This past weekend I was feeling unmotivated in the studio. I have just finished painting still lifes for the winter season and now must make the switch to painting landscapes for my summer shows. I enjoy bouncing between the two disciplines, but lately nothing seemed to inspire me.
So, here is what I did…
- I decided to have some fun and experiment with color harmony or complimentary colors.
- Pairs of colors that share no common elements with each other are called, ‘complimentary colors’.
- Instead of my traditional palette, I chose to experiment with a revolutionary idea of painting using the 5000 year old yin/yang approach.
- The ancient Chinese understood our world in terms of a balance of opposites. Everything in nature has its opposite.
Every color has its opposite too! Each ‘primary’ color or hue (red, yellow, blue) is directly opposite a ‘secondary’ color (green, purple, orange).
These complimentary colors are always found opposite each other on the color wheel:
- Red – Green
- Yellow – Purple
- Blue – Orange
When opposite colors are mixed they create beautiful, chromatic neutral grays. Using this technique, I limited my palette to the family of complimentary colors I felt were best suited for the subject being painted.
Out of the three yin/yang palette possibilities, I chose the blue and orange palette.
This is the landscape reference photo:
“Mountain Gold – Adam’s Gulch”© 2010 Lori McNee
For the ‘orange’ pigments I used:
- cadmium red light – warm orange
- cadmium orange – true orange
- cadmium yellow medium – cool orange
- burnt sienna – softer orange
For the ‘blue’ pigments I used:
- ultramarine blue – warm blue
- cobalt blue – true blue
- phthalo blue – cool blue
and ivory black & titanium white
You can vary the above colors with your own choices, but it is best to always have a warm, true & cool representative for each opposite color. These complimentary colors vibrate when painted next to each other and are beautifully muted when mixed. A broad range of colors can be mixed from this limited palette. The results are harmonious and color intensity can be controlled.
I was able to mix luscious greens, rich browns and vibrant autumn colors next to quieter grays. I am please with the results and plan to try painting a series of landscapes using the yin/yang palettes – I’ll keep you posted!
For more information I suggest reading The Yin/Yang of Painting Also, using the color wheel can help you determine color schemes balance and harmony in your artwork, web-pages, designs or home decorating.
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