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.