Fletcher Who?

This term I am teaching Color with Intent. While we're looking at all sorts of facets of color theory and application, one of the things we're doing is looking at Frank Morley Fletcher's color system. Fletcher approached color like music, suggesting that palettes should be limited to a specific "key," one based on intervals around a twelve-hued color wheel the same way musical keys are based upon specific intervals based on a chromatic scale. 

While I was familiar with Fletcher's theory, I never actually applied his theory to my own work. Here is my first attempt as applying his color system to a sketch of the Dachstein Massiv in Austria.


I did it in the "key" of "yellow clockwise," or "Y>," the main color triad of which is yellow, blue and red-violet; primary accents are red-orange and green; complements are yellow-orange and blue violet:


Fletcher's premise (if I understand it correctly) is that while the three colors of the primary triad can be combined to create the darkest neutral, any other color mixing must be done only with colors immediately adjacent or nearly adjacent to one another on the specific color wheel. This limited mixing prevents "promiscuous color mixing" (Fletcher's words, not mine), while ensuring color harmony. 

While I stuck to these parameters when mixing my color, my specific application of color may have been "promiscuous." I layered up color, doing underpaintings with temperatures contrary to the final color temperatures I was working toward. In other words, I ultimately wanted the distant mountain ridges to be cool and the foreground ridge to be warm, so my underpaintings were temperature opposites — warm distant ridges with a cool foreground. In layering up my color this way, I combined colors across from one another on my color wheel, not adjacent to one another. 


But before thinking about color or temperature, I start with a little value sketch.

Then I sketch out the image using Prismacolor — in this case on recycled paper.


The following are the steps I used to build up color in ways to add a translucent richness to the final sketch.