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Old 01-17-2015, 11:29 PM
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Bastet469 Bastet469 is offline
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Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Hey all,

Was talking to my husband the other day about how frustrated I was with wasting paint (acrylics ain't cheap) due to bad mixes. When I explained Schmid's color charting process as a solution, he said it was overkill and could destroy my creativity. As a musician, he says he's seen his share of "academic" players whose creativity was basically 'taught' right out of them. They have accuracy but no depth. He said when a mix comes out different than expected to just put my creativity hat on and find a use for it.

On the other hand, I've heard so many people tout the value of doing them. They say it's a great learning exercise. Charting every color I have would be time consuming but folks swear it will make painting easier and less expensive in the long run.

So what do you all think?

-wendy
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Old 01-18-2015, 12:32 AM
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yellow_oxide yellow_oxide is offline
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

How many colors do you have? I don't know if this is exactly how other people do that chart, but suppose there's only 3, plus white- red, yellow, blue, white. Suppose you make 3 steps between each (2:1, 1:1, 1:2), and 3 tints of each (though I've seen more like 5 tints in charts). You're looking at 12 full strength swatches plus 36 tints, 48 swatches in all. Now add one more color in there. If I'm doing the math right, you're up to 24 full strength and 72 tints, or 96 swatches total. If it was 5 tints then it's 144 swatches total. For every color you add the total number of swatches to show it mixed with every other color already there is going to rise exponentially. For a moderate palette of about 10 colors it's quickly an absurd amount of swatches, and even that's assuming you're only using 2 colors in each mix. At that point I'd expect a lot of paint to have been used. I did some calculations and with 10 paints, plus white, I think there'd be 180 full strength swatches and with 3 tints each a total of 720 or 1080 with 5 tints.

I'm not saying never do such a chart, I've done a few smaller charts myself and there actually is something to be gained from them, but I think being overly analytical removes too much of the human component from art. Besides, there comes a point when the chart isn't actually revealing anything new and determinedly filling every last swatch isn't gaining you anything. Eventually you get a feel for how each pigment behaves and what to expect it to do to another pigment. I think the point of the charts is to be a replacement for simply getting familiar with each paint one by one through practice and purposeful observation, which makes the charts into a kind of crutch.

Of course everyone has unexpected results from time to time, unless they're really only using the exact same small palette for everything forever, but to avoid wasting paint just make brand new mixes small at first. If you still don't like the color, consider tinting a blank canvas with it so there's no waste.
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Last edited by yellow_oxide : 01-18-2015 at 01:17 AM.
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Old 01-18-2015, 03:55 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

First, I think you don't have black on palette and therefore you are trying to mix 3-4 aggressive colors just to get reduce value of very common red, green or other dull landscape color. To mix gray you have start with Cadmium Orange for example. You will waste a lot of time and much paint.

Second, you don't have earth colours on palette. To mix sand color you have start with Phthalo Green for example and then you try to add Cadmium red light there and use Quinacridone Magenta and Cadmium Yellow med to tone it down...
In color theory you do absolutely right things. In practice, you can fall in panic. Just like me, when I tried to mix all colors to one paint pile I called it "stormy amplitude mixing", which is just a color theory trap.
For me, it is better to take a close color from earth colour collection and to add white or black to correct value. After that a tiny amount of bright color can push your mixture to a proper way.

Last edited by Gigalot : 01-18-2015 at 04:09 AM.
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Old 01-18-2015, 08:29 AM
Clare_Quilty Clare_Quilty is offline
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bastet469
Charting every color I have would be time consuming but folks swear it will make painting easier and less expensive in the long run.

Agree. Understanding color as simply as possible in the mind and on the palette can only help.
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Old 01-18-2015, 08:33 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Wendy, you and your musician husband are both right. Doing color charts is often the first step - it will show you how to mix particular colors. You eventually learn some of these specific recipes while actually painting, but color charts are a much more direct way. But yellow_oxide is right - and I can attest myself - color charts are often much more time consuming than you might expect. It's easy to go overboard and get distracted from actually painting. But they've taught me neat things I don't know if I would otherwise have learned - for example the wonderful range of browns you get in the intermediate steps between orange-red and green. The blacks you get from green + purple. Etc.

But once you learn how to mix certain colors, the more important quandry is which colors to use in your work, and where. IMO, this is far more important. Even for realism or photorealism, there is a surprising latitude for personal color vision and choice. Musical scales tell you which notes are likely to work well together, but it's just a suggestion...a starting point. It will be your musical note/color choices that make your art sing with your own personal creative voice .
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Old 01-18-2015, 09:42 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

This is a FWIW (for what it's worth) comment.

I have a book that I still consult all these years later written by a guy named Jose Parramon who shows you how to mix almost every color you could want or need with nothing more than:

Alizarin Crimson

Prussian Blue

Cad Yellow Medium

If you're interested, his book is The Big Book Of Oil Color. I do not believe it is in print, but the last time I looked, it was available from used book dealers.

Now, both Parramon and me (and many others) work in oil, but I hold that color principles are sound for most of the colors artists use, or they can certainly be adapted.

As you can see, these three colors are the old three-primary-color approach. But, I gotta tell ya, this system works.

Notice, however, that his red is the classical "cool" red. Alizarin leans to the blue side. Many people do not like alizarin because it is still a suspect fugitive color. But there are many good substitutes. I use Rembrandt's Madder Deep. Or is it Rose Madder Deep?

Likewise, there are good substitutes for the other two, also.

I must confess, I have done color charts (Schmid, et al) and have not found them all that useful, but maybe that's just me. However, the color section from Parramon's book has pulled me out of many a ditch over the years.
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Old 01-18-2015, 09:28 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigalot
For me, it is better to take a close color from earth colour collection and to add white or black to correct value. After that a tiny amount of bright color can push your mixture to a proper way.
I have been playing with this very idea lately and find it to be a simple and reliable approach. I read something that James Gurney wrote somewhere along a similar line. Much wisdom in this.
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Old 01-18-2015, 11:58 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Thanks everyone for chiming in.

There doesn't seem to be a consensus yet but I appreciate the input. I find it interesting that only one person mentioned Richard Schmid. His book, Alla Prina comes so highly recommended. I'm still on the waiting list for it at my local library. Artists & scholars seem to treat his book like The Bible. From what I've heard, color charting seems to be the cornerstone of his thesis.

I was originally inspired to post this question after seeing some videos on how to make Schmid's charts on YouTube. I was going to use his charting method employing a split-primary based, 12-color acrylic palette. I think it would come to 13 charts total. Not great at math, but from the looks of the finished product, the project seemed daunting. That's why had to ask my fellow brethren.

Forgive me for saying this if you're a fan of Schmid's, but I do wonder if this method of his is some sales gimick like Donna Dewberry's One Stroke painting. I'm just asking. DON'T STONE ME! lol
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Old 01-19-2015, 03:12 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Thousand people are working in a Richard Schmid style. I found this style limited. I like some of his works, but mass-production of this technique bored me. Many advantages of layered technique are just through the window due to wet-on-wet process. Personally, I found layered technique more interesting and I want to try to study some interesting transparent effects this technique can give rather than primitive mixing my colours on palette.
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Old 01-19-2015, 06:44 AM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Interesting points Gigalot. It reminds me to put this query out there. Why aren't there any charts included that deal specifically with complimentary & secondary pairings? With all the frustration we have with making colors like greys, greens & purples I'm surprised Schmid leaves them out. As I mentioned, I haven't gotten my hands on the book yet so perhaps he explains it.

Ugh... I wish the book wasn't so expensive. Being on a library waiting list sucks. The last person to check it out is a week overdue and there's only one copy available. I've made a request with the librarian to order another one but I'm sure it will take a while. Why is it so expensive anyway? I'm a voracious reader, buying several a year. But I haven't bought a book this pricey since college. Even the used copies cost as much as a textbook.
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Old 01-19-2015, 03:53 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

This is probably not going to be popular with many artists, but I believe that many teachers of painting, and professional artists suggest the manufacturing of "color charts" [to their students] to keep prospective, promising competitors out of the loop. With a few exceptions, I consider the creation of color charts to be a complete waste of time and effort.

I say this in a bit of a "tongue-in-cheek" way, but for the most part it makes my point. I consider the laborious, manufacturing of color charts to be almost a complete waste of time for the beginning artist. It is much better to learn the characteristics of the true primary colors, and then apply that knowledge to the mixing of color, being more able to predict the resulting color.

It is much more productive and gratifying to learn how colors behave (academically), and then employ the handling of them toward creating a successful, and beautiful, (and salable) painting, than to spend days creating color charts which quite often cannot be repeated, anyway. (Change your brand of paint--you re-manufacture your color chart!) In short, I believe in doing your "experimenting" (the same experimenting that would be involved in creating a color chart) while creating a useful, and successful painting.
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Old 01-19-2015, 04:00 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Mr. Martin . . . if you were here, I'd buy you a cigar or cheeseburger . . . your choice. Sadly, too late did I realize that when I finished those color charts, all I had was a great sheaf of canvas pages that I carefully put away and never looked at again . . . decades ago.

If you want to play in the paint, I strongly suggest getting four tubes of paint . . . red, yellow, blue and white. You'd be amazed what you can do with four tubes of paint.
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Old 01-19-2015, 04:07 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

I know I posted something about wanting to do color charts, or having found them helpful to do a few a while back, but in the end it is just not me. The 2 or 3 I did I never referred to, and I think I've learned a lot just playing with my paint. I agree with Bill that learning about color theory has been a huge aid to my figuring out how to mix colors.
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Old 01-19-2015, 04:26 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

If I had to do color charts I would have long ago given up. It's like playing scales, or drawing cubes and balls - so utterly boring! I need something I like to paint before I'll paint it. I'm not a color mixing expert, but it doesn't really seem that hard to me so far. It's actually guite a lot of fun with some surprises! I do still waste paint with my mixing, but at least at the end I have a painting I might or might not like instead of a color chart I know I won't like.

Mr. Martin has some great advice!
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Old 01-19-2015, 04:38 PM
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Re: Color Mixing Charts: Blessing or Curse to creativity?

Also, just to mention, the color charts that I've found to be by far the most useful are ones that compare the same paint from different brands, especially the charts made by gunzorro. For example, red earths come in a huge variety. Seeing those differences between brands and from that getting an idea of which brand you want for that particular color without having to buy them all is extremely useful and money saving.

By the way, I didn't mention Richard Schmid by name earlier because I don't know anything at all about him, or nearly any other workshop/author artist whose names sometimes get mentioned on this site. I know some people go all in with buying their books and videos to learn from these people, but it's not my thing. The instructional books I bought back when I was a student really weren't that helpful, except maybe enough key information to be distilled down to one or two pages, and with the internet most or all of this information is free anyways.

The three greatest instructors are direct observations of all creation, personal experimentation, and copying the successful works of past artists. A color chart could be filed under personal experimentation, but like I said before there comes a point, very quickly, where the chart really isn't revealing anything new with each additional, slightly different, swatch placed in such a rigid structure.
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