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Why Red and Blue Don't Always Give You Purple.

color watercolor Oct 07, 2020

The gift I was blessed with when arriving in this world was the gift of curiosity.  It certainly wasn't the gift of drawing or painting. Those skills have been learned and honed over a life time of putting pencil and brush to paper. I draw and paint to observe the world more carefully. Rarely have I created art with the goal of making something to be exhibited, sold or passed down through generations of collectors and relatives.  My insatiable curiosity has always gotten in the way ... redirecting whatever drawing or painting I'm working on and I can't help but follow the path into the unknown.  I must have driven my parents crazy as a child, always asking "Why" again and again until I felt somewhat satisfied with the answer.  Fortunately, my parents rarely answered with "It just is." or "Because I say so."

When neither one of them had a sufficient answer to one of my questions, a search for the answer was initiated.  Many times, we didn't find very good answers to my questions.  We couldn't "google" back then.  We had only the Encyclopedia Americana and several reference books in our home library.  When we couldn't find the answer in our home library, we stopped at the library in Somerville on our weekly trip for groceries.  Even then, the answers for which we searched eluded us.

When I became a mother, I looked forward to my children asking me "Why?".  On occasion, they did ... not nearly as often as I expected or desired.  Two decades later, I discovered why my children appeared to be less curious than I had been as a child.

"Mum, you never gave us simple answers!  You rambled on forever giving us far more information than we wanted.  We were asking simple questions and we wanted simple answers.  Your answers were exhausting!"  

That was the difference.  I never wanted a simple answer if the real answer wasn't simple.  My children were definitely as curious as I was, they just wanted the answers to be simple even when they weren't.  When teaching live workshops and online classes, I make a conscious effort to keep my answers short and simple.  This continues to be a struggle for me.  I love the complexity of life, the science and mathematics of life.  I'm passionate about discovering more and more patterns that are similar, found in very different forms of life.  As a child I'd discovered fractals in trees, water, boulders and insects.  I didn't know the patterns were called fractals til many years later.

red and blue don't always make purple.

Every now and then ... I can't help myself.  To really understand why you get the results you do when mixing different pigments, it is necessary to understand what happens when mixing pigments and WHY the results are what they are.  Mixing the colors you desire is NOT about magic formulas to be memorized.  It's NOT about learning an artist's favorite manufacturer of painting pigments.  It's about knowing WHERE the pigments lie on the color wheel and what this placement means.  That's it!

red and green sometimes make purple

Just as red and blue doesn't always give you a violet.  The right choice of a red pigment and a green pigment CAN give you a violet.  Imagine that!

The video above is one of the lessons in the online class: Gorgeous Color Mixing -  Simplified.


Thinking about taking an online art courses?  I offer bite-sized classes on Skillshare as well as more comprehensive classes here on

If you aren't already a premium member on Skillshare, please check it out.  You receive a two month trial period totally free when you click on my link: . 

Most popular Skillshare classes are the Pulling the Puddle watercolor technique (Series of four classes) the four-part Color Wheel Mandala class and the new Fun Flexagon class.

Most popular classes here on ExploreWithChrisCarter are The Color Scheme Game, Creating Dala Art and the Drawing Alternative One courses.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Chris Carter



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