Painting Class: Colo(u)rs

In service to my efforts to become a better painter I recently took up an evening oil painting class. So far it's been great fun, and I'm already learning things that I wish we had gone over in the painting classes I took in school. It goes to show how important it is to have a good teacher, especially when you're first starting out. The class is aimed at beginners, so the first week we just went over the basics of how to work with oil paint. Guess what, I've been doing it ALL WRONG.

It turns out that cleaning your brushes between every color with paint thinner only leads to ruined brushes (I'm really good at ruining brushes). Instead, all you need to clean your brushes is a jar full of vegetable oil. That it! It works surprisingly well; it doesn't smell, it doesn't eat your brushes from the inside out, and it works even when it gets all dirty and gross looking.

We do still use thinner, but only as a medium to thin the paint, and only as a mixture: 1/3 thinner to 1/3 damar varnish to 1/3 linseed oil.

Next we talked about laying out your palette, another place I'd been lead astray. We were given the following order to follow clockwise from the top left of the palette and moving around the edge to the bottom right:

  • raw/burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • yellow ochre
  • cadmium yellow (medium)
  • cadmium red (medium)
  • alizarine crimson
  • ultramarine blue
  • cerulean blue
  • viridian green
  • and a big dab of titanium white in the lower left corner

The idea behind this ordering is that colors nearest to each other on the palette, when mixed, will form the most vibrant version of that mixed color. So, for example, mixing cad yellow and ultramarine blue will make a vibrant green where as yellow ochre and cerulean blue will make a more subdued green.

With my new found color skills I made this color wheel:

That thing in the middle is an apple by the way. Or at least it was until I started "experimenting". I'm a painter now, I get to do that.