Sunday, August 16, 2015

Recipes for gorgeous greys

Daisies and Water
30 x 30
I've been on a technology hiatus this summer, painting, gardening, and relishing the short, intense summer - despite its hail storms and heat waves.  It's been a treat to be unplugged and to wait until the time seemed right to start looking at the computer again (yes, I actually mean Facebook, that great sucking abyss of irresistible video links and great paintings).  So I'm diving back in with a blog about greys because today is the first grey day in a long while.

There are lots of tempting tube greys on the paint display rack, but I prefer to mix my own from the primaries plus white.  That gives endless permutations and makes a livelier colour space for the eye to explore.  

My palette contains warm and cool variations of each of the primaries plus a few earth colours and a selection of whites.  Here's a list of the pigments that are my mainstays.  I sometimes add a novel colour like viridian, cad yellow deep, or Indian yellow, but this list shows the workhorses:

Cad red light
Alizarin permanent
Cad yellow medium
Cad lemon
Ultramarine blue
Cerulean Hue or phthalo blue
Yellow ochre
Raw umber
transparent red iron oxide
Titanium white
Flake white hue/replacement
Zinc white (to be mixed with titanium; it's too brittle to use on its own)

This list makes an endless and amazing variety of colours and those can all be used to make luminous greys.  For example, if I'm trying to make a warm, reddish grey, I would probably think of cad red light as my foundation colour (alizarin if I'm making a cool, reddish grey), and explore all of the triads that it makes plus varying amounts of white to make it light enough to read the grey:

Cad red light + cad yellow med + ult blue + white
cad red light + cad lemon + ult blue + white
cad red light + yellow ochre + ult blue+ white
cad red light +cad yellow med + cerulean + white
cad red light + cad lemon + cerulean + white
cad red light + yellow ochre + cerulean + white

That's 6 different greys, just in the warm, reddish field.  I could do the same with each of the warm and cool primaries as well as the earth tones which are, themselves, just low chroma primaries.  

But that's not the only way to make grey.  Adding white to any colour will automatically grey it.  Try putting some white in one of the cadmiums and you'll see how it loses its intense chroma.  This is particularly noticeable with cool, opaque titanium.

And then there are the earth pigments which, when added to high chroma pigments can also grey them. One of my favourite earth pigments for this purpose is yellow ochre.  If I have a yellow that's screaming too loudly in the painting, I'll add a bit of yellow ochre to it to dial it down a notch.  TRO mixed into cad red light will grey and darken it; adding a bit of white will give you a whole new sophisticated greyed red.  

So I avoid the whole grey section in the art store which saves me heaps of money.  And those savings can be applied to buying more brushes - my biggest weakness!

Happy painting!


Nigel Fletcher said...

Hi Ingrid

Just looked through all your website and found that I really like your work, I' a painter and trying to achieve the fresheness and looseness you paint with. Really lovely work especially the still lifes.

Ingrid Christensen said...

I'm honoured, Nigel! This is a great compliment from such a skilled painter. Your work is lovely.

Happy painting!

lindHuntstudio said...

Thank you for this informative post.....

Ingrid Christensen said...

You're most welcome! I hope it launches a bunch of grey experiments.

Julie Ford Oliver said...

Your art is amazing and inspirational. Thanks for the excellent reminder on mixing the ever so important grays.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Julie! These words mean a lot coming such an amazing and thoughtful artist.