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Courageous Color

It’s easy to get into a rut when choosing colors for a painting. After all, there is something to be said for using the same colors, so you know exactly what to mix in order to achieve the combination you need. But if you are finding your paintings are getting a bit stale, or you want to stretch yourself, simply changing the colors you use can be a great exercise.

For example, in the Archival Oil and Atelier Interactive range, there are 11 colors of a red hue, not including earth tones. Many artists paint with a split primary palette (2 of each primary, each with a warm or cool temperature). Simply replacing 1 of your reds will result in a host of new oranges, violets and other toned mixtures. Furthermore, you will learn more about how the pigments, and color itself, operate in the real world of painting.

The earliest colors were based on inorganic elements from the earth, stones and natural elements. Colors such as Burnt Sienna, Indian Red Oxide, Light Red Ochre and Vermillion can all be used for “red.” These reds do not have the intensity associated with modern pigments, but are part of the “classical palette” that was prevalent up until the mid-19th century.

During the time of the Industrial Revolution, new colors were made based on metals, like cadmium, cobalt and chromium. These colors are more intense than those based on inorganic elements. In the hands of the Impressionists through the colorists of today, these colors help capture the natural effects of light. Some choice reds are Cadmium Red (Scarlett), Cadmium Red Medium and Permanent Alizarine.

Developments in technology during the 20th and 21st century have created new pigments. These “organic” pigments, based on carbon, are highly intense as well as transparent. Colors with names such as quinacridone, arylamides, pthalos, dioxazine and napthol are of this era. These colors have an additional tendency to keep their intensity (or chroma) even when mixed, unlike the older colors, which shift in value and intensity. This knowledge is very helpful if one wants to make a color that is light in value but with a high intensity. Quinacradone Magenta or Napthol Red Light plus Titanium White would create such a color, but Cadmium Red Light or Vermilion would not.

When it comes to using Black, did you know that there is a delicious family of toned blacks? Green Black, Blue Black, Red Black, Brown Black – any of these will give your shades more depth and work beautifully for chiaroscuro effects.

So for your next painting, try some new colors – you will be glad you did!