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Prismatic Colour

If you've been following my Instagram you'll know I've been taking a bit of a deep dive into colour recently. I am a self confessed colour addict and it's always been a fundamental part of my visual language. But more often than not, I've worked with it intuitively or subconsciously rather than intentionally and consciously. I was interested to test my knowledge and understanding and see where making more conscious decisions about colour choices might take me.


So I launched into David Hornung's 'Colour Workshop for Artists and Designers' for assistance. What a wonderful book, it took me a few days to get my head around some of the language and meanings but once I did, I was all in, completely hooked.


Already I'm working on PDF for my Top 10 Tips for Artists and a more in depth workshop based on what I've learned with exercises to help with putting it all into practice. So if you're reading this and haven't yet subscribed to my monthly Studio News, follow the link at the end of this post to stay in the loop!


I'll be creating a new blog post for various aspects of my 'colour journey'. But if you want to go all in right now, you'll find the details of the book at the end of this post.


So to start with, I confess I immediately abandoned all the instructions in the book about cutting up swatches neatly into regimented squares so everything would fit perfectly in the recommended binder, as all that felt like a lot of time spent on fiddly tasks which didn't change the learning outcome, though I appreciate it would have all looked totally perfect and made a wonderful show-and-tell!


Instead I opted to fill sketchbook pages with all the exercises, to which I could add my scrawled and scribbled notes as I went.


I did use the recommended gouache paints on bleed-proof marker paper in order to make the colour swatches as 'flat' as possible. I labelled and batched them to begin with as I found myself swimming in a sea of colour and trying to remember the colour recipe for each swatch was a challenge!



Colour swatches for workshop experiments.
Colour swatches for workshop experiments.

PRISMATIC COLOUR


Understanding prismatic colour was the first stop. Using red, yellow and blue on both the cool and warm spectrum and intermixing them in different ways, created really fascinating differences. I'd never really though about these primary colours being particularly warm or cool - I'd always though more of red and yellow as being warm and blue as being cool - but clearly there's more to it!


Exploring Cool and Warm Prismatic Primary Colour
Exploring Cool and Warm Prismatic Primary Colour

Exploring Cool and Warm Prismatic Secondary Colours
Exploring Cool and Warm Prismatic Secondary Colours

Prismatic Colour Grid - Warm
Prismatic Colour Grid - Warm

CHROMATIC DARKS


Moving on to understanding which colours to use to make different types of dark colours using 'admixtures'. Using a cool admixture (Payne's Grey) and a warm admixture (Burnt Umber) produced striking differences when added to prismatic colours. I'd never used Burnt Umber in this way. In fact I have a pot sitting on my bench that has been untouched, probably for years now!


MUTED COLOUR


Muting colours by cross mixing warm and cool prismatics enables you to maintain saturation value without working with pure, prismatic bright colour, which even for me can sometimes be a bit too much! I have a bit of a fear of wish washy colours which in the past I've steered clear of as the only way I understood how to de-saturate was to add white or black (making tints and shades on the grey scale). These admixture concepts are a revelation, as I can now maintain saturation levels in my colours without over-powering brightness.


Muting colours by using 'admixtures' and cross mixing warm and cool prismatics.
Muting colours by using 'admixtures' and cross mixing warm and cool prismatics.


TINTS & SHADES


This was a fun exercise, it was a bit like wringing out a wet towel - just how much more can you squeeze out of a handful of colours! Sometimes my brain just stops two or three tweaks into using one colour, but when you play around with just a single colour and keep going with mixing a whole range of warm and cool greys based on muted and prismatic colour, you could really go on forever, though I confined myself to just a page of each....



COLOUR STUDIES


The rich visual quality achieved by combining greys in different values with saturated and muted colours is lovely. I’ll explore this more. I’ve been enjoying a deeper dive into greys of various kinds, they act as a kind of invaluable supporting actor, steeped in subtlety and calm. I'll be looking at ways I can explore single base colours in this way in future sketches and paintings.



Chromatic Grey Grid - Broad value range
Chromatic Grey Grid - Broad value range

Muted Colour Grid - Limited Value Range
Muted Colour Grid - Limited Value Range

Muted Colour Grid - Broad Value Range
Muted Colour Grid - Broad Value Range



Violet & Chromatic Greys with contrasting Values
Violet & Chromatic Greys with Contrasting Values

Stay tuned to my blog for the next post in my colour journey - 'Monochromatic Colour' or look out for the link in next month's Studio News.


Subscribe to my Studio News today to stay in the loop with workshop info and get free instant access to my Top 10 Tips for Artists PDF Download Series.



ABOUT THE BOOK

'Colour Third Edition: A workshop for artists, designers' by David Hornung 2020





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