – Quin Rose

Unfortunately on Round 2B – I think I mixed some of the wrong colours together – comes from trying to do too much at once…..might need a re-think here.

In Maggie Latham’s 3rd post on Exploring Colour, she highlights the issue of value, so for Round 3 I decided to add a value spin to my charts – the circle had to die to make way for a grid….I went back to one combination of 3 colours, looked at values of each colour at the top of the page, and then looked at various combos of mixing, overlapping (first with one colour underneath, and then vice versa). I included the planets, and added some transitions (a tip I picked up from Vinita Pappas)

Round 3A
QuinGold – Indigo – Aliz Crimson

This is not quite as pretty as the circles, and it doesn’t necessarily show the complementary colours so well, but it had some interesting results.

And then I followed this up with a wash – I can’t exactly call it a Jean Hainess wash – because it didn’t work very well! I am not sure if it means that the colours don’t play nicely together, or whether I just made a hash of it – my money is on the latter….

Wash 1
Quin Gold – Indigo – Aliz Crimson

Wash 2
Quin Gold – Indigo – Aliz Crimson

So…..this was interesting…..and fun……and I can do it when I am tired after a long day at the office and the Mathematician has smothered the Creative Type for too many hours. I probably will try something completely different for the next time…..wouldn’t want to get bored….watch this space.

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~ by tomorrowslices on May 13, 2012.

5 Responses to “Colour charts….”I did it my way””

  1. What a great blog Dawn…. really enjoyed it…. especially liked my mention, appreciate that!!!! What I really loved about this is you seem to have enjoyed doing it so much, you have put so much into it and looks like you are learning lots. I love the washes at the end, I think we need to try out different colours and combos that way we will get something different and I think these washes are unique and for me at least, work very well

    • Thanks, Judith – thought those “planets” of yours deserved another mention! I still don’t know about the washes…I can’t seem to get the water ratio right – the shouldn’t be so “patchy” and “blotchy”. But I do appreciate the encouragement! We press on….

  2. Glad my little exercise was useful for someone else too. Thanks Dawn. Great read… Good you found Maggie Litham too. A wealth of information on that site. xx

    • Thanks Laura – I am still thinking through how best to bring all these concepts together in a way that works best for me and what I am trying to achieve, but in an effective and structured way without losing the FUN in the process of learning how watercolours work!

      • You’ve knocked it on the head Dawn. Make it FUN and PERSONAL and your individual talent will shine through everytime…

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