Friday, October 4, 2013

Just How Many Colors Are Enough?

I don't know about you, but I have learned a lot about me over the past few years. Where once when I needed a color besides basic blue, red, yellow or green, I mixed it. Of course color theory was important and books were written on how to get this color or that. Also very important was how to give a certain color different casts, etc. By that I mean a green that has a blue tint, or yellow tint, even a red tint. It was all very nebulous. You were happy if you happened to stumble on the right combination of very basic colors.
DecoArt's American Acrylic Paints

Today, however, there are many more "basic" colors than what the old masters ever knew. Whether its oil, watercolor, acrylics even pastels and colored pencils, the choices of colors is staggering. Just visit an art store, like Dick Blick, and you will see not only a staggering range of colors but an equally daunting selection of types all within the same brand.

I realized this yesterday working on two different projects. In class I moved forward on my painting of Yosemite at sunrise. It was beginning to take shape but as I tried to capture the colors, mostly muted in the first blush of sunrise, I realized that with all the colors to choose from, they were still plenty missing. 

DecoArts Americana line must have well over 200 colors and they are adding new ones all the time. But, while there are mere shades of difference in some colors, others are missing or need some help to get the colors seen in nature. I ended up, like the Old Masters, doing what they did...mixing paint. I have to admit that it is rewarding to get that special color. There is nothing wrong in mixing colors. However, I know in the crafting world, creative artists call out very specific colors for their projects and the crafters want that same exact color, even if its merely a drop of one color. I can remember a class in Las Vegas where we worked on a Santa's face for well over two hours. It had 15 colors on it. Getting all these colors in the class took up half the time. As the teacher moved forward we were moving paint.

The project I worked on last night was a birdhouse that I wanted to create for Christmas. It had been percolating in my mind for days and finally I found a way to work it out and start creating it. Again I confronted colors that I would need. I have probably 300 colors and yet, one is always searching for the right one. Really. I wanted a twilight sky in the background moving up to the roof that would be night. It was a peach here, then a lighter blue moving on to a darker blue with Prussian Blue the roof color. It looks pretty good and stands out against the black-green cypress and Christmas tree on the birdhouse.

As you can imagine choosing those few colors was a challenge. It was this that made me realize just how many colors do we need. Would it have been easier to mix my own from a few basic colors or is part of the challenge to find the "right" color from the many colors I own? However, many, maybe too many times, I find that I am back like painters of old mixing the color I want.

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