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    Jan 2003
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    Exclamation Theory Discussion: "Color Theory" Principles and Practices

    Hello forum people...

    I would like to start by saying hello, my name is Ron Lemen, my handle, Fredflickstone is more recognizeable to other forum surfers. I am an artist/designer/illustrator/instructor in San Diego. I teach at the Jeff Watts Art Atelier, and I study great people to this day, Kevin is among the good company of greats I absorb.

    I am leaving a little paper I wrote for my color theory class. It explains things in a basic approach. The approach is similar to the teachings of Juoaqin Sorolla, I spelled that wrong…and passed on through my instructor, mentor-Sebastian Capella, and now I am transferring the knowledge on to all of you.

    This is merely a glimpse of information from a day long ago, when art teaching was more meaningful, and answers were available to all who wanted them.

    Art is a tricky bastard these days, its not so easy to see the big picture because there are very few who know what the big picture means…it’s a Really Big Picture…anyway, I hope to sit around here more often, and hopefully contribute some stuff for the sake, and betterment of your art learning.

    Thank you for reading this document. It is somewhat incomplete, but it has enough to get you by for now…any questions, please feel free to leave them, and I will answer anything you might have concerns with.

    Thanks again,

    Attachment 30115

    Attachment 30117

    Attachment 30116

    Color Theory Notes

    Most Importantly:


    The color wheel is a system to learn this principal above. The color wheel is a break down of the color spectrum, scientifically, not based on a palette system, although it is rooted in a palette.
    The palette is derived from pure colors, pure from each Hue, or color family in the color spectrum.
    The wheel is the color spectrum, in value relationship, from one color to the next. Starting with Yellow a 9 on my value scale, we move all the way through to the purple, a 2 or close to that value.
    The color wheel is also a tool to help us comprehend and fully understand the saturation spectrum, or chroma, or intensity. All three of these terms are identical in talking about color. I will stick with chroma.

    The palette is derived of pure hues in the color spectrum, the science of color. This is in no way an influence to a palette system, but, if you take proper note, this palette we will be using gives you basically every color in the color spectrum.
    Because color is intensity relative, the earth tones are finally realized as nothing more than toned down, pure color. This thought process, though, can be transferred to any palette system, as long as the principals of color are strongly adhered to:


    1. Hue
    2. Value
    3. Intensity

    But I still preface that this palette is the strongest palette I have ever used, offering the brightest possible results to the dullest results, all of which are good in their proper context.

    The wheel is broken down into three rings. Each ring is a chroma ring, based on intensity. The lower the intensity, the more gray is added to the colors. When finally seen as just a color wheel, one arrives at the conclusion that the term gray is a big misinterpreted word, when an artist thinks of this term. When we hear the term, it is usually thought of as something devoid of color, something bland and neutral.

    Why do I draw the value system backwards, that is, why is it numbered in reverse? Quite simply, in art class, teachers tend to say “drop the value of this or that,” or “raise the intensity of this or that.” This translates to: drop the value=add more black, raise the intensity=get rid of the black or possibly add white. In either case, you can see that it is stating something quite clear. Then we confuse this statement with “drop this value to a 7 or 8 value,” when the way we think of numbers, dropping a number means going backward down the number scale, adding a this or that is moving back up the scale. To simplify thinking here in these confines, we will stick with 1= black and 0=white.

    This translates into color with our color wheel. The colors are as I stated previously. 9=yellow, and 2=purple. Because, as we will soon learn, in painting in a High Key of chroma, a new term, we will not be using black, arriving at our darks through the means of color. If we think of the color wheel as value, we can resolve the high key painting quite simply by understanding that color=value. When we drop the chroma to a middle or low key of chroma, we will be adding black and white, de-intensifying the color, or dropping the purity of the true colors. Most all paintings are painted in a middle key spectrum, or an earth tone range. The old masters, Rembrandt and such, used a low key of chroma spectrum, or the absence of most color, until it is almost unrecognizeable to what color family it came from.

    To explain the terms I have included, the low, middle, and high keys of chroma.. The chroma keys are identifiable markers for our eye, to understand what key to paint in. Sorolla painted in a naturally high key of chroma, as did most of the impressionists. Manet was the father of this movement, using only pure colors to create the impressions we see of things around us, letting the eye fill in the details. Sargent was a sophisticated impressionist, but worked mostly in a middle to low key of chroma. His impression was the adept ease at which he arrived at shapes, not rendering, but finding light on the form. Rembrandt painted mostly in a low key of chroma, which is usually added to a major key of intensity (another set of terms to be introduced and explained shortly). He painted with such an intense amount of concentrated light, in a dark room, to increase the drama to his statements he was creating; extreme value range, from the blackest black, to the whitest white.

    Why high key of chroma? Why do we want to paint so bright? First, let’s speak of something else; a bit of its history. Explaining the history can answer most of this question I bring up. For many centuries, art had very few rules that helped it remain organized. Somewhere just before the dark ages, man lost some sensibility with art. The classic Greek and Roman art was to be forgotten, and art basically started over from crude, ill conceived ideas, flat, with no tonal control, and no perspective, plus a false sense of understanding of the true human form. Then slowly, through the ages, artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci (perspective, anatomy), Michelangelo (anatomical rhythms) began adding tools, or resources to the history strand of the ever-expanding growth of art. These new tools allowed artists more freedom to finally create impressions that were meaningful, powerful, and to the heart. Since most of art during these times were for the state, the church, or historical recording, the more accurate, and more powerful, the better. These were some of the only imagery most people ever saw, going to pay taxes, paying respects to their lords, and worshipping of rulers and god. These images needed to be made clear, and important, to really make an ever lasting impress on the peoples. During these days of painting, color was not the most well organized item on the list. Although most colors had been created in their mundane mixtures of primitive hues, violet or purple being the rarest, there was no understanding of the color spectrum. Plus, all these new tools allowed artists to now use light and shadow to mould the organized forms in 3 dimensional space, the things our eyes really see. But one piece was still missing; color. It was used, but lacking in its rich vibrancy that we all know of because of the glorious, vibrant sun. A painter by the name of Diego Velasquez came along (Spain) and introduced two things to painting that will forever make him the most important painter of all time: he introduced color into the shadows, and he molded form impressionistically, adding atmosphere to the mix, blending edges into each other, where other artists dare not do such a thing because it went against all that was ever taught. These two principals opened up the path to all the great art we see today, from Waterhouse to Sargent, the Impressionists to the Realists, Velasquez (1600’s) gave art its heart, and the impressionists followed this up many hundred years later with the soul; color and impression. Sorolla(Spain) could be claimed to be the greatest impressionist that ever lived. He brought real color to art, done very realistically, and very sound. Manet brought impressionism, but Sorolla taught most painters to understand how to paint in true direct light. He was the master of color…

    Why High Key? Some people truly experience life from a colorful point of view. In some instances, when I step into a new corner of life, I see it not from the point of view of details and textures, but of color, lots of colors that tease the mind. The earth tone palettes most artists recommend never allow you to fully experience colors the way colors can be experienced. But using this bright color spectrum does have its costs. If using bright colors, one cannot use a full value range. Both contradict one another and create two entirely different meanings. This leads us into the contrast keys…

    Contrast keys help us to gage how much dark and light to use in a picture, and this controls our saturation levels too. In a high key of chroma, we use a major key of contrast. In a middle key of chroma, we can use just about any key from the major key to the minor key. The middle key of chroma is the most forgiving. The minor key of contrast is bringing the value range down to just a few values. This system will become more complex as we progress into the semester, but for now I want to keep it simple in just these three terms for now.

    onto part 2...
    Last edited by Sepulverture; November 25th, 2009 at 03:11 AM.

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