Tag Archives: cadmium red light

Painting Titles

For the last two weeks I have been writing about metaphor and how a creative work can have different meanings to different people.

Coincidentally, several days ago I posted an announcement for my upcoming exhibit at the New Mexico Cancer Center on Facebook. The announcement also contained this painting.

Ann Hart Marquis- how painting titles influence a viewer's response

The Ravine, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches, acrylic and charcoal on birch cradle.

I gave it no title on my Facebook post and said nothing about it. Within two minutes my friend Robin Sanders, an ex-Marine who lives in Texas, made this comment about the painting. He obviously didn’t give it much thought, he just pulled an association from his life.

“The struggle is real for these surviving five lone trees. Set among the desolate but green hills, they are what’s remaining… SURVIVORS.”

This is not what I was thinking as I painted the scene, but because of this young man’s experiences, he came up with a different metaphor than I would. He probably would title this painting “The Survivors.”

This painting is part of a series that I did at my artist residency in Healdsburg, CA in June. I could have called it Hill Oaks, or Looking East, but I chose to look at the painting from a different perspective. My metaphor? Perhaps looking into the future, being in awe at all of the open space or wondering what was beyond my sight.


Which brings me to painting titles. With some paintings, the title reflects the metaphor that I am trying to project. Some paintings just get a descriptive title. In any case, I think that titles or art work deserve a little thought or introspection. I don’t title a painting until after it is finished because I don’t know where it is going or how I will know when it is finished.

In Lisa Pressman’s art blog  she says that painting titles “are crucial—not only for the viewer but also for myself. They are a suggestion, a signifier, an open door, a thread, the light: to a way to approach the image.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Do painting titles influence you?

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.