Part 2a Exploring coloured media

Experiments with colour

OK, so this first exercise required some experimentation with coloured media in a similar way to the mark making exercises in part 1a.

I had used a variety of coloured media in the mark making exercises, so rather than repeat the same exercise, I decided to create some colour wheels and strips using some of the media I hadn’t used in part 1.

Whether you have never created a colour wheel or created hundreds of them, I find that this is always a useful reminder of colour relationships.

I used gouache so that I could get a feel for the coverage on cartridge paper and also to see how it behaved when I added black or white.

The text is not so good on this image, but you can get the gist of it.  It’s taken from the word version of my learning journal.









Colour terminology

There are many technical terms used to describe colour. The most common are:

Hue This is simply another term meaning colour
Tint A tint is produced when a colour (Hue) is mixed with white
Shade A shade is produced when a colour (Hue) is mixed with black
Tone A shade is produced when a colour (Hue) is mixed with grey
Value The extent to which the colour absorbs or reflects light

Knowing how particular colours behave in relation each other is key to using colours successfully.  The two colour wheels at the top of the page show the primary, secondary and tertiary colours with either black (on the left) or white (on the right) added in varying quantities.

Of course this can all change depending on the medium used; paint is particularly good for undertaking such exercises whereas coloured pencil can prove difficult when trying to add white in any great quantities.  Where pencils are concerned, lighter shades are usually created by varying the pressures of the colours being mixed.

Colours are often described as warm or cool colours.  In this colour wheel from the distinction between warm and cool colours is clear. As I mentioned earlier colour can have amazing effects on us.

Many moons ago at Art College I remember taking part in exercises where we painted a portacabin a specific colour and placed a couch in it that was the same colour.

We observed as students sat in rooms furnished with warm colours and sweated profusely, while those is cool coloured rooms shivered and wrapped themselves up.

Warm colours appear to be advancing towards the viewer while cool colours appear to recede or go away from the viewer.  Again this is useful information for artists who are constantly trying to produce the illusion of 3 dimensions on a 1 dimensional surface.

Here are the results of my colour experiments:

After creating colour wheels in gouache, I decided to create some colour blends using the oil pastels.  Simply scrubbing the colour on to the paper can create a heck of a mess with pastels.  A better option is to blend using marks placed next to each other.  This might sound tedious but it means that, at the blended end of the bar, some of the marks will go onto the white paper while others mix on top of the other colour.  This creates a much ‘cleaner’ blend.

This oil pastel piece reminds me of a garden plan for a very vibrant garden.  Some of the areas have distinct marks whereas others are blended.

The right-most starburst was blended using a torchon; the plaid square in the top right-hand corner shows what happens when colours are layered.

This next piece uses gouache.  I wanted to show a progression from warm to cool colours

















This next piece is called seeds.  It reminds me of the types of plants that spit their seeds all over the garden on a hot summer’s day.  The background is coloured pencil while the main body is a mixture of gouache on a fine liner outline.


















Finally here are my thoughts  on the coloured media that I experimented with and a few previews or work created later in this module.

Coloured pencils: Now and again I like to work with coloured pencils.  I think that they get a bad press from ‘purists’ who sometimes don’t perceive coloured pencils to be a serious medium.  I have a number of sets; Polychromos, Faber Castel and Derwent.

I find myself often going back to the Derwent coloursoft as they have a very creamy consistency and are therefore great for blending.  My assignment piece was created using coloured pencil.

Pastels and pastel pencils: Soft pastels are probably my favourite medium.  I find pastels very versatile from pastel sticks to pastel pencils for detailed work you can create a huge range of marks.

Pastel pencils are notoriously time consuming to sharpen if you want to keep a sharp point for detailed work as you need to use a scalpel.  Pencil sharpener blades simply do not cope with the abrasiveness.

For animal studies, like the one shown here, I often use graphite pencils over pastel to add very fine detail; retractable technical pencils are perfect.  I had a willing model for this piece – our cat Amber, she’s always willing to sleep. lol

Oil Pastels: Well what a revelation!  I was convinced that oil pastels were the devils work until now.  This is exactly what I signed up to this course for.

Until now I perceived oil pastels as clumsy, messy and, given my propensity for detail work, absolutely no use to me at all.  How wrong I was.  I think that maybe in the past I have tried to use oil pastels for the wrong subject.  I love the vibrancy of them and you are almost forced to created depth in a painting with them, especially if you have a limited set of colours.

Felt tips: I recently treated myself to a professional set of Letraset Pro-markers for some visual process mapping I have been doing with work.  They are great to mix with ordinary felt-tips and other media to created some great results.  Pro-markers have two tips, one chisel and one fine so they are very versatile.   The blender is a versions without pigment that allows you to soften the edges of marks and help to blend two colours.



Gouache and watercolour: I have used both gouache and watercolour a number of times in the past very successfully.  However gouache caused me the most frustration this time.  I’m not completely sure why this was, but I spent hours trying to rectify and work on the piece until eventually I reluctantly abandoned it.


Click here for: Part 2b Detailed Observation


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