Color Bias

The look of paint when it comes out of the tube can be very different to how it reacts when we start painting with it. This is especially true with darker colors like blue and red. The lighter colors such as yellow often behave much as we would expect.

When we think about painting with the primary colors red, blue and yellow, we have to dig a little deeper. Small amounts of other colors are hidden within each paint pigment. This gives each color a color bias.

The Color Wheel is Can Be Misleading

The color wheel is an excellent tool.  It is handy to have one in our studio for quick reference. I use mine often because remembering all the complementary colors when I am starting a painting is something that I am not interested in doing.

If we take color theory at face value, however, we could be in for frustration when trying to mix the color we want.

What is Color Bias?

Almost all colors have a bias towards another color. For example, blue pigment can have a red bias or a green bias in comparison to another blue pigment.

Color theory states that we can mix all three secondary colors with the three primaries, red, blue and yellow. However, this will only work if a pure primary color is used. Pure pigments are materials that are usually mineral based and are taken from the earth. Examples are lapis lazuli (blue) and iron oxide (red).

We can’t find a pure red paint, for example, that will make both a good orange (when mixed with yellow) and a good purple (when mixed with blue). This is because the red will have a bias towards either orange or purple due to the chemical impurities found within commercial pigments.

Ann Hart Marquis-Floral #1

Floral #1, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6 x 1.5 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis-color bias

In the above painting I wanted to use the complementary colors of red-orange and blue-green. I chose Golden cobalt teal and Liquitex cadmium red light. I chose this particular red because it is a red-orange right out of the tube. It is made up of naphthol AS-OL, arylide yellow and titanium oxide.

So a red that has an orange bias (cadmium red) will mix a bright orange, but will not mix a bright purple. A blue that has a red bias such as ultra-marine blue would not be good to make a bright green, but it would be good to make a more muted green.

The secret to effective color mixing is understanding the different pigment qualities of paints so we can match the color we want every time.


Mixing Green

One of the basic rules of color theory is that blue mixed with yellow (or yellow with blue) produces green. And it’s true. What needs emphasizing though is that the green you get depends not only on how much of each you use in the mix, the proportion of blue to yellow, but which blue pigment and which yellow pigment you use.

Green in nature demands variety. Few things are more problematic to a landscape or botanical painting than a monotony of green. That is why there are more premixed green tubes of paint for sale than almost any other color.

In the painting below, I used ultramarine blue & cadmium yellow light for my greens. Because I was painting a scene from nature and I wanted my greens to be somewhat realistic, I used various combinations of green tones, tints and shades of my mixed green. Those differences can be seen particularly in the background trees.

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Windsor House Pond-mixing green

Chalk Hill Windsor House Pond, acrylic on birch panel, 20 x 24 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Integrating a Painting

I also used tints, tones and shades of ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow light for the water. I didn’t introduce a blue for the sky that was different for the water. The entire blue and green in the painting is some combination of ultramarine blue.

The yellow mid-ground is a mixture of cadmium yellow light and cadmium red light. I also used cadmium red light for highlight effect that can be seen throughout the painting.

Neutralizing Green

When mixing green, another way to make it more suggestive of nature is to neutralize it. If you’ve never added red or purple to a green, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t produce a vibrant green, but rather works to neutralize it, to shift it more towards a brown-green or grey-green. This mixing possibility is great for landscapes.

Do you have any favorite greens or interesting ways to create green?

Painting Process

“Painting is a process of discovery. Trial and error. A search for self.”
I can’t remember where I found this quote, but it describes my painting process.

I try to choose subjects that make me ask, “What’s possible?” It’s not about how to best copy what I see. It is about stirring up ideas and possibilities. What moves me about the subject? What do I have to say about it that is unique?

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Lake North-painting process

Chalk Hill Lake North, acrylic and charcoal on birch panel, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

When working from photos, I play with the reference image before I decide that I want to paint it. Sometimes I try cropping it in different ways or I think how I could change the colors that I see to make a more interesting painting. Some people use filters in photo editing software to create different effects and see what gets triggered.

Once I have decided on a subject or scene that I want to paint, I start with a very loose sketch. After I start creating the composition, I stand back from it often. It is easy to get sucked into the ‘doing’ and forget to create space for your muse to offer input. I need that contemplative distance to connect with what’s wanting to happen as the painting unfolds. This is not a place of knowing, it is a place of listening and seeing what the painting needs.

When I am stuck, instead of worrying that a wrong move might wreck the painting, I just try something. To me, painting is all about problem solving. It is about what works and what doesn’t. Originally the above painting stopped here (below) because at the time, I didn’t  know what it needed.

ann-hart-marquis-chalk-hill-lake-north, unfinsh

After I think that I am finished with a painting, I put it somewhere that is easy for me to view. After a day or two I may decide that it is indeed finished. Other times it tells me exactly what it needs to actually be ready to face my friends and collectors.

It is all a process like so many other things in life.

Sonoma County Paintings

While I was in California, it was difficult to not be inspired by almost everything I saw, especially when I was out of a city. I spent time letting memories from my childhood wash over me. I loved how Sonoma County felt. It was a pleasure to soak up the familiar fragrances, light and feel of the air.

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Ridge-sonoma county paintings

Chalk Hill Ridge, acrylic and charcoal on birch panel, 20 x 20 x 1.5 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I was particularly reminded of California poppies and brown rolling hills. I was drawn to the various shades of green and the reflections on the small lakes on the property. I had never painted a vineyard before and I enjoyed capturing the grape vines in their first stages of bearing fruit. Also importantly, I had never painted in California before. It was a wonderful opportunity for me.

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Lake South, sonoma county paintings

Chalk Hill Lake, South, acrylic and charcoal on birch panel, 20 x 20 x 1.5 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I am not sure when I will be back in California, but it was a “going home” experience for me and I have many memories from my time there as well as some new paintings. I did enjoy creating Sonoma County paintings for the first time.

Have you had the opportunity to go home after being gone for a very long time?

Artist Residency Completed

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Russian River-artist residency

Chalk Hill Russian River, acrylic on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I spent the last three weeks at an artist residency in Healdsburg, CA. The Chalk Hill Artist Residency is located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County on 250 acres of vineyard. It was a beautiful location and what made it especially lovely for me was that it is about 12 miles from where I grew up.

I stayed in an old 5-bedroom farm house complete with a covered front porch with spectacular views. I also had a large studio that looked out over a nearby pond. Since I was there alone, I had nothing to do but create, walk along the Russian River, read art books look for wildlife and meditate.

My only responsibility was to paint whatever I wanted. I choose to paint the landscape that surrounded me. I had never painted grape vines before or California Oaks. It was enjoyable for me to try to capture them both.

Ann Hart Marquis-Chalk Hill Oak-artist residency

Chalk Hill Oak, acrylic on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

There are many artist residency programs available both nationally and internationally. If you ever decide to pursue one, I hope that yours is as meaningful as mine.

Upcoming Artist Residency

In three days I will be leaving for my artist’s residency at Chalk Hill Artist Residency in Healdsburg, CA. The residency is housed on a 250 acre ranch and winery in Sonoma County, 15 miles from where I grew up.

Sonoma County

Sonoma County

Sonoma County is in a beautiful part of the state. It is grape growing country with rolling hills and miles of vineyards. I have very fond memories about the landscape, the feel of the atmosphere and the fragrance of the air.

Chalk Hill

Chalk Hill

My only obligation during the three-week residency is to paint what I want, when I want. I am taking eight medium-sized birch panels and four small canvases. I may finish all of those.

I am already starting to fantasize about what I will be seeing. In this recent painting, I was thinking about what the area may hold for me. I was envisioning green hills, manicured fields and golden poppies.

Ann Hart Marquis-California Deaming-artist residency

California Dreaming, acrylic on canvas, 14x18x.34 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

It will be interesting to see what I will paint first when I get there.

Abstract Landscapes Fix

Last summer in France I painted a series of abstract landscapes that were influenced by the panorama around me. Since the paintings were abstract, I took liberties with the landscape and terrain that I was observing.

When I am in the south of France, I have the good fortune to have one of my mentors Suzanne L’Hoste Snadecki available for critiques. When she saw my finished series she commented that she like them all except one.

Here is the one in which she found a problem.

Waiting in for Harvest-original

Waiting in for Harvest-original

Suzanne found the horizontal V lines in the middle of the painting too sharp. I said that I appreciated her opinion, but I like the painting the way it was.

A few weeks ago, after looking at that painting for some time, I found that it was making me uncomfortable and that Suzanne was right.

Ann hart Marquis-Waiting for Harvest-abstract landscape

Waiting for Harvest, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches, 2014. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I took out the harsh red lines in the middle of the painting, added more violet and added to the texture of the grass in the middle ground. I am now happy with it and I hope that Suzanne is too.

Warm/Cool Palette

My friend Sylvia is attracted to violets and yellow greens when she paints. I frequently paint with yellow/green, but rarely paint with violets. I decided to experiment.

I thought that I would do a painting based on the warm/cool palette of color theory. As you can see from this color wheel, colors can be divided into warm and cool.



I chose to use yellow/green and red/violet because they are complementary colors on the color wheel. They are opposite each other and therefore when used together they make for a vibrant and interesting painting.

Ann Hart Marquis-warm cool palette

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 x.75 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I started with tints, tones and shades of yellow/green and red/violet. This gave me a rather cool painting. I then added the warm yellow and a touch of red/orange to warm the scene.

Here is the finished painting. It does not have a title yet. Any suggestions?

Beginning Painting

My class at the University of New Mexico, Continuing Education, Painting for the Complete Beginner ended last week. Here are a few examples of the work that was done in class. All of the paintings were done in acrylic. Although this was a beginning painting class, you can see the work is quite imaginative and well done.

Wendy Peterson, 2015

Wendy Peterson, 2015

Don Koepke, 2015

Don Koepke, 2015

Don Koepke, 2105

Don Koepke, 2105

All of these paintings were done with the greatest care and diligence. It was such a pleasure to see students learn beginning techniques and then to watch them create such interesting and inspiring pieces. I hope that they all continue with their painting experience. They should. There certainly was talent in the group.

Joni Lebens , 2015

Joni Lebens, 2015

Corinne Armijo, 2015

Corinne Armijo, 2015









My next class starts in June, 2015, and I get to experience the fun of playing with color all over again. I hope you enjoy these images, as much as I have.

Joni Lebens, 2015

Joni Lebens, 2015

Abbey Ibrahim, 2015

Abbey Ibrahim, 2015

Under-Layer Painting

The concept of layers is something that I often think about. For example, people have many layers.  We are complicated. It is what makes us unique and interesting. Layers give each person their own individuality. I also like to think about the layers in my paintings which gives them more depth. I paint landscapes and when I think about them, I focus on the layers such as the earth, hills, rocks, trees and sky. It’s all these layers that give a landscape character and a story.

Under-Layer Painting

It always takes time to build layers regardless of where they originate. In painting, I like to begin with a particular color all over my white canvas. That layer will influence an added layer either directly or indirectly. I frequently can let the under-layer influence the color on top of it or I can let it actually come through the paint.

If I use a blue green tint for the sky, I may use that color other places in the painting, frequently covering most of it with more color. My paintings proceed in this manner.

I take time with my paintings, building up the layers allowing the colors to interact with each other. It gives the work depth and makes it unique. The underlying layers have a chance to come through and influence the scene.

By using the back-end of my brush, I can scratch out one layer to reveal another. These are like the scars in the painting which also tell a story. Or I can incorporate charcoal into an area and then use paint to set it, adding interesting darks to the composition.

Ann Hart Marquis-Vie Une Reve-under-layer painting

Vie-un Rêve (Life-a Dream), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5, 2012. ©Ann Hart Marquis

My painting,  Vie-un Rêve, is an example of using many layers. It would be very difficult for me to recreate this painting because the individual layers make the painting and help to tell a story.