Your Approach to Color?

stlukesguild

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Back in the 1930s or 40s Picasso and Matisse were both asked about their approach to or theory of color. Matisse... a brilliant colorist... addressed the question in some depth as one might expect, going on for several pages. Picasso replied, "If I don't have red, I use blue." 😜 Certainly, he was being facetious to an extent... but then again, Picasso wasn't a colorist. His paintings were far more about shape, line, and value. A dark blue might work just as well as a dark red in creating the value he needed.

Anyway... my question to you... the group... is "How do you approach color?" Do you have a theory of color that guides you, or do you approach color in a naturalistic manner, trying to capture the colors you see before you?

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Actually... Picasso could be a damn good colorist when he wanted to be. ❤️
 
Yes- he could. I always thought his approach was more colorist than not- as his lines and shaped passages were unusual, so were his color choices.

I like to be able, in some pieces, to make blue reflect orange, or pass purple over green, or create some other interesting passage of color that is very much not high chroma; anymore, high chroma colors offend my eyes, almost. I try to reserve high chroma for spots and small places, instead of large passages.

I prefer to make interesting grays....
 
I just let it ride. One day grey, next day blue, and on goes the circle. What I do try is to select one color and use it as a mother color and then to heighten my highs I like to splash some hot or and cold compliments where it will impact my highs or lows the most. That, to me, is the best part of painting: watching the color unfold and grow.
 
I have no clue as to how I "approach" color. I guess I just go with what I feel and what looks "right" to my eye. Sometimes I'll change a few things as I go along if it's not perfect, but for the most part, I guess I'm what you said is a "naturalist" approach, good or bad. I do have certain colors in mind when I begin, and I take a long time to make these decisions as I go along, however. Sometimes, too long. :ROFLMAO:
 
I don’t have a color palette, colors I avoid, or colors I prefer. I can’t tell the (visual) difference between good brands and bad brands of paint, so I buy what’s….affordable. I have no “theory” of how they should be working together or not, or what rules I’m supposed to know and properly apply. Sometimes I’ll use spray paint, leftover latex house paint, or stencils, or will paint over stuff like pennies and burlap. I suppose it’s all more or less - intuitive - although, there IS a general “color vibe” I have in mind before starting.

Lately, I like doing this: I go to the Benjamin Moore online paint store and search for the colors I want. I save them to a “Shopping List” where I can add, delete and compare and this gives me a visual place to “think.” When I have what I want, I print it out and tape it to the studio wall. Then I just look at my handy little Magic Palette color chart in order to find the closest color (in oil paint) that will match best. And if I’m a little off, it doesn’t really matter since I’m not going for reality, anyway.
 
JStarr- I like to be able, in some pieces, to make blue reflect orange, or pass purple over green, or create some other interesting passage of color that is very much not high chroma; anymore, high chroma colors offend my eyes, almost. I try to reserve high chroma for spots and small places, instead of large passages.

I prefer to make interesting grays....


Yes, I quite like layering one color over another... scumbling or glazing. Considering that I really got my start in art by looking at and copying comic books it is not surprising that I lean toward saturated colors. A good many of my favorite artists (Rubens, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Ingres, Degas, Bonnard, Matisse, Beckmann, etc...) were masters of saturated colors. As I work with a shallow space, I don't employ a variety of saturations (colors becoming increasingly "gray" as the space recedes). When I have used more subtle colors I employ these throughout the painting as a whole. Honestly, I don't care the least about natural color. I'm far more inspired by the "artificial" color of the Modernists (Impressionism onward).

I learned from the Venetian Renaissance painters (Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Giorgione, etc...) as well as Degas how to employ a color ground as a means of unifying the painting as a whole. Almost all of my paintings begin with a primer of a reddish-brown (Tuscan Red) over the underdrawing. Bits of this sparkle through across the whole of the painting and help unify it.


Artyczar- I have no clue as to how I "approach" color. I guess I just go with what I feel and what looks "right" to my eye.

I suspect that much of my approach to painting... drawing, composition, and color... comes about in a similar manner. I've often described the process of paintings as akin to going to the eye doctor (an analogy that seems more apt after having just gone there last week :LOL:). Just as the eye doctor flips the different lenses before your eyes and asks "Better or worse?" so I do the same with the paintings; I change a color or line then sit back and stare at the result critically and ask myself, "Better or worse?"

OliveOyl- I don’t have a color palette, colors I avoid, or colors I prefer. I can’t tell the (visual) difference between good brands and bad brands of paint, so I buy what’s….affordable. I have no “theory” of how they should be working together or not, or what rules I’m supposed to know and properly apply. Sometimes I’ll use spray paint, leftover latex house paint, or stencils, or will paint over stuff like pennies and burlap. I suppose it’s all more or less - intuitive - although, there IS a general “color vibe” I have in mind before starting.

I gotta admit I'm quite different here. I do have certain colors I dislike... not entire hues like Blue or Pink... but specific colors like Alizarin Crimson and those inky dark blues and greens. Looking across the whole of my output I am also aware that there are certain colors I favor and use far more than others, especially the Primaries (Red, Yellow, and Blue) as well as Pink and Orange. Green and Purple? Not all that much... but I have made conscious efforts to employ these from time to time.

I do have a notion of good brands... especially in pastels... or should I say, I have a clear notion of which brands I like and what they are capable of. For pastels, I use Rembrandt, Sennelier, and NuPastel more than anything else... but I also employ a broad array of color pencils, pastel pencils, etc...


There were several professors at my Art School who were unquestionably great colorists. A couple of them had studied under Joseph Albers. As students, we were expected to look at Albers paintings and read his books on color... but honestly, I tend to work far more intuitively as well... although I might begin with a notion that this is going to be a red & green or pink & blue painting. I don't have a color wheel anymore... but I do often pick up entire batches of those paint samples from Home Depot or Lowes paint department and I have gotten some good ideas from these.
 
I have yet to decide what, if anything, my theory of color is. I do find myself getting more conservative as I get older; I increasingly prefer the muted earth tones typical of our local landscapes. And I find that while I still like Van Gogh, I increasingly like his early work rather than the stuff he eventually got famous for!

But this may also change in a heartbeat. I have yet to find my style, I think, and I'm actually not sure it will ever happen.
 
I don't think I have a conscious theory of colour in the sense of associating colours with emotions. When I paint it's simply a matter of choosing combinations of colours and textures that look right.
 
I had my first knowledge about color through school's art courses, at the age of 12-13y (using the Talens oil pastels that our professor suggested). This included primary and secondary colors, mixing etc. This didn't go very deep, with 1 hour/week.

I went further later, at the age of 20+ years, through photography: I read books and magazines about the photography techniques. I mean film photography of course. With film, it is much more hard to manipulate color compared to the actual digital techniques. Films and chemicals are designed to give "natural" colors under very specific well controlled conditions that are rarely valid out of a professional photo studio. So, most of the times an amateur gets what the film and the laboratory give! I learned that the absolute color fidelity is very hard to achieve, and it is not even what we look for in most of the cases: in fact we often look for something more "warm" or "cold" depending on the specific subject and its general ambience. One could buy filters to accentuate the evening warm light or the candle's light. There were even films specially balanced for warm or neutral tones, more or less saturated colors etc.

Of course, with the digital technology we can easily achieve a correct color balance adjusting our photo camera or later through some software manipulations. However the artist's point of view goes further than the "color fidelity". It is to create an ambience, a color world. It's here and in some other art forums that I saw that one can use many different sets of colors to paint the same subject, each one giving a very different but acceptable painting. I learned that there is never a "neutral" black in the nature: it is usually slightly warmer or colder than neutral. All this makes me rethink about those photographic concepts on warm subjects or no, and all this in relation to the emotion that the photo (or painting) creates to the viewer.
 
The former (retired) president of my Art School had studied under Joseph Albers and other artists of the Bauhaus. He came back each year to teach a unit on color in our Design course. We spent a good deal of time working with and making collages from Color-Aid paper:

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Color-Aid came in literally hundreds of different colors.

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Some projects involved creating the illusion of overlapped colors (an Albers/Bauhaus lesson).

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In other projects, we would design collages with a variety of hues (red, blue, yellow, etc...) in which all the Chroma or Saturation matched. While I never embraced the school's (and the Bauhaus') emphasis upon abstraction or non-objective art, I definitely still embrace the conscious awareness of color and its impact and the rejection of natural color... or the effort to copy the color as seen in the subject you are looking at. The Expressive Artifice of color is not merely something seen in Modernist painting (Degas, Matisse, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Gauguin, etc...) Rather, it is most certainly there in the work of many "old masters": Michelangelo, Veronese, Rubens, Bronzino, Vermeer, Ingres, etc...

One quote I remember from our old retired school president went (to paraphrase): "There is a quote by the English actor, 'Dying (thus drama) is easy; comedy is hard.' By the same token, Drawing is easy; Color is Hard." With time, I realized just how true this was. There are so many levels and elements to color.
 
I believe that this discussion of color is tuned more to that which I would term, "color schemes", or "color harmonies", rather than the more scientific "theory" of color. The theory of the way colors behave, both alone, and in mixtures can be quite easily understood, and predicted, and I've made rather a science of that my entire adult life, as I spent 40 years in the litho trade as a color separator. That is the color theory based upon the true, primary colors, of pigment, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow.

I enjoy painting "that which I see". However, once a few principles have been learned that govern those things that you see time, and time again (from having actually seen those things), those principles can then be applied to your own, subjects from your own imagination.

My favorite discussion is that of "What color should one paint a cast shadow?" Well, I have an interesting answer for that, based upon an almost scientific setting involving light in a darkroom. This truly answers that question, and it's not based upon intuition, nor a guess.

The color of any cast shadow should be painted the color that is the color of the complement of that of the light source. For this, one must have the knowledge of the true primary colors of pigment, and their complements. For example, Red is the complement of Cyan--not Green.
I can prove that statement I made about the color of cast shadows by having you set up a couple of simple tests. If you would like more information regarding my observation, I will be glad to discuss further. (I find that most artist truly aren't much interested, actually, and would rather "wing it".":cool:)
 
Some people can have intuition and get it "right" without knowing. There's some saying about a broken clock being correct at least twice a day...or something like that. :ROFLMAO:
 
Haha, yep! That is correct. Although I would rather prefer to believe that such an artist may have actually SEEN the effect, and (without understanding what caused it) painted the effect, anyway. The result is that he/she ended up being correct!
 
I would immodestly say I know a great deal about color theory. Lots of science training through my college years, professional work as a photographer and running a color darkroom, self-training in art by viewing constantly, even growing up in a family of painters and working in our commercial painting company, etc.

Sometimes I'm consciously choosing colors based on the classics of various complimentary and analogous color schemes. I certainly am a great fan of saturated color and in the artwork of others unnatural color. But even muted color schemes catch my eye. I would simply say that I'm more sensitive to color than to line or value.

But in truth, when approaching a painting I never seem to work that way. Since I'm mostly painting from life alla prima en plein air, I'm starting with what I think I see in the areas of interest and working outward from there.

In pastel I never work the way I see some instructors/artists famous on YouTube do, that is, I don't lay out a color palette in advance.

But there are times when I do think about whether I want a heavily saturated piece or a muted piece.
 
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