Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Learning to see

 Dance Partners
6" x 8" oil on panel

In classes, I get asked over and over and over how I see shapes or colours and how I decide on what to put on the painting.  I thought I'd create a short series of information pieces on seeing that will be available in the new year.  It is a challenge for many beginning artists to understand just what they're supposed to look for.  They often use a photo reference slavishly and don't make independent decisions around value or colour for fear of it "not looking right".   In this information series, I will illustrate and explain what I look for, how I see shapes and how I create colour decisions.

Here's an example of how I make colour decisions, based on this painting "Dance Partners".

When I paint, I try my best to stay within the colour wheel, using the most saturated, intense colours possible to ensure that I don't stray too far into desaturation, or mud.  

I mix colours to create secondary and tertiary hues and use complementary colours that really bounce off each other almost, giving harmony.   I introduce paler or brighter tints of those colours and introduce background colours into the subject and subject colours into the background to provide interest and an overall cohesiveness.

I often add tiny shots of pure colour that are part of the analogous section of the colour wheel that represent the hues of the subject or are a direct complement of the subject colour.   For instance in the green apple, I mixed pthalo blue and cad lemon yellow in varying amounts to create the greens.  For highlights, I add a pale yellow green mixed simply with a lot of CLYwith a tiny amount of PB and a shot of pure CLY out of the tube for the top.   Can you see that bit of pale blue in the green apple or the shot of blue in the red?  This is where I can indicate value but am not tied to the reference. 

For those starting the path in art, it can be challenging to make leaps of faith that allow growth as it moves them outside their comfort zone.  Experience and practice are key elements that train the ability to see more clearly and make decisions based on information instead of guesswork.  As well, a strong background in drawing and colour theory are essential for anyone seriously considering creating art.