Thursday, November 20

Using a Color Wheel to Paint

Today’s Image

In the Art Library

In the last few Orbisplanis blogs I’ve been discussing color palettes and wanted to share a resource with you. It’s not specifically about color palettes per se, but it is a resource I found extremely useful. I mentioned last blog when I was experimenting with pastels what I thought I needed was information on mixing or blending pastel colors. As it turned out, I found that many artists discuss different methods of painting with pastels; some talked about blending (with your fingers or a torchon, for example), but others said you’d be better off using all the pastel colors available to you for optical (rather than actual) blending. Others instead recommended scumbling, masking, and using fixatives during the process.

It can almost go without saying that I initially found pastels somewhat difficult, and still do. However, my search for information on color mixing led me to the book I mentioned last blog: The Acrylic Paint Color Wheel Book by John Barber (I mistakenly recorded the title with ‘color wheel’ as one word, but it’s two). It was this book that made me move from pastels to acrylics.
If you’re an artist who is always looking at the Art section in bookstores, used bookstores, art supply stores, and the like, as I am, you may have seen this book. I think it stands out from many of the art reference and how-to books because it has an actual Color Wheel built right into the cover of the book. It’s a pinwheel with a rivet, and you can turn a tab on the cover to reveal the blended colors in slots without even having to open the book. Cool.

The colors on the color wheel are the de facto palette for what’s provided in the book, which is exercises for you to complete to learn all kinds of techniques using acrylic paint. Last blog I listed the colors, and they are: cobalt blue, ultramarine, paynes’ gray, viridian, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, orange, cadmium red, permanent rose, and violet. I forgot to mention that the color wheel didn’t include white, but white is used as a color in some of the exercises, so I recommend using titanium white, which is used almost universally.

I found the book very useful in learning the basics of mixing and using color. I don’t know if it was getting to turn the color wheel that made me want to experiment and do many of the exercises, or what, but it really helped me, and it might help you, too.

In the Introduction there is a relatively brief but comprehensive discussion understanding color, the basics of the color wheel (primary, secondary, tertiary colors, etc), and terminology so you understand the difference between hue, intensity, and tone. Confession--I still get confused and have to reference it.

There is a section called How to Use This Book, which tells you exactly how to use the color wheel when doing the exercises. It tells you the different sections on the pages of the exercises and how to use them: the finished painting, what you will need, color mixes, step-by-step, techniques, and artist advice and tips, to name a few.

There is a section on Materials and Equipment, which goes into everything you need to not only get started, but to be successful: paints, supports, brushes, easels, etc.

There is a section Basic Techniques, which covers different painting techniques for painting broad areas, fine detail, and stippling, for example. It also talks about color mixing, glazing, washes, overlays, opacity, and on and on.

The majority of the book, however, is devoted to the eight projects included. This is the ‘meat’ of the book, I think, and the one you’ll find most useful. There is a nice variety of projects that covers most popular styles and subjects, and will give you practice in trying new things. There’s a still life, architecture, a seascape, a landscape, a floral, a figure, and wildlife. And before you begin the exercises, there is a Gallery with examples of beautiful acrylics to get you inspired.

I recommend The Acrylic Paint Color Wheel Book for anyone interested in learning about using acrylics or who wants to improve working with color.

In the Studio

Well, I got inspired just looking at the color wheel book again, and began and almost finished my next acrylic alla prima (see Artist ‘Factoids’ in the right-hand column). I’ll post it when I’m done.

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