Color Theory-ish

I am a non-traditional artist…

Non-traditional in that I have never taken a formal art course. All of the art I do comes intuitively. Yes, I have taken “art classes” — but these are the types of classes that teach art as a healing modality rather than art from a learned technical/skill perspective.

I have taken a class or two on how to draw a face and how to paint a face. Well, to be honest, it’s more like I have signed up for classes on drawing and painting faces. I’m pretty bad at actually doing the lessons unless it’s a live, real-time course… But I have at least watched enough to have a good understanding of proportions and how to draw/paint the human face.

Color theory? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story…

I understand the things I’ve learned about color theory for myself. I have yet to be able to regurgitate it to someone else. Values… Shades… Hues… Primary colors — the “real” ones, not the ones you learned in school… There’s just so much to learn and keep in mind.

I have been keeping my eyes and ears open for a great resource book. I am taking several classes this year and each different teacher explains things a little differently. It doesn’t confuse matters — actually it’s a great help to get different perspectives. But I’d like to have all of the information in one place and not have to hop around online to get answers and/or clearer understanding. If you know of a great color theory book — detailed yet easy explanations with examples, please leave me a note in the comments.

Each one, teach one…

In one of the classes I’m in, the instructor (Charla) teaches the principle of color strings and the importance of creating a color journal for your studio. Like the diligent student I am (Not! lol), I pulled out a new 6×6 art journal with watercolor paper pages and got to work. My aim is to create 5 different values for each color from darkest to lightest (almost white). As you can see by the picture below, I failed miserably with Ultramarine Blue…

But by doing that one color, I learned what I was doing “wrong”: I needed to add a lot more white if I was only aiming for 5 values! I’m finding that the really saturated colors give me the most “trouble.” But I was already well aware of Cadmium Yellow’s characteristics — Charla warned us that yellow would be trickier to get from dark to light in 5 shades so I was ready!

And because I didn’t yet have my sta-wet palette (it arrives today) and I didn’t want to waste the paints I’d mixed up, I sloshed them around on a canvas board I had lying around. It makes a great start for a background!

I actually really like that background… Now I just gotta figure out what else I’m going to do with the canvas board! I will probably use it for my first try at Charla’s painting method. We’ll see how things turn out — I will post the finished painting once I get it done.

What’s your experience/knowledge of color theory? Let me know in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Color Theory-ish

  • So, not really color theory per se, but I LOVE the book Color: A Natural History of the Palette. It goes through each color and discusses its history…how it was made into dyes, the social connections with each color, etc.

  • Sounds like an amazing class! My son shared a YouTube video with me awhile back that you might find interesting; it’s called “brown doesn’t exist,” or something like that. Color is fascinating.

    • Oh Em Gee! “Color is fascinating” is an understatement! If I knew then what I know now, I would never have every Golden paint color. Just the primaries and make my own colors for the rest of them…

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