They also serve as the simple version of the "How to make BROWN” recipe,
and part of our color mixing vocabulary: “to mute a color - add the complement.”
Sounds so simple - but as my students know - there is nothing simple about color mixing. It is the artist's lifelong quest - with piles of "icky colors" left in our wake.
In class, I look for constants where beginning painters can go to feel safe.
If you look back a few posts on this blog- I ask the question “What color is Brown?”.
I ask because students ask. That whole range of neutrals, from warm (brown) to cool (grey) - how does a painter mix them?
COMPLEMENTS - is the simple answer- that is not so simple.
In class we use a classic Limited Palette:
Lemon Yellow (cool)
Cad Yellow Deep (warm)
Cad Red Light (warm)
Alizarin Crimson (cool)
Cerulean Blue (warm)
Ultramarine Blue, and White (cool)
In our discussion of complements - students scratch their heads- Where on our Limited Palette are those magic Complements ?
What? Do you mean I have to mix the complement of yellow or red or blue? - And by the way there are 2 of each here- which one do I use?
Answers are: You are right - “complements” do not reside on our Limited Palette,
Yes, - you have to mix them from what we have been given, and as to Which one to use - well, both.
I already hear the wheels turning. . . . some students will think about just buying a tube of something that complements a pigment on the Limited Palette. Hmmmm. . . .
But wait. Put down that supply catalog;
It is a wonderful fluke of pigment karma that we have a set of genuine complements in the Limited Palette listed above.
No mixing, no hard decisions about warm and cool, blah, b-blah, b-blah.
Our go-to complements are Cadmium Red Light and Cerulean Blue.
I won't take time here, to discuss their precise characteristics - suffice to say - if you are trying to mix anything from a warm neutral (BROWN), to a cool neutral (GREY) - start HERE.
The last few weeks in class we have examined, experimented and played, using JUST these 2 pigments.
We have experimented with landscape and with still life.
Everything posted here was painted with only 2 pigments: Cadmium Red Light and Cerulean Blue and in all of the paintings we get intense color as well as a breadth of beautiful neutrals.
Try this exercise at home using ONLY - Cad Red Light and Cerulean Blue, and white - you will be surprised at what you come up with.
Judith Greenwood painted the sweet piece at the top in acrylic.