I recently had an artist ask me why color mixing is so difficult to master. At first I didn’t know how to answer the question. I have always loved color and it has never given me much trouble. To critique my own art, I would say my color can be too bright and bold. I have never had the issue of making “mud”.

Here is a watercolor I did many ears ago. I am not sure the banana flower was that brilliant but this is what I saw at the time. It was an explosion of fabulous bright bold color!

So how did I get this bold attitude towards color? In my art I am drawn to brilliantly colored and exotic things. I love iridescence and crazy color combinations. Red-eyed Tree Frogs, Peacock Feathers, Jewel Beetles! I think my preference towards bright colors is definitely driven by what I see in nature. I’ll take an orchid over a daffodil any day!

I also admire artists who’s work appears gentle and muted. The soft quiet approach is one which eludes me. As I progress in my work I have learned to tone down my colors and punch them up when I want. How did this happen?

Firstly, I think I am fearless when it comes to color. I an not afraid of making a mistake. I realized a long time ago, I learn some really good lessons from falling flat on my face! Secondly, I believe color, like drawing can be taught. For some, it may be more difficult but for others (I include myself in this category), it is relatively easy. In college I took Color Theory and I believe it gave me a decent foundation. We mixed a gazillion amount of swatches. It was repetitive, sometimes boring but  a lot sunk in. 

It was when I began teaching I realized artists were struggling with color mixing and I wanted to help them. I studied and created more charts and then I came to a realization. Artists of today have too many color choices! Art manufacturers, whether they are making watercolor, colored pencil, pastels or any other color medium offer so many colors it is overwhelming. It appears from a marketing strategy…. the more colors you have ….. the better chance you have of being a better artist.

This just is NOT TRUE! I think the more paints you have, the more confusing it can get. The more money you have invested, the pressure to create the next masterpiece is HUGE! When things are not coming out the way you want them to, you buy more colors! Has this happened to you?

In the beginning I bought every color I could find. I became a “color junkie”. As I started teaching I realized I could not give a supply list to students that would drain their bank account. I had to limit what they had to purchase. This made me have to come up with a specific palette and one which would work well and give the greatest range of possibilities. I start people with 2 reds, 2 yellows, 2 blues and few neutrals. When I am trying out a new brand of colored pencil or watercolor, I buy the 6 + a few extras to test them out. Often manufacturers will give you a great deal for buying their products in sets. This is very seductive because you feel like you are getting a great deal. I will only buy from a manufacturer that sells the products separately. I don’t need 172 pencils to find out I really don’t like the quality of the product.

Where do you land in the world of color? Are you confident, fearful…. a mud maker? Let me know what your experience is with color. If you need some help…. Let me know. I would love to help.

April 1st I am starting a watercolor class online. This is a great way to learn color mixing. Each week we go through mixing different ways of mixing to match color. Learn to make it interesting, varied and the way you want it! If you know someone who is struggling with color and wants to learn color mixing and watercolor please share this post. 

Be kind to yourself in this time chaos and concern. Turn towards creativity and take the time to explore and enjoy this quiet time and most of all…..be safe. Love and creativity to you all! ~Mindy