Colour – Using the Wheel

The painting shows a sunny day in the countryside where two women and their children wander through an open field. A summery sky filled with fluffy white clouds is bordered by a row of dark trees that almost hide a distant farmhouse. The grassy field, scattered with wild poppies, fills the entire foreground. What do we see in terms of colour scheme in this painting?
Dominant hue: Yellow-Green. As the Impressionists were well aware, a bright landscape looks mainly yellow. So, the Yellow-Green grass nearly fills the canvas.
Adjacent hues: Yellow tips the grasses and makes the straw hats of the small figures; a soft Yellow tints the walls of the farmhouse. Green makes a bold line of trees at the horizon and the shadows in the field.
Complement: Purple. The small figure of the woman in the foreground wears a dress of this shade.
Discord hues: Red poppies are clumped in the immediate foreground, softening in intensity of colour as they recede up the grassy slope. Blue sky shows between the clouds and is echoed in the parasol carried by the nearer woman.
Neutral hues: A number of extremely subtle blends of the colours used throughout the painting. To check how this works, study both models of The Colour Wheel, shown on my website for you to copy.
Earlier, I mentioned Chroma. This is the intensity of a colour, which can be altered – lowered – by adding small amounts of the colour’s Complement.
Value refers to the darkness or lightness of a colour. Some hues can never be as deep in Value as others. Looking at the Wheel, you will see that for instance, Yellow can never be as deep in Value as is Purple, even at its greatest intensity, or Chroma.
So, how do you use this knowledge to match a particular colour? For instance, you might need to match a strong, greyish-blue of storm clouds in a landscape.
Squeeze from the tube a bit of the blue closest to what you see in the clouds, probably Cobalt Blue. You will modify this with a bit of its complement, which you know is orange. (If you must, you can use Cadmium Orange, but why not mix it yourself from Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red?)
It will not look quite right yet. When comparing your mixture with those clouds, try to see whether the difference lies in chroma or value. If the chroma is too intense, add a little more orange. If the value is too dark, add some white.
When you have gone overboard with the white, do not be tempted to add black to darken the mixture. Add a bit more Cobalt Blue instead. Keep adjusting until your match is right.
At first, you will need a lot of stick-at-it-ness but believe me, it will soon seem easy as pie when the principles have become second nature to you.
When you make it a habit to plan your work by choosing that ‘slice of pie’ from The Colour Wheel before you start painting, you will never have another failure caused by a poor colour scheme. A� Dorothy Gauvin