Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Starting with Vivid Color

"Rainbow Days" 4x8 pastel

One of my students this week noted how they always seem to be painting at mid-day, when the light is flat and color is washed out. It's true. By the time we finish with critiques and a demo, the students get the least desirable time of day to paint. But at mid-week, I always flip things around and give them the first, best part. So today I took noontime to do a demo and gave myself a challenge by painting a washed-out scene - and to make it exciting.

To start things off, I began with rich, vivid color. I didn't see any of that in the actual landscape, of course. But if I want a colorful painting, I find it easier to start this way. It's a struggle to start with dull color and then to try to make it livelier.

I made objects off in the distance an intense blue; objects closer by, I made intense red or green. My reasoning is that distant objects appear cooler (blue) and nearer objects appear warmer (red and green.) The result was a cartoon version of the landscape - an excellent beginning!

Next, I adjusted color. The closer islands were more green than they were blue. The sandbar was more violet than it was red. But during the adjustment, I again used only intense colors. I avoided muted colors or neutrals.

Finally, I got out my secret weapons, my greys. These are nearly neutral warm and cool greys. I scumbled them lightly over each area to dull the cartoonish, overly-intense colors. The trick is to stick with the right values - put a dark grey over a dark color, a light grey over a light color.

The result is "Rainbow Days," above. I think it's an exciting little painting. Not something I'd expect to paint at noontime.

(By the way, I've put this piece over in my Studio Store:


David Carroll said...

Beautiful Michael.

I agree that leaving some of those vibrant colors can do wonders to brighten a dull day. The aerial perspective here is quite attractive, with the distant horizon sinking back from the nearest tree line.

I also like the highlights on the water.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, David!