This video provides a good primer on color mixing and theory.  It explains hue, temperature, value and intensity.  You’ll learn how classical paintings use color close to the neutral core, how the lightfast colors used by the Impressionists were a result of the Industrial Revolution and intense modern colors were developed post WWII.

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452 – 1519 ), Ginevra de’ Benci [obverse], c. 1474/1478, oil on panel, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

This Leonardo da Vinci painting is an example of the classical palette which, as explained in the video, is close to the neutral core.

Monet - Seerosen 1906.jpg
By Claude Monet – repro from art book, Public Domain, Link

In this painting we can see the luminous hues of the Impressionists use.  The palette we use in class is largely made up of these mineral pigments.

Artists on Painting

Watch the videos below from a series by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which contemporary artists discuss works from the Met’s collection.  After watching the video, take a look at the work by the artist who is speaking in the film.

Check  out Mark Bradford’s work.

Take a look at Mariko Mori’s work.

Look at some work by Spencer Finch.

We will now begin to work with color.  The following project is designed to learn how to mix color from a limited palette.

Project:  Abstract Color Designs

Supplies Needed

–paint chips (handed out in class)

–oil paints (full palette)


–Liquin or Galkyd


–two sheets of gesso-covered, 18” x 24” paper


–To learn to mix a variety of colors

–To learn to mix a variety of hues, tints and shades

–To create one visually interesting design that employs rhythm and repetition as key elements of the design.


Choose sixteen of the paint chips provided in class.  These colors will be used to create an abstract design so consider the harmony of the palette when choosing paint chips. Choose a range of colors: reds, blues, grays, browns, yellows (choose at least two tonal grays).  Create the painting on one of the gesso-covered sheets of 18” x 24” paper.  The painting should employ the design principles of rhythm and repetition and all sixteen colors.

It’s important that colors are kept crisp and clear. This can be achieved by wiping paint from the brush between strokes.  

Adhere the paint chips to the second sheet of gesso-covered paper and use this as a color test sheet.  List the pigments used in your mixture next to each color. This will be turned in with the paintings.  Make sure that both the painting and test sheet are signed.


The painting has employed all sixteen colors.  Colors are a near match to the paint chips.

The composition is visually engaging and employs rhythm and repetition as key elements of the design.

Student work examples:

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