Painting which is well worth remembering warm light cool shadows cool light warm shadows

When considering this scheme also remember the unifying effect of the discordant note. Painters use this is when applying 'spot' compliments (opposites to the unifying hue) which, as in jazz music, has the effect of underlining or exaggerating the unity of the rest. In the painting above I could have done this by making the bird's wings greener (removing all the red from that hue). There is nothing psychological in this, it merely is a practical tool for the painter to employ if the painting seems to lack some vibrancy. Turner was the master of this effect. He would create a huge canvas of reds, oranges and golds then place in a strategic spot of blue -or vice versa. The result can have viewers circling and muttering words like genius, awe-inspiring and unforgettable! From a painter's point of view all it requires is great control and restraint - holding back until that last, final, daub of pure paint. That is the real secret to painting with color - the understated build up, the flat featureless, bland thing that has taken six terrible controlled months to produce then becomes a vibrant masterpiece in the last five minutes.

This brings me back to saturation. This is not, as most painters would have you believe, a post exhibition, or after dark activity. Saturation, sometimes called chroma, is the redness of the red or the difference between a pale blue and a deep prussian blue.

Warm Light Cool Shadow

My action painting of cricketers in the West Indies has highly saturated hues (calypso colors) but note how all their values are similar. The red is separated from the dominant green and the white uniforms provide the unifying force. You can get away with a lot if you utilise high contrast neutrals! The major chord (the green, red, blue and yellow hues of similar value) is played again in the white of the uniforms where it is repeated in a 'higher key'.

Cool Light Warm Shadows

When color becomes highly saturated (as in the yellow toga above) it begins to elicit more attention. In this painting 'Thor' I have used colors of similar hues but differing values and saturations. Similar blues appear in the sky breastplate and hammer, yellows in sky water and toga, reds in the flesh and twice in the hammer. These are all minor chords. The major chord is the green - red combination of similar values.

We cannot talk about saturation without discussing value. Value is what we do when we make drawings and shade them. It is the method we use to define form. If drawing is 'line' then as soon as we shade that line we create value differences, and a third dimension. So the third element, when describing most colors, is value. Value, as stated previously, is the blackness or whiteness of a color (scaled 1-10). Most hues tend to darken with increased saturation.

If you desire to make pleasing two dimensional color compositions you can do so with chords of equal value or similar hues. This is useful and great fun but to make a painting with 'depth' we will also need to match color 'values' therefore we must consider how best to 'mix' the values we want. Would you expect a value five red mixed in equal amounts with a value five yellow to produce a value five orange or a value five red mixed with a value five blue will produce a value five purple?

STUDENT ACTIVITY:I asked: 'Would you expect a value five red mixed in equal amounts with a value five yellow to produce a value five orange or a value five red mixed with a value five blue will produce a value five purple?' Do this on your palette and determine the result. Also do the same with paints of differing values to see whether they 'average' their values. Write up your results. Allow 40min.

GO TO ... mixing colors Lesson list

Canvas Painting For Beginners

Canvas Painting For Beginners

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