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Thread: Thoughts on Color..

  1. #1
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    Thoughts on Color..

    I am starting this thread to get some ideas of where and how everyone comes up with their choices of color... I originally was responding to a private thread with screenpainter which I will include here to kick things off:


    Hi.. Albert and I were chatting about colors and color palettes:


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by screenpainter
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gxhpainter
    Great, thanks Albert I appreciate it I will check out his work... I also was looking over Google images of Diebenkorn since you mentioned him... funny he was from Portland, Oregon.. where I grew up mostly.. I really like his work and was paying close attention to his color choices...
    It is funny how we in the Pacific N.W. go more for subtle grays in colors. They say that is due to being around the gray skies. Folks in California go for the brighter vibrant colors more because of the sunlight. Also I have heard from an artist that when a war is going on... paintings that include magenta or vermillion colors sell more than any others. not sure about that one. but seems in time of war the reds do seem to show up more. I am really digging the subtle grays of Deibenkorn too. I think we will learn from looking at those and perhaps assimilate. take care, Albert

    to D Akey:
    I was wondering what your thoughts on color.. I know from study and reading that what appear to be "natural" colors is to a large degree somewhat of a cultural and sub-cultural phenomenon as Albert points out.. My question is are great colorist painters better because the are free of this bias and tuned into more universal color language? in looking at Matisse, and Deibenkorn there are periods where some colors come in and the they won't use them again for some time... and there are some combinations they seem to use frequently...this is something that fascinates me .. what makes a painting with color work? there are so many theories about color harmonies but for every theory you can find a painting that is widely regarded yet doesn't align to any specific one...

  2. #2
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    ok one more train of thought... long ago artists were limited by the pigments and materials in color choices, now we have acrylics and hundreds of hues.. and metallics etc.. so the limit is the artists pocketbook.. but with digital you have millions of color choices ( and metallics )... and not only that once you have done a work you can shift the hues and tones around after the fact.. or use selection tools to alter specific areas.. I wonder how many here do that with the images they create?? I use that extensively to see what other colors might do to a work...

  3. #3
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    Color fascinates me!

    I have managed, in my life, to wrap my brain around many complex theories and come out of it (sometimes) feeling I have a some knowledge about that subject. This is not true with color (for me). Just when I think I have it figured out, it is usually soon followed by disappointment and frustration. What seems to work in one painting quickly proves itself useless in another. My uncle (an excellent oil artist), who taught me most of what I know about color, spent most of his time teaching me about shades of gray and the importance of "graying" colors. This seems to be true, especially in realism (which is the type of painter he is). Even this, sometimes it works and then sometimes I end up with a lifeless painting.

    I went on a warm-cool tangent for a while. Experimenting with painting colors according to the temperature of the subject. Sunlight or bright areas you would use warm colors, cold or shadow areas use cool colors. The theory with this is that it shouldn't matter what color you choose as long as it is the right temperature (and value which is where this theory gets complicated and tends to fall apart).

    Some of the most vibrant paintings are painted with dull color and some of the most dull and drab paintings are painted with vibrant colors. I have all but given up on trying to figure it out.

    The way I see it now is a lot like music. Sometimes a musician is able to create a beautiful piece of music using certain note combinations and rhythms. They work perfectly together to make a masterpiece. However, the next time she sits down to compose her next masterpiece, those same notes and rhythms fall apart and make a mess instead of a masterpiece. This is the same reason we see musicians who create these "one-hit wonders", then we never hear of them again.

    Great thread gxh and a great conversation to have with screenpainter! I wish I could add some wisdom to this but I'm afraid I'm at a loss when it comes to even fundamental color theory and why sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it's a mess.
    "The significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."
    Eckhart Tolle

  4. #4
    I choose colors much based on my mood when painting. Or the mood of the idea I wish to paint which can sometimes change mid-painting. I tend to lean towards cooler shades green, blues, purples.... using gray, white and black to add depth and shade ect.

    While studying color last year for the magazine, color choice is much based on what is going on around in your world (or even farther "the" world) . I briefly skimmed the surface of a much larger topic than I imagined it would be. There is so much out there to look at concerning color and how it affects us.

    My way is far from scientific and is highly self-experimentation. I have no schooling on painting beyond my own research and high school. (something I regret... missing college.)

  5. #5
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    some great ideas here.Magen,Lima, and Sketchism..you were lucky to have an uncle who taught you about shades of gray.. from Lima's comments it is clear that there is the technical side of color.. how to identify and communicate colors are like the keys on a piano each alone has it identifiable signature but it is when they work with others that they really come alive.
    It has been my experience in all this that a painter learns by looking at lot of good paintings what makes colors work together.. some use the warm -cool method others neutrals and grays with bits of pure color.. But I am with you Sketch..the more I work with it the more magic it appears in its ability to portray mood, and space.

  6. #6
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    I wrote a really long post that no longer exists because I deleted it. Was a huge ramble of limited interest.

    I can summarize, mercifully.

    Yes, there are tendencies toward color ranges based on sunlight. I believe it is due to the saturation being naturally brighter in sun (and thus less in cloudier parts), something we become calibrated to.

    But I think what color is and how it can be used can, and must be sliced many ways. We have the imprinting of a natural color palette in our heads based on what we see. I believe it is like visual comfort food or not. Colors remind us of things, whether familiar or foreign, culturally deep or trendy fashionable. It's all hooked together in a big matrix. We're also surrounded by colors that people paint their buildings, their cars, clothes, etc. And they have also been influenced by nature, by what people are buying, and so on.

    Moreover we can embrace color or rebel against it, and many of us may not have a clue beyond having a reaction to color. But we respond to it. And when and how we use it, it's saying something about us at a pretty essential level.

    As an artist, sometimes we exploit the comfortable for effect. Frequently we learn many of those old knee jerk prejudices. "What's your favorite color" is, in my opinion, an absurd question to pose to an artist who has been painting for a while. . . sort of like "What's your favorite direction".

    I look at color as a relationship. It's an adjective. It's entirely contextual. And there's nothing that isn't affected by it one way or another. It's voice - intonation, pitch, inflection, and often it's recognizable in a painting. And it can be used with some precision to evoke a response from the viewer.

    As to needing to take a class in color. . . it never did me much good. I learned everything I know about color from painters and using those principles. Since color is relationship (put the same blue in two different environments and you can see how it changes it), I found it was most instructive to see entire paintings. For my money, color has the ability to move. It adds the element of time, depending on how it is related to the adjacent colors and values. It can chop off, it can be stacked as in glazing effects, it can smoothly gradate out or in a precise path, it can get more saturated. . .

    It's exciting as hell.
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by D Akey View Post
    I look at color as a relationship. It's an adjective. It's entirely contextual. And there's nothing that isn't affected by it one way or another. It's voice - intonation, pitch, inflection, and often it's recognizable in a painting. And it can be used with some precision to evoke a response from the viewer.

    It's exciting as hell.
    Excellent comment... I think you have taken the usual dialog about color and placed it into a much more approachable and useful( for an artist ) context... I don't know what you deleted but this is great

  8. #8
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    Gary and everyone,

    I have known artists and ordinary people who are able to see colors I cannot see ... There is a purplish part of the spectrum -- call it ultraviolet -- that haunts some of the impressionists, Bierdstadt, Moran, Marin, Hockney ... I feel there is a color there, but I can't quite see all of it ... otherwise the colors, the palettes wouldn't make sense ... my own spectrum goes from white to black, with shades of grey all along the way ...
    xiěy, n. freehand brushwork, spontaneous expression
    Artrage Gallery
    / Leaning Tree Ink Studio

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinapete View Post
    Gary and everyone,

    I have known artists and ordinary people who are able to see colors I cannot see ... There is a purplish part of the spectrum -- call it ultraviolet -- that haunts some of the impressionists, Bierdstadt, Moran, Marin, Hockney ... I feel there is a color there, but I can't quite see all of it ... otherwise the colors, the palettes wouldn't make sense ... my own spectrum goes from white to black, with shades of grey all along the way ...
    Sorry, are you saying you're completely color blind, partially color blind to purples, or something else?

    I went to school with one very fantastic artist who were color blind (with red and green I think). Anyway, they had someone tell them what worked who then helped them with color mixing by formulas. As you might expect, they were pretty phenomenal with values. I don't know what they ultimately did professionally. He was good enough to make it commercially. As happens in school with people one doesn't know well, he went his way and that was the last I heard. But I have heard stories of color challenged artists.

    In the opposite direction, I also knew of a lady who saw colors in landscapes that other people could not. She could never get anyone to say they saw something like it as well. Must have been rather frustrating to her. She also had a hard time finding her artistic look, something that would set her apart. (Duh!) hahaha. I encouraged her to paint with those colors and see what happened. Sadly she was very ill so it was tough for her to paint by that time. But I kind of saw what she was talking about shortly after she died as I was driving through the desert. But I digress. . .

    Anyway, I am quite sure there are colors that nobody can see with human eyes let alone get onto their canvas perfectly. So we're all color blind in a way. Hasn't really stopped people from using painting as a vehicle for analogy. Like Magritte painted when he painted a pipe for smoking: "This is not a pipe." No it isn't nor would it ever be. It's a painting of a pipe. And therein lies a great deal of liberation.

    If you really want to paint, paint who you are and let that song out, your way, from within you. Its the best way anyway.
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

  10. #10
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    I can understand how anyone looking at my paintings might conclude I am
    color-blind, hehe ...

    There was a time when everyone believed as painters believed, that "white"
    was a separate color in nature ... Then Newton came along and ruined all the
    fun ... Turner hated Newton's ideas, and towards the end of his life was
    creating great pinwheels of color that appeared to be natural, yet no one had
    seen them in nature ... Since then, everything in painting has been a footnote
    to Turner (exaggeration! sorry!) ...

    The natural model for color is the rainbow ... It is white, and is rooted
    in colors I cannot see ... So I said my spectrum runs from white to black,
    and this led me to the idea that the greatest artists probably can see some
    of those colors, can see a different rainbow ... Constable's rainbows, for
    example ... By "grey all along the way" I meant that I prefer harmony and not
    contrast ...

    I should have explained all that, but when it comes to painting and writing, I
    try not to be too rational ... And I think everyone here would agree I'm
    successful at that, hehe ...

    In the digital world, I find I'm reacting more to light than to color ... Perhaps
    that's because the medium really is light -- but is it artificial or real? ... I want
    my colors to be true, so I have been taking my computer (iPhone) outside to
    see how things match up digitally and in the real world ...
    xiěy, n. freehand brushwork, spontaneous expression
    Artrage Gallery
    / Leaning Tree Ink Studio

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