View Full Version : Color Workshop

07-24-2005, 10:30 AM
Well, yesterday I attended an all-day color workshop at the local art museum. What a fascinating experience. There were only 6 of us in the workshop so a nice intimate group. The instructor is Catherine Kinkade, and one of the first things she was asked was if she was related to Thomas Kinkade! Well, the answer is "no" but I imagine the poor thing gets asked that all the time, and we had to put up for a bit with her canned mini-rant about Thomas Kinkade, but once that was out of the way we were free to start.

Of course much was familiar to me from my reading, starting with the color wheel, and going into secondary colors and tertiary colors. We talked about hue and value and intensity. But best of all were the hands-on exercises. Our first exercise was 20 minutes spent on a small still life that essentially used just the three primary colors - a blue tablecloth on the table, and on it was placed a red napkin - a blue bowl was placed on top of that, and in the blue bowl were some yellow apples (and some red ones inside).

We worked with pastels, which was good for me, though a few of the others there complained that they had never touched pastels. We worked with Rembrandts, which gave me a chance to try them out. I liked them quite well, almost as much as my NuPastels, and far better than my Senneliers - but the instructor did not think much of them, and described them as "low-end" but okay for students, and said she preferred Shmickes and Unisons.

We were given 20 minutes to work on the still life, using only a red, a yellow, and a blue pastel. Then we had our talk on values, and were given an exercise to do the still life again, this time using a white, a gray and a black pastel. Well, the white was pretty useless on a pure white piece of paper, and I found the gray not too helpful, so I did mine basically all with the black pastel. Third exercise was the same setup, but this time on a piece of indigo paper. Oh, we used Canson Mi-Tientes paper for all the exercises. We were allowed to do it using either hues (the red/yellow/blue pastels) or values (the white/gray/black pastels) - our choice.

Interestingly, every student chose the hues, which she said had never happened before, and commented that some people see hues better, and some see values, and it is a genetic thing related to the number of rods and cones in your eyes.

After that we learned more about secondary and tertiary colors, and she had us do little exercises in our sketch pads using our three primaries to create orange, green and indigo, both using a blending method, and a pontillist method of little dots, and then creating tertiary colors. We had to create three tertiaries - one that was yellow-dominant, one that was blue-dominant, and one that was red-dominant. She said that many folks called these colors "mud" but that as a plein air landscape artist she loved the mud colors, and referred to them as earth tones.

She teaches a 30-week class in pastels, which starts at the very beginning, and culminates in a series of plein air sessions. She seems to be quite a minimalist when it comes to colors, and says that for her first plein air sessions her students are only allowed to use five pastels - the three primary colors plus white and black, and have to come up with everything else themselves, and said that 25 colors should be more than enough for any need. :)

However her class assistant had been through the course and said it was wonderful, and she is a funny and gifted teacher. One of the other students had a friend who had taken the course also, and raved about it. Gee, what fun it would be to take it, but she only offers it 9-12 on Wednesday *mornings*! No evening or weekend options, and I can't see my boss letting me tell him I plan to be out of work on Wedneday mornings for the next 30 weeks! :D

Our fourth workshop was a still life that had more greens and oranges in it, and again we were allowed to use only our three primary colors to create it.

Afterwards we talke a lot about intensity and brightness. Our last exercise was a bit fun. We all got a large sheet of very brightly colored Canson paper, and were told that for this exercise we could use *all* the colors in our pastel boxes. Of course this was only 9 - the three primaries, the black, white and gray, as well as green, orange and purple - which up to now we had been forbidden to touch. A whole ton of fruit was set out on the table that our easels were centered around, and we were given 50 minutes in which to try to draw them as realistically as we could in that time frame, but the only stipulation was that we could not use any colors that they would ever be in nature.

For example the red apples could not be done in green - as apples can be green, nor could they do done in yellow, ditto. That was sort of fun - although when we all put our pictures up afterwards I was surprised that at least 2-3 of the six of us had painted all their fruit in exactly the colors that they were, red apples, green pears, orange oranges, etc, with not even an attempt to change the colors, as if they had not heard the instructor at all - or just could not get past the idea of changing what they saw.

But all in all a fun day. I'm not sure I learned a whole lot of new information about color, as I have read a lot about it, and most of this info I picked up from reading, but working on the exercises sure helped me see stuff a bit more clearly, and I gained a lot of respect for the idea of a limited palette, though I still enjoy all the colors I own. :)

Anyway, for fun, I'll post the pix of the exercises I did for the class:
1) Primary still life, done with red, yellow blue
2) Value still life, done with black pastel
3) Primary still life on indigo paper, done with red, yellow, blue
4) Secondary still life, done with red, yellow, blue
5) Still life done with all colors, changing colors of objects.

Debbie C.

07-24-2005, 11:20 AM
Thanks for posting this, Debbie. It's really interesting.

K Taylor-Green
07-24-2005, 11:47 AM
Wow! Sounds like a very intense class! You acomplished an awful lot in just one day.
And, did a very good job! Thanks for sharing. This is something that will help other newcomers to the medium.

07-24-2005, 11:49 AM
colour is fascinating to study and it is quite amazing what happens to coolours when they are put alonsider other colours. For instance if you take a grey a pure grey made of black and white, and surround it with LOTS of red, that grey turns grey-green and looks totally different to the same grey placed on another sheet of paper. Using colour with knowledge will help to give your paintings so much more life and vitality.

I mam glad yo enjoyed your workshop! And thanks for the info. I ave to run a colour workshop later this year, and may make a note of some of the things you did, tho I do have some different ideas to use.


07-24-2005, 02:11 PM
Thank you so much debbie- for all the detailed info on your class- boy it sounds wonderful- can i sleep on your sofa for 30 weeks and take the whole thing? (just kidding)... I just bought the betty edwards color book, need to settle down and read it- have not felt great, so as a result am only 1/2 way through potter- now if I can't read potter I sure can't read about colour... but it sounds like an extremely valuable workshop! all in one day too- wow! only 9 colors... my first class (i have had a total of 3 hour long ones) we were told to bring 'any pastels we had so we could look at them'. so I did- i kind of overdid it....

Paula Ford
07-24-2005, 05:37 PM
Wow, sounds like a great workshop!! Thanks for sharing.


07-24-2005, 06:09 PM
Sounds like fun.


07-24-2005, 06:59 PM

I'm glad that you're taking all those workshops, which will prove to be quite usefull for the future. Unfortunatelly I'm not aware of workshops here and if there were they would be very expensive and given by not much competent people.
What about working 30 Sundays in exchange ?:-)



07-24-2005, 07:42 PM
I'll add a couple more points to show what we did, for anyone interested. We were all supposed to bring sketch books with us, and there were a few things the instructor had us do in the books.

The first picture is the first one we do, and I have labeled the lines 1-6. What we were supposed to do was:

1) Make three good-sized circles using the three primary colors we were given.
2) Using our fingers to blend we were supposed to create the three secondary colors, so that one circle was a mixture of red/blue, the second a mixture of yellow/blue, and the third a mixture of red/yellow.
3) Once again we were supposed to create violet, green and orange, but using a pontillist method of just dots of the primary colors, so that you would see the secondary color if you held it at a distance. This is the left-half of the circles because when we finished she had us blend the right half to see how it looked.
4) we were supposed to use our fingers to blend secondary colors together to get tertiary, so that we blended violet/green, violet/orange, and green/orange.
5) we were supposed to use the pontillist method to recreate the three tertiaries from step two. They were all expected to be a brownish shade, but one was supposed to have a bluish cast, one a yellowish, and one a reddish.
6) we were supposed to smudge a little of our circle from step five with our finger, and make a smaller circle below, to show our color and see if we had succeeded in step five.

Second exercise is labeled 1-4.
1 and 2) We were supposed to make large circles of red and yellow, and then add a little black along one side and blend it in to the circle, and see what sort of color we would up with.

We were then shown a brown pear, and told to try to reproduce its color using certain pastels.
3) We had to use red, yellow and blue to create the brown pear color.
4) We used red, yellow and black to try to do the same.

Debbie C.

07-24-2005, 08:07 PM
I love the shading- sure you can't talk your boss into Jose's idea of working alternate hours? Bring him donuts.... thanks so much for sharing this with us!