Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Report on Graydon Parrish color workshop, Part 1

My apologies for going so long without a post! First I was traveling, then my computer went in for repair. Finally I am back up to speed.

From July 19 to August 6 I was at Grand Central Academy in New York City, at a workshop on Munsell color theory, taught by artist Graydon Parrish. The Munsell system allows the artist to think about color in a systematic way, according to value, hue, and chroma (chroma refers to the intensity, or luminous strength, of a given color.)

Here is instructor Graydon Parrish giving a demonstration on identifying hue, value, and chroma. After this, we all got closely acquainted with our palette knives, for hours, no, weeks of color mixing.

We created "strings" of color at various levels of chroma, value, or both. My palette, below, shows three strings of high chroma blue-green, yellow-red, and red. Along the top and right edge you can see a string (slightly contaminated in one spot with red!) of a neutral tone, from darkest to lightest.)
The writing above each dab of color is the Munsell notation for the value and chroma, in the given hue. One outcome of this training is, you can always match paint you mixed at some earlier date!

I mixed these strings for the "spheres" exercise. We painted 3 sets of 3 spheres. (First we painted the spheres we used as models, then we painted them in 2D.) The first 3 are neutral, with local color in the dark, medium, and light ranges of value. The second 3 are yellow-red, or flesh tones, in low, medium, and high chroma. The third 3 are high chroma spheres in three different hues. This was actually pretty difficult.

The sphere exercise applies to a number of practical problems in our paintings: the representation of volume, of changes in value, of changes in chroma, and of very high chroma objects.

The photo above is of artist Ruza Bagaric's lovely sphere work.

In another exercise, artist Marge Grinnell created strips, painting each with color she had mixed, then she used them as models for her painting, in which she explores the value and chroma variations that occur in light and shadow.

Artist Victoria Herrera worked on this study of a lily, using the Munsell approach.

These lessons will pay off as we work on our own compositions. I know my approach to color will change with this and further study. For one thing, I have a new ability to create, use, and appreciate neutral tones in any hue, and at any value. I have long admired the subtle use of neutrals in paintings from earlier ages, and will now try to introduce more neutrals into my own paintings.

More on my New York fun in Part II.


Karen Martin Sampson said...

I studied the Munsell system at the Cleveland Institute of Art when I was a student there back in the early 60's and it has served me well over the years. Once it is ingrained you can't look at anything without subconsciously analyzing the hue, chroma, and value. My artist friends are always amazed that I can "see" and accurately mix colours that they don't see and I know the training in Munsell is in large part the reason.

George De Chiara said...

Looks like a neat class. Your sphere's came out great. It's an exercise that's a lot harder to do then it looks.

Karen said...

Oh, my head hurts! The Munsell system!! I just assigned those charts with all the little chips to be glued in to my students last night. I know they'll love them. :)
When I read your email, I was going to ask you if that's what this was all about...seriously, it does sound like an intense and interesting class.
One thing I'll be curious about is, as you go about your painting as usual, how the intellectual/analytical munsell stuff will gel with the more 'intuitive' part of the work...

look forward to reading part 2!

Carol Lambert said...

This is an interesting set of comments. I agree with Karen Martin Sampson in that I am already seeing differently, with more appreciation for the variety of value, hue, and chroma in my surroundings. To respond to Karen Phipps, what has made me a believer is the difficulty, at first, of matching the color chips with paint, and the sharpness of vision I gained over 3 weeks of effort. We all bought the little books with the paper chips, but we didn't use them. We were sharing sets of the big, double volumes with removable chips with slick surfaces. We would dab our paint on the chip, and if the paint didn't disappear from view (perfect match), it was back to the palette knife. So making exact strings was a challenge, and yes, George, sounds like you know all about that. I hope this training will make a difference in my ability to tone down the chroma where I need to, match the hue where I need to, mix my paints reliably, and learn to use some of the tube colors to their maximum effect. So, more craft, and, I hope, less struggle. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Anonymous said...

hi could you tell me if you noticed any patterns in what colors you used to mix color strings? for instance, if you were doing a particular orange would you just use white to lighten and black to darken or were other colors chosen. can you tell us the colors you used to mix the scales at the various color points?

Carol Lambert said...

Sorry, I can't tell those details without writing a book. Graydon Parrish will eventually publish something along the lines of "how to" mix various hues at various levels of value and chroma, I believe he is working on that project now. What I can tell you is that an orange (known in Munsell as a Yelow Red) would not be best mixed with black in a value string, though white might be useful to raise value, at a cost to chroma. Sometimes to increase chroma it is best to look for a brand of cad orange that already has very high chroma. Darker values of orange can be obtained by use of earth pigments like burnt sienna, raw umber or burnt umber.