Category Archives: Color

Irish Color

We just got back from Ireland. I am full of images of Irish color, cliffs, water, trees and too many other sights to name. I just soaked it all in. Although I didn’t take my paints, one of the things on which I concentrated was color. It was indeed so green. They were vivid, intense greens.

photo describing Irish Green

Irish Green

I have a tendency to paint with a more muted palette, so I am not sure yet how I will translate these images onto the canvas. I plan to start trying this week.

picture of Irish Green

Irish Green

If I was still at a place where I wanted to paint landscape, Ireland was the place to see. But I am an abstract landscape painter, so it is all a mystery to me at this time because I haven’t started to think about mixing paint. There is still a part of me that is processing all that I experienced there.

photo showing Irish Yellow Green

Irish Yellow Green

Ireland was magical and spiritual for me. Part of the reason that I found it so compelling was the beauty, but since we visited many megalithic sites, I was captivated by the mysteries of how and where people lived and expressed their creativity 5-6 thousand years ago.

photo showing Irish Red color.

Irish Red

Ireland is also being overwhelmed with invasive rhododendrons. Since they are so lovely, people don’t seem to mind these invaders.

photo of Irish Rhododendrons

Irish Rhododendrons

So you may be able to tell that I have no idea what I will paint when I am completely back from Ireland.

Chromatic Grays

Why do so many painters like to use chromatic grays?

It’s not just because they are esthetically reserved. There is a scientific and physiological reason. Chromatic grays are more comfortable to look at.

Bright, saturated colors that are not grayed at all can be almost jarring to see. They can be exciting for short periods of time, but their intensity is not for everyone. Our eyes and brains need to rest from them; to compensate for them by optically creating a less intense color.

One of the easy ways to achieve lovely gray mixtures is not to use blacks or premixed grays but, to mix color by using a small amount of a color’s complement.

A perhaps more interesting way to get less intense colors is to use color combinations, specifically the three primary colors on the color wheel of red, yellow and blue. For example, in this painting all of the colors are a combination of pyro red, cadmium yellow medium and ultramarine blue, plus white. The sky is a good example of what can be done with the three primary colors. The dark black lines are charcoal.

Ann Hart Marquis-Sandia Mountains-chromatic grays

Sandia Mountains, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 10 x 10 inches, 2015.

A favorite combination of some painters is ultramarine blue and yellow ochre and added permanent alizarin crimson to deepen and mute the color to the estimated color temperature and value needed. The result of this method can be a rich-bodied gray that seems to have more depth.

According to Daily Artist, “both Paul Cézanne and Giorgio Morandi used grays in an exquisite way by making wonderful transitions between the pure colors and the lights and darks.” I particularly like Morandi’s use of subtle of color.

Morandi Still Live, 1943

Morandi Still Life 1943, oil on canvas.

Do chromatic grays appeal to you?

Chromatic Black

If an artist does not want to use black in a painting, an interesting and easy way to substitute black paint is to create a color that is almost as dark as black. These colors are usually called chromatic black.  Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel) can be combined together like, violet and yellow, or red and green, or blue and orange. These are easy colors to mix, but they are not always the most interesting.

Almost any combination of two dark colors, one warm, the other cool, will produce a dark, usually attractive color. Ultramarine and burnt umber, Prussian blue and burnt sienna, or almost any dark blues with earth red-browns will give interesting results. You can get a blue-black by mixing thalo blue and cadmium red light. The kind of dark color you get depends on the ratio of each color paint that is mixed. Golden Paint provides an interesting way to experiment with colors electronically.

Mixing your own variations, creates a color that is dark, but still adds tone and mood and consistency to your painting. For this painting I wanted a rich strong “black”, so I mixed thalo green with alizarin crimson.

Ann Hart Marquis-Late Bloomers-Chromatic blackc

Late Bloomers, acrylic on paper, 11 x 11 x inches, 2015.

However, according to Gamblin Studio, the overuse of chromatic darks mixing can be a problem. Color mixtures can easily become “dirty” looking. This also points to a limitation of chromatic Black: while mixing colors together is an excellent way to create combinations for dark color, it is not as good as Ivory or Mars Black when a true black is needed in a painting.

Colors can also be grayed without being made to look “dirty.” When a chromatic black is added to white you can get some beautiful grays. If these grays are too blue, for example, simply add a little more of an earth color to the original mixture, which will make the grays look more gray.

I have even created my own “black” and feeling it was not dark enough, I added a touch of Mars Black. How about you? Do you have a preference for a particular dark color?

Using Black Paint

I mentioned in my last post that I frequently like using black paint in my work. When I do use black, I don’t always use it to gray down a color, but sometimes I like the effect when I do. Some painting teachers will tell students to never use black because it is too intense.

Ann Hart Marquis-Temperamental-using black paint

Tempermental, acrylic and ink on canvas, 14 x 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches, 2015.

Some think that black pigment kills the color and should never ever be used for darkening colors or in shadows. In addition, it is said that the artist should mix their own black paint, and colors should be darkened with their complementaries.

The idea actually goes back to the Impressionists and the statements that Monet made about the use of pure black. He maintained that pure black is ” death of shadows” and that it dulls colors. It was believed that he abandoned the use of pure black completely although now through the use of modern science we find out that it’s not true. Monet obviously did not study the works of Manet, Matisse or Goya whose use of black is dramatic and compelling.

La danse-Matisse

La danse-Matisse

There is definitely some black pigment in Monet paintings. The stigma that attached itself to the pure black paint survived, however, and unfortunately it is still present till this day.

There is no absolute rule in painting for when premixed black is used versus a hand-mixed black. It depends on the artist’s preference and the intended visual effect. For instance, if I want a certain warm/dark brown black, then I would mix until I arrived at that shade. If, however I wanted a full/rich black, then I would select a premixed tube.

Any thoughts on the color black or painting with it?

Life in Pink

The image that came up for me in Paris has stayed with me. “La Vie en Rose” (life in pink), which basically means seeing life through rose colored glasses and having no regrets.

So thinking it may be difficult for me to change from my usual preferred palette of red-orange and blue-green, I got out all of my reds, the unbleached titanium and the titanium white and just started putting different combinations of pink and red on the canvas. I used alizarin crimson, quinacridone red, pyro red and cadmium red light in all kinds of mixtures.

I can’t think of Edith Piaf who sang “La Vie en Rose” without thinking of all the pain in her life, so I had to put in some black. I like to use black in my paintings because I think it is dramatic. Like some painters, I could have mixed my own dark color, but I prefer all that I can do with black.

Ann Hart Marquis-Life in Pink

Life in Pink, acrylic, watercolor, and charcoal on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

In color psychology, pink is a sign of hope. It is a positive color inspiring warm and comforting feelings, a sense that everything will be okay.

According to color psychology, “a combination of red and white, pink contains the need for action of red, helping it to achieve the potential for success and insight offered by white. It is the passion and power of red softened with the purity, openness and completeness of white. The deeper the pink, the more passion and energy it exhibits.”

I enjoyed doing this painting and I have started on the second similar painting.

I would love your critique. Would you do anything different?

Interference Paint

Lately I have been experimenting with new ways of applying paint and with new types of paint. Last week I did a painting using an interference color. This particular type of paint enabled me to paint with colors that produce visual effects based on two variables: the viewer’s angle in regard to the colors and how the light hits the pigment.

In other words, when viewed from different angles the paint appears differently. Painted over a dark color you can see one color, paint the same color over a light background and you see the complimentary color.

Golden Interference paint

Golden Interference paint

Over white- or light-colored surfaces the Interference color is more subtle and the flip effect is more obvious, over black or dark surfaces the color is more obvious and the flip is less obvious.  Interference paints are not new. My artist friend Gail Suttelle has been using them for at least fifteen years.

“Most interference paint is made from transparent materials that come from titanium coated mica flakes rather than traditional pigments. As the light hits the mica flakes, it either bounces off reflecting the labelled color, or passes through to another layer and bounces out at a different refractive index displaying the complementary color.” I used gold on the following painting. If tilted at a different angle, it seems blue.

Ann Hart Marquis-abstract 4-interference paint

Abstract 4, mixed media on paper, 11 x 15, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

The effect is visually similar to a thin coat of oil floating on water.

As I experiment, it seems the things to know about interference paints are:
1. They are very translucent.
2. The particular color effect is angle dependent.
3. The best color effect is with a thin application over a dark valued color, such as black.
4. You can blend them with any translucent acrylic medium to create interference glazes.

Experimenting with this paint was interesting, but I don’t know how frequently I will use it.

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?

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?

Acrylic Painting Fix

Sometimes when I have finished a painting there is a little annoying doubt that says “are you sure this is finished? Are you sure it needs no revision?” I recently had such an experience with a painting that I completed in the spring of last year. In the process of organizing my studio I came across this painting. I really knew it had problems when I hung it on the wall. I just didn’t want to admit it.

It is called “Patches of Paradise,” and in reviewing the piece I decided that was an appropriate title because it seemed very patchy to me.  Also, the bottom half did not seem to be as integrated as the top half of the painting. And what were those trees doing in the foreground? It needed an entire acrylic painting fix.

Before applying paint to this canvas I had applied light molding paste which gives the surface a very textured terrain. My problem was that I let the terrain dictate the composition on the lower half of the painting. Not a good idea. I had also used colors that were too intense for almost all of the painting.

Original Patches of Paradise

Original Patches of Paradise, 2014

This week I decided to tackle the painting and see if I could remedy the problem. I covered the unattractive terrain with thick paint then applied a more toned down palette to the necessary areas. I also made subtle changes to some of the upper half of the painting. I removed the trees.

Ann Hart Marquis-Patches of Paradise-acrylic painting fix

Patches of Paradise, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 x 1.5 inches, 2014/2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I would like feedback on my changes or any comment about the painting itself. Am I finished this time? Does it now need a name change?