Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Innominate colors

Above is a hip bone, called the "innominate bone by some anatomists. Innominate means "without a name". So it is the bone that has no name.

There are colors that have no names. An innominate color is a color that isn't identifiable as red or yellow or blue, you wouldn't call it green or purple, it is a gray but it does have some color to it. Who knows what to call it?

Nature outdoors is full of innominate colors. They make your other clearer colors sing. Without them your picture has no color variety. Just as you need darks to make your lights seem bright, you need innominate colors to make your purer colors sing.


Below is a Monet of Venice. I have drawn some crude arrows on the painting pointing out some innominate colors. I don't believe Monet made those notes using black or earth colors, they are a mixture formed from all three of his primaries.

image from artrenewal.org

When I am painting outdoors I often mix my innominate colors this way. I put a spot of my red, a spot of cadmium yellow and a spot of blue next to one another on my palette. Then I pull the middle of them together with my brush, giving me an innominate color. I can then make redder, yellower or bluer inominate colors from my pile. You could say it was a mud color, and I suppose it is, but I can hit a lot of the colors I see before me in nature out of variations pulled from this pile.


Philip Koch said...

Stape's comment about muddling around on his palatte
to come up with his "inominate" colors reminds me of why I like oil pigments so much and just can't get off the ground with acrylics. The wonderful little accidents of color creation happen on the palatte when you have lots of puddles of wet pigment, ready to go.

I think I've called these "inominate colors" just "weird greys" all these years. Maybe I can get invited to a glitzy cocktail party and find a way to slip this spiffy new word into my conversation.

Robert J. Simone said...

Good post and a good practical suggestion for cultivating a puddle of gray use throughout the painting process.

Some who call themselves colorists use all color. I have never liked or understood that. I think a true colorists uses the full range from neutral (inominate)to saturated.

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

I tend to mix a violet-greyish glob that I use as my "mother" color. It can also be adjusted to yellowish, bluish, or reddish shades. A little of it in the background and a tiny bit of it in everything except the "sparkle" colors. I would never have thought to call it "inominate". Great descriptive word! Back to Monet, many people think that he painted with dashes of pure bright color. Any study will reveal his use of neutrals and darks to set the stage for the "sparklers". Thanks again for another study of a master, Stape, and how you use the same methods in your work.

billspaintingmn said...

I think the same person that told me not to use black,(use ultramarine & burnt umber instead) also said dont muddy or kill your mixtures.
Here you have explained it so well.
It's not wrong to have "inominate colors"
infact it's wrong not to have them!

Todd Bonita said...

I love this idea...I happened upon something similar to this accidentally while painting outdoors. I mixed a color incorrectly and it ultimately became mud. I scraped it off of the middle of my palette and put it on the side...I did it again and added that mud to my other mud..I soon had a good size pile of mud. I soon found that I could borrow from this pile as needed....Long live mud and may it forever grant you eureka moments in the field.

Antonin Passemard said...

Great post ! Monet in Venice and London gives a great example of the use of grey inominate colors. Also the gare st lazare and Vertheuil paintings.

Unknown said...

What a great word! Inominate validates (or vindicates?) mud! This blog wades into a years-long discussion between myself and a location-painting partner about mixing (and over-mixing) color vs pure. I am pro-pure when it's applicable; she mixes everything, regardless.

Unfortunately, I had to say "inominate" out loud, which brought to mind Sandra Bullock on the Muppets show, doing the Phenomenon song. THAT's going to be playing in my head all day as INOMINATE (da-da, de-da-da...)

Nope, won't be forgetting INOMINATE any time soon. (da-da, de-da-da...)

barbara b. land of boz said...

Great post on no-color is my name. I, if you recall, am a acrylic painter. I always keep a little grey mud going on my glass palette. I keep it misted to keep it wet. Back to the no-name colors, I think they are the "backbone" of my paintings the glue to hold it together...unity?

Hope the workshop went well, you are sure getting hit with the bad weather at home...be safe Stapleton

Shirley Fachilla said...

When I started oil painting a few years ago, I started with a limited palette of the three primaries plus white.

It forced me to figure out how to make all the other colors from secondary to inominate from just those primaries. And it also forced me to figure out if a neutral I saw was more green, brown, blue... well, you get the idea.

I still use that palette. And I make "mud" just the way you do.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think that inominate might make a dandy neck tattoo.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Agreed a colorist has good color, not just lots of color.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like that word, sparklers!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Did you get Gurneys book yet? He talks about the mud and no mud schools of thought.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I often have one of those little sludgepiles myself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I needed an example of a chromatic painter making neutrals. Monet gave me that immediately.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I used to think Sandra Bullock was dreamy, but then she married that low-life Jesse James and now I don't trust her judgement. What was she thinking?

Stapleton Kearns said...

One of my workshop participants from Mississippi said I worked him "like a borrowed mule"

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's how I learned it too.

Pati Springmeyer said...

I didn't know about this until your post...I will often mutter to myself, "hmmm, I think this is a reddish, greeny, pinky, browny color", as I'm mixing. It can take awhile to get a match. Then, when I need to remix the same color, I might go about it in a completely different way. I'll try this tomorrow in my studio, as it might be a big time saver. Thanks!
Pati Springmeyer