Understanding how to manipulate warm and cool colors can create dynamic painting. Especially when one becomes skilled in mixing them together in different proportions, creating neutral values that consequently are effectively used in building up forms in space.
Here is an exercise that will teach the student skill in practicing mixing values using two complementary colors: ultramarine blue (cool) and burnt sienna (warm). As a side note, any time two complements are used, one will always be cool or warm, since they each are on opposing sides of the color wheel/spectrum.
Seemingly complicated at first this is actually quite a simple chart, and I’ll tell you why. The idea is to understand how different amounts of paint mixed together can create neutrals, that will appear grey. These greys are often more beautiful and dynamic than simply using black with white in a mixture. No black was used in this chart, but white was. Here’s how we do it.
1. Draw a 7 x 7″ grid on a canvas panel, marking clearly your individual squares, each 1″: you will have a total of 49 squares.
2. From top to bottom you will mix and paint in the squares dark to light values. From left to right you will then see combined values with the two colors.
3. Ok. We will paint vertical rows. Start with he vertical row on the far left which is ONLY ultramarine blue. The top square is pure ultramarine. Each square below has a little more white in it. Your values should progress gradually. Mix on the palette, but you can adjust in the square.
4. Repeat for vertical row on the right using burnt sienna.
5. Now mix 50/50 ultramarine with burnt sienna for the top square in the middle row, and gradually add white in the same manner.
6. There are now two vertical rows next to the blue, and next to the sienna. The row closest to the pure blue has a progression that begins with @ 95% blue and 5% sienna, while the vertical row closest to the middle row will begin with %75 blue and %25 sienna. Progress down using white for lightening your values.
7. Repeat with the other two rows on the sienna side, except in reverse: more sienna, less blue.
Remember: this is the learning! Welcome frustration, because the absolute only way to learn how to mix paint and understand value transformations is to do the work. Compare this to practicing your scales when learning a musical instrument. It is all in the practice.
This palette will be used as a standard warm/cool arrangement in subsequent still life studies.