Thursday, May 10, 2012

Plein air ideas 11

Tonight I will talk a little about color and landscape painting. I meet a lot of students and tyros who want to learn to work in color rather than in drawing. They believe they can "specialize" in color and avoid learning drawing, as it interests them less. But color needs a scaffold beneath it .Well, in landscape painting or figurative art anyway. There were color field abstract painters who did no drawing and of course, Pollack, but in traditional figurative painting that seems to be the deal, because:


Here are some bullet points regarding color in the landscape:

  • Favor value over color. Value is a part of drawing. If you get the value right you can "inject" the color into that.
  • It is better to overstate your colors and then temper them with their opposites than to try to push color into an under-colored passage. The first gives a more complex color. The color that you toned down is still there percolating through the note (I know someone is going to ask me about that, I have written on complex and inominate colors before in this near 1000-entry blog. It is searchable.)
  • Color can express turning form through space. The volumes and planes of an object can be expressed using varied color.
  • All color is no color! In order for a color to really look strong or its brightest, it is necessary to contrast it against a desaturated or grave color. A painting without any grayed or subordinated color is not going to be more colorful than one that has those grave notes.The graver notes "activate" the highly colored ones.
  • Try not to make a mosaic of unrelated color...the colors in a painting are related to one another like the notes in a song. There are harmonies, chords etc. There are also discordant arrangements that make the viewer's teeth hurt.
  • Control the temperature of your colors. If you paint your lights warm, your shadows will probably be cool. If you paint your lights cool, your shadows will probably be warm. The juxtaposition of hot and cool notes gives exciting vivacity! 
  • Out there in the working week, on location nature is generally in grayed or toned down notes, with occasional flashes of clear bright color. Unless your painting is at least a little bit grave, your flash of clear bright color will not "tell" against it.
  • Envelope is the color imparted to an entire scene by the lighting. It is a note that is sown throughout the entire painting. Tonalism is an exaggerated form of envelope. Envelope can be the glue that holds a picture's color together and thereby avoids the dreaded "mosaic" of unrelated color.
  • Three color palettes are fun, and a great way to learn color mixing. On the other hand, you don't get good control over your color temperature. There are a lot of notes before you that you must approximate rather than "hit" using a severely limited palette. Ultramarine, permanent alizirin and cadmium yellow light make a basic three color palette.
  • I find yellow ocher and burnt sienna to be essential when painting outside. An awful lot of the notes I see (or want) are made from or tainted with the dirtier earth colors.
  • Beautiful color is beautifully arranged and stated color. That is not the same thing as the greatest possible amount of chroma, anymore than the greatest volume is a factor in the quality of music. A lot of things about painting are more complex than you would expect going into it.
If you would like to know about the upcoming July workshop in New Hampshire please
click Here. I have included the cost of the workshop and information on the location in the White Mountains.

5 comments: said...

Yup...having been doing the color thing for seems that "new artists" are discovering bright color and throwing all sorts of color up on their canvas. A few years ago I was aked to teach a workshop on color but no one signed up. Now I get asked all the time if I teach color and pallet knife. Everyone is looking for magic.

Color is my primary motivating force but I too make sure my drawing and composition is as strong as it can be.

I make sure I keep to the values and last but not least, I do paint neutrals. No one ever notices them but they are there.

I like a little color dissonance because I' m trying to paint jazz, not a symphony. said...

Something here for all the new "colorists" out there. I am painting a painting that is probably 95% neutrals and tertiaries ( don't faint, Stapleton). And people are still remarking " what beautiful colors". Color isn't just about saturation and, primary hues.

willek said...

Loved your explanation of the envelope. Is that all there really is to it? It was such a big deal in the day, it seems.WillEK

Philip Koch said...

Wonderful post.

I think drawing clear exciting shapes and a powerful pattern of darks and lights is sort of like providing yourself food and roof over your head. Once you've got that you can go after hot romance with color.

Robert J. Simone said...

Is it reasonable to say that painting is the integration of scaffolding and decoration?

And, speaking from experience, a three color palette is useful for learning the to paint relationships. However, one does need to pay attention to the inevitable "wants" inspired by notes observed. Expanding the palette in this way is a valuable learning experience, too.