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Color Systems from a former paint maker and current artist

  • Color Systems from a former paint maker and current artist

    Posted by Drawing America on June 4, 2022 at 7:57 am

    The following is a reply from our friend, artist, Sharilyn Neidhardt. Sharilyn is a Brooklyn based artist who ran a paint making business for many years. You can see Sharilyn’s work at her website.

    Let us know if you find this useful.

    “So there’s actually a simple reason why I can’t get behind color systems (besides the fact that I’m temperamental unsuited to them): I’ve never seen a system which adequately accounts for the physical properties of pigments.

    Some pigments stain very strongly! Others are more subtle. Some are opaque, some totally transparent, others are in between. Some colors make gorgeous, barely perceptible glazes and others are heavy enough to build with. Some pigments start to “gray out” with the tiniest addition of white, others can get loaded with titanium to 50% and retain the basic color. And every pigment is different. Some of the older pigments can vary quite a bit based on how they’re ground – ultramarine and raw umber come to mind.

    This is even true for other color processes like inks and dyes. I used to color correct for printing and one has to know to take magenta out of the dark areas and that cyan is weaker than the other 4 colors, for example.

    But the differences are highlighted most in the processes where we’re closest to the pigments like oil and watercolor painting. I feel so strongly about this! Each pigment has its own personality to me, they talk to me, we’re *friends*.

    Obviously (!) any system that works for you is the system to use. Munsell has never been my friend. But nickel azo yellow is my friend. Cerulean is my friend. Ultramarine pink is my friend.

    Love talking about art with you. So glad we are friends!So there’s actually a simple reason why I can’t get behind color systems (besides the fact that I’m temperamental unsuited to them): I’ve never seen a system which adequately accounts for the physical properties of pigments.

    Some pigments stain very strongly! Others are more subtle. Some are opaque, some totally transparent, others are in between. Some colors make gorgeous, barely perceptible glazes and others are heavy enough to build with. Some pigments start to “gray out” with the tiniest addition of white, others can get loaded with titanium to 50% and retain the basic color. And every pigment is different. Some of the older pigments can vary quite a bit based on how they’re ground – ultramarine and raw umber come to mind.

    This is even true for other color processes like inks and dyes. I used to color correct for printing and one has to know to take magenta out of the dark areas and that cyan is weaker than the other 4 colors, for example.

    But the differences are highlighted most in the processes where we’re closest to the pigments like oil and watercolor painting. I feel so strongly about this! Each pigment has its own personality to me, they talk to me, we’re *friends*.

    Obviously (!) any system that works for you is the system to use. Munsell has never been my friend. But nickel azo yellow is my friend. Cerulean is my friend. Ultramarine pink is my friend.

    Love talking about art with you. So glad we are friends!”

    Drawing America replied 8 months ago 1 Member · 1 Reply
  • 1 Reply
  • Drawing America

    Organizer
    June 4, 2022 at 9:44 am

    I am not sure if folks know, but I am also an oil painter.

    I have always resisted color systems as a formality but also embraced them for practical reasons.

    My mind works with about 10 – 12 colors fairly well. Anymore than that and there are diminishing returns.

    The first sort of “system” I used was the palette suggested by Richard Schmid in the book Alla Prima. BTW, this is one of the best books on oil painting ever written and 100% worth studying. He recommends 12 colors, I ended up using about 8 of them. As Sharilyn mentions above, the pigments of some colors are not my friends, namely any color that is transparent.

    Today, I use the Munsell system in a way. I use the 10 pigments suggest in that book to make a color wheel. This seems to be complex enough to open up a magical world of choices while being simple enough for me to remember and use.

    I have also been working on lots of monochrome watercolor paintings with just Ivory Black after being shamed by friends for using Neutral Tint.

    Simon

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