Before I answer this, do a little experiment-- gesso a piece of paper and place all the colors you usually use out on a palette. Paint a 2" square of color on the paper. Make the color something complex-- a color that you have to think a few seconds about before you can give it a name. Then find someone who has little or no painting experience and have them paint another two inch square right next to yours, maybe two inches to the left or right of it-- and make them match your color exactly. You will need to give them a fresh palette so that they can't see the colors that you used. Usually they will be able to match the color in under five minutes-- with no color theory (other than maybe the basic color wheel) and no experience. If you watch them work you will see that they will eventually, through some trial and error, start to either hold their painted brushes up next to the color patch for comparison, or put test patches of the paper in order to see how it looks next to your patch. They will then make adjustments to the color on the palette. This is instinctive.
I always tell my observational painting students, after this experiment, that the one question I do not want to hear for the rest of the semester is "how do I mix that color?" This experiment proves they already know how to mix color-- the real question is "how do I see a color in relation to the colors around it?" This kind of takes the wind out of the sails of contrived systems of color mixing and elaborate palette schemes, and puts the emphasis on the moment before the brush touches the canvas-- the seeing part.
My point being that there is no set system that I use... I use a basic palette, maybe 10 colors (the usual suspects) with several more exotic colors that I keep in the bullpen in case they are needed. I have no system that instructs be what colors to use, say in a shadow on the grass on a sunny day etc... those kinds of rules tend to get broken, shattered, every time I paint. The real world resists such simplifications.
So how do I go about using my eyes to see a color? I'll try to answer that in a future post.
Posted By Duane to On Painting
at 8/29/2007 05:55:00 AM