Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some thoughts on Color

As I've been posting color studies on my FB page I've heard some re-occurring questions/comments regarding painting. I want to take a second and expand on those topics. I'm not a master painter but hopefully this can be as helpful to you as it has been to me. 

Question #1-How do you keep the colors harmonized when you use so many? 

I think one of the best books I've ever read is, Alla Prima by Richard Schmid. One particular section talked about placing colors side by side as you work, rather than blocking in all around the image and laying in randomly. Schmid highly recommends laying each stroke next to another stroke on the canvas so you can easily see color relationships. As you know, colors affect how we interpret those colors around them. You could have a completely desaturated grey and lay it down with a warm cadmium red and that grey will appear as cool as a spring cyan sky. Moving in a flow with your paint will save you time and increase accuracy. It's hard enough to paint a good image. Make it easy on yourself and lay colors side by side until you've blocked in the entire piece. There are so many benefits to doing this.  One of them is seeing the big picture in terms of color harmony. If you can see the big picture, it's easy to solve the problem. If you can't see the big picture, then you're only seeing part of it, therefore, you can only solve part of the problem, if that. If you've blocked in correctly, you will immediately see where you lie. If it doesn't excite you, start over. 

This leads into the next topic.

Question #2-How are you doing these studies so quickly? How long do you spend on them? Do you use a tablet, computer or traditional medium?

When I do a study, I'm either outside on location or inside looking at a photo. I use a tablet with a painting app, a laptop with photoshop 4, or oil paints (Windsor & Newton, Lefranc, Rembrandt). When I am outside it's usually during my lunch break. I know I've got 45 minutes to knock something out so I work quickly to block in the values and make the temperatures work. In 5-10 minutes, I know if the painting is working. If its not working, I recheck my values. If the values are working, I recheck my color relationships. If color relationships are working, I ask a co-worker nearby what they think. If I'm alone, well, I might go climb a tree or something. Usually, I can solve the issue in one of those first two questions (assuming I laid down a strong design; I never start painting unless my design is solid). 

When I'm working inside from a photo, I apply the exact same principles. I find a reference that inspires me. I bring it up on the monitor to the side of my canvas. From there, I shrink both images down and lay in colors quickly. The advantage to working on a computer is being able to shrink the image down small. I can go twice as fast because my strokes cover more. There are disadvantages or temptations to a computer. Color dropping is like a dangerous drug; it gives you a temporary boost but when it's all over you're left lower than you started (you're probably wondering what a Mormon boy knows about drugs...not a whole lot. This analogy is over) I committed myself during college to never color drop. This was the best decision I made because I was forced to make decisions. As I've began to understand color more, I've seen opportunities to exaggerate and manipulate it. This is the funnest part of painting!

Question #3-What is the most important thing in painting color?

In my opinion, the most important things in painting color are VALUE, LOCAL COLOR, and RELATIONSHIPS. 

VALUE-This is the grayscale version of your painting. If your value is off, everything is off. When I paint, I spend the most time perfecting the value in the thumbnail. Once thats good, it's quite enjoyable. You can see the end from the beginning and experiment with colors. 

LOCAL COLOR-This is the color of your subject with no light affecting it. Once you lock this down, it's fairly simple rendering out the rest. If you dont understand the local color, the result will muddy your image and weaken the overall punch.

COLOR RELATIONSHIPS-This is how a color looks next to another color. It is either warmer or cooler. A painting is all about laying warms and cools next to one another. There is no universal rule to what is warm and cool. One thing that helped me a great deal was learning how to make a warm and cool for each color.

I hope this is useful in some way. Thanks for visiting my blog and supporting my work. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the encouragement and friendships from this small world we work in.



Benjamin. said...

Thanks, professor Carter. How do you make a warm and cool version of each color?

Mauricio Abril said...

Great post, Ty! It's a funny coincidence because I've been thinking about the basics recently as I've been keeping up with some studies as well, though mostly from paintings. I've got a question that I'd hope you might address in a future post: how do you handle painting from photos when often times a bright sunny picture will leave your lights blown out, often times 'bleaching' the local color? I personally stick to more neutral photos because of this, but I'd be curious to read your thoughts. Thanks!

Tegan Clancy said...

I will share this great advice for sure! Thanks Ty!

L ROSSI said...

Nice post! Thanks!! n.n

Dan Polito said...

Great post Ty. As an artist who never had any grounding in color theory or the basics of constructing or analyzing reference, this is a fantastic stepping stone.


... said...

WOW! you are so nice for sharing this. really helpful

Ty Carter said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such kind notes!

@Benjamin-haha You are welcome! Thanks for stopping by my blog! makes me sound so old LOL I'm going to make a new post and talk about how I approach this. There are so many ways. Let me know if it answers your question.

@Mauricio-Thanks Mauricio! Thats a great question. I'll tackle that in a post soon and hopefully be able to share something that is useful to you.

Ty Carter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ami said...

Thanks for this! I was wondering, what do you mean by "don't color drop"? Do you mean not to use the colour selector tool? Sorry, I'm not art school trained....