I think color is tricky. Working through the color issues on this quilt-in-progress, I reached (as usual) for my indispensable color wheel.
Some tools are just studio-must-haves. For me, it’s my color wheel. I take no credit at all for its design. The process of creating it was described and assigned to me in 2010 when I was taking an oil painting class at DeLand’s Museum of Art from artist Jennifer Houdeshell.
Building it was tedious. It was time consuming. It was humbling. It was like my mother making me eat peas. I knew it was good for me. I thought it would never be done. But, it’s the only way I learned about color and I return to it again and again.
Despite my wonderful teacher’s best efforts, I just did not take to oil painting. At. All. So I did all the classwork in acrylics. Your color wheel should be created from the kind of paint and the brand name that you use.
If you use a less detailed wheel, or if you use a purchased one and have never mixed your own, I cannot say enough about how much you will learn from this exercise. I use a limited palette of basic acrylic paints for my artmaking: cadmium yellow medium, two blues (cerulean and phthalo deep), two reds (alizarin crimson and cadmium red), burnt umber, raw sienna, black and white. And I mix everything from these. My color wheel provides a roadmap for 228 colors.
My color wheel is 16” diameter on a rigid canvas board. It consists of an inner circle and six concentric rings. I drew the rings with a pencil and compass. It begins with a twelve-color sliced pie in the middle circle. Everything is built from those base colors.
In the 12-color middle: three primary colors (red-yellow-blue) plus three in-between secondary mixes of the primary and the one next to it. For red and yellow, for example, in between there are three mixes of orange: mostly-red-with-some-yellow, an orange that’s half-red- half-yellow, and mostly-yellow-with-some-red.
Concentric circle #1: The hue mixed with white, 3 tints per hue. So, 12 colors x 3 = 36 blocks to create.
Concentric circle #2: The hue mixed with black, 3 shades per hue. Again, 12 hues x 3 shades = 36 blocks.
Concentric circle #3: The hue mixed with its complement, 3 versions. Twelve hues x 3 mixes = 36 blocks.
Concentric circle #4: The hue mixed with its complement plus white, 3 versions. Twelve hues x 3 mixes = 36 blocks. (You will now be in the realm of irresistible colors!)
Concentric circle #5: The hue mixed with raw sienna, 3 mixes per hue. Twelve hues x 3 mixes = 36 blocks.
Concentric circle #6: The hue mixed with raw umber, 3 mixes per hue. Twelve hues x 3 mixes = 36 blocks.
I have especially loved discovering luscious world of greys: yellow-greys, blue-greys, violet greys. Seeing the color relationships is just invaluable.
I love mixing and discovering colors. My teacher – of course – was right. Just like Mom. My favorite vegetable now… peas!
PS - The quilt in the picture is the one I wrote about in my last post: the collapsed house with the tree growing through. It's progressing. More next time.
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