Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Magic of Mixing Colours


Creative Sketchbooks

Module 1, Chapter 1
Activity 1.3

Combine two Primary Colours to create a range of secondary colours

Oh wow, what I can say about this… I loved, loved, loved mixing colours… This was absolutely magical, like a form of alchemy – you take a colour, add a second, mix well and, abracadabra, you’ve transformed them into something different. Keep adding the second colour, drip by drip, and you create the hugest range of colours imaginable.  And there’s even more variation, depending, for example, on which tube of blue you select: ultramarine mixed with lemon yellow gives a different colour to ceruleum mixed with the same yellow. Dark and light colours give quite different results, as do cool and warm.

 Do all these new colours have names I wonder? Or could I give them names myself?

I played around a little with mixing colours for my wall, when I did the Embroidery Taster Module, but nothing on this scale. At that point I was inspired by Paul Klee, because I love his work, and I’d been to see the exhibition at Tate Modern, which was amazing. At the moment I’ve got pictures of some of my favourites pinned up on my ‘Ideas Board’. I keep looking at the gradations of colour in his paintings and wondering: “How did he do that?” 

I’m not absolutely sure if there are recommended tools for adding and mixing colours – I tried cotton wool buds (hopeless, they soak the paint up); cocktail sticks and lollypop sticks, which weren’t too bad; straws, which were a bit unwieldy; and a children’s paintbrush, which was the best of all, so that’s what I used. 

I was looking for gentle transitions of colour, but I didn’t always achieve it – it was tricky controlling the drops of paint, and my colours were a bit unpredictable. Sometimes I didn’t add enough colour, so there was virtually no change, and sometimes I overdid it, and the change was quite startling, but I got better as I went along. However, I’m not sure I could reproduce the colours I made, although I suppose they act as a kind of pattern, because as long as you keep notes on what you do, you should be able to match the colours. That’s the theory anyway! I forget to make proper notes on some bits, but I should be able to work it out, because I can check the base colours with tubes of paint.

So, Note to Self for future… Always keep a record of what you’ve done, however rough itmay be, because you won’t remember it later on, and this is what happens….

I think I was playing around with madder and lemon yellow, and white… but maybe it was something completely different. So, I shall get my paints out, and hold them against the sample, and see which ones look the most similar!

And another Note to Self… Keep cleaning your painting brush thoroughly as you go along, because if you don’t it can affect your new colour. And lots of clean water is essential – dirty water affects the colours as well.

Mellow Yellow



Activity 1.2
Painting the surface of a cut lemon, using only one tube of yellow paint
This was actually quite scary! I took a photograph of my half a lemon, which was easy peasy, but then things got tricky. I sat and looked at the blank page in my sketchbook, and looked at my tubes of paints, and looked at my brushes and markers, and couldn’t pluck up the courage to put paint to paper.

Sadly, I’ve mislaid the photo of my lemon, but I have the notes I wrote when I looked at the cut surface as carefully as I could. 

I did samples of the various yellow paints I have, including a couple of acrylics and a gouache, but they handle a bit differently to water colours, and I wasn’t confident about using them. Consequently, I decided to stick with water colours.
In addition, I tried out some little sample marks, to see what would give the effect I wanted. I thought natural sponge might be good for the lines on the fleshy segments – the sponge looked a bit frondy, like the lemon pieces, but the painted effect was much too random and splodgy. So I tried painting lines to look like the ones on the lemon, using the point of a very fine brush, and the end of a small, flat brush. The lines on the real lemon seem to be slightly lighter than the surround, but I made them darker to make them stand out. 
First Effort: I worked from centre out because I thought it would be easier, but painting a colour wash circle first might have been better. I lost the pithy white bit in the centre, and ended up with seven segments instead of nine, and they look a bit seaweedy or leafy. This was a rubbish image, but I quite like the edging!
 Second Effort: Happier with this – I got the right number of segments, but they needed more colour, and the markings, created with the edge of a small flat brush are better. I built up colour on the pips and the edge of the lemon, which is darker where the zest is, and I tried to get the effect of the little dots that are there – when you look closely it’s not a solid block of colour. 
Third Effort: Disaster! Tried painting over a colour wash, but the base colour was too dark, even after I blotted it, and things just went downhill from there.
Overview: It’s actually quite difficult trying to reproduce something in just one colour – I found I could water the paint down to make it paler, and build up layer by layer (either with the wash or with the stronger, original colour) to get darker yellows for the rind around the edge and the pips. So even with just one tube of paint you can produce different colours, which is pretty amazing – it’s knowing how to do it that’s the problem!
And finally, just to show that the blog notes are more or less the same as the ones I stick into the sketchbook (although I do change the odd word here and there!)