Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brown as a Color Mix

Several months ago an online artist acquaintance (http://www.gerardboersma.blogspot.com/) reminded me that colors, including the ones I rhapsodize about on Facebook… “Look at the red in this painting, you can’t have too much purple!, I can’t resist orange…” make brown and black, when they are mixed.

I like to wear dark brown (chocolate brown especially) but I don’t like brown in home décor, although it is hard to avoid in home décor, at least the brown shades that are usually the default readiness of a living place at my budget range. I also really like to wear black, but it is quirky in home décor so I don’t have much of it – also dog hair is not kind to black things in the home.

I think Gerard was responding to something I said about craving color. I liked the deeper meanings in what he said – that colors are building blocks more than we may realize, colors are contained within what seems to be non-color, and color not treated properly appears muddy, unappetizing.

I didn’t realize until a friend pointed it out that on Facebook I most often showcase paintings with blue and orange. And guess what those two colors make, mixed - yep, brown.

If you Google color mixing you get many, many how-to articles about paint mixing, and many of the sentences sound unintentionally poetic. For example, from Rosemary Pipitone’s site Handpaintedphotography.com: “Blue and yellow do not always make green; sometimes you get mud... If your color is too dull or too muddy, just start over using only two colors. Mixing with too many colors will always mix muddy colors. Avoid over mixing colors, too many colors will result in a dark muddy hue.”

Actually, re-reading these sentences, they are maybe not so poetic. I read poetry into them because I relate to them. I have been known to overmix my writing, which clouds the points I’m making. Sometimes I group emotional issues in ways that makes the combined murk harder to deal with.

From childhood:
I remember that after rinsing the watercolor brush too many times without changing water, the water turned purple-brown or gray-black. When we used colored dough to make “stained-glass” Christmas cookies and got tired and sloppy with the leftover scraps, purple-brown dough accents were what we got.

My mother’s mother usually only made 2 kinds of cakes when we visited – Brownstone Front Cake, which everybody but me loved (I found it dry and not chocolaty or caramel enough, I never quite “got” that cake) and angel food, a cake that to this day bores me. Sometimes Grandma stirred red sugar sprinkles or red food coloring into the angel food cake…didn’t help the taste. The same lame trick was used on vanilla ice cream at Grandma Schmidt’s house – the adults would put some red sprinkles on the vanilla ice cream and let the kids stir it a bit to make a pattern. Usually what would happen, especially in an unairconditioned house in Texas, was that both the red sugar and the ice cream would melt really fast.

Following the messy food tricks of my older brothers, I would also stir up my Neopolitan ice cream. Of course that turned it into brown melted goop, which disappointed me – no more pretty tricolors! (And in this case I would call the ice cream brown “pretty,” since it was chocolate.) I think we believed, at least I did, that one day we might get a different ice cream color from stirring. Well, occasionally if your serving had more strawberry, the brown goop would have a pinker tinge.

When Googling goofy things like “blue orange makes brown” to look for illustrations for this post, I found Q&A forums where people were asking things like, What color can I mix with orange to make blue? Uh no, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t work backward to get a primary color.

One answerer suggested that if you were determined to get blue from orange and blue, you could add a whole LOT of blue to the orange and then the result would look blue. Not really color mixing – you would have pushed the combination unnaturally.

Pushing the mix, forcing a color result by exaggerated means…good metaphors there, in the intention, the process and the results.

1 comment:

SarahBowie said...

Gerard Boersma sent me a cool note: Oh by the way did you know that brown is actually another word for darkyellow? It's the only 'dark' color which we gave a different name. If you want to darken your yellow you should mix it with brown, not black. I never knew this untill a friend of mine told me this years ago. Quite interesting don't you think so?