Messy Mixer

November 6, 2014 | 4 Comments

I don’t think that I need to tell you this… I love colour.

But for me it is colour in the form of watercolour pigments that I love most of all. It is colour in the context of pigments suspended in water and the way they interact with each other that gets me very excited. I love dropping pigments into a puddle of water – moving them around or just watching what they do themselves. So when I do some colour mixing I do it in a messy way.

One of the very special friendships that I have made in the last 18 months has been with Jane Blundell – ‘Colour Jane’. We have SO much in common in regard to our love of watercolour (and a few other things as well). Jane is without doubt the queen of colour mixing and her colour charts are a work of art in themselves. I am in awe of them and so glad that she is producing these for all of us to benefit from – thanks Jane!

But me… I am a messy mixer! These are a few photos from my separate Colour sketchbook – Volume 1 where I did lots of tests comparing pigments(more here)… but despite all the hours I have spent exploring and researching (no idea how many hours I have spent looking at the handprint site) I have NEVER done a formal mixing chart. All those little squares to fill in and constantly cleaning my brush and palette puts me off a little.

So last week I thought it was about time – and my minimal palette with only 6 colours makes it a lot easier. I had the intention of doing a neat colour chart with two versions of each mix – just like this lovely one by Nina Johansson. But somehow it morphed into a Liz-style messy mixing chart.
It isn’t a beautiful pristine graphic of colour but I am already finding it really useful. The black squares are the combinations I use most of all.

And just as a follow up… this is what I really should do for each colour combination. A messy puddle of the two colours mixed on the page – moved around, dropped in, splashed over AND then more controlled mixes graduating from one colour to the other – varying the water and brush strokes. Hmm, I like this… can you hear my brain ticking over with an idea for my next colour book??

Finally – I just want to acknowledge the influence of two great artists and great friends who really got me started on my pigment obsession – Cathy (Kate) Johnson and Roz Stendhal.

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  • Rebekah says:

    Great post! I'm having so much fun in class already!! When I got my first set of watercolors for Christmas, I would just make page after page of watercolor backgrounds mixing different colors. I love mixing colors! But the thought of doing a chart was intimidating and annoying! I love your messy mixing! That would be my preferred way! I must try it now! 🙂

  • Liz Steel says:

    thank you rebekah! yes messy is the way to go in my opinion!

  • Carol Albers says:

    DEar Liz,

    I recently found you through Sketchskool. I am a beginning sketcher, hoping to build my skills for some travel planned in 2017. for almost a year now I have been all over books, and blogs and you tube studying anything I can find about sketching.
    I just had to pop in here to thank you for such quality work! THe care, precision, and knowledge you bring to all of your posts and classes is so obvious! You are a natural and generous teacher, and I am so pleased that I have found you. wishing you continued good, health, good sketching, and good fun!

  • Jane C says:

    I love your messy mixing and it’s great to see the ranges in just one mix! So liberating that the tiny little squares in a grid and so much more useful. Thanks for creating this post.

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