- Make gorgeous rainbow effects using a variety of materials and methods.
- Work and play with scraps, shapes and swatches in an array of hues that will help build your color confidence.
- Create beautiful texture in watercolor and acrylic paint using simple supplies and techniques.
- Mix colors to produce shades ranging from calming neutrals to blazing brights.
- Use color effectively to take your imagination to new heights.
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
First, a brief history lesson. Before the Industrial Revolution, artists had to make their paint by hand, and they stored it in pig bladders. For real. At some point in the mid-1800s, paint tubes with a screw cap were invented and companies began mass-producing paint for artists. Van Gogh (1853–1890) was one of the first painters who squeezed paint directly onto his canvas. The invention of mass-produced paint and aluminum tubes directly led to the expressionist painting movement, which 125 years later led directly to this project.
As we know, art supplies cost money. As a result, it's easy to get miserly and precious with them and work on tiny little projects with tiny little outcomes. For this project, however, a required mindset will be "I am going to use all the paint." You may or may not actually use all the paint, but you want to get used to the idea that the paint you just paid hard-earned money for is going to be used, possibly all of it. Even, gasp, wasted. I generally don't like to waste things I paid cash money for, but you've got to take a risk to get a break.
Beginner and up
Basic color mixing, and how to be excessive, abundant, over the top, leading to reckless joy
15" x 15" (38 x 38 cm) prestretched and primed canvas
3–5 tubes of acrylic paint + large tube of white Palette knife
Potentially off the charts; take precautions
TIME TO COMPLETE
MORE FOR LESS
The 4 oz. (118 ml) acrylic paint tubes are usually the best value. Student-grade paint is perfect for this because you're going to use loads of it, so you can at least be thrifty with a lower quality. You'll want extra white paint. The stiffer the paint, the better — you don't want paint that's too liquid.
Limit your color range to three to five tube colors plus white or things will get muddy real fast. I used magenta, deep yellow, and turquoise. If you're interested in the color theory, these tertiary colors are in a triadic combination — not the red, yellow, and blue of your primary colors but one click over on the wheel. This makes the combination feel a little more grown-up and less primary school.
1 Get your canvas ready by laying it flat and squeeze white all over. Add color here and there straight out of the tube. Be bold. You won't need a brush for this project, but you will need a small, flexible palette knife. There are a lot of different shapes and sizes. I like the diamond-shaped ones, and this project works better with a smaller knife.
2 Using the knife, start smushing the paint around. The first lesson of this project is waste paint and the second lesson is don't overwork. You'll be mixing the colors with the white and with one another, but you'll have a big pile of mud real fast if you overmix. You want to dash in and dash out, and once you've piled up some paint in one area, move on!
3 Your goals: Completely cover the entire white surface of the canvas, and create interesting textures. There should be some areas where you've mixed the paint completely, and other sections where the paint is only barely mixed and showing contrast and dimension. You've covered the whole canvas?
4 Stop! The painting will take a good while to dry — possibly even three to four days, depending on your humidity and thickness of paint, so put it somewhere safe and wait. You have now learned some wonderfully reckless life skills that can be applied to almost any situation (abundance! joy! liberation!), plus you made an amazing painting.
You are using your palette knife like you're frosting a cake (yum) — verrrrrry gently. Whatever is on the bottom of the palette knife will end up on the surface of your painting. It's helpful to wipe the excess paint off the palette knife occasionally to clean things up.
Use #colorcompanion to tag your projects to join the social media color community.
Established artists have rules. They may not call them rules. In fact, it may be offensive to even suggest to them that they have rules because artists often base their whole careers on breaking rules and conventions. (Question: If your "rule" is breaking the rules, wouldn't the most rebellious act be compliance? Asking for a friend.) Rules, order, and structure seem to be "uncreative." The perception is that the whole point of being an artist is that you can do anything you want. But the fact is most artists who have spent time developing their voice make their work within very structured systems. They might work with a certain medium. They work with certain colors. They use repetitive lines or marks. They revisit a consistent subject. Naturally, there are time-honored situations when a well-known artist changes everything they do (think Picasso, Blue Period). But at its heart, design and creativity are all about finding your voice within the bounds of a medium or a technique, and the only way to do that is to narrow the possibilities and, yes, apply rules.
I conceived this project with very rigid guidelines: one color, one shape, one size. In the beginning I had about five turquoise circle ideas. Then I ran out of ideas, and I decided it was a stupid and extremely boring project and it was likely that I also was stupid and boring. But when I was working on the last painting before I stopped, I had another idea. And that next painting led to another idea. Sometimes the ideas would be directly linked to the previous painting in an obvious way, but sometimes my mind would just wander and a new turquoise circle plan would introduce itself. It got to where I was dreaming about turquoise circles, and I'd have turquoise circle ideas in the shower and in the car. It actually started to inform my other work, and overall this exercise helped me learn a lot about composition and paint, and added new tools to my arsenal of visual language.
Designing your own template; using stencils; monochromatic painting
12-color watercolor kit (see page 19)
#1, #4, and #8 round brushes Paper towel
140 lb. (300 g/m2) watercolor paper cut in 5" (12.5 cm)
TIME TO COMPLETE
A few minutes for one
1 Cut watercolor paper into approximately 5" x 5" (12.5 x 12.5 cm) pieces. If you're working with a 9" x 12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm) pad, you could do a 4.5" (11.5 cm) square. Let your source paper size be your guide so that you don't waste paper. How many you cut is up to you — for this project I made about forty-five paintings, but then, I am an epic overachiever.
2 It is nice to have a bunch cut up and ready to go because you will want to quickly shift between paintings. Having a "frame" inside your paper helps to organize your composition. I consider this step essential. Create a 4" x 4" (10 x 10 cm) border within your 5" x 5" (12.5 x 12.5 cm) page. I used a 6H pencil (a pencil with a very hard graphite that leaves a faint, thin mark). For speed, cut a 4" x 4" (10 x 10 cm) template out of card stock and trace it instead of having to measure out a 4" x 4" (10 x 10 cm) window.
3 Trace circles of various sizes from various sources. Use your thumbnails for reference and generate different compositional ideas, patterns, and arrangements. Paint your circles using a single color of watercolor paint (this is called "monochromatic"). I used brushes in multiple sizes for versatility.
4 You will develop your own working rhythm, but for me it was helpful to work fairly rapidly. I can tend to overwork something, but if I have ten small paintings on my table simultaneously, it helps me to leave well enough alone (a big challenge for me).
5 Looking back, my favorite paintings are the ones I initially considered too minimal and intended to add more stuff — but didn't because I was too busy working with other paintings.
MINI MONO TIPS
When it's good to be all thumbs. Artists frequently make something called "thumbnails" when they're figuring out the composition for a larger work. The size of a thumbnail will vary, but (incongruously) it's usually bigger than an actual thumbnail, ranging from 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm). You can literally do a thumbnail on the back of a napkin. This is supposed to be a fast visual of a simple composition or concept. Here's my page of thumbnails for this project. It's a great, low-stakes way to get a bunch of ideas onto paper.
Circles everywhere. To get your circle templates, you can use one of those architectural drafting circle stencils, which I used for some of the drawings, and you can also find all sorts of round things around your house, such as a quarter, a penny, a cup, the lid of something, a roll of tape, etc. I also used several round punches in various dimensions (card stock makes the best material for tracing).
TO TAPE OR NOT TO TAPE?
I chose not to tape my watercolor paper for this project. I wanted the flexibility to shuffle the paintings around and have a lot of work in progress at the same time. As a result, my paper warped a little. Not too bad, but it's there. If you want to help your paper stay flat, you can tape it with painter's tape — tape all sides.
A FEW WATERCOLOR TECHNIQUES
Wet on Wet Wet on Dry
Salt. Sprinkle basic table salt on medium-damp paint. Set aside and wait. I've discovered this technique takes a long time to dry, longer than you'd think. If you try to brush the salt off before it is truly dry, you'll have a bit of a mess.
Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). Alcohol and water don't mix, and this incompatibility can result in amazing effects. There are two ways to do it: use a small brush dipped in alcohol, then drop the alcohol into damp paint; or drop rubbing alcohol onto blank paper, let it dry for a few seconds, and paint color over it.
Flow: Not Just for Hippies
When I was going through the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad time, I experienced extraordinary, transcendent moments. Right smack-dab in the middle of crying all day and not sleeping or breathing much. These extraordinary moments actually happened quite a lot, sometimes while receiving support from loved ones, sometimes in nature, and significantly, often while I was making art. When I was immersed in color and pattern, I would come home to myself. I could breathe again. It was like I had a moment on an island in a choppy sea. The effect was so powerful, like an altered state caused by a psychotropic drug or alcohol, but, happily, with a painting at the end rather than a headache.
My curiosity about this experience led me to read about the science of flow. Flow, in a nutshell, is a state of active, intense concentration. Everyone has experienced it at one time or another — it's the experience where you suddenly realize that you haven't gotten up from your desk in four hours, and you're thirsty and you have to pee. Basically, it's getting so immersed in a focused activity that all other bids for your attention are totally muted. Including the need to pee. Time can take on weird dimensions — hours can pass but feel like mere moments, or a single moment can elongate into multiple decision points, such as a snowboarder executing a complicated move.
Given that this fairly broad term could have many interpretations, it would be easy to think that flow isn't a sciencey kind of thing ... but it is. In the formal scientific literature, "flow" is studied by psychologists, occupational therapists, neural biologists, creativity researchers, efficiency experts, the military (I know, weird), elite athletes, and the list goes on. There are measurable biochemical changes in the brain and body. Performance is elevated. Get this: Getting into a flow state is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).
Flow is known to be a very pleasurable experience that furthermore produces enhanced performance. Flow-inducing experiences vary from individual to individual, but we're all wired to experience it. Like many people, I feel flow when I'm in a creative endeavor. Other flow triggers are team sports, meditation, cooking, performing music, being in sync with a group while working on a complex task, surfing, video games — the list goes on. Whatever you consider your flow triggers, painting can be a flow gateway drug — it's an easy entry point and a way to get your brain chemistry on board.
Collage Rainbow Wheel
We've taken an academic look at the color wheel, and now we're going to make one. Kind of. The color wheel is the old standby, and every school child is an expert. I taught a college-level painting class where I had the students do a "Free Will Color Wheel," by which I meant as long as they mixed pure, color-wheel colors, they could paint them in any arrangement they fancied. I explained a little about the history of the color wheel — my main man Sir Isaac Newton invented it. At the age of twenty-three, while being cloistered in his house to avoid the plague, as one does in 1665, he messed around with prisms and, being a physics genius, established the basis of what we understand as primary colors, roy g biv, and how colors interact with light, turning Plato's earlier musings (and the basis for all color theory for two thousand years) on its head. Charmingly, he also thought the color wheel was correlated to musical notes, though he was never able to get his analogy to make perfect scientific sense. In the end, it seems, that particular notion was more poetry than science. In any case, he did understand that color existed in clear light, and he sketched the first ever wheel (with musical notes).
Anyway, there was an older guy in my class — and when I say older, I mean, like, in his eighties. The university offered free tuition to people over seventy-five. I suspected this gentleman had a few pulls from the scotch glass before the evening class most nights, as did I (um, jk). Whatever the reason, he always appeared to be having a good time. Come review time for the Free Will Color Wheel project, he presented a straightforward, classic, by-the-book color wheel. No frills. As explanation, he announced emphatically, "If Sir Isaac Newton says a wheel, I paint a wheel." Indeed.
I see your wheel, sir, and I raise you. That said, rules, schmules. Let's have some fun with this wheel!
Beginner and up
Basic color sourcing and organizing
Glossy magazines with high-quality paper Scissors
18" x 24" (45.5 x 61 cm) mixed-media paper Glue stick
Moderate but not permanent
TIME TO COMPLETE
1 Start with color hunting. It takes a little while to train yourself to see the color and not the photograph of the handbag or whatever, so sometimes it helps to read the magazine upside down. Look for basic color-wheel colors on this project: red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple with in-between colors like turquoise and buttercream. You're looking for vibrant colors that may have some value shifts, slight variations, tertiary colors, and texture variety. Don't try to tell a story with words and pictures. Try to create a sensation with dynamic color.
2 When you've assembled a nice collection of the colors, glue them down on all-purpose art paper (show here, 18" x 24" [45.5 x 61 cm]). I often cut them to suit the shape and size I'm after, but since you layer them, you don't need a perfect fit. To get the paper to glue down flat, it helps to fully smear the glue on the paper and then press firmly starting from the middle and moving out, pushing out the bubbles. I overlapped the paper quite a bit.
3 I grouped the colors lighter in value toward the middle and did not make a perfect circle. You can keep adding more paper bits to various sections until you're satisfied with the overall effect. The idea is to make the colors appear to blend into one another. When in doubt, cut the bigger chunks into smaller pieces.
You'll need a few magazines for this. I used about six fashion magazines and a couple of old National Geographics to do the project in this book. You'll want high-quality magazines. The paper should be glossy and have a heft to it, not too thin like those weekly gossip magazines.
Don't use recognizable items or text. Focus on the color only. It's easy to let content and recognizable forms become a part of your collage, but that will take away from the heart of this exercise, which is playing with how various colors interact in their purest state.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The New Color Mixing Companion"
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
An Introduction to Color, 10,
Main Color Techniques, 12,
Studio Supplies, 14,
Why I Paint: My Story, 21,
1 STARTER PROJECTS, 23,
Glorious Extravagance, 24,
Mini Mono, 28,
Flow: Not Just for Hippies, 33,
Collage Rainbow Wheel, 34,
The Classic Schmear, 38,
Flow Neuroscience: Turning Off, 43,
Value Gradient Primer, 44,
Tri Me, 50,
Loose Brain Mojo, 53,
The Freud, 54,
What Happens If, 58,
Whipped Rainbow, 62,
Bring Out Your Dead, 70,
Art Scars, 77,
2 NEXT STEP PROJECTS, 79,
Chevron Spectrum, 80,
Talent Doesn't Exist, 83,
Waiting for the Diamonds, 84,
Flat Diamond, 88,
Seed of Life, 92,
Developing Your Fist, 95,
Diamond Crystals, 96,
Hex Addict, 100,
Mandala Hex, 104,
Hex Appeal, 110,
Enemies of Flow, 117,
Radiating Diamonds, 118,
Antagonistic Complements, 122,
Faded Hex, 126,
More Enemies of Flow, 129,
Working with Neutrals, 130,
Final Thoughts: Painting Heaven, 135,
Practical Considerations for Sharing Your Work, 136,
About the Author, 158,