I know I just said that we were going to paint a simple still life now… but maybe one more exercise.
Who want’s to mix a color, asked Scott Christensen? I popped my arm up in the air and volunteered to give it whirl in front of a class of 40 more advanced painters than myself. Up to his large Hughs easel I happily want. He pointed to a color in his (ridiculously beautiful, well crafted, filled with subtle color shifts) painting and asked me to make it. I pulled color after color and continued to mix until I had created a large puddle of grayish mud before moving the entire pile over to the side of the palette, proudly bowing in defeat, and returning to my seat. Throughout the rest of the workshop we joked about using “kelly’s gray” to neutralize a color, or perhaps even using it straight if cold mud was the color you were after.
Neutral colors – grays – are so beautiful, and they really support your more vivid colors and give them ‘space’ to sing. If every color note in the painting is high it’s not very pleasant music… understanding how to neutralize and mix colors is an important part of painting. Once you become comfortable mixing, it’s really pretty fun when you can nail a color without using a truckload of paint to do it. This doesn’t always come quickly, but it comes with practice and patience. The more you mix and paint, the easier it will be to arrive at your color quickly. In the beginning, it will be a slower methodical exercise, but as you paint more your brush will know right where to go and the color will come as you hum to yourself at the your easel. Tape your color wheel to the top of your easel and look at it as often as you need to.
Have fun with this exercise!