A new practice: at least once a month I do charting. During art classes I did similar swatch charts, mostly to keep track of tubes I’d bought, borrowed, and otherwise added to my kit; but I’ve recently discovered that I’ve overlooked matching the colors in my mind with the ones I attempted to reproduce on paper. Why was yellow and blue ending up brownish? “Muddy” Why were the hue, tone and brilliance of my paintings off. Doing charting, studies focused on mixes, hue, tone, and brilliance are painful but necessary disciplines. As a result, I’ve found it nice to occasionally have paints come out of the brush as intended.
Resolved to undertake a better understanding of color, I went to a local art store last month to pick up a set of maybe 64 colors. “Two hundred and what dollars?” Needless to say, I sadly bought a $20 inch and a half tube of yellow. I could have tried a discount store, perhaps spending about $20 on a set of 12-24 colors and a couple of brushes; but going cheap means doing the math in your head, testing each pigment, and mixing colors till you see the right one before applying paint. You have to move like lightning because watercolor dries fast, and never forgives. Its a great skill set that I’d like to develop someday, but difficult to do so without a strong foundation in seeing color–an ability that can be developed by charting. Until I get to that point, I prefer the consistency, reliability and accessibility of a proven paint and brush manufacturer Winsor & Newton. If you get a chance, check out Gordon MacKenzie’s The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook, $22 @B&N. I especially appreciate his list of pigments to avoid (page 16). When I feel comfortable enough with my paints, his list will become a list of challenging colors. I also like his notebook because it has examples that explore color and techniques that I’d like to know and use regularly.