Getting most out of painting from life
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Thread: Getting most out of painting from life

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    Getting most out of painting from life

    So recently I've been getting into studying colors from life and from photographs but I'm wondering while I'm doing these studies what should I really look for and focus on to really help me improve? Just plainly matching colors is probably not an effective way of learning color and light from life.

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    Black Spot is online now Pew, Pew, Pew Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Why not?


    I didn't think it was possible to be called an artist when you have nothing to say. It's like being a writer who publishes individual words as books and expects to be praised for it.
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    I guess the statement "matching colors" is too vague. But what I was trying to get at is that just mindlessly copying or painting while doing the studies would be a bit of a waste... or is it. Because then little knowledge about color and light which you can apply to other scenes would be learnt.

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    Yes, trying to copy anything mindlessly won't work in the end.

    James Gurney's "Color and Light" should have more than enough info on what to do about its subject. I recommend you get a copy.

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    Trying to accurately translate color working from life is a useful exercise. Especially outside, given you really can't do it within the limitations of paint and you will quickly find you need to key your painting to some aspect of color and value to get the appearance of an accurate statement for the whole. Try to focus on painting the differences you see between colors and values in light and shadow as opposed to trying to copy them. Another way of looking at it is you're trying to paint the atmosphere of the whole scene outdoors so the viewer feels the day and place.

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    Observing and trying to accurately paint color, particularly in natural light, is an excellent place to start. This is a different thing from "copying" the subject and all that nonsense. It is about a dialog with nature, light and color...how you see it, how you mix it and how you respond. It usually takes a few years of solid effort and study and a few hundred paintings before you start to feel comfortable with color...and that is just the beginning. The solid effort means painting from life and the study means from books on color and light as well as personal viewing of art in museums and galleries. Nature is by far your best teacher so go outside and paint!

    Edit: Forgot a couple important things. It helps to remember color is relative in many ways, it is relative to the colors around it, it is relative to the color notes you have already painted and it is relative to the pigments you are using...and most importantly it is relative to the statement you want to make. Artists make decisions constantly to subdue and enhance the color they see depending on how they want to orchestrate the painting.

    One real eye opening tool you can use to see color more accurately is to poke or punch a small hole in a grayish 4"x6" or so card or piece of mat board...take that card with you when you paint outside and use the hole to isolate a large passage of color. You'll be pretty amazed at what that can reveal. First time I did it was looking at a distant mountain ridge covered with what I knew were dark green pines...turns out in that situation they were a light lavender/mauve!

    Another good practice while painting is to simply make sure you constantly judge and evaluate each note, passage or brushstroke as you make it. Begin with the broad average color of the shape as accurate in value as you can get...step back often and judge whether the color and value in your painting reflects what you see in the subject. Wipe out any passage or note that doesn't read as you intend. This is hard to do at first but realize you are far better off wiping it out and restating the passage than leaving something inaccurate and trying to fix it. Paintings are built through a succession of accurate passages and notes and...nothing more. This is important because a false note leads to more and more inaccuracy.

    Judge your color by placing it in context - mix up your pool of color and then place a note adjacent to existing passages - ask yourself if it is the right value, is it the right temperature (too warm or too cool), is it the right intensity (too gray or too saturated). As a rule even the most experienced professional doesn't hit it right that first mix and will modify their color puddle accordingly.

    Those are just some additional tips on how to go about learning to see and handle color better. I second picking up Gurney's "Color and Light" and I would also recommend Schmid's "Alla Prima" (there is some great advice and wisdom in that book that will last your entire painting career). I also think Kevin Macpherson's "Fill Your Paintings with Color and Light" is a great place to start.

    Last edited by JeffX99; December 27th, 2012 at 01:10 AM.
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    You'll find it's pretty hard to "mindlessly copy" color from life. Go ahead, try it.


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    Lelinet, here are some ideas I posted recently for getting started on putting the theory into practice. I believe you already know about hue, value and chroma!

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthr...71#post3602071

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    Lelinet, here are some ideas I posted recently for getting started on putting the theory into practice. I believe you already know about hue, value and chroma!

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthr...71#post3602071

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