Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unify with Color

This week, we are talking about color and it's power in our artwork. Let's focus today on how we, as artists, can use color to unify our work and make it great!

I believe that there are three ways that we can use color to unify a painting:
1. To use an analogous (or similar) color scheme throughout the painting
2. To work with a limited palette so that your mixtures of colors are all related
3. To use each new color in many places in the painting to keep it working as a

Let's look at examples of these concepts in action!

First, take a look back to the color wheel that we all grew up with, shown above.

I mentioned yesterday that you might want to consider Don Jusco's color wheel as a better model for paints and mixing, but for general use in relating colors to one another, we will use the standard 12-color wheel that we are all familiar with.

If you choose colors within 3-5 positions from each other on the 12 color wheel, you will end up with an analogous color scheme, and it will look great- just like magic!

A twelve color wheel includes the primary colors- blue, yellow and red, their mixes (or secondary colors)- green, purple and orange, and the colors mixed by the secondary colors (called tertiary colors)- blue green (aqua), yellow green (lime), blue purple (violet), red purple (magenta), yellow orange and red orange.

Here's an example of one of my photos, which falls into the analogous color scheme, since it uses yellow orange, yellow, yellow green and green- colors within four spaces of each other on the 12 color wheel. Do you see how it all looks harmonious? No great secret. I just exploited the analogous color scheme that nature provided and I photographed!

Now, let's look at two examples of a limited palette in action. In the first example, not only is the palette limited to three colors, it is also nearly monochromatic. In the second example, linked here, notice how the artist got a full range of colors out of only three watercolor paints and the white of the paper. In contrast to her cool three-color palette, my painting below uses a warm earthy palette of burnt sienna for the red, yellow ochre for the yellow, and ultramarine blue (fairly neutral) for the blue, which was only used to mix with the burnt sienna to make a dark neutral shade, and not used as a blue on its own.

Finally let's look at one last example, to illustrate how to use color throughout a painting to unify it. The idea behind this concept is that when a new color is added, you use it in many places in the painting, so it looks as though it has a purpose. Notice in my acrylic painting below, titled Dutch Pollarded Willows, I have used yellow in the horizon line, in the grass, in the trees in the road and even in the sky.

Today, try a small painting using one of these principles or combine ideas to create a unified painting of your own. Do a little watercolor sketch or an acrylic quickie right in your sketchbook, and note how it compares to other work you've done. Give it a try- I think you'll like it.

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