I am obsessed with colour. My children hate general conversation with me when colour comes up. Recently I was trying to describe which type of coffee I wanted by the colour of its pod. I was having great difficulty describing the deep coral, no, the dark orangey crimson, when my daughter said “Do you mean this red one?”. I’d never thought of it as red! (Each time I make one of those coffees since then I always think to myself, “Huh, red!”)
My interest in colour naturally extends to an interest in colour theory. I have been know to describe a particular colour theory book as “a good read” to my friends. I paint a lot of colour wheels. Whenever I get any new-to-me paints I paint another one. Or two.
Feeling inspired by Wendy Sharpe and my interview with her, I broke out my gouache again. Gouache and I have had a checkered history with not every encounter going well. I find the way it goes so easily from sticky smooth (which is strange in itself!) to watery runny concerns me. I hate the way its texture goes when I put on too many layers, making it too thick. I always feel compelled to keep working at it then to see if I can make it smoother or at least look better, which of course is a disastrous thing to do.
I bought these gouache in Paris a few years ago now. I have used them, but not much. Sitting with them in front of me on my work table I felt I didn’t know them at all. Consequently my confidence just wasn’t there. So it was time for a colour wheel to reacquaint me with them. Once I’d done that, I was right!
The colour theory book I mentioned before is the Michael Wilcox Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green. I did find it fascinating and the theory he poses has influenced my palette ever since. I do (not so humbly) think I can mix any colour! Over time I’ve added some other colours to his basic set of 6 primaries from reading some other books and from personal experience too.
A limited palette has lots of benefits like being cheaper and easier to transport and a lot less confusing (well, I think it is). But a limited pallete is only good when the colours work together! My palette has warm and cool in red, blue and yellow, as well as white, Paynes grey, raw umber, burnt sienna and black. But not all pigments mix well with each other!
When I first tried out the Wilcox colour theory I was using Napthol Scarlet and Napthol Crimson as well as Pthalo blue along with my other colours. In art school we had even learned about using 6 primaries and these paints were in the colours the teacher recommended. But once I painted a couple of colour wheels, and still couldn’t get purples, nice browns or clear greens I realised it was these colours that were causing my problems, not my colour mixing abilities. My search for good colours that mix well began and from that moment on my painting ‘ability’ improved out of sight!
What colours are always on your palette? And what is your favourite colour theory? Or don’t you care and just paint away! Please share!
Top image: On a recent trip to Sydney I went shopping in Myer (as usual!) and this time I succumbed to The Brow Bar. Wow, the girls working there have the most wonderful eyebrows I’ve ever seen! It was the least painful and best brow wax I’ve ever had. I’m definitely going back! (Gouache on black gesso, Stonehenge paper in self made journal.)
Bottom image: Part of why we love living where we do is that we are walking distance from, well, yes… the beach, but more importantly a great strip of restaurants! Our favourite is Fiasco and we like to sit in the bar for a drink before we go in for our meal. It makes us feel like we live somewhere far more cosmopolitan! (Gouache on black gesso, Stonehenge paper in self made journal.)