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Sunday, March 9, 2014

.Time Out for Color Charts

An extensive color chart exercise done in the 70's when I started using acrylics seriously.
 This one included the effects of ivory black on the palette colors I thought were essential.

"If you wish to make sure your painting will succeed, a minimum of three things must COME FROM YOU.  The first thing is KNOWING WHY you want to paint your subject. 

The second is AN ANALYTICAL GRASP of what you see.

The third is THE SKILL TO CONTROL THE PROCESS of painting."   --SCHMID

I definitely know why I am painting My Guys. I love seeing the three of them together. I do have an analytical grasp of understanding what I see. I DO NOT have as much skill as I need to control the process.  But I know where and how to get it.

This self portrait is an excellent
character study considering his letters.
My reading of Thomas Jefferson by John Meacham is going very slowly. The author is the problem. He's left the life out of his subject. No personal anecdotes, just straight history.  Boring.

 Letters to Theo, by Van Gogh who does seem to have some tendencies that make me suspect he was bipolar, is also surprisingly tedious. Van Gogh goes on and on for pages.  I felt pity for Theo standing in his study reading religious yada,yada yada, blah, blah, blah from his dear, sweet, overly zealous, very pious older brother. So while hanging in there and reading what were thought to be interesting books,  I'm really skimming through.

 Not so with Richard Schmid's Alla Prima. I was devouring his every word till I had to stop smack in the middle and take time out to make a color chart with the twelve basic colors of his limited palette.  Schmid really stressed the importance of going through the trouble. Not  at all up on oil colors, and the colors of oils being  different than acrylic colors, charting them seemed like a worthwhile exercise to upgrade my oil skills.

Though relatively new to oils, I am not new to color charts. I did them in my student days using my basic acrylic colors mixing one color with another then  exploring the results of adding black and white. They were quite complicated.  Years ago black was okay. Schmid is a no black guy. He mixes his own. On his charts only white is used. --Titanium. I chose Flake White instead; quite a few portrait painters prefer it. It's warmer than the blue-ish Titanium.

While waiting for the recommended format to arrive ,I made a sample color chart from
 the basic colors on Schmid's limited palette minus Cobalt Violet--according to
Schmid, not a must have, but, according to me invaluable.
Anxious to get into it, but not having the size panel Schmid suggests (8 x 16), I got started anyway on a panel I did have adding  my own touches--a column for the gray made from  all the colors equally mixed together, a column of  the best three colors in this palette  for mixing the darkest "black," ( Ultramarine, Alizarin, Transparent Oxide Red) and a patch of the mid tone gray that came from that "black."  I like shades of gray. They have the power to harmonize, the same as the addition of white to all colors produces harmony.

My Guys are getting warmer after sampling Shmid's limited palette.
I haven't gotten very far with my chart.  I kept coming across tints that I couldn't resist trying  on My Guys. My Guys will not be a successful painting as far as technique is concerned; it's too labored looking.  It is, however, a very successful education in the interaction of color for the artist--and a prized
possession for their mom.

"Disasters are invitations to learn more" --SCHMID.


Cadmium yellow lemon; Cad yellow light; Cad yellow medium; Yellow ochre; Cad red medium; Terra Rosa; Alizarin crimson; Transparent Red Oxide; Viridian; Cobalt Blue Light; Ultramarine; Cobalt Violet. (Cobalt Violet is not on my trial chart; it will be on the chart the next time. Schmid mentions it and uses it a lot, but didn't put it on his list for some reason or another. I think it was economics. Cobalt violet is expensive.--But the savings of having a palette limited to twelve colors plus white allows for indulging myself).



  1. You're the poster child for learning all your life. It is amazing how much knowledge you know and seek. Me, I am just clueless and go with my instinct, hoping that I do some things right. =) Well, I know some things, but not close to you. =)

    1. Curiosity is my middle name. :-)). I'm intuitive too. And I do love spontaneity, but spontaneity needs some back up information for a successful outcome. I like to know how things are done. Painting is color. I do know color, but I don't know how oils behave-- how much oil, what oil is best , what's the tight amount, which colors dry slower than others, which dry faster. Doing the charts on oils will tell me about the science as well as the color possibilities. Done, I will not waste time looking for the right tint or shade, I'll know it. That's worthwhile stuff. My Guys, the size of them and the way they look now, could have been easily painted in acrylics.a lot faster. The oils, being in little dabs instead of premixed in jars has thrown me. The slow drying time has been a problem too. The painting is a crossover painting being used to figure out how to work big with this medium and it's chemistry. If I gave up my idea that portraits should be in oil, of course all this struggle goes away.

  2. Cool Palettes so precise and beautiful, like masterpieces of optical art,dear Linda!
    I have now my preferences on watercolor paints, definitely the red oxyde transparent is great, even in watercolors. European brands think burnt sienna sienna and natural sienna cover this point in the palette, but for me it is not so. Rembrandt make my loved red oxyde transparent always so difficult to buy!!!
    We learn from mistakes is true ... your boys are progressing with you and maybe your picture will be painting-symbol of your pictorial evolution.
    Have nice week!!!

    1. I'm about done with them. But I may paint them again sometime further down the road after I get my wings?

      Familiarizing myself with the oil colors, the power of
      The different pigments, the amount of medium to use for the right consistency, regular use of the palette knife and the constant cleaning of brushes all is taught while making color charts. They provide a wealth of information. Red oxide had replaced my beloved burnt sienna in acrylics and in oils too; it has a lot more life to it. In acrylics, red oxide wasn't as transparent as it is in oils, but just as potent--the tiniest of dabs will saturate white. Charts are not only beautiful, but very informative. While they take time, it's time well spent learning mixing techniques and, with oils, drying times. I am most curious an out the whites though. Why does Schmid prefer Titanium? Why does Viana Szabo warn you of how blue it is? Why do portrait painters online prefer Flake white? Why is do some painters say no white is used for glazes and others say Flex white is good for glazes. Only by doing, will I get answers.

      I gave up oils decades ago. The turpentine oder gave me huge headaches. Now that it's almost odorless and I have plenty of free time, I'd like to brush up. (Pun intended). The finish is so much richer than acrylics, the colors are a bit less vivid, less crass. The chemistry, however, is a lot more tricky. Learning the proper use has a lot to do with the painting's longevity.

  3. I love "Your Guys" Linda! I also love reading everything you write! Fresh and very interesting! Bravo buddy!
    Take care!

    1. Happy Saint Paddy's Day to you! While corned beef and cabbage are out for me, I'll lift a pint of the green brew to the Irish and you on the 17th. I love my guys too-- the guys, not this particular painting. But my boys have always steered me in the right direction, so the painting is a success and a keeper for the artists own collection. :-)) happy painting Michael. I's love to see the work you're doing for the MFA when you get a chance. I also love your paint tables; they make me less upset about mine.

  4. All your experimentation, persistence and curiosity paid off, Linda. I wonder what your sons will say when they see the painting but I have a suspicion they will all be amazed and delighted.

    1. Thanks Susan, but I should have been curious sooner. I suspect they are over cooked. It's going to sit for a bit as I work on my brushstrokes.