Learning to see colors as values is not easy. In fact, I believe it is a trained skill. It is also something many of us, myself included, resist doing because it takes time and concentration. However, the use of values is one of the most important elements in creating effective paintings. Some artists will state, and you have probably heard this, that values are more important than color.
Are some colors more controversial than others? What do I mean by controversial colors?
I am referring to the colors that cause different, if not opposing, emotional and intellectual responses. Controversial colors evoke both positive and negative reactions either separately or simultaneously.
Which color is the one that comes to mind first when considering its positive and negative impact on viewers?
Most likely the first controversial color to come up is the color red.
Psychologically, red can symbolize love, sensuality, passion, energy and romance, whereas it can also convey hate, war, danger and fear. For some of us, it is a color of agitation and for others is is more calming and not scary at all. The shape of the color can also have an impact. Hence, a color cannot be isolated when analyzing your perception of it, but needs to be considered within a context. Our life experiences also add to our different perceptions of color.
Fore example, in my painting Crimson Fusion, some viewers would perceive the red as drips of blood, whereas others, like myself, see it as energy breaking through to the next level — as if it is being set free. (I think I need to change the title of this painting, don’t you?)
The interpretations of this painting have been quite varied and I believe it is because of my use of red. Feel free to look within my portfolio of paintings to see my diverse colors schemes and explore your reactions to them based on the colors used.
The other color I believe is highly controversial is yellow. This may surprise some of you. Yellow is often considered the color of happiness, fun, warmth, the sun and child-like activities. Yet, it is also the color of caution — think of road signs — as well as illness. We love seeing yellow out in nature, but it is the least liked color within our homes and fashion. It can be a jarring color and is not considered calming. (I am referring to the more saturated yellows.) I have been told be gallery owners, that paintings with a lot of yellow in them do not sell as well as paintings with a small amount of yellow or no yellow at all.
What are your thoughts and reactions to the color yellow? What other color do you think is controversial? Orange perhaps? What are the possible positive and negative reactions to orange?
On the flip side of this discussion, which colors are the least controversial? I my opinion these would be blue, green and most purples. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please write them in the comment box below.
If you found this post interesting, please share it with others.
Colorfully and gratefully yours,
Have you ever wondered what role does color play in your paintings? Or…
What is your relationship with color?
How important is color to your artistic process and what you are trying to visually communicate?
Do you consciously step back and consider the impact your color choices have on you? On your viewers?
Or do you essentially copy the colors before you, such as a landscape, portrait, still life, without giving color much consideration? Or do you choose different colors on purpose from what you see before you? Or any combination thereof?
When starting a painting, do you choose particular colors because of a mood or message you want to communicate? Perhaps you choose the colors as you get further into the painting process and the painting starts to ‘talk’ to you. You then make more strategic color choices.
In my painting “Untethered,” the color red makes a strong statement. Imagine it in a different color and the impact it might have. Interestingly, the interpretations of this painting varies across the board, which is another topic of discussion when it comes to color — we all have personal reactions to different colors.
There are more questions surrounding this yummy and complex topic of color. And there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. However, I believe they are important for painters to ponder periodically. May I suggest that these might be good questions to ask in a small art group or during a critique. [Read more…]
It’s the holiday season and that means it’s ugly sweater season! Have you ever wondered why these sweaters are called ugly? Before you answer this question, do you own one. If so, do you wear it?
For fun, what do you think are the possible reasons why we affectionately refer to these pull-overs as ugly sweaters? Is it the designs or the color or both?
Did you know you can buy ornaments that feature ugly sweaters? Fun, eh? I found this one on Zazzle. I bet there’s a Facebook group that features them. I know people like to have ugly sweater parties, but I have never been invited to one. 🙁 Have you? [Read more…]
Do you remember that first yellow flower you tried to paint? Perhaps it was a sunflower or a rose or a day lily. Most likely it was difficult to do and you found yourself scratching your head trying to figure out how to paint a lovely yellow flower.
I certainly did. My first attempt was not successful and I was baffled. I didn’t know how to create the shadow sides of the petals to create dimension and depth in the flower without creating a muddy mess.
After continuing to learn more about painting and values, I discovered that yellow can NOT become a dark color. In other words, it doesn’t maintain its hue integrity much beyond a value 3 (using a value scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being white and 10 being black). The commercial value scale above is more elaborate using 0 – 13 steps, yet it demonstrates what I am referring to.
Take a moment and compare yellow with the other major hues. Notice how quickly its yummy hue starts turning brown. Also notice the orange is next in having a short value range.
Being the Chart Queen that I am, I would like you to encourage you to create a color value scale. It’s an excellent exercise in learning about how to paint evenly stepped values as well as a way to more fully understand what your hues do as they become darker or lighter. I recommend you create yours using a 5 or 7-step value scale.
In this example, I painted chips of color, cut them out and created my chart. I have painted these value scales in watercolor, acrylic and oil as well.
Back to the original question about yellow.
How Do You Make Yellow Dark?
Given the information above, the answer is that you can’t. However, you can convey the essence of a darker yellow. There are three choices: mixing an orange, a brown or a green. In my painting “Glorious Day,” I used greens and oranges. Since orange is a warmer color than green, I chose to use various oranges in the front three petals and green for the darker areas in the back three petals. Warmer colors come forward on a two-dimensional surface.
And in “Aspen Dance,” I mixed various greens for the aspen leaves that are in shadow. To learn more about how the paint sunshine with yellow, visit my recent blog post, How to Paint Sunshine.
Your decision to use orange, brown or green to ‘darken’ your yellows, is dependent on your subject matter and the message you want to convey with your work. My examples show you what I did with flowers and tree leaves, whereas for a yellow house/structure you may choose various rich browns.
Experiment and let me know in the comment box below. I hope this tip has been helpful.
If you found this information of interest to other painters, please share it.