Color Mixing - From Dull To Vibrant

March 18, 2022

My first introduction to mixing colors in painting was probably when I was in my high school art class with Mr. Crystal ( Yes, Billy Crystals brother!) at Long Beach High School. He was one of my favorite art teachers, and yes he was almost funnier than his brother. 

We learned the basics of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and making color swatches. At the time I was usually gazing out the window looking out at the bay where my High School sat along Reynolds Channel on Long Island, as it was all extremely boring and back then I thought most of this stuff I’m learning I’ll never need in life so why pay attention to color.  Fast forward a little more than a year or so and in college at The School Of Visual Arts, where I attended art school…because while in High school I did love art and painting, but when I choose to pursue art....I really loved painting and drawing and I did it all in color.  I was now required to take a class in color theory and learn about color mixing, warm and cool hues. What makes orange and how many shades of orange/red could there possibly be. There are many!

Knowing your colors is the way to lay the framework for a great eye catching painting, with bold and nuance colors alike. There is a little bit of science of mixing colors with understanding what hues, value, and temperature are about. But also there is just the instinct of art in creating a beautiful piece of artwork. There is in my opinion a balance between know-how and artistic intuition. You have to truly be comfortable working this way while also requiring the knowledge of the components of a good painting;  form, balance, contrast, composition, and, of course, color. Working this way for myself took years of learning color, and I still learn to this day incorporating it into my artwork. 

When I start a painting I don’t always know color wise how its going to come out, its always the process of figuring out what will make it a little warmer in color and what will give it some good contrast to make the composition more interesting. My tubes of paint are pretty basic and after learning back in college the basics of color mixing most of my color mixing is now by intuition. Does my yellow come out a little muddy sometimes…yes it does, can I fix it. yes I always try. Add a little more cadmium yellow and maybe a little warmer Pyrrole Red Light with Cerulean Blue.