Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Color Wheet Basics

Although most of you have had some exposure to the color wheel, I'd like to take this opportunity to review some basics. I'll only cover the six main colors: primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, purple [violet]). But first, let's talk about Sir Isaac Newton. Yes, the guy who was sitting under an apple tree one day and discovered the concept of gravity. Along with watching apples drop, he also created the first color wheel. In 1666 Newton split white sunlight into the colors red, orange, yellow, green, cyan and blue within a prisim, combining both ends and then forcing a progression of the different colors. He also equated colors to music (so did Wassily Kandinsky ). Notice on the wheel he had listed the associated music notes. As stated above, there are six colors on a simple color wheel. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. These three colors cannot be created from other colors. They are, in fact, used to mix other colors--from secondary colors to hundreds of others. When I first got into watercolors, I bought lots and lots of colors, thinking that I'd use them to "create" the perfect colors I was searching for. That's true. Today you can get thousands of colors from different vendors. Just with Daniel Smith, a local vendor in Seattle, you can select from over 200 colors. While some media, such as pastels and colored pencils, lend themselves to the use of less mixing of colors on a palette, others like watercolor, oil and acrylic paints can be done almost exclusively with the three primary colors. Secondary colors are those that are mixed using the primary colors: blue and yellow create green, yellow and red create orange and red and blue create violet. It should be noted that when mixing these colors, you may not get the exact match that you are looking for right from the start. Sometimes it take a bit of experimentation and using like colors (warm to warm or cool to cool). Complimentary colors (those that are opposite each other on the color wheel) are very neat. Although some people warn you to resist mixing them (you'll hear, "They turn into mud."), but done right these colors can in fact create wonderful browns and grays. So what are these colors and how well do they help us in our painting and drawings? First of all the colors are red and green (Christmas), yellow and purple (Easter) blue and orange (football team). You can sometimes create outstanding pictures by placing these colors side by side in your composition. Here are some examples: