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Color: Red

As a matter of full

disclosure, I’m a colorblind painter. I’ve mentioned this before, so I will address the elephant in the room. I am red green color blind. There are three types, red green is the most common and I believe it’s passed down from the mother’s genes. My mother was an artist, too. Thanks mom!


So as I said before in another post, that’s a good thing; because, value is more important than hue in painting. By the way, I can see red and green, I just don’t differentiate the subtleties well. The way I describe it is an orange windsock in a green field. They are the same value, equiluminant. I won’t see it, but if you point it out, I can. Not so much the pinks and peaches of a sunset or the subtle purple of a thistle, though. Oh and I can wear a brown sock and a green sock without noticing.


This is getting a bit long on background... so suffice to say, rods... in the retina are too close together and there is phase interference or something along those lines. I paint in bright colors. Or I did.


One of my painting breakthroughs was desaturating the colors by mixing them, dulling them down, called graying them. Most of nature is much less saturated than I think. But there are like 4 bazillion colors so... one skill to painting is called compression. While white paint is dull compared to light in the real world, so painting the real world is a much narrower bandwidth. See my blog on Muncell and the color wheel.


What I really came here to talk about is color. There are three basic aspects to color, four according to some, twelve if you include the nuances like brighter, lighter, darker and duller, let’s just get that out of the way... tint is adding white, tone is graying down the chroma (duller) and shading is adding black. So you shade down, tone down (same value) and tint up. A high key painting is maybe high chroma or intensity, not just lighter. You can’t have a high key tonalist painting though, I don’t think, maybe, but I digress.


The three basic characteristics of color are hue, value, and intensity or chroma. The fourth is temperature. Basically, yellow can be darker than green (just add white)... that’s value. Yellow can be cooler than green, that’s temperature. Temperature is relative to the colors around it... (hot blue?). Yellow can be duller than green, that’s chroma, and yellow is not green, that is hue.


I read about a limited color pallet tonight for painting flesh tones. 3 colors... actually there are a couple of them but three is like the bottom limit. The one I like is white, blue and umber. The one I heard about was yellow, violet and blue (no white 😱). And then there is Rembrandt and Zorn... white, red and black with yellow, that’s four colors though. The primary limited pallet includes blue... five: red, yellow, blue, with black and white. The double primary pallet has both a warm and a cool of each primary... that’s eight colors. The secondary colors: orange, green and purple can be mixed from the primaries. So why are there 106 colors of black and 250 of red, thankfully maybe not that many paint tube colors of black... but wait! colors are numbered according to their chemical composition... lead white PW6, zinc white PW4, that’s paint white number 4. Maybe there are 105 things out of which to make black.


I don’t or rarely use black paint on my pallet, preferring to mix it out of blue and umber, or red, green, blue and umber. Umber is a blown, called and earth tone, because it comes from ground brown rocks. It’s naturally occurring and is an Iron oxide. Let’s talk about iron oxide... it’s red, rust. It’s the most common compound in the earths crust. It’s why barns are painted red. And it’s so plentiful because stars created lots of it. Maybe I should have called this blog post Black, or Red... or Purple.


Speaking of stars, a night painting is called a nocturne. If the source of light is in the painting it’s a luminary painting. Painting skies at night is about color, and the lack there off. I actually use purple to paint night skies but dusk is more blue grayed with orange... burnt sienna, it’s compliment. There is a comet in the sky, too, visible to the naked eye, Neowise, I think... next time it will be back is like 6,000 years. Humans may be gone by then, but Iron Oxide will still be around. I edited the title.

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