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Ultramarine, warm or cool.....

Hi everyone, I may be opening a can of worms with this question. Do you think Ultramarine Blue is a warm or cool blue ?  Until now I believed it was a warm blue because it had some red in it, which warmed it , thus making it a warm colour. I was giving a short talk at our local Watercolour Art Group recently, the title was " properties of colour" and I decided to do some research. what an eye opener; contrary to what I had previously learned and read, Ultramarine blue was considered a " cool blue".  Cooler than " Phthalo blue which was considered a warm blue, because it had more yellow in it than Ultramarine. It has got to do with the colour wavelengths..... one of the blogs I read was by Sharon Hicke.   @ sharonhicksfineart.com.  Just google Ultramarine warm or cool, you will find it. I brought the subject up because I am currently reading " The elements of landscape painting " by Suzanne Brooker.  Anyone want to comment ? I still look at her colour charts and see " warm"    :/ 

Comments

  • I'm not trying to become a scholar in art theory but I'm interested. Painting a landscape, you paint what you see. Do you really need to know if a color on the canvas is considered warm or cold? Is there something about warm or cold that I need to know when mixing a color? 
    PaulBmariebmichalisjudith
  • i agree with @BOB73, if you're painting what you see, warm/cool is meaningless.

    i like what Mark Boedges says about it: the whole warm/cool thing doesn't exist.  We just made it up to to describe groups of colors, because the sky/sea is cold, and the sun is warm, so we just associate those colors with warm/cool.  it's useful when discussing color, but not if you're painting.

    Warmth just refers to the amount of yellow in a color, and cool refers to the amount of blue.

    Not to be confused with actual color temperature (5000K bulb, for example), where blue is the highest temperature.
    BOB73michalis
  • I think warm/cool for describing color groups is used mostly by decorators and designers.
    PaulBmarieb
  • I agree that warm/cool are relative terms and that no color in isolation can be said to be either warm or cool. But I disagree that the concept isn’t useful to painting. First, many landscape painters don’t just paint what they see. In fact, conditions change so rapidly for plein air painters that they often rely on warm/cool distinctions to fill in the gaps, or to make changes to the scene for aesthetic reasons. Check out James Gurney’s discussion here:  http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2007/12/color-warm-and-cool.html?m=1
    Elizamarieb
  • edited January 1
    https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/~/media/Images/Exhibitions/2012/George%20Bellows/bellows12.ashx

    Check out this Bellows painting. He could not have been painting what he was seeing, which would have lasted for a couple of minutes at most. It’s all about warm/cool contrasts- masterfully chosen Warm and cool blues yellows and reds throughout. 
  • I see your point I just rather think in terms of color and value.

    marieb
  • I have always thought of UB as the warm blue.  When I need a more warm blue, I will always go to the UB.  It is tending more towards red and the others more towards green on the color wheel - I was taught that blues tending to the red side are warmer than the ones tending to more green side.  I think that warm and cool relationships are extremely important and helpful.  
    marieb
  • By itself, it's neither in terms of isolated color temperature in painting.

    Blue, being on the opposite end of orange, is by direct relation, cool. It's diviation in practical terms wont matter until you add orange to any given thing to promote visual "warmth"--the very middle of the orange family, from Cadmium orange down to burnt umber, is where warmth comes from.

    Some feel it's "warm", but it doesnt start to become visually "warm" by contrast until its well past the Magenta phase, in terms of the whole palette.  The same group might suggest pthalo and prussian is "cooler", but really it has more in common with Orange (warmth) than Ultramarine, being tied more closely to yellow.

    I hope thats helpful and not too preachy. 
    Forgivenessmarieb
  • @JPB, so, if you were asked to pick a warm blue from your stock of blue tubes, which do you think is warmest?   
    @marieb ; here is a lovely, vibrant artist from my hometown.  She uses double primary palettes and describes warm and cool pretty well.  https://marygilkerson.com/2017/05/use-double-primary-palette  Her plein air paintings are incredible.  
    marieb
  • @JPB thanks for the link..it shows hat I was saying that I had always considered Ultramarine to bee a warm blue, aas it states in your link...but , there's more than one school of thought out there based on colour wavelengths, seehttp://sharonhicksfineart.com/blog/57475/warm-or-cool-ultramarine-blue-vs-thalo-blue-  that says that UB is cool ... @BOB73, it is just colour theory, an artist can get into Art its theory And practice as much or as little As they like, if value and colour do it for you then great, I paint in several mediums and like to" understand stuff" :)  @PaulB not at all, if colour temp doesn't matter when you are painting, then when would it matter ! Not made up stuff, colour temperature comes from the length of the colours that  " white light" can be broken down into. @JPB not preachy at all...I do like to study up on art stuff if I can't paint, rather than watch too much tv.  The article maintains that phthalo is warmer than Ultramarine . On normal colour wheel, blue cool, red warm, but; when comparing the two blues, it was stated that yellow is a warm colour, which it is, but I would think red is warmer.. thus when confronted with two blues one that has yellow in it, which makes it more greenish, or one that has some red in it which makes it more violet ish , it is maintained that the phthalo is the warmer of the two...I just find it very interesting as I had only ever until that's moment come across the "theory" that UB is warm...:) @Julianna  I like Mary Glickerson... read some of her posts recently :)  @Martin_J_Crane very true, colour temp when painting. Not every artist paints the DMP method which is a training method. Knowing about cool and warm will have an impact on whether a painting is ok or good. Thanks all for the comments, I was interested in whether other folk were as surprised as I was when doing my research. As a matter of interest I went with the UV is warm scenario because to say it was a cool colour would have ruffled a few feathers namely the two Ladies who volunteer to teach the newbies ... sometimes it is better not to rock the boat
    BOB73
  • JPBJPB -
    edited January 3
    Julianna said:
    @JPB, so, if you were asked to pick a warm blue from your stock of blue tubes, which do you think is warmest?  
    @Julianna, i'd grab the one with the most orange in it. :smiley:
    mariebjudith
  • I recommend that you study the color theories of Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinksy (all from the Bauhaus School in Germany in the early 20th century).  Itten designated the idea of color temperature.

    Even though Ultramarine Blue has been classified by some as a warm blue, Josef Albers relied on the Bezold Effect and simultaneous color contrast to explain color interaction.   

    I find what I like most about Ultramarine Blue is its saturation level (frankly, I always thought of it as a balanced blue - not too hot, nor too cold - Goldilock's blue {giggle}).  Someone might offer an opinion or scientific explanation of Ultramarine Blue's saturation level.  Kingston would probably know the answer.

    I think Mark Carder has done a splendid job explaining how colors are affected by each other when red, yellow or blue are added or subtracted in color mixing.  He gives it a K.I.S.S.  He "keeps it simple, silly".
    Forgiveness
  • I had always thought that, compared to pthalo,  ultamarine looked warm because, to me, it looks redder than pthalo.  I instnctively associate warmth with the red/orange/yellow part of the spectrum. But I only see UM as warm relative to pthalo. Compared to red/oragge/yellow it looks cool.  Not sure how others see it. Interesting topic, though.   :)
    Martin_J_Cranemarieb
  • If you are creating a composition and altering the colours then I can see the use of thinking of the colour scheme in terms of cool and warm. But if I am colour matching then I just think is this a greenish-blue or a purplish-blue. I would do the same with the other colours, i.e. a yellowish-green or a bluish-green..
    Elizajudith
  • As @Eliza recommends, the color theories of these individuals (all of them) from the Bauhaus School in Germany in the early 20th century, and from Mark Carder. I once had a teacher who was a "Professional Colorist" a great expert and leading edge info, who became internationally well known for his work. He was so impressive that he would offer his students professional eye color tests for determining color blindness for free. He was chosen to design the color coding available to hospitals' and doctors' computers around the world, this color system is still being used today, since the mid 80's. At college that I attended briefly, we studied the Bauhaus School in Germany extensively, some of us were fortunate to acquire some of their original publications which are worth an absolute $fortune now. Well worth studying or have some familiarity with this material. Something in this information helped to make a proven color system work so well over such a long period of time today on an international level. I was lead to believe that FUB is a warm color.
    Eliza
  • ElizaEliza -
    edited January 3
    On the eve of National Trivia Day: Ultramarine blue is derived from the precious gem lapis lazuli and was selected by Renaissance and Medieval painters (although the use of lapis lazuli in artifacts predates these eras) because it was appealing to paint royal sacred garments (think the Blessed Virgin's garments) in a heavenly blue.  Ultramarine blue does create lovely blue skies, phthalo blue lovely blue-green seas.  ;-) 

    Ultramarine blue was thought of as a blue so blessed and true.  The perfect blue.  Biblical blue.  Artists ground the pigments from costly and pure lapis lazuli. I remember my first art history class where the professor regaled (for the length of a 2-hour lecture) the artistic history and love affair of the precious (and expensive) gem lapis lazuli, and the use of ultramarine blue in art.

    If you're interested in a good read about lapis lazuli:  A few years ago, The NY Times published the following article about lapis lazuli and its historical references as a complement to an exhibition entitled:  “Lapis Lazuli: The Magic of Blue”.   https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/arts/international/lapis-lazuli-and-the-history-of-the-most-perfect-color.html

    Phthalo blue (I lovingly like to call it Prussian Blue) was a pigment with a later discovery and usage period (think mid to late 19th century).
  • ElizaEliza -
    edited January 3
    When I look at phthalo blue and compare it to ultramarine blue my eye notices that the value of phthalo is much darker (less pure perhaps) than ultramarine blue.  Ultramarine has a lighter value to my eye.

    I'm sure I'm wrong but also, when I think about it, in mixing both colors in a palette and how I will use either in a piece, I think of phthalo as having more yellow and ultramarine more red reflected.  Shrug.
  • Eliza said:
    On the eve of National Trivia Day: Ultramarine blue is derived from the precious gem lapis lazuli and was selected by Renaissance and Medieval painters (although the use of lapis lazuli in artifacts predates these eras) because it was appealing to paint royal sacred garments (think the Blessed Virgin's garments) in a heavenly blue.  Ultramarine blue does create lovely blue skies, phthalo blue lovely blue-green seas.  ;-) 

    Ultramarine blue was thought of as a blue so blessed and true.  The perfect blue.  Biblical blue.  Artists ground the pigments from costly and pure lapis lazuli. I remember my first art history class where the professor regaled (for the length of a 2-hour lecture) the artistic history and love affair of the precious (and expensive) gem lapis lazuli, and the use of ultramarine blue in art.

    Interestingly I was told this by conservators on the MITRA forum:

    "Genuine ultramarine made from lapis tends to lean a bit more towards green in oils than synthetic ultramarine. This is mostly because it has a much lower tinting strength, so to color of the binding oil (yellow) has more of an effect on the color of the paint.

    Eliza
  • ElizaEliza -
    edited January 3

    Richard_P:

    I think one of the appeals of Prussian blue for me was its range in values dark to light, whereas with ultramarine the value scales, when mixed with white, had fewer gradations (or as Mark calls them steps). 

    But, to my perception, ultramarine appears to have greater color saturation and a lighter value, or brightness, before mixing with other colors, and phthalo, before mixing with other colors, appears less saturated and darker in value.  Yet, as phthalo mixes with other colors its value range seem to expand (at least to my perception) with more gradations than ultramarine.

    Shrug. 

    Color interaction has always been so elusive to me.  Albers color theory helped me understand it a bit more.  And, Mark Carder has helped me train my eye I suppose.  Before using his method, I rarely if ever, matched a color I perceived.

    I'm certain that I've never opened a tube of ultramarine derived from lapis.  Both ultramarine and phthalo have greater stability than other blue pigments, or so I've been told.  I'll admit.  I'm a novice.

    And, I've never really explored the chemistry of each, only the romance of ultramarine blue that artists I have known hold so dear. 

    If I mix a color and I like it, then I use it.  If I do not, then I start from scratch again. (And, since I've returned to painting, as slow going as it's been after a long sojourn away from it, and have used Mark Carder's palette - I haven't used one dab of phthalo blue.)  

    I suppose I'll forever remain a novice, and a romantic, to color interaction. Laugh.


  • For what it's worth here are two chemical breakdowns one for ultramarine and one for Prussian or phthalo:

    Ultramarine blue:  http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/indiv/recipe/ultramarine.html

    Prussian blue: http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/indiv/recipe/prussblue.html


  • Great stuff. Thanks for info and links. It's wonderful that you all understand (or try to)  about color temperature but I'm afraid I'm still in the remedial class. Ask me to pick out a warm blue and I'll reach for the tube closest to the window.
    Renoir
  • edited January 3
    This discussion has reminded me of a great art critique video I watched a while back. The images being critiqued are all 3D renders made in a program called Blender, but the critiques mostly focus on composition and lighting stuff which is relevant to our work as well.

    Check out this link - go to the 33 minute mark where he critiques the gingerbread house render. He uses "warm" and "cool" lighting contrast to greatly improve the look of the image (he actually changes the image himself in Photoshop as he critiques it to demonstrate what he means).

    I also recommend checking out his other critiques if you want more art stuff to watch because this guy knows what he is talking about and his critiques are interesting.


  • edited January 4
    Maybe it comes down to this: if you are painting realism (trying to paint what you see) and using a colour checker or matching colour against a photo, you'll use whatever blue gets you there. In which case, "warm" and "cool" would  seem irrelevant, no?

     It's hard to see any objectivity in the warm/cool dichotomy. They seem to be  just subjective, relatve terms. If we want to be objectve and get into the science of the relationship between colour and temperature we learn that blue flames or stars are hotter than red or yellow ones.  Shrug.  :)




    PaulBRenoirEliza
  • @tassieguy, I agree, if you're color matching, then nothing else matters.

    But if you are adding an element to a composition that is not in your source, or is from a different source, then getting it to properly "fit" does require consideration of values and light direction, and whatever concepts and tools you have to make it all work.

    If I'm wanting to take a painting and give it a certain feel, such as presenting it in different light, then I need to think about the yellow/blue components.  @Renoir did this in a painting of a field and farm structure, adjusting the whole painting to be in an evening sunlight rather than the less appealing source photo light conditions.  That required a lot of careful consideration.

    Being creative with a composition requires that you understand light, if you want realism.  Copying photos like me doesn't.
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