Color Fundamentals/Oil, 1.1

In this series of Color Fundamentals we are going to explore how to use color harmonies in a similar way to those we used with colored pencil and pastel. Each lesson will explain how to create a form in space using oil paint, and a selected harmony. Harmonies will show increasingly complex mixtures of colors and their values, as well as compositional uses of each individual color selection. Then entire sequence of lessons in Level 1 is 6. Then we will move on to Level 2. All paintings are completed on an 8 x 10″ canvas, using oil paints with a three part solvent mixture: 1/3 linseed oil, 1/3 damar varnish, and 1/3 turpenoid. I will include 3 values of gray in the palette.

This first lesson uses the most simplified color arrangement: one color, or a monochromatic harmony. I’ve chosen to paint a clear glass with orange colored water, with a spot light on it. I have students draw a quick value sketch in vine charcoal or graphite.



I will first mix up some values of the orange, which I’ve created using cadmium red deep and cadmium yellow light. I’ll mix in some greys to create neutrals, and map out the initial sketch on the canvas.


I’m looking to “block in” the dark value shapes, leaving the white of the canvas as the light values that I see on the still life.


I want to build up a nice puzzle piece organization of value shapes, that are fairly general, or simplified. I will add color after this above stage. Later, as the painting progresses in this three hour time limit, I will add details, and go back and refine edges, light and form. Here’s Roberta, one of my students, working on her painting:


I like the way she has her initial sketch right alongside the painting, so that she can refer to the values in black and white. Here I am back at mine, adding more color and values:


Still keeping with just the orange, the values slightly change as I add different values of gray. I add details, and reflections of the bumpy glass, and then call it a night. Next time we’ll work on a complementary color harmony.


For homework, students can repeat the assignment using a monochromatic harmony, but with a different still life and color choice. It’s amazing how much range you can get with just one color!

Happy painting.


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