I know I mention colour in virtually every blog I write but thought a full blog on colour where I tie everything together would be useful. I get asked a lot about colour on all my workshops and I find as I progress I get more and more specific about what I want from a particular colour. Anyone new to my blog might be interested to read about the colour planets I do before starting a painting especially if I want to find a new interesting combination or I am looking for something specific which I feel will compliment the subject. What I am not necessarily looking for is to find exact colours to match my subject although I do that as well. I am looking for colours which may not immediately be what you might choose but because of the way I mix them will still look attractive.
I also choose a dark colour so that I have something which will give me a good deep tone... it isn't colour which defines a subject it is shape, and tonal value is what helps to give you the shape of a subject. My dark may be a blue, a purple, brown or sometimes a red but it has to be a colour which will give a full range of value so for example a palette with lemon yellow, permanent rose and cobalt blue doesn't have the very darkest values and so I would either swap a colour or add in another to give me the range.
I have spent a lot of time studying colour and am still learning and as you will have read do not keep my colours to a limited palette although for any one painting I rarely use more than 6 colours... I love having a good choice and enjoy all the different colours and particularly those which can't be mixed... W&N opera rose is a prime example... a vibrant almost fluorescent pink which is unlike any other colour and impossible to mix at least not with the colours I have. Schmincke Translucent Orange is another.... impossible to get from any red or yellow at least any that I have in my palette!!
I have listed the colours in my palette here, and I think I have only added a small number since, perylene green would be one, a lovely silver green, and interestingly I am realising that the more adventurous colour combinations come when I am painting animals....with flowers I tend to stick with matching the colour to the flower and maybe adding something a bit more adventurous for the backgrounds though invariably the bg will have some of the flower colour mixed with it. With animals I either see potential colour mixes or if don't see them, I make them up testing them on a planet. I often work from B&W images for animals so I am not bound by the colour I see ... I find I can be a bit more inventive and creative if I'm not viewing the subject in full colour feeling freer to experiment with anything I think might look different and interesting.
Four colours I have been using a lot recently are UB, Aiz Crimson, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna... I seem to have been drawn to them for a number of paintings recently, I sometimes add in a prussian blue as well and a cad yellow for some brightness but am going to start experimenting again with some of the other colours. I really like Turquoise but don't seem to have used much of it recently so for no other reason I might introduce it into the next painting I do.... scientific eh?
One thing I do really want to emphasise is that although I really believe there are no rules for painting, there is no substitute for getting to know the colours you have in your palette, get to understand the tonal value they will give you, learn how they interact with other colours, and it can only be done with practice... it's fine to read all about them, about analagous, harmonious, complimentary colours, opaque colours, transparents, staining but reading and doing are two different things and the only thing which will give you a understanding of your colours is to use them!!
One example to illustrate the point is a colour called Winsor Red... a rich red, veering slighty more towards pink than cad red... I have used it to paint the red shoes both for the shoes and bg. When I come to add it on the paper to mix with the prussian blue or indigo, whichever blue I am using it explodes and takes over, pushing the blue away quite significantly. For that reason I now know I have to go easy with it when mixing with other colours if I don't want it to take over, other colours do this but non as pronounced as the Winsor Red. Granulation is also another property colours may have but it is so much easier to remember it when you see it happening rather than just reading about it, easier to see how an opaque colour can both lift or dull a painting depending on how and when you use it, easier to see how much livelier colour can be when mixed and mingled on the paper rather than in the palette... seeing is believing!! So get your paints out and play!!