Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mixing and sorting

left: palette colors used by Leonardo da Vinci
right: oil paint I mixed to match

above: oil paint I mixed to match
below: Hans Holbein palette

The book Living Colors: The Definitive Guide to Color Palettes Through the Ages is unique. For every piece of artwork represented on the left side of a page is a corresponding palette on the right. I used two of the palettes for my paint mixing exercise today. It was a fun challenge and one that I will repeat again. Artist friend Roxanne Clingman Colyer told me of her practice of matching paint store color chips by mixing oil paint to match. Her suggestion helped me remember this book and resulted in my practice today mixing color.

I loved the process of mixing color to match the palette swatches. I started with what I thought was the base color and then asked myself what else did I see. I would add that color and decide if it was enough or too much. What else needs to be added? Does it need to be warmer? Cooler? Darker? Lighter? Bluer? Redder? Duller? Brighter? Perfect questions that I should ask more often while I am painting.

And then, ...

A New Year Tradition! The annual clean out the flat file event! The paintings I don't immediately frame, I store in a flat file in my studio. At the end of the year one or two drawers are full of these paintings (this year I painted 225 paintings!) and on New Year's Day I sort them all out.

You can see some already in the trash. Not worth saving, not worth cleaning the paper and re-using it. TRASH! Then, on the top of the files you see three piles.

  • Pile #1 (the small pile on the left): pretty good, maybe put into a frame or enter in a show or contest.
  • Pile #2 (the center pile): needs something but might be pretty good with more work
  • Pile #3 (the large pile on the right): not so good, but the paper is worth saving!
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Today's date: 1-1-11. Wild!


Celeste Bergin said...

That match the color swatch idea seems like a fine one and I like your sort system. I have lots of paintings to deal with--I walk past them everyday! ---You are inspiring me to make some decisions and get on with it! Great work.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

The clean up always starts as an even-more-messy-for-a-while, but it's worth it to cut the clutter down. Glad to inspire you!

loriann said...

Hi Kvan,
Color palettes of the masters, sounds like an interesting books and matching is good practice. Congrats on all your hard work this year- 225 paintings! WOW!
Sorting through all the work can be sort of cathartic. Making room for the new, cleansing the old. (and we all have paintings that have to leave this Earth quickly)
Did you come to any conclusions about your 2010 work?
PS I agree 1/1/11 has to be an auspicious number. A friend of mine had a party at 1:00 1/1/11 just for that reason!
Happy New Year!

Nancy Van Blaricom said...

Happy New Year Katherine.
I too love the color mixing ideas you've shared here. I now can, finally, do something with all those paint swatches I've had in the drawer. Also congratulations on the large amount of work you produced in 2010. Very inspiring to say the least.

Casey Klahn said...


I wanted to show you an example of Leonardo's color theory that included black. Found this cool post.

Thanks for the look at your flat file! I'd do well just to get the top cleaned off.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Hi Loriann! The Alaska trip has sharpened my interest in water as a painting subject. Overall, I think that I am more interested in the emotional than the representational now. A very interesting turn!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Hi Nancy: it's a great idea to practice mixing color with paint store chips! I hope you have fun with it, as I did!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Casey! Thanks for the link to the LDV blog. Color mixing with oil is so different from pastel work, I'm finding myself at a very basic place. That's okay. I'm enjoying the joy of learning something new!

The counter above the flat files is 4' x 8' and ALWAYS collects stuff. It is the way of horizontal surfaces, I guess!

Pam Holnback said...

Love this color exercise. I need to clean my studio, too!

SamArtDog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SamArtDog said...


These palettes look like keyboards. Art and Music.

I should clean up my studio, too. Note that I did not say "will".

(I forgot to say congratulations for making it onto Casey's Best list. Kudos 2 U!)

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Pam: I have discovered that if I can just get myself to START to clean up, then the rest follows without too much trouble. Thanks for the comment. The color exercise is so simple, it must be brilliant!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Sam! Of course you would notice the keyboard look to things. Definitely the simpler scales for me with oils. But, I'll get there. Thanks for the kudos! I'm honored.

Jala Pfaff said...

We had to do color mixing to match in art school, though we only did it for one class. Should've done more, it was very good practice.
And maybe you should come over and organize my piles!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Jala! Some colors were easier to mix and easier to see than others. I will repeat this exercise for a while.

I'll let you know when I'm next in Colorado and I'll be happy to come organize things. Or, maybe we can go paint and make MORE messes. Hmm.