Color Mixing Demo with Koo Schadler

This demonstration is from “What Color Is Red?” by Koo Shadler from the January/February issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

Lesson in Local Color By Koo Schadler

Image 1 is a simple still life photo that I give to students as a preliminary painting exercise.

Color Mixing Demonstration Image 1

Image 1

Not uncommonly, a student begins by identifying the local colors of the various objects (a “yellow” pear, a “green” leaf, a “white” cloth). He then proceeds to paint with those perceived, local colors. The results are less than naturalistic.

To help students see color more clearly I place chips of pure, unmodified paint atop the reference photo (Image 2).

Color Mixing Demonstration Image 2

Image 2

A hole in the center of the chip reveals the underlying, true highlight, halftone and shadow colors. Students often are surprised to see how washed out or dirtied the local color is. The line of images below show close-ups of the paint chips placed over the reference photo.

Color Mixing Demonstration Image 3

In the image above, the third close-up from the left shows a paint chip of cadmium yellow light, straight from the tube. To achieve the actual color of the pear’s shadow, I would use yellow ochre modified with viridian green and umber.


Koo Schadler, author of Egg Tempera Painting: A Comprehensive Guide, conducts workshops on egg tempera and traditional composition and design. For more information, visit www.kooschadler.com.

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