January 26, 2021
This week we have high drama purple and yellow. It’s in some ways very like the blue orange challenge, although to my mind not as easy. Yellow and purple together always brings to mind mauve and yellow crocuses and Iris. I didn’t find quite so many references so perhaps I’m not the only one to find this challenging.
All the same principles apply as for the orange blue complementary pair, and it’s worth trying to mix a few yellows with one purple colour to find out what you can make with this limited palette. Again purple will very quickly denature any yellow much in the same way that blue does the same with orange, so always add a small amount of purple to the yellow to make your mixes, unless you just want to add a small amount of yellow to a very strong pigment like Dioxazine Purple, just to take the edge off its rather harsh colour.
A few notes on other pigments and the use of pastel are included in the Challenges for this week: section nearer the end.
Unlike red and blue and especially when working with oil or acrylic, yellow can be used to make a deep colour paler while at the same time lessening its saturation (purity). That is why a little yellow with Dioxazine will lessen its vivid colour. This does not work where reds and blues are opaque paints that already contain a lot of white; especially gouache and acrylic paints (some pink and pale bluecolours).
A useful watercolour technique is charging. Make a small square of yellow wash, about 3inches square and drop a strong purple into it while it is wet. This technique is called charging. Very often the colours mingle rather than mix, but the results can be stunning. Then try dropping yellow into a purple wash.
I repeated this with a stronger purple wash; the results are subtle but would be wonderful for a ceramic vase.
Challenges for this week:
Spend most of the time on 3. and/or 4.
1. Yellow and Purple mixes;
I suggest you stick to one purple, Dioxazine (also called Winsor Violet) would be a good choice being a strong pigment that will give you plenty of tonal contrast and see how it mixes with the yellows in your box. Just remember it is very strong, transparent and staining.
A gentler option would be any other mauve or violet.
If you have a pale opaque violet like the rather expensive Cobalt Violet your yellow mixes will be much more subtle but you will not be able to make dark tones with yellow. It is certainly worth experimenting with as it is a beautiful pigment for delicate colour washes but will not give you any strong tones.
Purple is one of the more difficult colours to mix but a magenta added to an ultramarine should give a good purple. Mix a large amount if you wish to have a consistent colour mix for a painting.
You may also wish to use either pastel or oil pastel which would be great as a wax resist with watercolour.
If you are using acrylic Dioxazine Purple is the strongest. There are other purple pigments which are often mixed with white so you would automatically reduce the transparency of your colour by mixing with transparent yellows. All are useful but please be aware that the results will be different.
If working with watercolour try the charging technique as outlined above. Note any difference in the behaviour of your pigments. Try charging purple into yellow and yellow into purple.
3. Make a composition using only yellows, one purple and white if required.
4. Make a second painting using yellows, one purple, white, black and a small amount of colour analogous to purple e.g. a purplish blue like ultramarine.
The painting should appear mainly yellow purple and mixes of these two. Use black with caution but do try using a pure black and very strong purple beside each other or for a very rich dark area try laying strokes of purple over a dry black wash. A strong transparent purple like Dioxazine is necessary for this.
If you use Payne’s Grey instead of black also be aware that this paint is a mixed pigment that contains black so will tend to desaturate/muddy colours in the same way that black does. Very often the added hues are blue and/or purple pigments. My personal choice is to use a Payne’s Grey Blue Shade as the alternatives are generally very dull.
If time is limited, choose to do either 3. or 4.
Do first look at the Matisse painting of a woman in a purple and yellow jacket and the Dufy work of a view through a window in Nice. It would also be well worth looking at the contemporary artist David Tress who works mainly with land and city scapes. If you can, choose to work from your imagination or your own reference, otherwise make your version of one of the paintings referenced.