Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fun With Color

In art and often design, witness the new iPhone 5c in about 5 or so colors, color is important. Just because an item may only be black or white or even some dead colored grey, someone, somewhere decided what the color would be. They may even have a good argument for why as well! Now, just because they used it doesn't mean it was successful. I think many of us would agree it often isn't.

All artists know however, it is often not just one color but a range of colors, the tone or hue or saturation of colors that can make or break a painting or anything else that could be related to art and design. Over the centuries artists have developed a guide that we currently call the color wheel that "helps" use colors that are complimentary to each other. As you can see to the left, the triangles are the clues on which colors are primary (yellow, blue and red) and which colors are complimentary (orange, green and purple.)

The theory is that the colors that are directly across from each other are complimentary and work well together. This is to prevent you from making the mistake of putting say purple with green. Don't you find it interesting though that Mother Nature does it all the time and quite well! 

Art classes for centuries have used this wheel and the students didn't ever dare do something else, well, until the impressionists came along in the 1870's standing the Salon on its ear. Painting from real life, they too noticed that forbidden color combinations were in front of them each and every day. Not only was color now acceptable so were the way colors were used.

The REAL Color Wheel
I know that I spend a great deal of time choosing colors. The advent of Acrylics in more colors that you can shake a stick at has made this an even harder (or easier if you're lazy) process. I am looking at colors not unlike the color wheel on the right. There is blue and well there are lots of blues...and greens, reds, purples and so on. As a matter of fact, I took every bottle of paint I own, put it on our large patio table and with four holders of 81 spaces each, put them together by color. Light to dark and color by hue. I find though myriad colors or not, I still mix. I also find that a simplified wheel does not accurately tell you what is acceptable or not. The real color wheel gives you a far better idea because it takes hues within that color and allows you to more or less pair it with the compliment across the way. 

However, what I end up doing instead is picking colors, shaking  the bottle well then opening the bottles and lining up all the caps and seeing what works. If there still isn't that "right" color I know that I will have to make it but most of the colors are now in hand. I try not to use too many and keep them on the table in front of me. Those are my basic colors and they are used on all sides of the birdhouse, craft item or all over the painting. In fact, I now write down the colors I use in every painting.

I can hear you now. You used orange? Where else? In the trees? The house, the field? YES! I did. They are usually just touches of the color so that its use in one major place doesn't make it an orphan. I find that if you use just dabs of the same color elsewhere in the painting, where it is used the most seems to fit in better. Try it. You will be surprised. Unless you look for it, you will not notice it. That was a tip I learned from a teacher and try to remember it in every painting. Mother nature plays the same trick. Try looking for it some day. You will be amazed.

Color can be fun yet it can also be disastrous. You will have to find your own way to make colors work. However, unless you try to have some fun with color, you will never know!

Visit my store, for a good example of colors in use.

Thank you for reading!

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