To paint a subject of predominantly one colour gives us the chance to observe subtle changes of hue.

For this session I set up two still lives on either side of the studio, one red and one blue. The first stage is to paint an acrylic wash over the support with appropriate blue or red (depending on the still life chosen)

While this is drying, we can work on the palette , carefully observing and mixing the colours we see. I find it essential to mix colour with a knife for the initial colour mixing. I use a large plate of glass, 60x70cm. Students rarely give themselves enough space on their palettes and the mixtures quickly become muddy.

Try not to be in too much of a hurry. Begin by identifying and mixing the main variety of colours that you see. Keep these as individual little mounds on your palette, then when you are ready to start transfer them onto the hand palette. As you go on, and the colour changes you observe become increasingly intricate, most of the mixing will be done with a brush.

The more closely you observe, the more variations you see with in one coloured object. So much can be learnt by working from one predominant colour, we can take red for example and see not only how it’s tone differs, going from dark to light, but also where the colour moves towards orange on one side of the spectrum and towards violet on the other. The substance of objects also dictates how much they absorb light and how much they reflect their colour onto surrounding objects.

Touches of complimentary colours, green into red for example, dulls the brightness of the colour.

Placing colour on top of the previously red tinted support can be quite surprising. A good way of approaching this exercise is to identify the colour areas which relate to the bright background tint on your canvas, then leave these areas untouched. Colour that is less vibrantly red, can appear to be almost green, but bit by bit as we build up the spots of colour across the painting, the objects begin to emerge.

A l’atelier
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