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Old 08-08-2007, 11:13 AM
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LarrySeiler LarrySeiler is offline
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Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

I know quite a few have in the past heard me talk about a pigment soup palette...and I gather quite a few might not really know much about, other than Schmid doesn't give it a high rating in his book...saying some deserving things about the master painters of their day but kinda poo pooing the soup. If I find a moment to find the exact quote, perhaps I'll add that here. I admire Schimd greatly, but he is human as we all...and we all as artists are going to go with our stronger inclinations I think, regardless.

In preparing for a workshop this weekend I'm teaching, I created a sample colorwheel. It will be more for discussion and example, and not something I think these students will need to experiment with this weekend, but give them some insight to what I've done with some of my painting in the past couple years. We'll be focusing on representing value well, and palettes suited to help develop what will lead to greater mastery of that...

at any rate...

I mixed up a color....could be any color, and here a neutral bluish-green...



The concept of it being a "soup" is that a bit of that pigment will be drawn into all your colors you mix up as you paint, imbuing or imbedding a natural working harmony into the palette. A palette such as this is good for creating a mood...and while Steve did a lovely painting the other day intuitively (and when you can intuit, that ranks best!) in the morning before heading to work...such can be worked out this way as well...

After painting in the mother color (as Ted Goerschner calls it...same concept as Edgar Payne's "pigment soup" however)...then I painted the primaries as the color comes out directly from the tube...and next mixed those up for my secondaries, and you see them surrounding now the dominant soup color. I'll be working my way outward.



Now...I'll mix a bit of the bluish-green neutral soup/mother color and with the primary or secondary to get the next color, and finally to finish off this colorwheel...that last color mix will have white (as a tint) added to it.



You can see how a natural working harmony exists between these colors, and how a mood could be projected, and the thing to keep in mind was, this was just one indiscriminant color created and mixed up. You could have any color...or temperature as the dominant soup color. Many artists of Payne's day tended to use neutrals for their common color. Gives a lot of control I would think.

This just demonstrates how I could take my limited palette of three primaries and white...and expand to as if I had MANY pigments. A working knowledge comes quicker working with the few, and this amounts to an understanding that certainly can't be proven limiting. Least not in my opinion, for you begin to understand harmonizing relationships.

As always...there is the learning curve, but as E. Payne says again and again thru his book, "Composition of Outdoor Painting" the purpose of committing the fundamentals to understanding and experience is to reach the goal of developing one's gut hunch. One gets to a point where this happens very quickly on one's palette, appears to be happening on the fly, and slips into its developing near intuitively. The response to the scene before you takes this after working with it, to that level of gut hunch.

It did for Payne, and that's why he was so right for the money to teach it...as one more strategy.

I've been playing with this palette...the midneutral mud palette for blocking in and painting wet into wet, and especially the split-complementary palette.

Though I teach art...and have known this stuff a long time, as a painter for nearly 25 years I painted an optical palette, which means mixing what you see as you need it, and on the fly. Of course you develop gut hunch in that too, and an effectiveness.

Logically...the reason Payne and Gruppe taught as they did though, was that we know that light is likely to change, and for the student...chasing the light can lead to great frustration. Having a palette strategy in mind, and understanding the color relationships puts you more or less into the driver seat and quickly the scene before you becomes a reference only. You've determined the mood, drafted your plan of attack, and now are not so inclined to be affected by major light changes that happen suddenly.

I whole heartily acknowledge the optical mix as you go paint on the fly thing. Did it for years, but if you'll allow me to confess...I feel since I've been experimenting the past couple years, I have a lot more confidence and understanding with color now than I ever have before...and it didn't take long for this stuff to intuit for me. The easiest perhaps being the split-complementary palette.

My son has started to used the split-complementary palette...and has been doing plein airs in Chicago the past few weeks. If you get a chance to check his blogspot out do, for some know he is a high end caricaturist doing a lot of cover and magazine art. One I'm most proud of right now (well...biasd too because I love to golf) is the current issue of Golf Magazine's illustration he did of Tiger Woods teeing off.

http://jasonseilerillustration.blogspot.com/

But...my son painted a painting/caricature of artist Basil Gogos...(the famous artist of the dracula and Frankenstein paintings)...as a gift, using the split-complementary palette. The easiest way to understanding using this palette is that after you choose the color that will be your main dominant color...determine its split-complements (immediate adjacent/side colors to the complementary color directly across on the RYB colorwheel) to accompany it on the palette...and then set some white next to those three colors, pretending none of the other pigments you have exist. Just work those three colors plus white. In the Gogos caricature here...my son would have added black to the palette along with white and the three split-comp palette colors-

Not plein air...but love this one so hope you don't mind...



Also...while I might share this in the Color Theory forum, I don't think many artists have a feel for how a palette works for us that paint outdoors on location. Just wanted to share some directions I've been playing with with my croanies!
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 08-08-2007 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 08-08-2007, 11:26 AM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Oh...for those wondering, my three limited palette primaries are:

Utrecht French Ultramarine Blue
W&N Bright Red
Utrecht Cadmium Lemon Yellow
white

and for other palettes I add and use frequently Naples Yellow, and viridian.

I have more recently added Cobalt blue...testing every so often on what it can contribute...for skies and such. But I haven't committed to it being on my palette very often.

For nearly 25 years I worked from a split-primary palette...which is a warm and cool variant of each primary. The limited palette and experimentation has been for a couple years or so now...and continues. I'm yet amazed and feel I'm still not aware of all that is possible with so few.

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Old 08-08-2007, 11:36 AM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

I know that an idea that's taught is a really good one when it makes me want to grab my paints immediately and go and paint....I'm eyeing my G-box right now.....kind of overcast today but maybe a good day to try out some pigment soup??? I hope you are working on another book that focuses on color, this stuff is just too good to be scattered across WC, it needs to be compiled. I'm definitely and intuitive, on the fly painter, though I do some of this type stuff naturally in an on the fly sort of way I'm very excited to slow down and plan my palette a bit more deliberately. I know that I will have to do this in the studio first doing little daily studies or even working from some photos. That will take the pressure offf and let me train myself a bit. I know that if I go outside straight away I will ,despite all my good intentions to plan my palette, zoom into the moment and begin flinging paint I just love the color wheel you created using the pigment soup they are fabulous sophisticated colors and would make a wonderful moody painting. I'm still a firm believer in a limited palette. I recently went to a painting demo given by a very well known artist here in my region of the country. She routinely sells her work in the above $10,000 range. She had 26colors on her palette, she listed them for us, says it saves her time .....yet for all her 26 colors, she's a tonalist painter and all her paintings are practically monochromatic, go figure!! Thanks for taking the time to put this post together Larry, I really appreciate it and enjoyed the read and inspiration.
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Old 08-08-2007, 11:50 AM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

thanks Jan...
didn't know what kind of reception this might get...thought at first some objection underscoring this should remain in the color theory forum only...but many aren't going to get what it means to develop a palette for working outdoors on location. I like folks in there...am a co-moderator, but folks here...well their heart is where mine's at artistically!

I absolutely agree that a sense of this thing can come working instudio.

I did perhaps a hundred or more of those 5"x 7" postcard daily paintings, with mundane everyday objects I set in a light box. I intentionally insert lights into the box (20 watts or less) to create mood, played with construction paper to generate color...and played with various palettes like the split-complementary and this one. You begin to get a real feel for what it could do for you outside, and when that feeling comes you feel confident to give it a real go...

I have the feeling in Paynes day...well, they just went outdoors to paint, but you had the advantage of having Payne or Gruppe right there as your mentor and teacher!!! Wouldn't that have been cool...!

I have to credit my kid...he took the split-comp palette outdoors and just decided to run with it. Not trying to become a plein air painter per se, but understands the value of painting from life, and seeing color under nature's light. He seems to get it...how that will make a difference in his art.

take care....
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:01 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

I wonder how I could use this method with watercolors...or if it can be used. Thank you Larry for your insight on using split comp and the soup. I KNOW I can use the split comp for watercolors...with the paper as the white.
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:08 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

It would no doubt be harder I imagine, Beverly as you would probably have to use the watercolors that come in tubes perhaps to mix in a tray and assign to pigment stalls. Although, when I introduce such things to my art students K-8, (I teach K-12) I very often use Crayola tempera paints and we mix in lunch trays or on the slick shiny side of freezer wrap paper taped down.

Its amazing really when I think about it, how the kids catch on to warm and cool color understanding...a limited palette...mixing neutrals and so forth. So fun to watch their progress and understanding grow.

At high school level, we use acrylics. Budget...and one room for all grades K-12 don't allow really for use of oils. Just isn't practical. Though, I have a dozen pochade boxes and every so often have students that want to go out and paint plein air with me.

take care
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:09 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Thanks for the great info, Larry. This seems like a guarenteed way to get good color harmony. I guess color selection is a little different for us pastellists but your theory still applies. As long as the colors we select are somehow influenced by the "mother" color we have a chance of good harmony. This is all such helpful info, a lot to think about. Your son is so talented! I love that portrait!

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Old 08-08-2007, 12:12 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

on the split-comp thing...if you have DSL connection, I have several short videos explaining and using the split-complementary palette on YouTube. Here is a link, from my blogspot...that will bring you to the YouTube selection of them...

http://www.youtube.com/paintingfromlife

might help better illustrate seeing these...perhaps
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 08-08-2007 at 12:15 PM.
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:14 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

thanks Donna...

it never hurts (no matter the medium) to have an understanding of these relationships.

If anyone has tried to ever study color theory, it can be undaunting and certainly not fun. However, with a limited palette and just a few palette strategies...it seems to fall into place with greater ease and pleasure, and not nearly so begrudgingly!
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:40 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Larry I'm so glad you understand why I'd want to practice with this in the studio first. I'll need to get a handle on it before I go PA with it, mostly because being a woman who usually paints alone I go to places that are populated and always have visitors and on lookers and so I tend to paint in ways that I'm comfortable and familiar with because it really rattles me when people stop by and what's on my canvas is a muddled mess because I'm trying to figure out and learn a new technique....that feeling is too much like the feeling you get in dreams when your caught in public in your underware too vulnerable and exposed...the last thing I need is someone who admits to not being able to drawing a straight line critiquing my painting in progress.
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:48 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

hahaha...I think many of us share that feeling often, Jan....even with those with much experience...and of those folks that walk up within the first 10-15 minutes. I mean...with my luck, I might be painting in a reddish undertone, or underpainting in reddish values with intent to excite color put over. Seeing the painting at that point is sure to bring stares that I'm a looney toon, while they try and think of something nice that could be said!!!

I had a guy once stand there...look at my painting...look at the scene, scratch his chin...look again.

Although, when you get comfortable in your skin with such...it is actually gets kinda funny watching them squirm and trying to say something! That's when you might go off on a fun embellishment...and talk about being a professional, a teacher..."yeah...I travel all over painting...selling, doing important shows!"

Thinking of such moments in a way perhaps Adam Sandler might handle it!

gotta have fun...and why not laugh at someone else's expense! I laugh enough already at my own...
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Last edited by LarrySeiler : 08-08-2007 at 12:51 PM.
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Old 08-08-2007, 02:53 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Larry,
Is this something like John Cox refers to in his workshop?
He talks about "Bridging".
See one or two posts down in this....
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...=356578&page=2
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Old 08-08-2007, 03:19 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Hi,
Its nice that this kind of information is handed here to build the knowledge of the technical side of our art. Althoug I disagree with it.. It doesnt mean that i dont like Larrys paintings, so dont get me wrong.

Here is a few reasons why I am not ready to go for it..

First thing that pops into my mind is matching the real colors that I see out there (for getting the color harmony). Having a one soup based on bluish-green doesnt fulfill the idea of color harmony for me. It matches only the color harmony of an bluish-green family.

Lets suppose that it would work in the light/middle values (cloudy, grey day). Then you would have to mix other pile of soup with red-ochre-green (green dominating) for the darker/slightly in shadow values. Then i would have to do third pile of blue-red (red dominant) for the darkest values. That would propably take too much time for me, beacuse i would not know to what color the bluish green should be towards the most COMPARED to the second or the third pile. That kind of foreseeing would probably kill my brains.
Anyway lets say that i succeed in that..
If i would want to change these soups towards anything i want to match, they would still look gray compared to the color that i could mix from the fresh piles.
All that greyness and matching the warms compared to cools is the biggest reason that i do not want to use pigment soup approach.

We have to remember that color harmony means a bit different things to different people and we all strive for our personal style and vocabulary when we create art. We see colors differently, for that reason everybody is right.
Thanks for reading this.
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Old 08-08-2007, 03:33 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

Larry, I've got to say thank you for posting this. I now understand your reason for asking my working proceedure on Love Lake Valley painting. I admit, i'm not a fast study with theories. Christensen would pre-mix a big batch of base colors (shadows and lights), and then mix other colors into that, "bending" his temps to add a variety of warms and cools. I'm going to study this more and experiment with it. Yes, Schmid is a master, and I put much stock in what he says. But Payne, to me, is a painting God. If he says something works then I have to sit up and pay attention. But in the end, it always comes down to what works best for each of us. I never clean my brushes out very well as I paint, so I suspect there's a bit of pigment soup going on without my even being aware of it,lol!! Basically, when I'm painting onsite, I'm doing my best to match the color notes (HSV or Hues Saturation and Values) I'm seeing in front of me. I decide where my focal point is and make sure that that has the most color/edge/value contrast in the painting. Everything else is subservient to that. Painting is complicated enough for me without adding another step into it. But, like so many artists, I can use as many guns in my arsenal as I can get. And, like so many artists, I learn new things by seeing. So I'll take a look at your videos on youtube.

Thanks for taking the time to break this down for all of us.

Your son's work is masterful, BTW. Nice to see that Basil is still around. I love Basil's work and have ordered his new book. Can't wait to get it.

Steve
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Last edited by atk1961 : 08-08-2007 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 08-08-2007, 03:39 PM
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Re: Expanding the Limits with Pigment Soup...palette

yes and no, Jim...

his referring to "bridging" as I understand it is keeping himself in check working the color wheel to mix on the palette and maintaining cognizance of that the same time on the painting. Using the basics of th RYB colorwheel...to mix color, understand each color's opposites...and keeping color in check to maintain harmony. He is mixing more optically...that is, color seen...color mixed and used.

He is using a warm and a cool variant of the reds and yellows, and thinking in terms of temperature right up until where the two variants of blue would step in, using just the Cobalt Blue...but with black, you can simulate and stretch the nature and suggestions of blue.

Where he talks about an "earthy green" he is mixing up the green (bridging by keeping the color wheel in mind to what he needs in the painting) but keeping the green controlled using hints of red you can see on his palette pulling into the green. Basic color wheel use. Red...opposite of green on the colorwheel used by degree will take some of the strength and punch out of the green. Used more...it neutralizes or grays it down some, (as some like to say). Nature rarely shouts...so mixing color this way works well...

What I am doing is showing there are relationships of color that can be used from the colorwheel to establish a scheme, and the painting is painted committing to whatever particular scheme you work with.

There are the basic known schemes, for example...a triad scheme or strategy (as I like to call it) is three colors in perfect triangle like red, yellow or blue... or blue-green, yellow-orange and red-violet. To paint triadic, would be to mix three piles of paint of those colors only, then use white to tint, perhaps black to shade...and stick within the limits of those colors only to mix all color.

You don't necessarily mix color seen with a severe set imposed palette strategy, but you interpret. For example...you would use blue-green and yellow-orange in a triadic scheme to mix a form of green, and use red-violet to control it.

Another scheme is the analogous palette which uses any shade, tint or tone of colors that lie adjacent to each other.

and with the split-complementary palette...you use just the three as I have outlined above.

Its a funny thing though...when comfortable with colorwheel knowledge you pretend. My son is having fun with that.

We ordinarily pick a red pigment that suits our ideas of red at the art store, but with a scheme you might mix up a batch of red-orange to represent your version of red, and yellow-orange to represent your version of yellow, when blue is the main dominant color. Speaking of the split-complementary palette.

When you mix those three colors up...you go about painting like normal, but pretend the one choice is your red...the other your yellow. It leads to very interesting interpretations that create lovely moods.

For a long time I wondered how one might go about creating the moods those old Remington and Peter's posters of years again were painted. The greenish skies...pinkish glow of trees, and thought you just painted on the fly and were creative enough to come up with it.

I have learned though, it is much easier for such interpretations to come up naturally and easily when you choose a scheme, and then pretend each of the three represents a version of red, yellow and blue.

Awhile back...I did a painting of a blah overcast gray winter scene, and interpreted it with the split-complementary palette...and that one is one of the examples in the split-complementary explanation you can watch in the YouTube link.

I don't want to overcomplicate this and do color theory-speak'anese. You pick a strategy that determines what will pretend to be your yellow, red and blue...and they turn out feeling and looking as they do because of their position on the colorwheel. Their relationships to each other. It is easier to figure out...if you just take one scheme and play with it. If you are anything like me....it is no fun grabbing a 2-3" thick book on color theory and try to plod your way thru reading it!!! ugh....

hope that helps...

Larry
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