August 27, 2017
Thinking again of the color workshops I will be teaching in Swansea and in Abergavenny, Wales in October, I realized it might be helpful to share a bit of background in my pursuit of the understanding of color and how pigments work together, or not, in the visual arts.
Many of my readers have followed me through the many stages of Color Study I began in 2008 when the economy went belly-up and the sale of paintings came to a screeching halt. I wanted to make good use of my time and improve upon my weakest skill. Exhibiting in galleries at that point in time was not a good use of my time. What was my weakest skill? Color! I had been painting for thirty years and, though I could recognize when the color in my painting was strong, I could not create strong painting intentionally. I had no idea how to predict the color nuances that would result from mixing two pigments together. Never, ever, did I imagine that my studies and experiments in color would bring me such joy and that I would be sharing my joy in workshops teaching the magic and science of color. The first two years were spent creating hundreds of color charts in watercolor, oil and acrylic.
I’m not exaggerating. Progress was slow and I still didn’t understand how to use color charts or color wheels. I could create gorgeous color, but I didn’t know how to apply it to paintings. It was like having a strong vocabulary in a foreign language but not knowing how to string the words together to make any sense.
Creating one more color chart was not the answer. Perhaps the answer lay in what was referred to as color schemes. It is a bit embarrassing for me to admit that I didn’t really understand the purpose of color schemes either. My strengths were Shapes, Values and Lines and making poetic strokes with brush or pen. It was when I put my attention on learning to use color schemes that the world of color unfolded and elevated my experience of painting to a new level of joy and freedom.
For me, learning through playing games works well. to understand and apply the concept of color schemes, I invented a game for myself, The Color Scheme Game. Every morning, for three years, I started the day with a drawing and applied color by playing my game. I finally understood how a color wheel can be used in the studio and in plein air painting. Rarely leave home without one. I received many positive comments regarding the change in my use of color and questioned as to what brought about the change. It took me by surprise when I was asked to share my Color Scheme Game in a workshop. I’ve been sharing my joy of color ever since.
What did I draw each morning when I first started playing the game? I drew Family Treasures. My mother had passed and we had cleaned out the house. The last thing I needed was more stuff to add to my own. But how could I throw away family treasures? the importance of the treasures was not in the objects themselves, but in the stories attached to the objects. My solution was to create drawings of the objects in a sketchbook. Then I was free to give the objects away. A sketchbook is so much easier to store than boxes of stuff. The images in this post are some of my sketches of the Family Treasures.