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Color Charts – Starting the Experience

February 27, 2010

Apple 4, Oil on Gessoed Paper 6" x 8"

Two weeks into the new semester. No classroom injuries to report and the artists appear to be having fun. Where the level 2 and level 3 students already know some of their classmates and are able to feel comfortable almost immediately, the level 1 students are still a bit tense. But that’s normal. Thankfully,  the level 1 students are good natured and are surviving their first exercise; a color chart.

Incorporating a color chart into my level 1 class came about by necessity.  Many of the students arrive at the first class without any supplies, so rather than start painting and have some students feel far removed, we spend some time discussing the supplies which I use for class. By arriving at the first class with a sheet of Arches watercolor paper, a pencil and a yardstick, they will have time in class to draw out the charts which we paint. During the next week, the students can acquire the balance of their supplies and be ready to paint by our second session.

The other necessity enables  me to see and adjust how they start working with watercolor. Some students have had experience with watercolor and desire to understand my ways and techniques. Some students have had experience working with opaque mediums such as oils or acrylics. For others, their experience may go as far back as elementary school, if at all. I can see which students have a feel for the medium. I can help suggest adjustments. For some students I suggest more water and less color. For other students, more color less water. As we proceed in this and the other classes, it allows for easier communication of the concepts and the application of watercolor.

Over the next two weeks, the student will have the chance to test the Arches watercolor paper, the opportunity to try each of the twelve colors I use for my basic palette, and experience each of the four brushes I recommend. The students will be able to play with the viscosity of their mixes to create values of a hue. They experience how the hue can be altered by a thin application (or glaze) of another color. They will also start to see how the colors can be used in combination with each other to create interesting washes.

The chart which we create is very basic but allows the students to get comfortable with the class and their classmates. A more elaborate color chart, one which I show the students after they complete their charts, is far more helpful but takes more time.

It seems the students that need the color chart exercise the least seem to appreciate it the most. Everyone that has completed the color chart has survived my course and nobody has ever received a failing grade. It is a great way to start the watercolor experience…in my opinion.

North Boone Field, Oil on Canvas 16" x 20"

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