Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Color Purple

As I write this newsletter I am on board the Celebrity Century cruise liner. I was recently invited to join the roster of teachers for the Celebrity and the Cunard cruise lines.  I am teaching watercolor—yes, you read correctly, watercolor. Anyone who knows me knows how I’m not a major watercolorist. I like to sketch or draw with a splash of watercolor, even though I enjoy the medium. So when I was approached for this opportunity, I had to step up, take my brush in hand and create several lesson plans for the beginner.

My first class was yesterday. I had 50 people in attendance and only one hour to teach some basic watercolor techniques. I’m proud to say everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. We painted Orcas breaching from the sea.

Today I taught another class on how to draw the Alaskan state flower: the forget-me-not. What fun we all had. Everyone did great washs and splendid texture work. Wow! It’s amazing what people can do when just given a little direction!! Most of these folks have never picked up a brush.

I will teach two more classes and hopefully they will be as successful as the first two. It was a challenge to design a plan, but it always helps when you have students who are willing to be guinea pigs (thank you all) and a PowerPoint presentation to make things run smoothly.

The Color Purple
So now on to the subject at hand: the color purple. I must admit, I always thought purple and violet were basically the same color. After all, we all played with purple crayons, picked violet flowers, sucked on purple lollipops. But alas, I am wrong. While they may seem to look alike, they aren’t. First of all, purple is a mixed color of blue and red, and I believe it is the most difficult to mix. Violet on the other hand is a spectral color; that is, it appears in the visible light spectrum:  rainbow or prism.

So what does this mean? Will it affect your paintings or color drawings? Not really. One suggestion I have read is this: violet is usually a bluish purple and purple is a reddish violet. This may sound like double-talk but I think it helps me visually. To achieve these colors, one can mix various combinations of blue and red but that’s where we can run into trouble.

I remember my first time trying to create purple. I thought it would be easy. Just take a little red, add a little blue and voila! I would have the color. Well, it’s not the easy. If I add too much blue to the red, I have, what I call, a midnight blue (very dark). On the other hand, if I add too much red, I  find myself making a reddish brown. 

What’s more, I need to mix the “right” paints.  In other words, I can’t just pick up any red or any blue and get a perfect purple. For instance alizarin is a cool red, leaning toward blue. Add this red to blue and that’s when you get that dark blue. Pick the warm cadmium red, which leans toward yellow, add blue and the result will be what’s called mud or a reddish brown.

So what should an artist do to create purple? I usually work with just three colors—the primaries—but I do have purple in my palette as well. Sometimes it’s just too much trouble to get the right mixture.  So I make life easy on myself and simply go out and buy a purple like Dioxazine purple (PV37). But if I want to mix colors to create purple, I usually mix magenta with ultramarine blue.  These two partners make a nice rich purple.

As I stated above, I usually purchase Dioxazine purple (PV37). You can find violets already mixed under the following names:
  • ·         Colbalt violet (PV14)
  • ·         Ultramarine violet (PV15)
  • ·         Maganese violet (PV16)
  • ·         Dioxazine violet (PV37)

All of these have different light fastness, values, staining qualities. I have a couple in my paint collection. You may want to try all of them or some.

Next month I’d like to return to the study of artists, beginning with Jackson Pollock, one of my favorite American Expressionists. We just recently studied him in my acrylics class on Thursday evenings  and it was so much fun!! I can’t believe what cool paintings we created and what wonderful freedom we all felt.

Fall Classes and Workshops
The Visual Journaling class this month is scheduled for Sunday, September 16th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. As always, just bring your sketchbook (90# or heavier). I supply all the collage paper, paints, brushes, markers, glue and found items.  Light refreshments will be served.  $20

The balance of my classes and PCC workshops are as follows (these are listed here but not on my website—they will not be listed there until later next week).

Studio Classes
Fall session begins week of September 16th, ends October 21st
$70 per class, per six-week session, at my studio in Tigard
To register for the following classes, please email me at

Tuesday Evenings            7 pm to 9 pm
Drawing in Living Color
Come join us while we learn about color theory while drawing in pen and ink with watercolor wash, pastels and colored pencil. Limited to 12 students, most materials supplied.

Wednesday Mornings  10 a.m. to Noon
Sketch’n on the Go
We will visit various sketching venues in the Portland area on a weekly basis until the weather becomes inclement, then class will be held in my studio in Tigard. Locations will be announced next Friday, September 14th on the class blog:

Thursday Evenings 7pm to 9pm
Paint like an Impressionist
We will cover three Impressionism artists this session, beginning with Monet. Bring your paints, canvases and enthusiasm. Supply list upon registration.

Portland Community College One-Day Workshops
All workshops are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To register for workshops go to
Saturday, September 29              
Basic Drawing
PCC Campus/Sylvania   
Saturday, October 13                     
Drawing with Pastels                                                                    
PCC Sylvania campus

Friday, October 26                          
Drawing with Pen and Ink
Tigard Senior Center  

Saturday, October 27     
Botanical Drawing with Pen and Ink                       
PCC Sylvania campus     

Saturday, November 3                  
Acrylic Painting 101
PCC Sylvania campus 

Saturday, November 17                               
Colored Pencil
PCC Sylvania campus     

Saturday, December 1                  
Travel Sketching
PCC/Sylvania campus  

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