I spent a lazy Sunday mixing shades of gray. And you thought this was going to be an erotic post!

There is something sensual about playing with paint, I think.

Working on mixing grays

And there is something exciting about mixing colors. I remember the first time I mixed a gray instead of using one straight from the tube.

It was in a painting class with Diane Dahlke. She said, “You know, if you mix ultramarine blue with burnt sienna, you’ll get a beautiful gray.”

I had no idea. I have never used gray from the tube since. I always mix my own.

Still life

Still life using mostly browns

I don’t like to use straight black either. This is a still life I did in Jim Flahaven’s painting class last semester. Everything except the bright red had to be mixed with a color from the brown family.

The sewing machine, wrench and wine bottle labels all look black, but they are raw umber mixed with ultramarine blue. I lightened it with a little white in some areas.

The background is a bit wonky and distracting. I did it with a palette knife, mixing all the colors I had used that day. And what do you know — all mixed together, I got different shades of gray.

Which brings me to 84 shades of gray. It’s a homework assignment for the Color Theory class I’m taking with Jim this semester.

Chart of graysWe had to make a chart. Fifteen one-inch squares across and six one-inch squares down. In the middle squares going down, we had to paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple — primary and secondary colors.

On the left side, we have to mix shades of gray using only black and white added to the color in a specific row. The value changed according to how much black or white I added. Because these are not value scales, I don’t have to paint them from dark to light or vice versa.

On the right side, we had to mix the color with another color to make a gray and could only use black or white to change the value. (Two rows — yellow and purple on the right — aren’t done yet.)

In each case, first I added a dab of complementary color to make gray. Green to the red, for instance, and blue to the orange. The proportions I used made a difference in the hue.

To me, the shades of gray on the right have much more personality than the ones on the left. What do you think?

The blue grays are my favorites or maybe the red grays or maybe …

It’s hard for me to choose. They’re all beautiful! Can’t wait to see what I get when I mix yellow and purple.

What’s your favorite shade of gray?

PS I looked it up. Gray is primarily how you spell it in the United States. It’s spelled grey in England.

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