A WORKING COLOR WHEEL

Coulton Waugh in his wonderful book, “Landscape Painting with a Knife“, describes his unique concept of the color wheel.  After detailing how he mixes the colors he uses in painting and in his color wheel, he talks about his working color wheel constructed from squares of wood that are painted in each color of the wheel.  Because the squares are large enough to pick up, they can be used in the field for color comparisons; because the mix of paint for each hue is written on the back, there is no mystery to duplicating that color when painting.

I’ve always chosen my paints to give me an approximation of the hues of the color wheel, and that is helpful, particularly if hues and a few mixtures are included.  Here’s a sample wheel of the normal colors on my palette.  Having this painted wheel using my colors for reference helps when I’m painting. This wheel uses Anthraquinone Red, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Green, Thalo Green, Veridian, Cerulean Blue, Thalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Manganese Violet. Along the right side are Terre Verte, Raw Sienna, Indian Yellow, and Burnt Sienna.  Tints are on the outside of the wheel, complement mixes inside the wheel,  and in the corners a few mixed greens.  This is a helpful reference for painting and does use the pigments I have on hand.

In contrast, Waugh’s wheel uses standard mixes of set pigments to create hues that he feels are the truest for each color.  I decided to give his method a try and the results are, I think, very successful.  I used squares of canvas paper glued to squares of foam core; I then mixed the ‘true’ colors according to Waugh’s directions and painted them on the squares.  I made smaller complementary mixed color squares and a few even smaller tint squares made from the same hues.  A small dot of the complement for each color is painted on each large square, as Waugh suggests.  The squares are adhered to a board with velcro, so that they can be pulled off and held up for color matching.  I’m really happy with this “working color wheel” and look forward to putting it to good use!