Warm and Cool Colors

At last! I progressed to the section in the Tate Watercolor Manual * that discusses the technique of Joseph Mallord William Turner.  His lifetime spanned the late 18th century to the mid 19th century and made most inventive use of the pigments at his disposal and those new ones developed within his lifetime, according to the authors of my manual.

One of the hallmarks of his watercolors (and oil paintings) was the way he used cool and warm colors to create an harmonious composition; this, as the Tate Manual explains, was a break from the traditional balance between lights and darks (as we saw with Corot and Cotman).

Today’s warmup exercise:

In preparation for the sunset study (today’s experiment), the warmup exercise below shows the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors.

In the first panel (top left square), the top 2/3 of the image area was washed with Payne’s gray, a very cool dark blue color. The bottom third was washed at first with lemon yellow. I thought this was too cool a color to create any contrast, so I washed over it with a light red to warm it up.

The second panel, proceeding clockwise, also uses Payne’s gray, this time on the bottom 1/3 of the image. The upper part was washed with yellow ochre. I used cadmium red light in the yellow field and a mixture of this pigment with Payne’s gray to see how the combinations worked.

The third panel is a juxtaposition of  yellow ochre and cobalt blue as is the fourth panel. In that panel I darkened the cobalt blue in the fourth panel and added cadmium red light to the ochre.

Watercolor Chart: Warm and Cool Color Washes

Warm and Cool Juxtapositions

Not such a glamorous warmup, but hopefully it will prepare me for my Turner sunset experiment.


Tate Watercolour Manual, Lessons from the Great Masters by Tony Smibert and Joyce Townsend

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