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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green



I have had this book for several years now, and finally took the time to read it more or less thoroughly, and found myself using a new combination of pigments. The author, Michael Wilcox, emphasizes several aspects of color usage by artists.

The standard color wheel cannot work for color mixing, as there are no pigments that are "pure" red, blue or yellow. We have blue violet, red violet, red orange, orange yellow, green yellow, and green blue ... so he suggests six pigments that are light-fast and permanent. There are varying names for the paints, so he gives the pigment names.

This is a technical reference book; I am finding the suggestions very helpful. I am re-working old paintings that I had considered failures, and finding that I really enjoy the new color schemes. A lot of his color suggestions involve using complementaries, which create lovely colors, from neutrals to variations of the original colors, when mixed in varying proportions.

Here are the pigments to purchase. For anyone including a beginner, these colors will provide good combinations. The names of the paints are different according to each manufacturer, so the pigment name is the thing to look for. These are very lightfast, mix well, and will produce the finest mixtures possible. The basic selection of pigments he recommends is:

Red (Orange) - Cadmium Red Light PR 108 (pigment name)

Red (Violet) - Quinacridone Violet PV 19

Yellow (Orange) - Cadmium Yellow Light PY 35

Yellow (Green) - Hansa Yellow Light PY 3

Blue (Green) - Cerulean Blue PB 36:1 or PB 35

Blue (Violet) - Ultramarine Blue PB 29


For example, to make greens, mix cool blue and cool yellow, and if it is "too" green, add a touch of warm red to make a green that works in nature. Violets: mix Blue Violet and Red Violet. Oranges, mix Yellow Orange and Red Orange. Vary the proportions on the palette, add some white or black, and you will have a range of these secondary colors. Browns and greys are made by mixing complementary colors: Blue Violet plus Yellow Orange, Red Orange plus Blue Green, Yellow Green plus Red Violet; as always, varying the proportions will create variations, so that there is not a static mixture on the canvas or paper.

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