View Full Version : Book about playing with colors

12-13-2015, 01:04 PM
I have come across a book that approaches colors in a (for me) unusual way and perhaps for some of you the idea will sound fun and appealing too. I need to mention that I like swatches and I still struggle with choosing the right pastel sticks that would correspond with the colors of the subject I am about to paint.

The book is Local Color: Seeing Place Through Watercolor by Mimi Robinson.


I am sure accomplished artists simply pick the "right" handful of pastels and start to paint, but for me it's interesting to see the colors of the subject transformed into a swatch :)


12-13-2015, 08:39 PM
Oh that book looks fun, Nick!

There is a difference between pastels and any paint medium including watercolors. If you love swatches, absolutely begin a binder and chart every pastel you own on good sturdy archival paper. Drawing paper will do. Consistently use white or for light colors it's very good to use a gray paper so the nuances show up better.

Then in the same binder start doing some swatches of combinations, two and three color combinations, layering. Work out some personal recipes. One of my favorites is from a Deborah Secor video. Choose a lavender, peach and light green - basically violet, orange and green tints all the same value. Scumble those across each ohter to create a neutral gray for clouds that shimmers with color. Try it again with primary tints, yellow pink and blue. What's great with that is mixing by layering and leaving some patches leaning toward one of the hues.

You can stick with those secondaries or bring in pink, blue and yellow wth them after the value are established. But knowing which of your pastels best do that in combination is wonderful and makes it easy when doing a landscape to just bring some clouds in - and maybe adjust the mix cooler because of what the weather's like, or warmer pinker because it's dawn, whatever that scene's nuances are.

Matching the local colors of an object and then nuances of color shifts in shadow and highlights is fun too. Take something like an acorn and a twig or a dried leaf and do swatches with your pastels for that. Try a page of swatches in values where each swatch starts with violet thinned with water wash to that value - a wet underpainting on watercolor paper. Then build colors over that - do the value strips as long stripes and grid them so you can try difterent combos down the row to see what happens.

This kind of color play is wonderful for getting used to colors and expands your range far beyond the number of sticks you actually have.

The watercolor mixing book probably has some graet color informaton for every medium though. Breaking down a photo reference into its particular hues like that would do a lot to help understand how local color can vary that much and light affect it so much.

12-14-2015, 05:50 PM
:) I think the book is supposed to be fun. It doesn't talk about pigments, so it's probably not something to study and learn from. It probably gives the idea and through practising the reader can learn something. I think it can be useful.

The author makes swatches when she travels. For me, that's an interesting idea as well. To keep "a travelogue" full of swatches with notes. I know it sounds a bit crazy.

I thought it could be useful mainly for watercolorists, but your post shows that a pastelist can benefit from swatches as well :)
I will have to yet try the colorful/grey clouds. It is still something that I am hesitant to believe :D ;)

Thank you, Rob. I have bought the book after all :angel:
Sometimes, especially when I am browsing TL website, I think I could create a large swatch, frame it and hang in on the wall in my room. Maybe it's time to try that :lol:

Equus Art
12-14-2015, 08:01 PM
Nick, do you have a photo editing program on your computer that will allow you to eyedropper sample small snipets of each color used and then create a sample palette based on the colors used in the original painting?

For pastels, it wouldn't be an exact match, since some of the colors can or are scumbled and blended over the top of each other so it isn't 100% accurate, but you can get a good idea of most of the palette.

Just for grins, I did this with one of Karen Margulies' paintings (I know you're a fan of hers) and I was able to pull up a pretty decent selection of colors. Just a thought. Then you could match your closest color choices or a least have a direction to go in.


12-15-2015, 05:13 AM
There's an app for that! :lol: I don't remember the name of the app--it's on an older Android device that I haven't used in awhile--but it picks out and displays the colors in a photo (from your gallery) in an array that shows the proportionate use of each.

A book like this, though, is a guide to teach you how to do it yourself. Thanks for sharing, Nick!

Anne Johnson
12-15-2015, 07:41 AM
That book looks great! I agree, it is always interesting to see what colors someone else might choose for a subject. Thanks for sharing.

12-15-2015, 02:26 PM
Cat, I would love to see the result! I have tried the tool several times, but the only thing that I have learned is that you need many colors to see "just one" - there are pixels and pixels of different colors next to each other that give the impression of one color. And that if I want to mimic that, I can try to use several layers or other combination of different colors as well.

Oh, LOL, Blayne, I bet there is! There is an application for almost everything :D
But I think I will stay away from that. Because I would be tempted to check if I did my version "right" and it would take the fun out of the game.

I am in about one third of the book and really like it. There are photos and painted palettes of the photos (to compare), small sketches of nature and also named colorful "spots" (I don't know how to call it - just marks with a brush with a simple description "mist", "bark", "marsh", "distant hills" etc.)

The author encourages us to paint palettes of the same place at different time of the day, to paint palettes of cast shadows to pay attention to their colors.

I think it is tricky to decide how many colors you want to include in your painted palette - how much you want to simplify.

Sometimes there are paintings that include the subject and it's palette as well - then it looks like for example sea shells on a chequered cloth :)

There is also something that looks like a palette of books on shelves in NY public library. :)

It includes short introduction in color theory and step by step examples, but mostly the book sounds a bit poetic and encourages you to feel and enjoy the process of painting at different places.

I am very happy with the purchase. I like that the method concentrates on colors not on getting the sketching right or on composition. It's a different way how to see the world for a while and I like the idea.

12-17-2015, 10:13 AM
That looks like a really fun book.....I'm going to put it on my amazon wish list. :)

I go by value first, then color.