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The Power of Colour 4: Yellow and Purple

January 26, 2021

Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Dioxazine Purple

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.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/the-power-of-colour/yellow-and-purple/

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. 

Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Dioxazine Purple

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).

Charging

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.

Cadmium Yellow Pale charged with Dioxazine Purple
Dioxazine Purple charged with Cadmium Yellow Pale

I repeated this with a stronger purple wash; the results are subtle but would be wonderful for a ceramic vase.

Stronger wash of Dioxazine Purple charged with Cadmium Yellow Pale
Sunflowers
Yellow with analogous colours and Black
Study from previous post with black added
Colours: Cadmium Yellow pale, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Orange, touch of Cerulean Blue for yellow green leaves, Ivory Black
Sunflowers
Colours as previous image plus Dioxazine Purple
Used at full strength Dioxazine purple is extremely dark.

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.

2. Charging

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.

Your Paintings:

The Scream in Yellow and Purple after Munch
by Barbara
Colour mixes and Charging
by Maryon
Stain Glass Window Design inspired by Art Nouveau
Watercolour by Maryon
Iris
Watercolour by Maryon
White and Purple Flowers
Watercolour by Maryon
Detail of a Watercolour by Heather
Yellow flowers charged with Quinacridone Purple
Muffins by Heather
Watercolour: Yellow and Quinacridone Purple
After Matisse: Exchanging Yellow for Purple
by Heather
Colour Mixing Cups by Ann
Violet, Cobalt Violet, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
Free Flowers
watercolour by Ann
Violet, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
Changing Colours: after Kees van Dongen
Watercolour by Ann
Yellow, purple, black, white, with touches of analogous colours
The reference is van Dongen’s portrait of Alicia Alanova which along with works of Chagall and other famous artists was stolen from the collection of an elderly couple in Los Angeles and reported in the Telegraph Newspaper 10th September 2008
Woodland Path by Ann
Violet, Lemon Yellow Cadmium Yellow
Yellow and Purple Landscape 1
Acrylic with glazing by Malcolm
Several yellows: Diarylamide Y83 (Rowney Cad deep hue), Cad Medium Y37, Arylide Y73 (Galeria Cad med hue), Arylide Y74 (Transparent) and a Lemon.
The glaze is Ultramarine Violet V15, which gives a greenish result on Lemon but on others brown. The shade depends on the strength of glaze.
Yellow and Purple Landscape 2
Acrylic by Malcolm
Accomplished with direct brush strokes and no glazing.
Dioxazine purple, White and Yellows: Diarylamide Y83 (Rowney Cad deep hue), Cad Medium Y37, Arylide Y73 (Galeria Cad med hue), Arylide Y74 (Transparent) and a Lemon.
Kimmeridge Sunset
Acrylic by Malcolm
Colour mixes by Shirley
Includes a Chrome Yellow which Turner included in his palette almost as soon as it was in production
Flowers of different purple mixes
Watercolor by Shirley
A Cornish Seascape
Watercolour by Shirley
Mixes of yellows and purple to make muted colours
Abstract in Yellow, Purple and Black
Watercolour by Shirley
On white paper (white in the image) and no colour mixing
Wet in Wet Colour mixes
by Jan
Top; Cadmium Yellow and Dioxazine Purple
Lower: Lemon Yellow and Dioxazine Purple
Watercolour Mixes by Jan
Cadmium Yellow, lemon yellow,
Dioxazine Purple plus Ultramarine
Daffodils and Anemones 1
Watercolour by Jan
Daffodils and Anemones 2
Oil pastel and Watercolour by Jan
Inspired by Batik Fabric
Watercolour by Liz
New York after Colin Rufell
Watercolour by liz
Pastel after Hopper
By Liz
The Mask
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Irises
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Irises (detail)
Watercolour by Maricarmen
After Turner
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Wisteria Gate
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Y,ellow, Violet and White
Irises
Watercolour by Sarah
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Violet,
plus Ultramarine, Cerulean, Sap Green and White
After Penelope Crowley
Watercolour by John
SAA intense violet, cadmium yellow, Indian yellow and a touch of ultramarine

Plums in a Basket
Watercolour by John
Cobalt Yellow, Indian Yellow, Intense Violet, Cobalt Violet, touch of White

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