Color Curriculum


By Carolyn Payzant

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 15, Issue 3


In the introduction of Interaction of Color by Josef Albers (1888-1976), Albers wrote: “If one says red and there are 50 people listening, it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And all can be sure that all of these reds will be different.” So I guess my question is superfluous when I ask: is my red the same color as your red? I do believe that most people can agree that red, and I am not saying pink or mauve, signals danger, warning, or indicates a risk taker. You will know exactly what I mean when you see a red light or fire truck, or catch a glance of a speeding little red Ferrari.  

Which leads us to the verity of the statement: there are colors that everyone can visualize by just saying the word: strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and of course fire engines. When it comes to roses, now that is another subject.  

When I started research on this essay I did a bit of surfing on the web and a found a website called Just Our Pictures. I couldn’t believe all of the photos of red roses. Or for that fact: pink roses, lavender roses, white roses, yellow roses, mauve roses, or orange roses. If you love roses, this is the site for you.  

But back to red, red by itself is challenging; for the most part it is staining and has a high degree of saturation, both tricky for the beginning artist to control. 

I chose as my “middle” Red, PR209 Quinacridone Red by M. Graham. It is luscious with undertones of both orange and blue giving it the desirable attribute of mixing well with either orange or blue biased pigments. I have mentioned this before; mix with Daniel Smith’s PY53 Nickel Titanate Yellow to create a perfect soft pastel red.  

Create copious orange hues with PY3 Hansa Yellow Light, PY97 Hansa Yellow Medium and PY65 Hansa Yellow Deep (all Daniel Smith). The oranges created with PY65 are particularly stunning.  

Quinacridone Red also tweaks pure orange pigments. The transparency of Quinacridone Red alters orange pigments so they are not quite so opaque. 

Mixed with PV19 Quinacridone Violet (M. Graham) or PV15 Mineral Violet (Holbein) and you create violets with subtle hints of red.  If you are seeking violets with blue biases mix with PV37 Dioxazine Purple (M. Graham), PB29 French Ultramarine Blue (Daniel Smith), or PB28 Cobalt Blue (M. Graham). 

Quinacridone Red mixed with PB16 Marine Blue (Holbein) is a true surprise. More Q. Red gives you a rich plum but add more Marine Blue and by magic you have created your own Indanthrone Blue. 

Soft neutrals are had with either of MaimeriBlu’s Cupric Greens, PY7 Cupric Green Deep or PG36 Cupric Green Light. Mix with MaimeriBlu’s Permanent Green Light PY175+PG36 and create a dusty rose. 

PR209 Quinacridone Red (M. Graham) is a pigment that should be on your palette. You will not be unhappy over the purchase.