Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Paint an Orange Using the Color Wheel Method

Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend.  Paint some fruit!  

New on Empty Easel:   Learning to paint an orange using the color wheel method.  This is the latest in my tutorials on the online art magazine Empty Easel.   Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Lied or Bloom Where You're Planted

Late Jonquils and Blue Bells-detail of a failed painting!  
A failed painting.  I had a teacher who, during critiques would come around with two right angles of a matt and find the one place your painting worked!!  It was humbling, but it did teach me that there is some good in every effort!  

It was an honest lie.  When I said I gave up teaching, I was telling the truth.  Then a few days later I sat down to write another watercolor tutorial for Empty Easel, when I realized--I'm still teaching!!  (Empty Easel is an online art magazine I write watercolor articles and occasionally motivational pieces for. I will have another article here this week--do check it out!) I guess you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but where there's a will, there's a way??  How do you like that for mixing up proverbs?! So I guess I'm still doing what I love, just in a different way.

Another thing I realized is that by writing for E.E., I have begun to bloom where I'm planted.  I'm sure you've heard that expression before.  Sometimes we can't always control our situation, but we can always use the talents we have in the situation we find ourselves.  Sometimes it take some creative thinking to figure it out and sometimes we just naturally fall into it, like I did with E.E.  I love to write.  I love to teach.  I began writing for E.E. several years ago as a guest writer, which then turned into a regular thing.  So when I decided to give up teaching in a classroom, this was already in place. It combines three things I love: art, teaching and writing--and I didn't even realize it!

My intent for this blog has always been both to teach and encourage.  So I lied twice!  I haven't really used this blog to teach as much as I could.  My focus has always been more to encourage the creative spirit.  Yet a lot of what I do as a teacher is to encouraging people in their art.  Helping them get over the:  "the work must be perfect before I can value it" and the "I will never get the hang of this skill, so why am I doing it?"  And I share my personal artistic struggles here, not to complain, but to possibly come along side someone else out there who may be struggling as well.  It helps to walk the road together or to know others have the same experience.

The wonderful thing about the internet, like this blog, is its ability to reach so many. I have heard from people all over the world through it's reach.  The downside for me is the lack of personal interaction.  I'm a huge "people person" and I love to communicate face to face and look you in the eyes! The internet is a much larger audience. In fact my readership has tripled the last year alone.  I have people in the US, Canada, Australia, France, the UK, Bulgaria, Ireland, Germany, China and Mexico reading this blog! (hello to each and every one of you out there!) Just this week I received a response from someone in Bangalore--how fun to have friends and fellow artists from all over the globe!

That means I can encourage a larger audience to live a more creative life as well as teach in a huge classroom!  Really, the sky's the limit for what you can find and learn online anymore. I'm not sure I even really grasp its reach or potential.  That's an exciting thought for a creative person --unlimited potential to help people make art!!

So thank you for joining me on this journey.  In the articles on Empty Easel are some basic "how to" watercolor lessons that are part of a series I've been doing.  (you can search my name on E.E. for back articles) Coming up I am doing a series on painting flowers in watercolor.  This combines two things I love-- the fluid nature and vibrant color of watercolors with the delicate beauty of flowers!  

I hope you continue to learn and be encouraged by this blog.  Thank you for reading and do let me know when something I write helps you as you make your art.  Remember, each of you has something unique to say.  And it's your job to say it as no one else can.  Lets live a more creative life!   


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Color and the Split Primary Palette

In a new tutorial for Empty Easel coming out this Thursday, I recommend making a color wheel and chart to help learn and understand the colors in your palette.  Here is an explanation of my personal color palette (tho I use professional grade paints) with a little more detail on color theory.  Enjoy!

The Language of Color
Let’s begin with some basic color “language”.  Color has a vocabulary all its own and we will use these terms as we go forward, so let’s get familiar with them.
Primary Colors: Red, Yellow and Blue.  These colors cannot be mixed from any others and are the primary colors that all others are mixed from. 
Secondary Colors: Violet (purple), Green and Orange.  These colors are mixed from two primaries. Red and Blue = Violet.  Blue and Yellow = Green.  Yellow and Red = Orange.  That’s simple enough, right? Now let’s get a bit more complicated.
Tertiary Colors: Red Orange, Yellow Orange, Blue Violet, Red violet, Blue Green and Yellow Green.  These colors are just secondary colors with a little more of one primary color than the other. 
The twelve mixtures above, or shades, or “hues”, are what you will find on a common color wheel.  Color mixes can go on forever, but these are basic hues that all others are derived from.
Split Primary Color Palette
The six colors on my supply list make up a split primary color palette, meaning they have a “warm” and “cool” of each primary.  Yes, color has a temperature! A “warm” color is one that is a mix of warm hues—red, orange, yellow.  A “cool” color is one with a mixture of cool hues—blue, violet, green.  So while you may think of all reds as “warm”, (and it is in general), different hues of red may be “cool”, depending on their color “properties” or mixtures. (It is hard to find a tube paint that is a “pure” primary color.  Most are a mixture of colors that give them their specific shade or “hue”.)     
Let’s look more closely at what I mean.  The reds we will be using are Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson.  (these are the names for Winsor Newton student grade paint.  (The paint list, with their temperature, are in my previous article on Empty Easel “Watercolor Paint 101”) Cadmium Red light is a bright orange/red color.  When placed beside Alizarin Crimson, you can see it has a bit more yellow in its mixture.  Cadmium Red is a “warm” red.  Alizarin Crimson has a more violet color, meaning there is blue in its mix.  Alizarin Crimson is a “cool” red. 
In Yellow we have Cadmium Yellow Pale and Cadmium Yellow Hue.  Now place those colors side by side and Cad Pale has more green and is therefore a “cool” yellow, while Cad Yellow is clearly a little more orange and therefore a “warm” yellow.  (Yellow may be the hardest to distinguish because it is so light)
And last, the blues.  Ultramarine Blue leans to violet, while cerulean leans to green.  Ultramarine is “warm” and Cerulean is a “cool”. 
Why Use a Split Primary Color Palette?
That’s a good question, and the answer is complicated.  For now let’s keep it simple!  The simple answer is:  it helps simplify mixing color, keeps color mixes vibrant, and mixing color helps us learn about color relationships.  A limited palette also helps keep color harmony in our paintings.   
With this color palette you can mix any color without making “mud”.  “Mud” is a term for cloudy colors that lack vibrancy.  Mud happens when all three primary colors are present in the mix. Basically, by keeping colors in the same family, we mix the color with two, not all three primary colors. (this is the part where most students eyes glaze over and things get a little muddy!  No worries!  Just remember the color mixtures and it will click later!)       
Color Charts and Wheels
Below is a color wheel I made using the split primary color palette.  I labeled the “temperature” and the divided the wheel to show the divisions (color family) used to mix clean, vibrant secondary and tertiary colors. 

The next example is a color chart of the mixtures you can make with these six colors.  I suggest you make a color wheel and a color chart.  By making a wheel, you will see how to mix your secondary and tertiary colors and will have a color wheel to refer to.  Making the color chart will show you which color combinations create the color you are looking for.  Notice how the colors are uneven on the chart?  This is because I mixed the color on the paper.  I find mixing on the paper helps me see the possibilities of a mix.  You can also see which colors don’t work together and avoid making those mistakes on your painting.  There are times when you need a muted color and times you want bold, clean, vibrant color.  With your reference charts you will be able to see what color you want and how to get it.  Both the chart and the wheel are useful when learning to mix color and as tools for future reference.

As you can see, you can make any color of the rainbow with just these six tubes of paint.  By limiting your colors, you will understand color better by mixing and eliminate the need for tons of tubes of paint!  While you may want to add a few tubes as you learn, for the most part, my palette has remained the same for over 15 years!  The more paints you use, the more likely you are to make that mud.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Garden Wall- Glacier National Park

Recently, I sent a painting to my son who is in college in another state.    Since he lives in an apartment, I did not trust it to make it to his door, and if it did, I did not trust it to stay there on a college campus!!  So I sent it to my other son who lives close by. As luck would have it, the package went missing!  I felt my heart drop.  I even cried at the thought of never seeing it again!  "What's that about?" I thought.  I guess I never realized how attached I am to some of my work.  They are a little like children in a way.  We conceive an idea, give birth to it and then painstakingly bring it to completion.  There is one way they are different--I have a whole lot of them!  And, some I don't like nearly as much as others!  But I know you understand what I'm getting at.  Some of my paintings are very important to me.

I've posted this painting before.  This painting is a plein air watercolor I did in Glacier National Park just outside the hotel where my son worked that summer.  We went to see him for a few days and had an great time.  I am such a lover of nature and Glacier is, well, I cant describe its beauty!  I got up early one morning to paint while the guy's went fishing.  It was sunrise and the lake was glass, the air still and the view was breathtaking.  Fish jumped, wild life went about their business as tho I was not there.  It was so peaceful and the painting practically painted itself.  I was really pleased and my son told me how much he liked it.  That Christmas, I gave that painting to him. 

So with that history, you can understand why the painting was so important to me.  And why I was so upset when I thought it was lost forever.  As luck would have it, this story has a happy ending!  We are still not sure what happened, or why it went missing for a few days when everyone said it had been delivered, but it did eventually reach its destination and my son now has possession of the painting!! (sigh of relief)

Not every painting I do has this kind of importance, value or sentiment.  That's one of the reasons I like plein air painting.  You are really recording an experience, not just painting a scene.  Some paintings don't work, but I have a memory of the place I will never forget just because I spent that time there.  If you think about it we engage almost every sense when we plein air paint.  We smell, hear, touch, see and sometimes taste the scene we are painting.  We spend time recording what we see, but we remember much more.  It is an experience.  You don't get that in the studio.   

Almost losing the painting made me realize I really love every part (well, maybe not the wind or bugs) of painting plein air!  Being in nature and drinking in the scene with all my senses, sometimes I even paint a painting that has great value to me.  I may not have the flexibility to travel to far flung places to paint right now, but I can still have that experience close to home.  Sometimes a little painting done in the back yard is as refreshing as one of a grand expanse away from home.  And the apple orchard is blooming up the street too... :)