There Are Only Three Colors in the World
There are many colors in the spectrum of light but they are all made of the three true colors; Red, Blue and Green…just testing, it’s really Yellow not Green. The color of paint you see is just light being reflected off the surface of your paint stroke. Of course, we all know this from elementary school art class.
When I first began to paint, I had eighteen or so colors on my pallet. Now, I paint with only five or six colors. I realized that even though art supply companies make new and exciting colors with names that make us want to buy and use them, this assortment of colors wasn’t necessarily good for my painting.
One day, after walking a half a mile into the bush to set up and paint that perfect scene I had spotted while on my bike, I realized I had forgotten my green. What to do but pack up and go get it. While in the process of packing up, I had an epiphany. “I can mix green, Duh”. I was so relieved I wouldn’t have to go back and could instead get right to my painting.
Upon my return to the studio, I saw that my greens looked better in that painting than most of the other paintings in the room. Of course, this was because I had found my greens out of mixtures of all the other colors and therefore mixed them more accurately. Now I was onto something and I wanted to see where all this could go.
I eliminated colors one at a time until I had the five or six colors on my pallet that I use now. With that number of paints I was getting good results, good harmony/ good unification. When going to a fewer number of colors, the combinations got muddy in some mixes. I eventually realized that I couldn’t get a clean purple, for instance, with the red and blue I was using. I had to find clean “centered” colors.
I needed my red to be not too yellow or too orange and it could not be too blue or too purple. I needed my red to be “center” Red and the same for Yellow and Blue. With these paints I could now achieve clean color mixes. The unexpected bonus to this “Pairing Down” was that I was mixing more paint and becoming very good at mixing in a relatively short time.
I also found chasing that exact color I was observing “In Nature” was a lot of fun on my pallet because I had fewer colors to choose from. If I was observing a greenish blue I could just start with blue add a little yellow and then grey it with the only other color on the pallet, red. Then I would tint it to the correct value of the object until I became satisfied that my mixed color and the object were the same color. In this way, painting became more fun for me! Adding a few colors back to my pallet became a matter of convenience, as I finally understood how to mix color. I will discuss that “convenience” in the future.
Paint with Joy!