I’ve spent the past few months studying Munsell color notation and color mixing with Paul Foxton. My goal was to learn to discern value and color more accurately and to be able to efficiently mix those colors in paint. I’ve posted some of my course studies below. The above painting was done outside of the course, and doesn’t represent what is taught in the course. It is just a fun little alla prima still life, done before taking down my shadow box and lighting set up used in the course. I learned so many important things in the class. I think the number one thing I learned is how much lower chroma (aka less saturation/vibrant) most things are. Most things, including people, are much less colorful than I thought. Also, regardless of race, we humans are all low chroma orange (or as Munsell would have it, Yellow-Red).
I had several challenges with the class. The first was the lighting situation in my studio. One of the keys to accurate color matching is having the same intensity and temperature of light on the subject, palette and easel. Despite spending hours and hours trying, rigging up all kinds of lighting and black curtaining, I was never able to truly achieve this. The second challenge was my own nature: I enjoy being playful with color, expanding on the color I see with a little exaggeration and imagination. Also another challenge: most of the work was done using a black-lined shadow box with fairly low lighting and I discovered how much I prefer lots and lots of light and white.
The course was still worth it for me because I got to really expand my ability to see values and color with much more sensitivity and understanding. If you are interested in learning more about Munsell, Paul offers numerous free instructional videos available here. For Paul to be able to assess our work he needed us to paint with the canvas immediately beside the subject in its shadow box and submit a photo of the two side-by-side. Getting an accurate photo was just as challenging as getting the lighting right. I include some of the photos of the set up and painting in this selection of studies below: