M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Friday, November 13, 2009

Graydon Parrish Workshop on Color

Graydon Parrish lecturing on the Munsell color system during a workshop at Grand Central Academy of Art.

"The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy," by Graydon Parrish, 2002, oil, 8' x 18'. Collection the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut.

"Rose," by Graydon Parrish, 2009, oil, 16 x 12. Private collection.

I recently finished writing one of the most complicated and illuminating articles I've ever developed for Workshop magazine (www.artistdaily.com). In the winter 2009 issue that is just out, I describe a three-week workshop Graydon Parrish taught on the Munsell color system at the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York (www.grandcentralacademy.classicist.org). The system is too complicated to explain here, but suffice it to say Graydon helped a group of serious, dedicated artists gain a better understanding of color hue, value, and chroma. Graydon began studying the system in earnest when he was creating his masterpiece, "The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy," for the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut in observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. Here's an excerpt from my article that may help explain the application of the Munsell system:
"When we mix colors using the Munsell system, we first determine the correct value we need, then the hue, and then the chroma," Parrish went on to say. "For example, to mix flesh color for a figure, we would first mix a neutral gray at the appropriate value level and mix the red component, such as alizarine crimson, and white to the same value. We continue adjusting the hue by adding the yellow component (burnt umber, yellow ochre, and titanium white) at the same value since flesh is in the yellow-red range. Using these red and yellow ochre mixtures establishes the correct hue -- an orange or yellow-red -- in Munsell terms. Finally, we adjust the chroma by adding the neutral gray and correcting for any unwanted hue shifts. Usually adding gray will shift the mixture toward yellow, so in that case we would add a bit more of the red mixture and check it again using Munsell as a guide.
"Finally," the artist continued, "we move the chroma of the flesh color up by adding more of the original components (yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, and white), and if it is still too low we choose higher-chroma pigments, such as cadmium red, cadmium yellow, or the modern organics."

Graydon maintains an informative website for artists interested in the Munsell color system: www.rationalpainting.org. He has his own personal website: www.graydonparrish.com.

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