Teacher’s Lament

By Lisa


  I have a fit to pitch about students asking so many questions about mixing paints. When I do a demo, there is one student in every crowd who insists on knowing which paints are not only on my palette, but which paints are in every mixture, and how much of each goes into the mixture. Oh my stars people, please relax. This is not chemistry class. It is not cooking class with recipes. Your knowing exactly which paint goes in which puddle is not going to make you spontaneously combust into Rembrandt (or Julia Child). Here’s what I suggest. Get your little color wheels out. AND LEARN THEM. Know which colors are opposite each other. Know what mixing them together does (THEY NEUTRALIZE). Learn warm verses cool. Learn about tinting strength of each pigment. Here’s a thought: experiment on your own with these things. It is something you must do to become a painter. We cannot spoon feed you this stuff with every laborious stroke you make and we are definitely tired of being blamed for your muddy messes.

    And I am going to tell you ONE LAST TIME how to get a flesh tone, and then you can write it on the back of your hand or tattoo it on your forehead (backwards so you can read it in a mirror), and finally, you must simply try it. Mix ANY YELLOW, with ANY RED, and SOME WHITE, and neutralize it with a TOUCH of ANY BLUE OR BLACK, and voila, you have……..caucasian FLESHTONE!!!!!! If it doesn’t look like fleshtone, then ADJUST THE COLORS ON YOUR “SCREEN” FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!

    Was that a bitch-fest or what? I feel much better now though. And next time a student asks about what I am mixing, I am going to send them to the office, to sit at the computer, and read this post.

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20 Responses to Teacher’s Lament

  1. wrjones says:

    May I offer a variation on a previous suggestion?

    Hang large drapes of green next to each other, blue-green, yellow-green, dull green, bright green, etc. Have your students match these colors. Don’t touch their palette knives. Let them do every bit of mixing. If they want help, you ask them to look at the color they want and the color pile they have. Is it darker, lighter, redder, and so on. Then ask what do they think they should add to this mixture to move toward the desired color?

    After they have mixed the paint at least relatively close to the drapery colors, ask “Could you tell me what colors you used and how much of each?” When they reply “No”, look at them and say, “No shit?”

  2. Rhonda says:

    Well, you all are suffering from the “beginners blues,” which never seem to go away for some painters – or would-be painters. In every class and in every demo I’ve ever been priviledged to witness, there is always one or two who must know what colors you use. It’s usually the same one or two people who never intend to do anything with the information and aren’t going to learn on their own. Is it wrong to spoon feed someone Cobalt Blue paint? How poisonous is it, really?? I feel your pain…

  3. Chris Bundy says:

    Oh no, I read your blog and I heard myself at workshops asking the color questions. :) Please accept my apology on behalf of all of us out here who are slightly anal. I promise I’ll relax and strike out on my own with more confidence. I currently have questions about making a nice black so I’ll get out into my studio (aka the garage) and start mixing. Thanks for the eye opener.

  4. lbtowers says:

    That’s it, make me feel guilty Chris.

    For Black try: Alizarin, Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue. If you want to know the hue, add a touch of white to the side but do NOT mix this into the rest of it. If the white mixed in looks too much like one color, you will know what to add to neutralize it. Mind you, this works with the brands of paint(s) I use. It may not work as well with what you use, so once again, experiment.

  5. I like the idea of spontaneously combusting into Rembrandt. That would be a good name for a rock band.

  6. Susan says:

    As you know, I recently took a class from J. Kamin, who was very patient with all my color questions. COLOR IS REALLY, REALLY, confusing, because, and I am whispering now…you have to think about it… OMG…that is the hard part.
    “Value doesn’t change,but temperature does.” I felt that paint and it all seemed room temperature to me. What the heck is she talking about “value stays the same, but the temperature changes”… don’t these teachers know that paint comes in different price points (earth tones are cheap, read and blues go up in price like gasoline.) P.S. thanks for teaching me how to mix paints on my palette.

  7. What are the colors ya have there on ya palet? Ah, never mind, I dont wanna piss ya off! And you call yourself a teacher?! I no one thing fer sure…paintin with colors is a bitch!

  8. How cum my comments always end up with that sissy pink thingy attached?! Are ya screwin around with my computer?

  9. lbtowers says:

    Okay, a bitchy teacher David. And are you referring to the avatar? You will notice that some of us astute bloggers have custom ones that we decide on and load ourselves. Those of you unastutes get assigned sissy pink thingys. Until now, I actually thought that was your choice. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  10. wrjones says:

    Well thanks a lot, Susan. I thought I understood temperature. Are you sure they were ALL room temperature? I thought the reds would burn you and I have been mixing the blues in my pepsi to keep it chilled. I found out my wife has been sipping on my sodas when I caught her with a blue Smurf tongue.

    David, Lisa is a good teacher, but patience is not her strong suit, or even in her closet. Really, you should dump that pink thing before going into a biker bar for a drink and some blog chat.

  11. 100swallows says:

    Hey, Lisa and Bill, why don’t you make your default avatars those little monsters? That ought to tickle David. See them on my blog. They get tiring fast but you can always return to the pink snowflakes.

  12. wrjones says:

    How do you select the default avatars?

  13. Susan says:

    I like my sissy pink thing and as a matter of fact, I looked up the
    symbol at symbolsareusdotcom.com and found it to mean in Aztec..”o wise
    one who is getting better at mixing color because she has a great painting teacher”…I thought is to be an omen of future success.

    Bill, DO NOT mix pepsi with paint. It is not archival.

  14. wrjones says:

    Susan, you are thinking of regular, I drink Pepsi One.

  15. Anna Elissa says:

    I can imagine how such activities could be quite hard for some people. Even I’ve experienced those moments when I wanted this colour to be a little bit to “that” side, but couldn’t quite see how I could do it.

    But really, many other people treat art as rock-hard science.

    On a side note, thanks for leaving a comment in my blog. If you have the time, could you please take a look at my gallery here: http://starcross.deviantart.com Perhaps I could receive some feedback from an art teacher ;)

  16. Susan says:

    sorry Bill! As usual you are right and I continue to be
    confused about mediums. I will have to clarify with Lisa on Wed.
    I hope she won’t mind the question!

  17. 100swallows says:

    Bill: Open your DASHBOARD. Far to the right click on SETTINGS. Then click on DISCUSSION. Scroll down the page to the very bottom and there are the default avatar options.
    To alter their size:
    Go to DESIGN, then to WIDGETS and there to RECENT COMMENTS: EDIT: the size of the avatars is one of the options.

  18. wrjones says:

    Thanks, swallows. However, David’s avatar is still not looking all that manly.

    Susan – “As usual you are right?” Hey, I’m starting to like you a lot. How do you like your new avatar? Look that one up. It looks like some type of blood pressure pill. She will mind, but, what the hell, tell her to elevate her feet and take a couple of aspirin. That will mellow her right out.

    Pepsi One is not really a good medium. But I like to drink it with my vodka. Then I find I don’t give a shit about mediums, color, temperature, value, the price of corn; linseed oil, maroger, turpetine, peanut butter, what does it matter; just get something down on the canvas.

    Anna Elissa, you have a great imagination and an inspired way of expressing it. That “heartache” is me.

  19. lbtowers says:

    Anna, I did visit your site. I am not sure if I am just computer illiterate, or if it really is not possible to leave a comment there. Okay, I know I’m CI, but if it is at all tricky I am out of there sans comment. So I will let you know here, that I think your work is terrific. I love your drawings–your imagination, boundless. And I agree with you that med school and art go hand in hand. Sounds and looks like you have a good grip on both. Keep us posted on your quest for the stars!!!

  20. To relax is great color advice! Everyone should also remember that the colors in nature, in the picture, out of the tube, on the palette — and basically ALL the colors everywhere (except inside the imagination of your visual cortex) are just photons anyway. And you know how photons are — always bouncing around and changing!
    It reminds me of something Harrison Ford was supposed to have once said, a long time ago: “It’s just a movie.” Yes, they should definitely chill.

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