Mixing Paints and Colors
Mixing Paints and Colors
This would seem a facile subject about which to write and so it would be, if the names of colors carried with them to every mind the same significance ; but these names are so indeterminate, and convey to the individual hearer, or reader, such entirely differing sensations, that we confess to not a little misgiving as to our ability to so present the subject as to make it fairly intelligible.
We proposed in the preface to connect the names of the colors with some familiar and well-known specimens of flowers or fruits as examples. This is no easy task, nor does it help us altogether out of our difficulty ; for the reason that flowers, particularly those in a state of domestication, present such a variety of tones of the same color under varying conditions and circumstances.
Another difficulty which presents itself is the wrong, or rather false impressions, existing in the minds of many, maybe a majority, as to the exact meaning which attaches to the names of colors. When we speak of a triangle, every hearer traces on the tablet of his mind a figure having three sides and three corners. When, however, we speak of yellow, the word conveys to the mind of each individual hearer possibly a different sensation. One, hearing the sound of the name, will see, in mental vision, yellow-brown stone ; another, the pale hue of the prim-rose ; another, the deep yellow of the marigold ; and so on through the whole range of the almost endless tones and hues of that color. It is easy to say, blue and yellow commingled produce green.
Yet if the yellow be the color of yellow-brown stone, and the blue a red-purple, or violet, or indigo, the resulting color will not give to the eye a pure green. There-fore, when in our color nomenclature we use the word yellow, we would photograph on the mind the reflected color of the buttercup ; not the pale tint of the primrose, not the color of the orange or the lemon.
In all the world of flowers, this is the most pertinent example we can offer of a pure yellow ; for the reason, if there were none other, that it is the most familiar.
Thus we have for comparison a familiar example, well known to young and old, easily remembered, and presenting in different localities the same color. With blue the case is altogether different, and the difficulties are almost insurmountable, for the reason that the floral kingdom so far as the writer’s observation has ex-tended presents no example of a pure blue ; and herein we may accuse Nature of being very niggardly, in view of the lavish abundance of yellows, purples, crimsons, and scarlet, the purples particularly being of gorgeous richness and purity.
The flax-flower among blossoms is the best we have to offer. The poet tells us :
“Deep in the wave is a coral grove, Where the purple-mullet and gold-fish rove; Where the sea-flower spreads her leaves of blue, That never are wet with the falling dew.”
Yet, however blue the sea-flower may be, we can not present it as a familiar example of a pure blue color. We have in the sky outside the world, so to speak the only example of pure blue which the eye of man has ever beheld or ever will probably behold. The reader must not mistake in supposing the sky will at any and all times, and in every part of the vaulted arch, offer for his delectation this heavenly azure.
It is never seen in a winter sky in our latitude, and in summer only under (over, perhaps, would be the better word) peculiar conditions. It is not seen in a calm nor in a storm ; never in a south wind or an east wind, or when the wind is from the north, for the reason that with none of these winds do we see the sky glorified with those passing, fleecy clouds, with sharply defined outlines, which are indispensable in the exhibition of heaven’s own blue.
If the reader would revel in the joy born of the sight of this color in all its purity, let him watch and wait, for ’tis a rare spectacle, and only shown when all the conditions are favorable, and Nature in her best mood.
These conditions are as follows :
A day in the country, following an afternoon or evening summer thunder-storm, clearing up during the night, and ushered in by sunrise in an unclouded sky and a brisk west or northwest wind. Early’ in the forenoon large masses of fleecy clouds, with clearly cut, sharp out-lines, will chase each other across the face of the sky.
Then, by close watching, may be seen in the zenith, surrounded by those creamy white cloud-masses, a patch of pure blue color, suggesting to the pious mind heaven’s own gateway. As before said, the flax-flower is the best example we can offer, out of the endless variety of the floral world, to convey the idea of what we mean when we speak of blue, the third and last of the primary colors as seen in the spectrum.
Red, the first of the primary colors, is that pure red color which is neither scarlet nor crimson, and Nature offers but few specimens of it ; indeed, she has confined the use of this most pleasing of all colors to old and young, to the painting of the petals of flowers, the tempting hues of luscious fruits, and the gorgeous plumage of tropical birds.
Nowhere is it to be seen in the sky, except in rare sunsets, in the water, or in the earth ; and in the general landscape so small is its proportion, compared with the other primary colors, that it may be said to have no place there.
The difficulty in obtaining a pure red is, that the slightest reflection of the yellow ray changes it to scarlet, and the most infinitesimal commingling of blue to crimson. So with pure blue : the faintest suspicion of yellow makes of it a blue-green, and the slightest show of red changes it to purple.
We suggest the red Dutch currant as the best familiar example of pure red color, because of its common occurrence in temperate climates, and because no better familiar example is offered.
We seem now to have a point of departure not the best, perhaps, but certainly much better than none ; because, when we speak of red after this disquisition, we shall be understood to mean the color of the ripe currant, and not old red sandstone.
The name of yellow will suggest the color of the buttercup, not the yellowish-brown of the ocher pigments ; and blue will call to mind the color of heaven. The teaching of the practice of the art of compounding colored pigments will be looked for in the succeeding chapter.