Mellow Yellows


Today I did what I had hoped to do yesterday, but I painted a temple instead.  So, this afternoon, I sat down with my studio palette and decided to take a good look at the yellows I have, use them individually, as well as mix them.  The colors include aureolin, new gamboge, raw sienna, cadmium yellow, hansa yellow, quinacridone gold, raw sienna, and “mystery yellow,” named thus because I didn’t label it!

Above are my first paintings, mixing colors and not happy with the results.  So, I did pure color studies of the lemons to see what I could get.

Above, pure colors in varying densities to see what they could do.  It was quite interesting!

In the studies using only one yellow, I varied the density of the paint from very watery to rather heavy.  I did the same in the above picture with sap green.

In this one, I used pure hansa yellow, sap green blended into the yellow, and cobalt blue for the shadows, with some bleed from the lemon.  The stem was pure sap green.

Heirloom tomatoes are always interesting – they are rather like aliens in the produce department!  Again, limited palette with varying uses of the colors individually and mixed.

Another alien, but this time I created a swatch of the colors as I did the painting.

If you want to scroll through the paintings, click on an image above.  I like doing that because I see things in a sequence.

Anyway, I really got a better sense of the yellows and how I might use them.  Cadmium yellow, hansa yellow, raw umber and raw sienna are my most-used yellows, but can see where others may be valuable, such as in shadows and so on.  Hansa yellow is a cold yellow, in my opinion, and the warmth of the cadmium yellow cannot be beat.  For rotten bananas, raw sienna isn’t too bad!


2 comments on “Mellow Yellows”

  1. I can’t tell you how helpful your study is to me right now! Trying to follow an online class painting a fox, calling for raw Sienna. No matter how many tubes of paint I buy there is always at least one that I don’t have that a particular instructor says they can’t live without.
    Anyway, quin gold wound up working fine but me, but yellows always puzzle me because they sort of green up on me. Not a bad thing if you’re going lemons but pretty awful on a fox or a lion!
    One thing I noticed was you did not include yellow ochre. One of the first colors I bought when I began watercolor, yet none of the pros seem to use it. I find that I don’t use it much either. What’s the deal with yellow ochre?
    Thank you for sharing your experience, it will be helpful for me figuring out what colors to use and not going broke buying every paint the experts swear one cannot live without!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy, glad you found this post helpful. One thing to remember is that there are warm yellows and cool yellows. 2 basic yellows are cad yellow lemon – cool – and cad yellow medium – warm. There are also warm and cool reds and blues, and these affect how your color mixes turn out. I could go into greater depth in this, but a good book is called “Yellow and Blue Don’t Make Green” – link at Amazon:

      Jane Blundell has a wonderful website about colors – a lot of detail and can be a bit of a demanding read – but there is a lot to learn there. Basically mix cool colors (cool red, blue, yellow) together and warm colors (warm red, blue, yellow) to produce secondary colors which are not mud. Tone down any primary with its opposite color – blue with orange, purple with yellow, and red with green. Play with the warm and cool versions of each to see.

      Divide your palette into left and right – one being cool, one being warm. That helps you keep things organized. Also, keep your “primary” palette simple, and have a more complicated palette – or palettes – for all those delicious color you collect!

      Finally, not all colors are formulated the same. I searched far and wide for the perfect Hooker’s green of my youth, trying D Smith, Holbein, etc., but returned to Winsor Newton. Find out what colors please you most and make sure you have a “favorite” palette if you want. Finally, avoid all student paints (IMHO).

      Hope this helps you out. Oh, Yellow Ochre – I love that color, but I didn’t think it really had a place in that post. The earth colors – ochre, sienna, umber – can also be used to tone down a color’s brightness.



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