The Munsell system allows the artist to think about color in a systematic way, according to value, hue, and chroma. Hue refers to the color family, value refers to the relative darkness or lightness of the color, and chroma refers to the intensity, or luminous strength, of a given color. Here is instructor Graydon Parrish giving a demonstration on identifying hue, value, and chroma. After this, we all got closely acquainted with our palette knives, for hours, no,?weeks?of color mixing.
My palette may look messy in this photo, but you can see that I was learning to think about color in an organized way. My strings of red, blue, and yellow go from low to high chroma (translation: dull to vibrant). Along the top and right edge you can see a string (slightly contaminated in one spot with red!) of a neutral tone, from darkest to lightest.?I wrote Munsell notations, numbers describing the value and chroma, above each dab of color.?One outcome of this training is, you can use the notations to match paint you mixed at some earlier date.
First we painted the actual spheres we used as models, then we painted them in 2D. The top?3 are neutral, with local color in the dark, medium, and light ranges of value. The second 3 are yellow-red, or flesh tones, in low, medium, and high chroma. The third 3 are high chroma spheres in three different hues. This was actually pretty difficult.
The sphere exercise applies to a number of practical problems in our paintings: the representation of volume, changes in value, and changes in chroma.
The photo above is of artist Ruza Bagaric's lovely sphere work.
Artist Ruza Bagaric got so fascinated by the gray scale she tried to find as many value steps as time allowed. I think I see 36 steps here. Such thoroughness pays off in increased visual sensitivity and accuracy.
In another exercise, artist Marge Grinnell created strips, painting each with color she had mixed. She then?used them as models for her painting. The strips provided a way to explore?the value and chroma variations that occur in light and shadow.
Artist Victoria Herrera worked on this study of a lily, using the Munsell approach.
This workshop changed my approach to color,?expanded my skills, and it inspired me to continue my study of color theory. I have found it especially liberating to be able to?create, use, and appreciate neutral tones in any hue, and at any value.