Mixing pigment and light.


 The colour wheel is introduced prior to the exercise on controlling brightness of a colour through exposure. 

 I visited the art section of our small local library and found this lovely little book,Oil – Painting Workshop (Boshoff,A),with a very clear and simple explanation of basic colour theory. Colour wheels are primary school basics.  However, it has been a long time since school for me!

 To paraphrase.

 “The colour wheel is an easy way to demonstrate how three primary colours (Red, Yellow and Blue) can be mixed to make three secondary colours (Orange, Violet and Green).  Adding one more primary colour to the secondary colour provides  another 6 tertiary colours that form a wheel of twelve colours.” (Boshoff,2006:20)


From this, as the author goes on to say, the primary colours provide us with the strongest contrast. Complementary colours are the contrasting colours on the opposite side of the wheel that make each other look brighter when placed side by side.

 I can see from the colour wheel that two primary colours mixed make a colour that contrasts with the original two primary colours.



 Red and Yellow = Orange.

 Red and Blue  = Violet.

 Blue and Yellow = Green.


 The above has given me a gentle start in to looking at colour combinations.  Of course a landscape artists can adapt colours to enhance a landscape through a palette of colours that they choose to mix. The interpretations of a scene will differ enormously from one artist to the next.  For example Van Gough and Turner have two completely different styles and had they stood in front of the same scene at the same time then I have no doubt the end results would be so different that you would never guess they had been viewing the same scene. However, I am beginning to realise that their choices of hues and tones are no accident and this is going to be a huge subject that I hadn’t anticipated.  There have been many colour theories that I could spend a whole year considering and contemplating as a stand-alone subject matter and probably will. Academics such as Newton, Goethe and Itten spent a lifetime considering the subject.  For now I aim to grasp the basic concepts and refer back and develop my understanding as the module goes on.

For me the written word is second to learning from the practical outcomes of great artists and photographers.  However, their outcomes were no accident and I will go on to look at Johannes Itten’s teachings.

 The mixing of primary colours are not to be muddled with mixing of light Red, Green and Blue that are the wavelength channels that photographers are more concerned with when light painting. Red, Green and Blue light channels mixed together produces white light. The various ratios of the channels produce a ‘light temperature’ and we use Kelvin Scale to measure it(Hunter,F:2012).

The viewer of an image might be highly unaware of this and the outcome as to whether an image is pleasing or not will be based on the same resulting mixes of colours as an oil painting.  I am aware that the next module is ‘light’ and will leave the technical research into this for now. Of course, as I found in the exercise: Primary and Secondary Colours, by adjusting exposure, we can change the ‘effect’ or ‘intensity’ of a colour. https://cmacfarlane2010.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/exercise-secon…colours-violet//p>


 Boshoff, A (2006). Oil – Painting Workshop. London: Dorling Kindersley. 20 – 21 

Hunter,F, Steven, B, Fuqua, P (2012). Light, Science and Magic. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal Press. 18 – 19.

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