For the past few years, I have made use of a color’s fifths. By that I mean using the color triangle (as I wrote below in the entry “The Color Triangle: Mixing Pigments”) to determine the fifth colors from a root color and use that relationship to determine pigment mixtures.
Using yellow as the root and basing the chord on the Pythagorean right triangle of 3, 4, 5; the other chord colors are red-orange and blue; red-orange is three from yellow, blue is four. On the color/note wheel, yellow is A, blue is C#, and red-orange is F#. This gives us the following right triangle:
it is also possible to keep yellow as the root color; but make the four side yellow to red, and the three side yellow to blue green. In this case, red-violet possesses the relationship purple had in the above figure; and purple now possess the relationship red-violet had.
The right triangle shows yellow at the right angle and the movement is clockwise to blue and then red-orange. Let’s call the right angle position the root position; therefore, yellow is the root color.
I then indicated with red lines the two colors that are fifths of yellow: red-violet and purple. As can be seen in the above figure, the fifths of the other colors in the triad are:
- the fifths of blue are red-orange and yellow-orange;
- the fifths of red-orange are blue and green.
Note that the fifth red-violet divides the hypotenuse – five color range – in a natural manner into three and two. Whereas, purple seems to be in a relationship to blue as though it was its sharp : C to C# so to speak. The natural division may be a reason why the yellow-red-violet relationship seems more attractive.
I discovered in one of my failed acrylic paintings that using the fifth of a color gives air or breath to the painting at the same time it is creating distance between colors.
In painting these fifths, one’s eyes become accustomed to the relationship between a color and its fifth; so, it becomes easy to determine when one has mixed the true fifth. Here is a key understanding: one can train his eye to recognize the particular relationship he is seeking: the color relationship, when achieved just seems to harmonize; there is a visual “yes”; in fact, many times when the right color is found, the color just seems to disappear.
The relationship creates an implied line between the two colors; in fact, the color intensities withing the relationship can be adjusted to incorporate an emphasis on a compositional power line or intersection of the implied power lines.
My use of the fifth has become an integral part of my painting, not only because of the breath the fifth seems to give; but also, because the painting seems to come alive