Drawing With Color 1.8 (also called 1.6 in the 6 week course).

This is the last segment in an 8-week sequence of Drawing With Color lessons that I teach at The Drawing Studio in Tucson. In this post I will recap some of the basic concepts of working with color through the practice of drawing from observation.


We work with the standard 12 color wheel that was developed by Sir Isaac Newton. The diagrams in the middle of the color wheel have corners that point to a number of possible color combinations or harmonies. Newton discovered that a spectrum was neurologically perceived as complete when certain color selections were made. This course has investigated those harmonies. This last selection is a variation of using a complementary and analogous palette: called a simple harmony, which is a pair of complements with two adjacent colors on either side of either of the complements. But, you must choose only two analogous colors on one side of a chosen complement, for a total of four colors.

The harmony being used for this assignment is yellow and violet, with the two analogous colors yellow-green and green.


Above are some of my notes on the board showing four possibilities  using yellow as the dominant color. A dominant color helps determine what the rest of the palette, or harmony will be. Determining what harmony you choose depends on your subject matter.


Above is an older drawing of mine using orange as a dominant color, using a simple harmony. Orange and blue are the complementary colors, and yellow-orange and yellow are the two analogous colors used.


For the current assignment, I sliced up some yellow squash and placed them on a mirror, so that I could use their reflections as part of the composition. I placed a strong light source on the still life so that I could see a variety of values. Remember that like black and white drawing, drawing with color must show a variety of value in order to portray a convincing form in space.


I’ve started my drawing, paying attention to using all of the colors in my harmony to make darker values, create interesting shadows, and develop a believable background space. I use colors with cooler temperature for the background spaces, and warmer for the foreground. (Cool colors recede, warm advance). I “sneak” all four colors a little bit everywhere, in order to unify the composition, so that areas will not look “flat” or like cut-out shapes.


Here are some of my students working on their drawings.


Nice work everyone! It has been a challenging opportunity to learn new ways to perceive combining and layering different color combinations and spacial configurations. The class this term really rose to the occasion. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s