We get stuck for a lot of different reasons. I know that for myself, sometimes I need new tools. New skills. That’s why I’ve sought teachers so many times – in college (twice!), at workshops, in recreational classes, at art exhibits.
Color exercises were a big help to me, so I’m sharing them with you!
You’ll need a pad of canvas paper or bristol, 9″ x 12″, and acrylic paint in several different hues, listed below.
Buy a good brand like Liquitex or Academy, not Artist’s Loft or Reeves.
Hues you’ll need**:
Cadmium Red Medium
Cadmium Yellow Light
**If you already have Cadmium Red Dark or Light, or Cadmium Yellow Medium or Dark, by all means use those. If you have cerulean blue instead of pthalo, that’s fine.
Now, take a ruler and draw 1″ grids on the paper, leaving a margin around the edges, so you have 8 grids by 11.
First we’ll do a tinting exercise. Tints refer to hues plus white.
We’ll create rows of color that gradually transition to nearly white. You’ll paint eleven boxes for each hue.
Squirt out a bit of each color (about the size of a grape) plus a fair amount of white.
On the 8″ side, paint one square in ultramarine blue, full concentration. Then mix a tiny dab of ultramarine blue with a lot of white and paint it at the opposite end of the row. In the middle box, paint a square made of half ultramarine blue, half white. Next, fill in the other squares in the row with increasing concentrations of ultramarine blue and white. Then do the same for the other hues. You can arrange them in rainbow order if you like (we’re not making this exact exercise, but you get the point).
Next, draw a grid on a new sheet of paper and do the same exercise using black instead of white. Adding black to a hue is called a shade.
You may find that your yellow looks more greenish, depending on the brand of paint you use. That’s indicative of pigment purity.
Next, draw another grid and set your black and white paints aside.
THIS is the really important exercise.
So you know the color wheel, right?
Warm colors are opposite cool.
But you might not know why this is essential.
It’s essential because mixing warm and cool hues is how you neutralize them, and get them to recede in space. For example, we think of shadows as being shades – hue plus black. But when you do this exercise, you’ll see that dark colors can be much richer than just hue plus black.
For the next exercise, paint the three blues plus the green across the top row, twice each, full saturation (not diluted).
On the other end of each row, instead of using black or white as we did before, use a warm hue. Experiment! For violet, use yellow for one row, and then try sap green as well. For sap green, use alizarin crimson and cad red. For the blues, try cad red and alizarin crimson. You’ll be amazed by the variety of hues in the middle of your columns!
And then, make tints of the combinations you created. Add a dab of white and see what you get!
Three of my favorite hues are adding violet and cobalt, violet and cad yellow light, and cad red medium plus pthalo.
If your budget permits, you can add even more hues and expand your palette further. Options to consider include yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, viridian green, and cerulean blue.
Here’s one I made in school: