Monthly Archives: October 2014



With Halloween on its way, I thought I’d post a couple of strange paintings I’ve made lately.  Both of these are in pastel, my favorite medium.  You will note that the image above is of the same barn that I’ve been using for the color theory exercises.  For some reason, I’m really fond of this scene.  However, I tried it in a different value scheme — one suggested by Edgar Whitney in his book on watercolor.  This value scheme is a lot of dark with a little light in mid-values.  I hadn’t used this scheme deliberately before, and it ended up as a night-time painting — even a little disturbing – who knows what’s lurking inside that old barn! The painting is 12 x 16″ and is unframed – price is $175.

The Stoic

I didn’t intend for this painting to be spooky, either; I was merely playing around with background color – using intense watercolors for the underpainting.  The bare tree looms up into the sky, and it looks like a skeleton against the sky, pleading for deliverance!  The name of this painting is The Stoic — 24 x 28″ framed and for sale at $475.



Using a monochromatic color scheme is one of the best ways to understand the use of value.  “Mono” means “one”, and “chroma” means “color,” so all you can use is one color with various tints, tones and shades for your painting.  If you add white to a hue (another name for ‘color’), it is called a “tint;” if you add gray, it is called a “tone;” and if you add black, it is called a “shade.”  So all you have is the darkness and lightness of the color for variety.  Sometimes I like to do monochromatic underpaintings for my pastel works – the underneath color sets the mood for the rest of the painting.

To further complicate things, every color has its own value. For instance, yellow is a light value, purple is a dark value.  Greens and oranges are middle values.  You can see this best by looking at colors through a red glass (or a green glass if looking at red hues).  You will be able to see the relative value of the colors that way.mono

Here is the color wheel image sectioned off so that only a blue-green hue is selected.  You can see that the tints and tones are much muted.

In the example below, I have used the same subject as in the complementary color example, but with a monochromatic color scheme of blue with whites, grays, and blacks.  The time of day seems to be early evening, with perhaps a little light left in the sky.Monochromatic

Try this exercise if you like and let me know how it turns out.  I highly recommend the book by Stephen Quiller, COLOR CHOICES; MAKING COLOR SENSE OUT OF COLOR THEORY, which I used in my exercises.


A good way to plan a composition is to use recognizable color schemes.  Each color scheme has its own appeal and mood.  As I wrote about previously, complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel.  Complementary color schemes can be pretty chaotic unless one color is used as a predominant, and the other is subordinate.  I used a simple composition in the following watercolor studies (5 x 7″) to show how value, intensity, dominant and subordinate color affects the mood. 

Comp1 STUDY I  

I used blue as the dominant hue in this first small study in values from light   to dark.  The complement, orange, was used as an accent.  The study seems to suggest evening with some light from the sinking sun.


I reversed the colors in this second small study, using orange as the dominant and blue as the subordinate colors.   The oranges are used in a variety of values from light to dark, and the accent of blue is used both dark and light in the foreground grasses and in the tree trunks.  A little blue can also be found in the texture of the barn. Do you see the difference in the mood?


REDGREENColors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, are said to be “complementary.”  Notice that that is not “complimentary.”  These colors complement each other, acting as opposites.  If they are used next to each other, the contrast is intense and disturbing.  If one color is mixed with another, the colors blend into each other and are neutralized, or grayed. 

Yellow, red, and blue are said to be primary colors, because the pure color cannot be obtained by mixing.  The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple.  Tertiary colors are yellow orange, red orange, red purple, blue purple, blue green, and yellow green.  As any grade school student knows, secondary and tertiary colors are mixed from the primary colors.

The complement of red is green, the complement of blue is orange, and the complement of yellow is purple.  But what are the complements of the secondary and tertiary colors?  You can figure this out without looking at the color wheel in this manner:  If you want to know the complement of blue-green, think – the complement of blue is orange, and the complement of green is red, so the complement of blue-green is orange-red.   Likewise, the complement of red-purple would be yellow-green.  Understand?

In the next post, I’ll show examples of a small watercolor in complementary colors.