Thursday, June 9, 2011

More on Color Charts: Neutrals

Neutrals Color Chart

My good friend Dawn Whitelaw helped me realize that the world we live in is mostly neutral. That is (and sorry Dawn if I misquote you) colors are generally either a neutral that is bent toward a color, or a color that has been slightly neutralized.

Some of you have requested more information on how to make the "neutrals" color chart.  (For information on the brights colors chart, see previous post.) Below is a diagram showing what I mixed to get what result. Your results will be slightly different, of course, because the neutrals you mix from which you begin the process will no doubt be different than mine were. Actually, if I did this chart today, my colors would be slightly different based on what I have right now that is "leftover" on my palette and how it might serve as one of the neutrals I mention.

Hopefully the chart is readable here.  I had to make it a little small so that it would fit properly.

So, to begin, on the SECOND row from the top, place your colors as they transition around the color wheel.  Position 1 is yellow plus green; position 2 is yellow; position 3 is yellow plus orange and so on.

On the FIRST row, tint each of those original color piles to a mid-value using white.

Now, mix 3 piles of "neutral." Each pile should "lean" a little differently from the other. For instance, one neutral might be really called something like "battleship gray," or "Payne's Grey," maybe it leans toward blue a little.  One pile could be associated more closely to "brown slacks," or "Raw Umber," and have a little greenish or yellowish tint. The last pile might be kinda of "russet brown," or "Burnt Umber," leaning toward some deeper red tone.  These neutrals are shown as "Neutral 1, 2, and 3" on the chart. (You could mix many more neutrals, but we will start here.) After you mix these 3 neutrals, tint each one out slightly with white to mid-range and place a little of that color where it says "Mid-value" under each of the neutral colors on the left.

Next, you will mix a little of the full strength neutral with each of the colors in the second row and place them alongside the neutral (i.e. row 3 is a mixture that contains Neutral 1 and each of the colors from row 2.) The next row is each of the colors in the second row mixed with the Neutral that has been tinted to mid-value.

Follow this for each of the neutrals you pre-mixed and their mid-values.

On this chart, you see some miscellaneous neutrals at the bottom.  I was just playing here and using up space and paint by mixing ALL of the used color on my palette together to come up with an additional neutral (see in the bottom right hand corner and tinted out to a 10-value scale). I then started mixing with some of my colors in the second row just to see the sensitive variations this pile of "mud" might make.

The key is to experiment and to keep records of what you do so that you can refer back to the charts.  The longer you mix with these basic colors, the faster it becomes until you develop such habits that you no longer think about how you mixed a color... you just do it like breathing in and out.

For additional posts on color charts, click these links:
THE BRIGHTS color chart
3-color PALETTE

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rain in California -- Happy Painting Time!

Morning at Garrod's, 12x16 p lein air, private collection, Artists' Choice Award Los Gatos, CA

I just returned from the Los Gatos Plein Air Festival where the rain and cold were totally unexpected for this time of year.  Being no stranger to rain, I loved it.  Although I felt for the organizers who had to work so much harder to provide tents and lights during the outdoor sale on Saturday.

Every morning it was beautiful!  Being on central time in my brain, I was up WAY before dawn on the West Coast, and that worked to my advantage. In "Morning at Garrod's" I worked very quickly to capture the light pattern as sun came streaming from the east at about 6:00 a.m.  By 6:45, it was getting overcast and threatening rain.  My feet were freezing and my teeth chattering.  I had not prepared for this weather and had only a couple of layers and a sweater on.  I really needed gloves and a coat! But this painting was so much fun that nothing would stop me from completing it.

Here is a close-up of the detail. See how much fun I had!!!!

Afternoon at Buxton's, 9x12, plein air
Another quick "grab of sunshine," was this late afternoon piece looking out off the front deck of my host's home. Afternoon light moves fairly quickly anyway (with or without fickle weather). Just more proof that having a plan and sticking to it is the key to success.

Slight Chance of Sunshine, 9x12, plein air
So here is what it looked like the rest of the time we were there. Still... loads of fun to paint! Water dripping all over my palette, my hat soaked through, fingers frozen. Aahhh. This is the life.

One interior scene in the Los Gatos Brewing Company is shown with close-up detail here.
Between Lunch and Dinner (detail), 9x12

To see more pieces in their entirety, visit

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gear Up: The Sequel

This is the second part of a post on plein air gear. The first was about choosing the right easel for you.

Many of you asked how I actually pack my paint gear when heading out into the field for plein air work.  Sorry it has taken so long.  Here goes...

This pic shows everything I pack with the exception of a small digital camera which I am using to take this photo. : )  All of this will pack in my backpack except for the tripod.  (Actually, I have two different sized Open Box M palettes.  IF I use the smaller one, the tripod will fit as well.) For 99% of my painting excursions, this is exactly what I pack. There may be a slight difference in size of *PanelPak, but you get the idea.  I can either get one-8"x10" and one-6"x8" PanelPak inside the backpack together, OR  one-9"x12" PanelPak by itself.  (If I decide to take other sizes that are larger, I put them in a canvas tote-type bag and hang it over my shoulder.) Each PanelPak holds two panels safely without touching.

Here I have started packing the backpack.  No kidding... I bought this Eddie Bauer backpack at a Marshall's or something for about $12.  It's pretty worn out, but I just cannot bring myself to pay full price for a new one.

See how everything all stacks neatly? On the other side of the brush roll is a roll of paper towels. The backpack itself measures 18" tall by 11" wide and is approximately 7" deep with several smaller pockets and mesh pockets on either side.

I have used an interior pocket to hold the utility knife and some business cards and the mesh water-bottle pockets to hold the OMS can, sunscreen, metal brush holder, etc. on one side...

Bottled water, paint tubes (which I sometimes put in a paint roll), and bug spray are on the other side, and my sketchpad and viewfinder and a small pack of baby wipes are in the front pouches.

It certainly helps that I use a limited palette of only 3 colors and white. Usually I load fairly big piles of paint onto my palette from large tubes kept in the car, and pack the small tubes in my backpack for replenishing if needed.

Now it is all zipped up and ready to go except for the tripod.

Notice that I am a huge fan of cariabiner (clips)? I use them for everything I can think of.  Below I show how I clip the tripod to a loop on the backpack on either the side that hangs off my back, or the strap that my arm goes through placing the tripod on the front.  It just depends on the situation which I choose to do. 

Sometimes I take along a plein air umbrella.  I have a small one that will do in a pinch, and I can either cram it in the bag or in the canvas tote bag with the larger PanelPak I might carry. On occasion I also stick in a rain poncho there as well.

Well, that's it. Hope it was helpful.

*Note: at the original time of this post, I used Panelroo panel carriers. They are great! Recently I have been using PanelPak panel carriers and so have changed all of the wording here to reflect that. They are slightly more compact and lightweight than the original Panelroo.

Also, I have had a new paintbox made that is about the same size as the OpenBoxM mentioned above. It's a prototype... more at a later time.  Always something new!