I thought it might be a good idea for those of you interested in using field colour to explain how I painted my charts. It is a valuable exercise, even if you use a more direct method of painting and don’t use a variety of colours in your underpaintings. In this post I will explain how I made the Cadmium Red chart.
To create the chart – you have to make the 5 values of gray first. (1(mostly white),3,5,7,9 (black)) If you have a resource that shows the values at their correct levels – use it as a reference. These grays create our neutral values on the right hand side of the chart. (vertical) Painting a strip of neutral grays from 1 to 9 can be very useful when trying to determine the values of your subject as well.
Now we need to make the full chroma/saturation values on the left hand side (vertical). Cad. red med. is a natural 5 value. You can’t get a 7 or 9 from just cad red. To add black creates a tone and lowers the saturation. Therefore, no black is used on the left (full chroma) side of the chart. Alizarin Crimson, on the other hand, is a natural 9 value, so it is mixed with cad. red to create the 7 and used pure for the 9 value. The 1 and 3 values are made by a warm white (made from cad. yellow med and tit. white), otherwise the chart would cool off to much in the higher values.
Chroma is the function of the horizontal part of the chart. In order not to change the value along each horizontal line, you use the corresponding neutral grays to lower the saturation of each of the red values on the same horizontal line. Add a little more gray to the full chroma colour as you go from the left to the right. This is why you make the grays and the full chroma value sets first… Now you have a completed red chart.
For colours such as Ultramarine blue and alizarin (crimson red), charts are made from those pigments alone and the grayscale because you are working up from a 9 value. Light value colour charts such as yellow and orange are made with yellow and darker pigments from the same family such as raw umber and raw sienna to create full chroma 5-9 values.
When creating a painting – mainly the underpainting – with a particular field, you can use a colour from anywhere on the chart. You are looking to match the saturation and value of the what you are intending to paint. It just turned out in my example that I ended up using mainly a single level of saturation and that my colours fell onto one line. That was the nature of the overcast snow scene. (See this post for example painting). There is little colour saturation when things are that overcast in winter, but a variety of values. That’s why it is mid-high key. A low key painting would move more horizontally than vertically.
It may be useful to get a book on colour in general to help you wade through the terminology of hue, chroma, value, key, contrast, etc. An understanding of this will help you work more easily with any colour system thrown your way and help you work with it with more confidence.
Feel free to post any questions below in the Comments section and I will be happy to answer them if I can!
Here are links to past posts on Field Colour:
Other Tips for Artists: