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.
Here are a few more questions: If you are inspired by a color scheme or scene, ask yourself why you have that reaction. How are those colors moving you emotionally? What attracted you or perhaps repelled you? These questions can also be asked when looking at paintings created by other artists. Are you attracted to warm or cool colors or do you like both? Why?
In this painting “Ancient Stories,” the use of cool colors conveys a different mood from “Untethered.” I know that the values in all paintings plays a critical role, but in this post I am focusing on just the colors or hues used.
Further Explore Your Relationship with Color
This might be a good time to sit back and take a good hour or more to look at and study your work. Set-up as many paintings as you can in one room — on the floor, up against a wall, hanging on a wall, on a table — so that you can view as many of them at one time as possible. Then go and get your favorite drink and quietly peruse your paintings. Ask some of the questions above as well as any others that will seem appropriate for you at this time.
Journal your thoughts, observations and feelings. Try your best not be judgemental. No one else needs to read your journal nor know of your insights, but if you choose to do so, feel free.
For a fun twist, turn all of your paintings 180 degrees for a different perspective. Anything interesting pop up for you?
What did you learn about yourself? What are some of the surprises?
Can you now more easily answer the question, “What is your relationship with color?” How has it changed or evolved over time?
A Personal Note: My relationship with color started many years ago. My mother used to tell the story of when I arrived home from Kindergarten one day quite distraught. The teacher had asked the class to choose two favorite colors that went well together. I responded with “Orange and red,” and she declared, “No, these two colors don’t go together!” Years later, I felt exonerated when my color expertise proved this uneducated teacher incorrect.
As a painter, my curiosity surrounding color and my awe of it has propelled and motivated me for nearly 30 years. I never tire of exploring it nor seeing what others do with color. Early on in painting career I wanted to better understand color — how to mix it and how to apply it. There were several books, but they were too complex and I could only find one local course on color at my state university. Fortunately, this course was one of the best actions I have taken in my art career. It didn’t provide all of the answers I was looking for, but it was a good springboard.
My frustration in not finding quality color instruction led me on my long color journey of producing a video course with Craftsy, writing this blog and now publishing my book I Just Want to Paint: Mixing the Colors You Want! Because I learned to mix color using my Balanced Palette System, I have been able to create color harmony and intrigue in my work. Learning to mix the colors I want was fundamental in developing my artistic voice. It allowed me to move more easily into other technical areas related to color, values, composition, etc.
What do you need to move to the next level of color confidence?
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Colorfully and gratefully yours,