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The Importance of Color for an Artist

How important is color to an artist?

Early attempts to paint from nature often result in a literal, almost crude, interpretation of the color that you see.

The sky is blue, the earth brown, the trees seem a definite green.

It is not until you really start observing the subtleties of color that you begin to avoid the obvious.

You discover that the sky can vary from light gray to greenish brown.

The brown earth becomes a pinkish violet or even a vivid orange, according to the light from the sky.

Subtle blues, violets, and browns can be detected in what first appeared to be a cluster of monotonous green trees.

As you progress you learn to become more selective.

You emphasize colors that produce a more harmonious effect and subdue discordant notes or eliminate them entirely.

If you were born with a sense of color you are one of the fortunate few.

Most people constantly have to return to nature, studying the effect of one color related to another, always working to seek color harmonies and new color schemes.

Then, as the eye for color develops, the painter's work becomes more distinctive.

In the actual painting of a subject we learn that a restricted palette insures better color harmony, that the grays enhance the subject, and that restraint is necessary when using the more brilliant colors.

Study the original paintings or good color reproductions of the old and modern masters.

Notice how some painters actually used very few colors, yet you are not conscious of any lack of color in their paintings; others seem to have run the gamut of every color, but they also produced beautiful harmonies.

As an artist, you are interested not only in the visual effect of color arid its emotional impact, but also in how color creates form and how form is affected by its surrounding color.

Technically, any color can be made by mixing the primary colors, yellow, red, and blue.

Each of the secondary colors, orange, violet, and green, is made by mixing the two primary colors on either side of it.

Mixing primary and secondary colors produces the intermediate colors, yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.

The complement of each color is directly opposite it. Mixtures of complements make grays.

Colors containing a greater proportion of yellow or red are considered "warm."

Conversely, colors containing a greater proportion of blue are "cool."

More Color Theory Links:

Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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