How to See and Interpret Color with an Artist’s Eye

Seeing Color with the Artist’s Eye

As an artist one of the greatest challenges is color. Use of color in a painting
conveys mood as well as light and value or form. I don’t want to talk about the
strategies for color mixing. Rather the choices in your colors and how to create
mood that reflect who you are and what you want to say as an artist through
your artwork. Once you are comfortable mixing your colors and capturing correct
values relationships it is time for you as an artist to find you color sensibilities.
Do you want to render your paintings with the nuanced earth tones, do you want
to push complimentary impressionist color, or perhaps push color and value that
they become more of metaphor for feelings and mood than a particular scene or
object. Since color is such a powerful force in how we feel  it is imperative for an
artist to sit down and always evaluate and reevaluate your art to decide what it is
you want to express over all to your viewers, whether melancholy,irony, mystery,
majesty or power. All these are possible depending on what you do with the color.
For example if you are creating a painting where your edges are melting from
definite edges to soft ambiguities then you add a color scheme of cool colors and
blues you will have a painting that feels mysterious almost something reminiscent
of night and it’s cool colors and loss of edges and details. Another example high
jumps in colors and contrast can create a feeling of power or even agitation
depending on which colors you use. The emotions you can evoke through color
are endless.

That may sound all well and good but now what does an artist do? Where do you
start? A good start to figure out what you want to do with color is make a list of
artist s that you connect with the most. Whose use of color you admire. Make a
list of your top ten favorite artists. From the artists on your list pick 3 or 4
paintings of those artist’s best pieces and then to the best of your ability analyze
how they used color. Try to integrate their approach into your artwork. Ask
yourself some questions about, what is it about this artist’s use of color that
fascinates you? How are they using their color in the shadows or dark colors as
opposed to the lighter values? Is the tone of the color scheme warm or cool
overall? Does itlook like their approach is a creative deviation from observation?
Are all the shadow areas devoid of detail and blue (just an example of a classic
approach to western landscape paintings)?  Even take notes if that helps.
Research that artists approach, the paint colors or pallet they used  also study their philosophies on color.

The next step is to plan a painting try to use the information you have
learned on you listed artists and incorporate that into your painting. Paint
scene using what you have learned. Then honestly determine well you
achieved the look you wanted with your color use in your painting.  If the
painting isn’t working try to analyze how consistent you were in the use of
color. If you still can’t see why something isn’t working bring in fellow artists
or even art instructors and ask for their input. Let them know what you are
trying to do and what your thoughts are on how successful you were at
achieving you goals. The most important thing is listen to what they say and
then take from that what you think is pertinent and ignore what you think
either doesn’t apply or was dead wrong(those who have been in a lot of
critiques know what I mean). You always hold on to what you believe or
what you are trying to do. Never lose sight of your goal. Now continue to
try to incorporate what you have learned into your painting. Keep incorporating
what you have learned into you painting. Your sensitivity to the use color and
the emotion it conveys will become stronger. Your paintings will become more
personal to you and more captivating to the viewer as well.  It is a process and
takes time but your reward will be worth it. Now quit reading and go pick up
you brushes and get to the easel. Paint something beautiful.

How to Oil Paint Using a Toned Canvas

Painting Quickly, Tone the Canvas

Kevin McCain Painting Canyon Lake

When painting in Plein Air and doing quick studies or even more finished paintings this is a technique to help color structure and make your painting stronger. Here is what you do:

1. Get a large brush one that will cover your canvas quickly.

2. Mix up a brown or use burnt umber than thin it down to the consistency of heavy cream.

3. Apply it over the surface of the canvas thinly(not the full strength of the color). Tint the white of the canvas.

4. Now use mix a darker brown and draw in your scene.

5. Now for each object quickly paint in the light and shadow sides of your objects.Using simple shapes.

6.Now develop your objects by adding the color nuances and more complex shapes or details and finish you painting.

Here is what this technique does for you first it kills the white of you canvas so you don’t have any specs of white showing through your finished painting. Also since you are mixing all your colors into a brown it have less of a chance of creating color structure problems in your paintings. There are many variations to toned canvas techniques this is just one of many.

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