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Thread: Some thoughts on color -- Updated

  1. #1
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    Some thoughts on color -- Updated

    UPDATE: I've added a quick overview of Robert Burridge's 10 hue color wheel method after the initial post

    Updated: Added a link to Donald Jusko's Real Color Wheel page

    I've had a few people comment on my use of color to define light and dark, at times departing from tone altogether as the foundation. I thought I'd post a few notes on my approach.

    The first part is my core pallet. I have about two dozen favorite colors that I tend to use (with a few occasional additions). These colors are a fairly pure collection of hues -- I generally avoid tints containing white as well as muted colors. In my physical acrylic works, I absolutely avoid the umbers and earth tones. Black and white are severely limited as well.

    What's funny is I love earth tones, pastels etc. in the works of others, I just don't tend to use them in my work. Here's my basic pallet. To my eye it further breaks down into colors that tend to be naturally light, medium and dark. (continued)
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    Last edited by alkratzer; 03-01-2010 at 03:27 AM. Reason: Updated

  2. #2
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    Color Part 2

    Mastering tone drawing is a good foundation for painting in color, because it helps you understand light, dark and the transitions in between. Students are then taught to paint using the principles of optics regarding realistic color.

    Central to these principals is the idea that the shadow of an object will contain the complementary color of the object itself. The shadow of a Lemon will be purplish, the shadow of an apple will be greenish and the shadow of an orange will be blueish. (There's a reason why we paint still life studies with fruit -- it forces us to wrestle with these elements)

    Painting that is not striving to be strictly realistic often departs from using the local color of an object and it's shadow and will use arbitrary color choices instead.
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  3. #3
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    Part 3

    (Side Note -- The frosted pallet knife in AR did a great job of creating the orange skin texture in the above example)

    You can keep one foot in realism and one foot in the use of arbitrary color by playing with a combination of four ways to delineate light and dark.

    1. Use the traditional Complementary hue approach. In the example below, a yellow sphere has a purple shadow.
    2. Use a deeper hue of the object's color. The second example has the yellow sphere with a deeper yellow shadow
    3. Take advantage of the natural psychological tendency of certain colors to "read" as shadow or light. Yellow wants to indicate light as we associate it with the sun. Blues tend to depict shadows as we think of blue as dark and night. Even a relatively light blue tends to be read as shadow.
    4. Use a slightly darker neighbor hue as the shadow -- dark red next to medium purple or orange for example.
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  4. #4
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    Last section

    By combining approaches and occasionally choosing a purely arbitrary color that has no basis in any of the ideas above you can build up images that make colors vibrate against one another due the their relative dark/light, warm/cool or complementary or related natures.
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  5. #5
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    YOW! You just turned color theory on its head and made it work! I think I need to print this out and post it above my monitor.

  6. #6
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    Al, very very nice.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for taking the time to create and share all of this! Its most interesting!
    The only problem with humor is that no one takes it seriously.

  8. #8
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    Great thread and tutorial Al! Color theory fascinates me! Below is an example of the use of complimentary colors in shadows done very well by an artist Tony Crocetto. The ability to do this effectively is an art in and of itself! Then there is that little (haha) issue of light that when thrown into the mix changes everything yet again. A lifetime could be spent figuring all of this out but this thread is a fantastic start. Thanks for posting it!
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    "The significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."
    Eckhart Tolle

  9. #9
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    Doc, Oriane, Scott, Rose, Sketch -- Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment.

    Sketch -- great example painting you posted. You're right this whole area is a lifetime study and I have barely scratched the surface. It's a great idea to try to expand this thread to include other "thoughts on color" as well. I'll follow up with an additional approach I'm aware of now..

  10. #10
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    Robert Burridge has a great method that reduces the use of colors and their compliments to a few moving parts. He has reduced the standard 12 hue color wheel to 10 colors and outlines that paintings should have an overall dominant color and it's compliment is the focal point. He also points out that there are two natural "spice" colors that jazz up the compliment when placed next to it. See example below.

    (I have reduced his method considerably. I urge everyone to purchase his color wheel to get the most out of this method. He also discusses how to make sure you get clean color mixes and avoid muddy tones.)
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