In class yesterday we practiced mixing neutrals. Let's review those efforts and summarize the results.
Start by selecting a set of primary colors - one red, one blue and one yellow.
Combine two of these and mix until neither one dominates. If you mixed blue and yellow, for example, the resulting green should be neither a yellow-green nor a blue-green.
Next, begin adding the third primary by increments, until none of the three primaries dominate. The result will be a neutral, either grey or brown. If you want to produce a grey and you keep coming up with brown, think of the brown as basically orange. Add a bit of blue to it and you'll see it change toward grey immediately.
When all three primaries are present in a mixture, the result is a "neutralized" color. Imagine mixing a little Pthalo blue with some Cadmium yellow. The resulting green would be intense and assertive, unlike the natural greens in the landscape. Grass painted that color would look more like astroturf. But if you added just a touch of the third primary the color would begin to come down to earth. Try it, and see.
Neutrals can be adjusted so that one or another of the component colors has subtle dominance. In the photo below, look at the pavement just inside the building on the left. Compare that color to the pavement back by the shed with the arched roof. One is warm and the other is cool. Do you see a small area of the pavement that is red-dominant? All three areas are neutral, and could be called grey, but the differences enliven the composition and help support the illusion of space.
To neutralize a color, add the compliment.
The compliment of a color is whatever is missing if you want to have all three primaries equally present.
For example, green is yellow and blue. If we wanted all three primaries similarly present, we'd need some red. A more complicated example might ask, "What is the compliment of blue-green?"
Blue-green is blue plus yellow plus blue. To get all three primaries equally present we need another yellow and two reds, which add up to red-orange. Got it? Try it with paint and see if you come up with a good neutral.
For homework, try painting a scene like the one above or one of those that follow, where most of the shapes are neutrals, or neutralized. Use a palette that comprises only one red, one yellow and one blue. Combinations of the three components are welcome. In fact, they are the main idea! Also, feel free to adjust the colors to give one or another dominance.