"I hate to mix color!" As an artist/teacher/colorist, these words are like nails on a chalkboard. You know that deafening sound - the one that just grabs your attention in the middle of an over-crowded room. You can't help but wonder what horrible experience they must have endured to so taint their view that they express it with that foul four letter word - HATE. Were they tortured by a palette of pure pigment or, perhaps, they were threatened bodily harm by a brush loaded with beautiful reds and yellows marrying together as it struck the canvas creating hints of some of the most beautiful oranges you could ever have imagined. What crime against artists did your most precious, most coveted element of art commit? Why is mixing color considered such a heinous act?
Perhaps it's simply inexperience? Or plain ignorance?
First, you should understand that I LOVE COLOR. I LOVE TO MIX COLOR. I LOVE TO EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR. I LOVE TO DISCOVER COLOR. I LOVE TO KILL COLOR AND THEN ATTEMPT TO REVIVE IT. I LOVE THE SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT WHEN MY DISCOVERED COLORS WORK. I LOVE (well not so much) WHEN MY COLOR EXPERIMENTS FAIL. Color, for me, is more than the same 300 bottles of predictable color on my wall. It is never exactly the same as it was yesterday, an hour ago or even that last brush stroke. It varies, it lives, it expresses, it makes me happy! It brings joy to my art!
I'm often asked by those who paint with me how I "know" what to do with an intense (bright) yellow or green background. How, they ask, is it that I can just reach my brush into a color or two, work it into the background and "fix" it. It's simple. I understand a lot about color. For me, color is the primary foundation of painting, of becoming an artist. You can have all the brush skills in the world, you can "know" everything you think you need to know about how to paint a flower, a landscape, or still life; but, if you don't understand color, in my experience, everything else will fail. Think about it. Color - the value of it, the intensity of it, the temperature...everything we as visual artist create is dependent on color!
We all know the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. Most of us understand that red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow make green and red and blue make violet. But, did you know that red, blue and yellow in various degrees make the most beautiful browns; raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber, raw umber... add some white and black to your palette and you can paint almost anything, (add red violet and you can rule the world).
Another question I'm often asked, is why Heritage? Well, all brands do not mix the same? All brands are not of the same quality to perform like I want them to perform. All paint is not created equal. Some have filler, some have more filler than pigment, some also have binders...mix them together and you can see the difference. Experiment. Take various brands and mix a bright red and bright yellow together. Beside it, do the same with a pure pigment, artist quality tube acrylic (Heritage Multimedia Acrylics) - see for yourself. It's not rocket science. As I always say, the proof is in the pudding.
Perhaps you read this and rolled your eyes...I see you, I know what kind of painter you are. And, that is okay. However, you should know that color is more than just those paintings on your easel or your craft table. Color surrounds you in every way every day. You just finished that most beautiful piece; whether it is a wooden box, plate, canvas, trunk...no matter. You varnish it and set it out for display or hang it on your wall. Maybe you head to a local framing store and frame the 100 - hour still life in that perfect frame. It's just right. Yet, much to your chagrin, the piece looks absolutely hideous in that special place. It looks lost, or it clashes, or it just doesn't complement the room. It's simple, it's color. How do I know, I know color. I know that an apple green wall is going to really clash with a beautifully hand-painted tavern sign featuring a cool, turquoise blue. That dark black frame on that white wall is going to draw your attention away from that softly painted, pastel floral. You can't escape it. Color!
My point - I knew you'd ask. No matter what your path, whether it be 300 bottles of paint on the wall or just six tubes of pure pigments, you can't escape color. Understanding it will make you a better artist. Becoming less dependent on premixed formulas will bring out the creativity in each of you. Is it easy? It depends on your perspective? Is it worth it? Again, it depends on your perspective.
Create it once, enjoy it, paint with it and then, create something a little different!
I love this Picasso quote:
They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never."
Pablo Picasso, 1966.
Enjoy the Journey!