Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Irrational color?

First of all, Rich asked me to come here and contribute simultaneously with my request to him to be a part of "Rational Color." I liked the word rational based on my experiences with various forums.

I made an innocent remark stating why I don't like the values that Munsell set forth because his values need to reach beyond beyond oil pigments. Then Beth asked me to post an image of my color mixing target. Now all of a sudden I'm trying to dethrone Graydon? Isn't the point here to rationally discuss color as it relates to Munsell's color notation?

I'm not Graydon, I'm Marvin! Even though we were both schooled in the Reilly tradition we have both since moved on. Munsell is a system for communicating color. That's it baby. Graydon thinks that by matching chips you'll learn about the mechanics of color and I totally agree. Ultimately you may even be able to communicate a specific color over the phone to someone in Bombay (the whole point of Munsell BTW: universal color language.) Graydon's system seems to be something someone can do with online instruction. My method is much more effectively communicated live, with me demonstrating, in a class or workshop environment. Check my website for up and coming workshops if it sounds like fun.

I use HVC to identify what I am seeing in preparation for replicating it in pigment. Many things come into play here, the most important being what a specific color looks like in the context of my painting. When I put my color choice down I use the HVC model to adjust it accordingly, where necessary. Ultimately, I am interested in the manipulation of all the components in my painting to create a greater illusion of form, life, space and light and not really interested in copying color, be it over the phone or in front of my nose.

I'm interested in color as a component of painting and not an end in itself. Painting goes far beyond color matching but I do think Graydon's exercises are valuable for learning about color. I feel the way I teach color can also lead to color mastery although I don't use amped up full chroma colors. I use an earth based color range that replicates the color choices of my hero, William McGregor Paxton arranged according to Reilly values.

My colors are:

Flesh Painting Colors:
W&N Terra Rosa
OH Yellow Ochre Light
W&N Indian Red
W&N Ivory Black
W&N Raw Umber
Flake White

Colors to round out the palette:
OH Vermillion Extra or MH Vermillion
W&N Burnt Sienna
W&N Perm. Alizarin Crimson
W&N Viridian
W&N French Ultramarine Blue
MH Genuine Naples Yellow Light

I first choose the hue (which tube of color shall I use), adjust the value (do I make it lighter or darker than the way it comes out of the tube, and what do I add to achieve this), and then I neutralize or intensify the chroma).
Beth, you took a workshop with me five years ago and many things have evolved since then, including the colors on my palette. Scott, I've had many Scotts in my class. Which one are you?


MarieMeyer said...

Marvin, please keep it coming, your input is very interesting and valuable. And I covet that grey scale shown in your previous post!

painterdog said...

Marvin, I notice that the gray scale is a step higher, which is interesting as I have found that level 5 gray always seemed kind of low in value to me for a middle value gray.
At this point I am just trying to get around the Munsell system in general, please do keep feeding us these interesting ideas.

I see you do not use any Cadmiums.

ewschott said...

I will certainly need to check out how this has evolved for you Marvin. Are you still doing the two weeks? The one was just not long enough to "get it" all.

Knowing you, and a few of the others that have worked with Graydon, adding this together with what I have read, I just feel like you are both good artist who care about "art" in general - saying pretty much the same things in a different way, or maybe I should say with different props... is that a wrong assumption?

graydon said...

My method doesn't conflict with yours in any way. What I have discovered, however, is that mixing string with consistent hues and chromas make a lightyears...difference in painting. Once can mix lower chroma hue strings with earth tones instead of the cadmiums Reilly suggested, but still be way off target. By keep your chromas consistent and using the Munsell book as a guide, one can better anticipate and model form that vies with nature. Or,one can better predict how to deviate from nature for pictorial effects.

graydon said...

Again, there is nothing wrong with Marvin's approach. He has just not got the big picture. I hate to say this, because I respect him highly. But when you understand how important consistent chroma are, then you will understand how the Paxton, or earth palette is. Michael Aviano used a similar palette which is a vast improvement over Reilly. But I have discovered that there is really a gulf between Munsell chroma 1 and 2, 2 and 3 an so on. A chroma 3 string make gorgeous flesh tones; chroma 4 looks healthy but chroma 5 looks sunburned. Go to 6 and you have oranges. Bouguereau made all his flesh miracles between chroma 2 and 3. So, these nuances are critical.

Burnt Sienna is around chroma 6 as is yellow ochre. Mix either with neutral and both swing toward unfortunate pull. Reilly thought that they would remain in their proper hue, but they change. Add white and they change too. A string of color made with burnt umber and yellow ochre change in hue, value and chroma. I prefer string that keep the hue and chroma consistent and just change in value. Its a lot easier to control.

marvelousmarvin said...

Gradon, obviously I don't have the big picture. My paintings fall well below the 8 foot high by twenty foot long variety. Perhaps you just look past the small pictures.

The way my palette is set up I'm able to modulate the hue, chroma and value of each mixture simultaneously. I'm interested in varying all three based on the choices I make to create the effects I want.

One of the real strengths of Paxton's paintings, to me, is the way he manipulates his chroma to create spacial illusion. He's much better at this than Bouguereau was, although Bouguereau also did the same thing. As did Rembrandt; as did Raeburn; etc.

Also Bouguereau painted very fair skinned women whose chroma would obviously be lower. If you paint a darker skinned person around second or third chroma they'd look like a cadaver. Each person's complexion is unique and my approach is to interpret what I see without preconceptions.

This is a large part of what I teach. I feel that the skillful manipulation of chroma is what really brings a painting to life. When people see my originals they can really see the difference. Unfortunately, it's very subtle and doesn't really show up in reproduction. Watching it evolve in the workshop, as I demo, is very exciting and seems to have a very transformational effect on my students.

To my way of thinking, keeping the chroma consistent is like going into a gunfight with only one bullet. And if I deem it necessary I can easily do it through the admixture of the neutrals with my colors.

The way I mix and apply my paint also factors into the equation. I allow my painting to evolve using the translucency of the layers. I move towards correctness until I achieve pleasing results. The bottom line is that my palette is not Reilly's nor is it Aviano's. If your criticism of my approach is based on your experience with their palettes you may very well be mistaken.

Beth, All my painting workshops are two weeks long, for the reasons you mentioned. The next one is in January in Atlanta. Only two spaces left, as of today.

Painterdog, my scale is based on equal steps between black and white paint. It is also tinted to compensate for the green tint in the 1/4 inch plate glass and the slight darkening effect of the glass. I don't use Cadmiums for two reasons, one: because all the artists I admire didn't use them either, and two: I'm a contrarian!. If everyone is in agreement it must be wrong.

nystudios said...

Again I want to be clear that I wasn't calling your approach irrational. In fact what I said is that it would be hard for someone such as myself, a fledgling painter to control so many balls at the same time. I realize YOU can, just look at your paintings, they are great! But, I can't mentally manage Hue, Value, Chroma, drawing, composition, brush handling, mediums, and everything else all at the same time. It is very rational for someone of your level...just not for me. (yet)

To clarify, the one bullet analogy would be correct if the entire picture was painted with just one chroma, but that wasn't what I believe Graydon was referring to. (And I hope that he corrects me if I am wrong) But, rather, that a Chroma 4 sphere tends to remain chroma 4 throughout the modulating values. However, if you wanted to punch up the refected light to a chroma 6, that is part of your choice as a painter. Rather than a person who just translates reality into paint. In addition, not every part of the picture would be painted with chroma 4. An orange would be painted with different chromas than a bowling ball, and a baseball also different values based on their local, and different hues based on their hue.

As I believe Graydon stated in the very founding of this blog that this isn't the Graydon show. Any other color systems or dissenting ideas are expected to be discussed. But, those ideas have to come with the hard data to support them. So any of you Henry Hensche followers lets discuss. :)

nystudios said...

By the way I found a brand new copy of the $400-600 Paxton book in Italy for 70 Euro. I have been waiting for it to arrive. I am a big fan of his as well. I am sure that you already have a copy, but if you don't there was a nice treaty written for a show back in the eighties called "Classical Realism-The other Twentieth Century" in showcased Gammel, Paxton, Tarbel, and Lack and their students. I believe Graydon studied for a bit at the Lack studio and that was how he met Aristedes.

graydon said...


You still don't understand. When you mix a string with burnt sienna and white, the chromas and hues change in that string. Burnt Sienna out of the tube is higher in chroma and more red than it is when its mixed with white. This make modeling compiclated. If you paint instead with a string of 5YR chroma 3, values 1-9, you can understand where you are in color space. You have a consistent starting point rather than a variable one. I have painted with your palette for years, which I said is the same as Aviano's, and it works as long as the model is infront of you and the painting isn't too complex. However, add anything larger or if you want to transpose a color or chroma, and a more consistent palette is far, far, far better.

Check again your chroma for black skin. It is around 3 or 4. I measured it many times. One can certainly change it. Chroma is lost as objects turn away or recede from sight. Flesh will lose about one step. Moreover, when neutrals are added the hue changes. You can check this with the Munsell charts.

Again, its not that your palette does not work. It does, as does any number of palettes. Yours is far more logical than most. The key is to understand thoroughly color and apply it to a logical way of mixing, with whatever pigments are chosen. By strictly applying Munsell, much more strictly than Reilly did, one can make the most refined decisions, and only change one element at a time. This is useful for composition as well as making the most realistic images.

graydon said...


Your palette is almost the same as Aviano's, the same earth colors. I really don't worry about the specific colors, rather the hues and chromas they make. One can mix a neutral, or a flesh tone, from any number of paints and it is impossible to tell the difference by eye.

The strict application of Munsell does not offer formulas but rather adds knowledge which eliminates them. We are merely analyzing the proper hues and gleaning truths from them. No one is advocating for recipes. But flesh, although unique to each individual, never goes to green or blue-green at a high chroma. Flesh is in a certain range: 5R-10YR. So, if one wants to deviated from this, there has to be a reason, an artistic one. But this too can be understood with logic and reapplied.

marsha said...

Thank you for this discussion.

Angel said...

Hello Marvin;
for those just getting to know you, can you please provide a link to your website? Thanks!

Scott said...

Just google Marvin Mattelson.

He also posts on Cynthia Daniel's site:

Another member of our forum, Karin Wells, also posts there. Thanks to Karin's posts on the Golden Section. Karin, you made that so easy to understand. Thanks!

Angel said...

Thanks for the links, Scott! (btw, update your links!) Does Marvin have any videos/books? I would be very curious to compare his system to Munsell's. I will be looking forward to reading more posts about this topic. Keep it up!

Scott said...

Hi Angel!

I just googled those and they worked. Check your computer? I don't know why they won't work for you. Good luck!

Angel said...

Everything works, Scott - I meant to add the links in the Links category of the blog. Marvin's next workshop is in January. Anyone wants to go with me? :-)

marvelousmarvin said...

Graydon, As I said previously I think that painting the color charts is a great exercise for learning about color since it reinforces the HVC model and provides practical exercises that teach how to think about color in a logical way.

I understand the concept of using value strings of color at a constant chroma. However I don't see any advantage to utilizing this method while painting. In order to maintain a middle level of chroma (let alone a high level) from value to value, it would involve the use of numerous pigments, otherwise the chroma would have to remain low. If all the chromas were matched to a ninth value of any pigment mixed with white, they would be weak.

If the latter were the case, the paintings would show very little color. If the former were the case, it would entail using a great number of pigments which would complicate the process of creating beautiful harmonies. I prefer a limited number of pigments for that reason.

The way I approach color mixing, with my palette, is that I first choose a hue and either lighten or darken it. Then, let's assume, I neutralize it. If there is a hue shift, I can add the closest adjacent hue (at the same value) in the direction I want to shift back towards. This may seem somewhat circuitous, in explanation, but in reality, I see hue and/or chroma shifts with most value changes I make, anyway.

If I were to paint an allegorical painting, I would still work from life, albeit scale models or fabric and textural samples. There are also so many other factors involved in determining the color of a plane besides the local color of an object. Color is affected by the temperature of the light source, the color of the ambient light and reflected color, just to name a few. My point being, is that I'm constantly altering the hue and intensity of with each value change anyway. I feel totally in control.

Now if it were just me, you might say that maybe I'm just precociously talented and born with an acute eye for color, but it's probably too hard for most people to control. Well, for me the acid test is how easily my students pick it up. I'm constantly amazed at how quickly my workshop participants and SVA students get the color mixing down and are able to get very lifelike results.

Perhaps it's a function of the palette arrangement I've developed coupled with my ability to explain it and demonstrate it in a straight forward and clear way.

So Graydon, when you do need to decrease the chroma of an object using your consistent chroma strings do you use a neutral gray or do you need to create a new mix formulated with an additional pigment?

NYstudios, my use of the word "irrational" was a pun. I'm a very funny guy, actually: my technical diatribes may occasionally be laced with subtle humor. Kind of like the toy at the bottom of a Cracker jack box.

I didn't think what Graydon was implying was that the whole painting was just one chroma. To my way of thinking, each object in the painting would probably contain chroma variations. In regards to balancing all the various considerations one needs to keep focused on, in my teaching I break these down one by one. We start out with drawing and values and go on from there.

Angel, I'll go with you! By the way, the only video I'm aware of has me wearing just black shoes and socks. A chilling thought! I'm currently working on a book, the working title: "The greatest book on painting never written."

MarieMeyer said...

Marvin, I've got that video. Is that really you???

graydon said...


You don't seem to completely understand color theory. Limiting pigments has nothing to do with color harmony; controlling and designing hues does. It has more to do with the hues chosen than the paints used.

I glean this from your statement:

"If the latter were the case, the paintings would show very little color. If the former were the case, it would entail using a great number of pigments which would complicate the process of creating beautiful harmonies. I prefer a limited number of pigments for that reason."

A limited number of pigments is only important if you have a subject that falls within certain perimeters. That is, with flesh, your palette works wonderfully. But with a landscape, such a palette would be lacking.

Chroma strings allow for much more subtle modeling and manipulation of edge planes, whether ones works from nature or the imagination. Also, when you use a lower chroma mixture to neutralize a higher chroma one of the same hue, hue shifting is less likely. Its is also far easier to mix the subtle differences between middle lights and dark lights. One can achieve the most accurate and subtle modeling in a much expedited process.

Moreover, one can control how much a color shifts. The bluish top planes can be made by shifting the hue one or two steps toward blue rather than actually adding blue to the mixture. Likewise, any reflected light can be calculated and adjusted, with the utmost precision, without fear of muddiness or the appearance of a hesitant hand.

While the basic ebauche can be achieved with a rather jumpy palette, a refined statement needs a much more systematic and rational approach. Thus we see painters like Schmid painting wonderful sketches, yet never see him finish something to any degree. His palette of colors arranged around the top, each varying in HVC, allows him to sketch in a broken manner, yes, but not to model the kind of form seen in pre-impressionist works.

I think, Marvin, that you would appreciate this method if you could be open minded enough. There is a problem with painters, especially skilled ones, to get stuck on one method or another. They come up with irrational excuses, like your analogy about going into a process with one gun. (Or, by saying that the old masters only used earth colors )

What I suggest, rather, is to purge any such convenient excuses from ones lexicon and think more like a scientist and less like an artist. The art will come because of the passion. However, when advocating a method, I choose instead to follow one that can be explained clearly and without prejudice.

So, I choose earth colors because they are convenient, cheap, permanent and best replicate the HVC of most objects in nature, since for the most part, nature is a low chroma affair. I do not use them because Titian did. However, one can easily mix the same flesh with Cadmiums, Ultramarine Blue...even Diox purple and no one will know the difference. The old adage that more than three pigments mixed together creates mud is false. I also paint from life because it gives me information, it is the primary source and as such, mitigates mannerisms. I don't make it a mystical experience; it is, instead where I do research. When I want to change nature in order to pursue an aesthetic decision, I want to do so logically rather than on a whim or hope that the Muse has my back.

So, if one has to control the HVC in a painting anyway, why not do it from the beginning? One can understand the chromatic range of objects one is painting and mix accordingly. Its not that what you do doesn't work, but I do suggest, albeit respectfully, that there is a better way, an improvement over the traditional strings of Reilly, Mason, Aviano or yourself. This way allows greater control and opens the mind up to new possibilities. By fully understanding Munsell and applying his system strictly, conclusions about the world can me made, and reproduced, efficiently and thoughtfully. It goes far beyond an elementary exercise. It allows for the greatest latitude in expression as well as the most trenchant accuracy.

marvelousmarvin said...

Well, we do agree on some things, Graydon. I too believe that the axiom which states that the mixing of more than three colors will result in mud, is indeed muddled. I even give you a nod regarding Schmid’s finishes, although I don’t feel that it’s his palette that’s to blame. However we must agree to disagree regarding my profound ignorance and general lack of understanding regarding color.

It actually comes as a big relief to me that you feel I should think more like a scientist and less like an artist. The main criticisms leveled at me over the years, by those who don’t know me from Adam, is that I’m too analytical. Glad to know I’m just a wild and crazy guy after all. We bumpkins hate to be mislabeled.

Can you believe that I foolishly believed that my rational for using Paxton’s palette was both sound and scientific. It was based on my clinically derived admiration for his paintings and in particular for his color harmonies. So in the interest of scientific exploration, I donned the mantle of artistic anthropologist hoping to learn more by hypothetically walking in Paxton’s shoes.

Of course like all good scientists I believed I had armed myself with an instrument which would enable me to objectively evaluate and analyze the data I collect before making my hypothesis. I was under the delusion that my HVC model served me quite well in this regard. Little did I realize how misinformed I was because I wasn’t willing to immediately abandon the way I used it in favor of a vastely superior one, of which I have yet to see tangible proof of it’s viability. Of course I did see some very pretty color charts. Pretty colors!!!

Fortunately, ignorance being bliss and all that, I thought I had learned so much, in the six years I had been using my Cro-Magnon palette. Amazingly, I was actually under the false impression that my understanding of color and it’s intelligent use was expanding exponentially. I guess I was in part mislead by the fact that I was at the same time helping develop some of America’s finest young realist painters and transforming the lives of so many others by sharing information that I sadly and mistakenly considered to be genuinely insightful.

Woe is me! There is so much I don’t understand.

In reality I’m actually very open to new ideas, or else I’d still be using Reilly’s Cadmium laced palette. I’m always searching and exploring, hoping to find a better way, but to tell you the truth, I just don’t respond well to being told I’m a well respected but essentially ignorant dufus. If you want to convince me that you are on to something, then show me the money baby. I’d like to see a painting that can compete with any of the Paxton’s or DeCamp's I admire.

I also take exception to your assertion that limiting pigments has nothing to do with color harmony. Obviously, as you stated, it ultimately has to do with the chosen hues. (Whoda thunk it?) Perhaps a full tilt boogie palette may not be a detriment in the hands of a master painter, but it surely complicates things in the hands of a student. For me, my bottom line on what’s effective is whether or not my students can reasonably replicate the essence of what I teach. If they can’t, then I know it’s a faulty methodology. They are my lab rats, so to speak, one scientist to another.

You say one can easily mix the same skin tones with cadmiums, ultramarine, etc. and no one will know the difference. Define easily. I don’t consider having to mix up numerable low and high chroma strings for each color I choose to depict something I’d label as easily. One of the strengths of my palette is how quickly I can arrive at my admixtures.

As for trenchant accuracy, the success or failure of a painting ultimately rests on the harmonic relationships of color. A color that can be scientifically verified by using a densitometer, or whatever, on the palette can still be discordant when applied to the canvas. Many of Bouguereau’s flesh colors are not particularly realistic when compared to a live model but in the context of his works they can appear more real than life itself.

Bottom line, if you want to convince me of the viability of your system then show me paintings that will convince me that your “better way” is really better. We scientists need tangible proof, after all.

Interestingly, Paxton too was aware of Munsell’s color wheel. It’s mentioned in a book on Vermeer which Paxton helped edit.

Marie, did you dig the profile shot?

graydon said...

You are getting way too defensive, Marvin. Perhaps, I have not explained it well. Stupidity and not knowing are certainly not the same thing. You are far, far from stupid, and I don't mean to imply this in the least. But please be open minded. I have used your palette for years, at least 20, and found it did not do all I wanted. I have discovered that chroma strings make painting a lot easier, more controllable. I can mix any color with confidence if it is made in paint. It also assists in mixing those vexing dark lights and subtle half-tones. Whether or not an old master did it, makes no difference to me at all.

Moreover, I did not say you were ignorant. You just have chosen a way that, I found, to be less effective, that is, less direct, than my new approach. I mean effective in the utilitarian sense.

As I painted my 9-11 monster-piece (have you seen it in person?) I needed to have consistent mixtures. The palette you use and I used (mine was practically identical) did not allow such consistency. Understanding chroma and having a guide (the large Munsell book) made all the difference.

Now, please don't get personal, we are talking ideas. After all, both of us want to paint well. You are bringing a strong preference for the works you admire into the conversation which may or may not be relevant. Paxton is not my artistic avatar, although I admire his work. However, I am not discussing style here. Liking him or not is beside the point. And you may never be satisfied with my answer since I don't paint like Paxton. Instead, though, I am trying to achieve accuracy at the beginning and explain a system that will do so, better than most, though a deep understanding of nature and a rational system of color mixing.

As you know, you could eat, breath and sing the same songs as Paxton and you will never be him, or should you be. You are Marvin, an excellent painter, and more than capable of using your approach. I don't doubt this. ( However, Paxton did not paint withs strings, nor did Gerome, and Gammell rejected Reilly whom he met ) However, I have seen dozens of Paxton sketches at Robert Douglass Hunter's house and elsewhere. Most were done in the standard nineteenth century way without hocus pocus, so the magic that you see is elsewhere, either in your mind, since is appeals to you, or through certain principles that are learnable. Why not use, then, Munsell and a more definable system for gleaning his principles. Its not the paints but the hues that he uses. Does he amplify the chroma, change the hue at the edge plane (I have seen red lines around his large portrait in Springfield) or consolidate certain values? Then, you can mix these effects and repeat them over and over. If his edge planes are consistently 5R, then use 5R. If he amplifies the flesh to 5YR 6/5, then you can do this, or not.

Since I adore Bouguereau, I have analyzed his flesh as well as numerous models. I keep a large notebook with the local color of flesh and other objects, both painted and actual. The following is how I have applied this study.

Here is basic set up for flesh: I paint in strings, like you, but have changed them as follows.

Instead of a yellow, orange and red string, with a top neutral, I replaced them with bracketed chroma strings. The neutrals, then were not needed when the chroma range is set. That is, these strings have enough neutral already accounted for.

String one and two will be 7.5 R values 2-9 chroma 6 and chroma 4.

String two and three will be 7.5 YR values 2-9 at chroma 4 and 2.

Sometimes I have six string with a 5YR string, values 2-9, chromas 4 and 2.

The first two rows represent the ruddies, the last two, including the auxiliary, the average complexion. All chromas and hues in between can be mixed. If something is seen that is not covered on my palette, then I can add small mixtures of other hues, like 5BG at the 2nd chroma for veins.

It really simple and based on observation and analysis. Variety is easy after this.

Now with your palette, you get a much more broad range, but there are some superfluous things, which I eliminated for myself for convenience. For example, you add raw umber? Raw umber is very low in chroma and likely outside of flesh range. That is, its too yellow Its possible to use it, yes, but unnecessary. I find burnt umber more chromatic and ideal for the accents. (chroma is hard to maintain at the 1 and 2 values) It vies much more closely with the range of flesh which is 10YR -2.5 YR. Likewise, I find Naples Yellow to be too chromatic, around 8. I used to put in on my palette for the sake of the old masters. It was fun to know I was vying with tradition. But flesh, unless its under a spot light or a candle, appears silvery, delicate. High chroma colors wont achieve this easily. I prefer yellow ochre because, when flesh is brought higher than the 4th chroma, it appears very tan. Adding neutral to Naples Yellow will pull it too green. One can counter this shift when painting, but I would rather not bother when I am in the throws of a difficult passage.

How do you control for consistency in chromas while maintaining the local? I used to do it by eye, but now I check my eye with my Munsell book. The eye and the mind is a false dichotomy. We are instead, a gestalt, a marriage of reason and senses. So why not use both continually?

If you get curious on a rainy day, try my palette. Again, I have developed a system of painting which uses Munsell strictly as a practical tool for painting, design and the analysis of art and nature. Jacob Collins and Tony Curanaj are very excited about it. Both see the potential. However, I will no longer convince you that it might complement your goals as a painter. But it has made my life a lot easier, and those of my students, as Richard can attest.

Again, please understand that I don't think you are a dufus at all. Not at all. But one can be going in a direction that may not be as easy, reasonable, or effective as another, no matter how long that direction is pursued.

People in the past believed in ether, an invisible substance that permeated the universe: "How did things hang together," was the reasoning. This lasted well into the 20th century and was championed by smart men. Plate tectonics only became universally accepted in the late 1970s. These solid-earth apologists were intelligent. But time has offered new answers.

I don't expect every artist to jump on my bandwagon because artists are the most irrational and stubborn of creatures. Its even harder when those of skill need their pet tastes placated in order to try something new. ( I only want to paint like Sargent, or such and such prejudice) But again, I am not talking about style but approach. I could care less what pigments are used as long as they are sturdy. I could care less if one favors Matisse or Zorn over Ingres and Bouguereau. However all styles could benefit from knowledge.

Improved control, a steadier direction, a more elegant theorem, a straighter path towards what one wants to achieve: these have always been tenets of progress. I sincerely believe that this approach obviates a lot of the mysticism, muddle-headedness, tribalism, willful ignorance and myopia which impregnates art and art technique today.

marvelousmarvin said...

Graydon, I was using exaggerated humor to make a point. My unique little way of trying to point out that a bit of diplomacy on your part will sell more vacuum cleaners to more housewives.

OK Graydon. I’ll give your chroma strings a shot if you can tell me which exact pigments are you using to achieve those mixes. I’ll get back to you on how it compares to the way I’m currently working.

I haven’t seen your monster piece in the flesh and I’m glad your method made life less cumbersome. As for myself, I find it easy to mix any color I need with speed, consistency and little effort. Having cobbled my palette arrangement together solely by myself, with much trial and error, I have come to understand it intimately and I’m discovering new things about it on a daily basis. It’s like a great race horse. With a little flick of the whip or a nudge of the reins it provides me with the appropriate response. I’m at a point now where I can do my mixing without thinking. The correct color always seems to be on the tip of my brush. It’s an experience akin to what great athletes talk about. Call it flow, being in “the zone” or zen-like. It’s got nothing to do with alchemy either. Like all disciplines the ultimate goal is freedom. I can now concentrate on more pressing and important issues. As you know, color mixing is but a miniscule part of painting.

You on the other hand learned from Aviano. I’ve met him once, when I also met you at Tim’s show, and have no personal experience regarding what kind of teacher he is. I believe that my insight into my palette coupled with the way I communicate makes how to navigate color easily understood and comprehended. My students don’t seem to feel the kind of frustration that you experienced using Aviano’s version. Perhaps if you had studied with me your experience would be different. Using the same or similar colors is but a small part of color mixing. I am familiar with my colors and they serve me well. As you yourself stated, “I really don't worry about the specific colors…”

When I talk about my admiration of Paxton it’s in regard to his use of color. Obviously my “style” is quite different. I’m not trying to fit into his shorts, bed his wife (necrophilia is not my bag) or discover what fruit he had with his Wheaties. By using his color I’ve been able to glean a great deal (or so I tell myself) about the way he approached painting. For me too it’s all about approach. I too hold Bouguereau in the highest esteem but for me Paxton was the most intelligent of painters.

I regard color mixing as a very tiny component part of what I consider to be the mindset of great artists. I find tremendous similarities in the thinking of all those artists I hold in the highest esteem. They may have used different pigments and painted in a variety of styles, but to my way of thinking, they shared a commonality of thought that I don’t see evidenced today. This mindset is at the heart of my teaching and it’s what I believe makes me unique. My palette fits this model very well and again enables me to place my concentration where it needs to be.

I’m glad that Tony and Jacob are interested. Tony was my student and I steered him from graffiti toward painting. Unfortunately he graduated from SVA and I couldn’t work with him longer. That was also before I discovered my palette. Tony actually had me meet with Jacob regarding my palette but I was summerly dismissed. Perhaps there just wasn’t enough brown.

graydon said...

Perhaps this was a long time ago. Jacob is embracing Munsell fully, it seems, as did Tony, who came to my color demonstration.

The colors I use, Marvin, are really no different than yours. You just take your palette, and correct for pulls in chroma and hue. This is a start. You can either mix for the maximum chroma, say chroma 6, or mix two string for the range of chroma, say 6 and 2, or any number of chromas on either side of your goal.

So, instead of a neutral, red, orange and yellow string, you might have, instead, a neutral, 5R, 5YR and 10YR string...the last three at chroma 6 or 4. This is just a start, but at least you are assured where you are in color space.

marvelousmarvin said...

Now that you explain your procedure I don't see how it differs at all from what I do. I understand that you want to modify each value for variations in chroma and hue. So you add adjacent hues and/or neutrals in order to get every pile into a constant hue and chroma relationship. Then you commence to paint. When addressing the HVC of each shape of paint you apply, one with a critically objective eye would see the need to further modify each admixture. When I start out with my color strings of varied chroma I still need to address each admixture's appropriateness and alter it accordingly.

I can see how you would think your method could conceivably simplify the task for a beginner. However, in practical term, I don't see that my way is a sticking point with my students.

The main thing is that when they mix and apply a color they understand how to modify what they've mixed by addressing it's hue, value and chroma.

I don't believe your additional intermediate step of pre-adjusting for chroma is really necessary if the pigments used are close to the intended targets. In the case of mixing flesh tones, the use of earth colors. It seems redundant to me.

I believe each object I'm painting should be addressed in a unique way.

I can see the advantage of creating consistent chroma strings for more intense colors, because this is exactly what I do when painting certain fabrics or non-flesh objects of higher chroma. You can see this evidenced in my painting "Sylvia at Seventeen."

By utilizing constant hue and chroma strings I was able to replicate the satin, and damask fabrics as well as the iridescence in the embroidery. I also used this to keep the tapestry on the back wall back in space.

In terms of reflected light, I identify the color by HVC and mix it.

The major difference I see between what we do is your reliance on color charts. I feel that I don't need them in order for me to be objective when evaluating color. I also don't call my method the Parrish System. ;-)

graydon said...

Its not a reliance, which reads like I am using the charts in lieu of observation. I choose to use them because they offer guides to chromas and hues. They help distinguish one grey from another and help me understand the how critical chroma differences are. My eye, or yours, or anyones, isn't likely that refined without constant training and practice. In other word, Munsell and the charts have done most of the work for us. Why not always check our vision with such a guide, and likewise, check the guide with our vision? Moreover, we are constantly being fooled by optical illusions in nature, simultaneous contrasts and the like. Charts assist in minimizing such illusions because they provide guides for half steps in value and subtle shifts in hue. These are critical for turning edges etc, which often appear flat when contrasted to another hue.