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Tint Tone Shade: The Language of Colour

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Learn the language of colour and improve your painting.

In last week's blog I drew your attention to a few of the bigger ideas which are more or less guaranteed to improve your painting, so this week I'd like to expand a little on that whilst my latest StudioTalk demo is still available to watch on demand.

A Study in Red.( 1 M Sq) from StudioTalk this week: available to see painted on demand until the next StudioTalk.

StudioTalk is really about providing an enjoyable, inspirational and achievable project , rather than delivering focused technical tuition (the Masterclasses provide exactly that tuition by the way), but it's very possible to improve your painting knowledge as you enjoy.

With that in mind, I'd like to draw your attention to some colourful resources, and ask you very politely two questions :

Do you love or hate using colour?

Are you routinely creating grey mud by over mixing?

The Basics of Colour or how to avoid Grey Mud

Grey Mud.. we've all created it by over mixing or over working colour, but it doesn't have to be that way !

Ironically, the students who create the most grey mud at the School are generally the ones who just love using colour. My observation? People who love colour are quite likely to get stuck in enthusiastically and place it with more confidence than skill: painting from 'the gut'.

Unfortunately the very worst way to use colours is to paint from the gut, so if you are an untrained intuitive painter then do yourself a favour and invest a little time in yourself. Don't imagine for a second that I'm saying you shouldn't enjoy painting freely and intuitively, just that you'll do so a lot more successfully and satisfyingly if you don't routinely create grey mud.

Here are some useful ideas which I very much hope you'll digest and bring to one of our Masterclasses, StudioTalk or - best of all - our dedicated professional colour mixing session on Simply Oils

  1. Print off a triadic colour wheel, one that shows the warm and cool axes, like the standard School one we supply is best. Think of this as a map for colour mixing.

  2. Organise your palette. For a basic palette use just primaries and achromatics. For a fuller Impressionist one you'll need warm and cool pigments for each colour family. The best way to start using colours well . is to choose them well.

  3. Learn the language of colour as any colour can be identified and mixed by simply identifying its Hue Family, Saturation, Temperature and Value.

  4. Practice the process by painting colour focused studies

On this week's StudioTalk I demonstrated just such a study using subtractive colour mixing. to create a one metre abstracted colour study just using the Red colour family and achromatics. Students wrote in to say how useful discussing and explaining how I reached the colours we needed was.

So my top tips this week are:

  • If you love colour invest a little time into using it well, you won't get better by reinforcing bad habits

  • Watch the latest StudioTalk on demand (until Tuesday- so be quick !)

  • Print out the School colour wheel and put it on your studio wall; you'l find it in our core notes for `StudioTalk members and Masterclass delegates.

  • Consider our Simply Oils Colour Mixing session - it will transform your understanding of mixing colour

  • Watch out for colour focused contemporary Masterclasses; they teach the art of colour selection and placement. We have three or four coming up this Spring.

  • Don't forget that optical colour is an amazing area for contemporary colourists to explore. Look out for contemporary glazing Masterclasses such as our forthcoming Maurice Sapiro Masterclass.

  • Check out the Gamblin website to get a feel for useful terms and concepts

Useful Links

Join StudioTalk to watch my latest colour demonstration here

Check out our colour planing Masterclasses such as Monet's waterlilies, Fauvism, Bonnard or Towards Abstraction here

Browse our colourman's website here.

Watch the video of my most colourful solo show The Painted Garden here

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Wonderful blog and an eyeopener Martin! Enjoyed the painted garden trailer and would love to have a studio talk centred around that if feasible.. Thank you !


Norma Lucas
Norma Lucas
Jan 20, 2021

Highly recommend the Simply Oils Colour Mixing Session. Thanks for sharing The Painted Garden video Martin, it is truly motivating.


Ali-j Wilson
Ali-j Wilson
Jan 20, 2021

Very inspired by the painted garden video it is wonderful. Now I know what I could possible do with all those drawings I did of Hyde Hall gardens, using felt nibbed pens and lots of scribbles, and the oil sketches I did in my own garden over the last few years. I am enjoying studio talk a lot, the only problem is my house is filling up with paintings...cheers Ali-j


Shauna Garnett
Shauna Garnett
Jan 16, 2021

Inspirational, beautiful, magical, genius. Thank you for sharing


Stella O'Mara
Stella O'Mara
Jan 15, 2021

Your Painted Garden show is spectacular Martin, wonderful expressive marks and lush color. Thank you for sharing. ❤️

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