Another Way to Approach Terra Rosa from M. Graham

April 20, 2009

090314WatercolorTriad Left: A page from my journal showing a triad test: Indanthrone Blue (Daniel Smith's PB60) Indian Yellow (DS's Py108), and Terra Rosa (an iron oxide from M. Graham).

Yesterday's post on Terra Rosa triggered my memory. I had posted this triad chart in an earlier post on journaling superstition #4: Each Page Must Be Perfect.

The image comes later in the post so I am repeating it here so that you don't have to scroll around and look for it. I wanted to post it today so that those of you who were intrigued by yesterday's post on Terra Rosa could see immediately how it mixes up in a triad situation with additional pigments, when the goal is not simply to get rich neutrals. (I do use color sometimes!)

What is a triad? Simply put triads are formed with 3 (hence "tri) colors that are equidistant on the color wheel. The primary colors Red, Yellow, and Blue form the most familiar triad but there can be triads using secondary colors. The key things about a triadic color choice are that the three colors are not direct complements (so blending them won't yield neutrals); and they are not analogous colors (those colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel) which means the mixing yields more variety than other color schemes.  Finally, when mixing with a triad you can achieve some beautiful semineutrals that are not at all muddy.

As with any color mixing scheme you will want to pick a dominant and subordinate color, but you'll also have an intermediate color. The direction you go on your triad is pretty near infinite, depending on the mood you are going for in your painting. The resultant color harmony will be totally satisfying to you.

If you are interested in learning more about triads and how to use them in your painting (or colored pencil work, or pastels…) there are several great books out on color theory. Readers of my blog know that I am partial to Stephen Quiller's books on color theory (Color Choices and Painter's Guide to Color). Nita Leland's Exploring Color is another useful book on the topic. 

I love my PB60 and so it is natural for me to select it as the blue of a triad. In the above tests I pair it with Terra Rosa for my red and Indian Yellow. You will see from the quick chart I made that day in March that I could get very interesting greens, lovely peachy oranges, and interesting lavenders. Great browns are for the asking here in these colors. So pretty much anything I want to paint outside is going to be covered in a vibrant way with this lot!

If you are wondering what to do with Terra Rosa (or if you have the Daniel Smith Eco friendly Red Iron Oxide), work it in a triad and see what magic you can create.

  1. Reply

    I learn so much here! I have so many art books, etc., use to read constantly at Wetcanvas, but haven’t applied anything I learned, which means, I have learned a thing, ha!
    But I like your blog and format and it just is more interesting than reading an art book.

    • Katy
    • April 21, 2009

    Wonderful triad! I’m inspired!

    I checked out the Leland book on your recommendation from an earlier post, and it has been very helpful. One of the Quiller books has come in at the library for me to pick up today. Thank you for filling in the very large gaps in my art education!

    • Janine
    • April 21, 2009

    My first order of Daniel Smith watercolor tubes arrived yesterday and I am speechless at how beautiful they are. I immediately squirted them into what used to be my Cotman pan set (have tossed the old paint cubes) and started playing. I was playing for hours, admiring the colors. Going from Cotman to Smith is like going from driving a VW to a Ferrari. The strength of the colors is so amazing. They are simply BRILLIANT… Can’t wait to play some more with them later today. Favorite colors: Quinacridone anything (deep gold in my case) and Green Gold and Deep Scarlet. I got so excited I sent a note to Daniel Smith customer service this morning telling them how happy I am…

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