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August 13th, 2002 #1
using color theory for space, light and form
I wrote this for a good friend...figured it might help some of you as well. looking at this stuff and thinking it over helped me today.
please take a look at this stuff...ADD as much as you can to these ideas...they are only theories...bendable rules...ideas that can help you with your paintings.
PLEASE ADD TO THIS THREAD IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER IMAGES OR IDEAS.
ask questions when answers are needed. k?
Im going to jump right in here....we will start a color theory thread here so that we can really push this. I will start a new thread for the basics of color theory and we can move toward the advanced in that thread. for now here are some things to chew on.
this guys color does a good job of suggesting time of day...take a look how in the ninas en la playa painting how he sets the forground figure cool against the warms of the middle...the middle figures are warm against the cooler water...
also notice how saturated his color is. he is painting at least one value step darker than he actually is observing which allows for less chalky paint and helps to suggest the luminist qualities of sunlight.
look at his color range in these images. you are dealing with impressionist colors (not the tonal colors of sargent or velasquez or rembrandt which rely on value more than temperature and intensity)
notice how in the cloudy day images that the temperatures are closer together between light and shadow.
in neutral light paintings you can work closer to the values you see because the color is less saturated in that light situation. take a look at how close the temp range is in this kind of image.
there is still a difference..just not a cool blue to hot orange range...its more murky...subtle. both the lights and darks share the same temps at times. the colors here are much more neutral in temperature in comparison to sorollas outdoor beach scenes.
here is a tonalist image from zorn...notice how he relies mostly on value and NOT color for this. also notice how he uses BACGROUND COLORS in his shadows for this kind of painting...perty typical of sargent..whistler..velasquez..rembrandt....these guys are all tonalists.
notice on the face how the planes of the cheek in the shadow that are closer to the background are almost the exact warm background color...
in this image zorn sets up his figures warm against cool...dark against light....as the color on the forms moves toward the background light notice how it shifts to the background color and temp...most noticible on the figures legs in the foreground
he is using more impressionist color here. zorn is the border between the traditional tonalists and the impressionists in terms of color use and theory. he uses both theories for his paintings depending on his needs.
notice here how the woman changes in color depending on where her forms lie in space. notice how her head is farther away and thus is very similar to the background palette.
this is not necessarily observed color as much as it is good use of color theory.
atmostpheric perspective is a device for space...atmospheric perspective dictates that the closer objects are in space the more similar colors will be shared. (trees seeming bluer in the distance for example) zorn amplifies this effect on the figure in order to help his space read on this difficult straight in perspective where there is little value change.
IF you cannot rely on values to create space you can use color to do it. NOTICE how the color on her arms shifts and changes as it moves farther in space.
the exact same theory is present in the below image as well.
notice how the boy who is farther in the background than his mother is sharing more of the background color palette.
I hope this helps...
Hide this ad by registering as a memberAugust 13th, 2002 #2
color is such a beautiful thing...the fact that you can create form through difference in chroma rather than just difference in value has always intrigued me...
i hope to learn much from this thread...
Last edited by JoshuaTheJames; August 13th, 2002 at 01:37 PM.
August 13th, 2002 #3Registered User
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i hope it will help me as well. color is a tough thing to tackle if you don't know much about it.
August 14th, 2002 #4Registered User
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Jason, thatnks for the post... I really am trying to learn.. I think I need to get some real paint and paint traditional.. there is something about mixing your own colors etc.. and working non digital that would help...
I wish i had the knowledge to add to this thread.. but instead Ill just put a link up to the thread on Sijun that was quite informational.
"Live each day like you will die tommorow, and dream like you will live forever..."
August 24th, 2002 #5
This is a painting one of my instructors did awhile ago. I could have dipped back to the 19th century but this should hold up good enough for a demo.
Time of day, mood, atmospheric haze are executed well. Notice the value jump in shadows from foreground to middleground.
As objects go back in space they reduce in chroma and values move closer together toward light. You can see this somewhat in the buildings as they go back as well as in the intensity of the yellow cabs in the fore compared to the back.
Objects in the foreground should have more color and less neutrals added. Foreground also has the strongest contrast.
Notice the overall ultramarine/alizeron tint to the painting. Mood/ time of day can be suggested by having one color constant in everything in the painting. The middletone of whatever color is chosen plus a neutral gray must be mixed into all other colors to achieve the effect.
This is something that James Bama, western landscape painter, does in all his work.
Bama's neutral color is not always gray. He makes neutrals of yellow ochre or burnt umber and adds the correct value neutral to the corresponding color's value.
I hope that makes sense to someone out there. Some of what I speak of relates to working with a pre-mixed controlled palette although it should be universal.
Last edited by Eric UNSL; August 24th, 2002 at 09:32 AM.
August 30th, 2002 #6Registered User
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threads like this started by tha admins themselves made me sign up here. they indicate the will to establish not just another board but to help and share their experiences.
eric unsl: well regarding the first image i agree with global tinting and mood but i´m not sure if it´s really a good example for color/depth concepts since even the last buildings u see are pretty saturated and dark compared to the sky.
maybe i got something wrong but that´s what i believe to see.
hmm the second doesn´t show
August 30th, 2002 #7
Yeah Dan.v.D. you're right. I went over to my teacher's place the other day and happened to come across the original while in his studio. I realized then that it probably wasn't the best example but at least some of what I said holds up. Should have gone with a Gerome painting but I didn't feel like scanning anything.
The link to Bama works on my end. Try copying and pasting it. This could be a good thread. Doesn't anybody around here paint traditionally? Any older people with more experience that can really add to the topic? Or should I start scanning.
September 17th, 2002 #8Registered User
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Great Thread, helps me clear up a lot of color ideas in my head.
This is a re-post from another thread, but I think it is more appropriate here:
Here is a way to break down light from what you see:
First think of the head in simple planes (front, side, top, bottom) and look for the main light sources descriping the big planes (usually you can find dominate light, fill light, and bounce and local color showing through where lights are weak & can't wash it out in color.
By working this way you are using light/color to help you create form and planes.
Another thing to watch out for is the gradation of the local color and the gradation from the center of light. On the body the smaller the form the reder it gets (head reder than body, nose reder than face). Lighting gradation gives you more of a sense of scale and brings atomashere into the painting.
Something to keep in mind:
Different Plane = Different light = Different value = Different color
Once you get the basic plane down then you are ready to start painting down the lesser planes. Kind of like sculpting with light.
Here are some notes on staging your color:
Color is all about relationships. Even if the color you mixed is right and the next color is off, the 2nd color distorts the 1st color.
One thing to realize with paint is that there is no way you can ever replicate the exact color range that you see. For example, you might see millions of colors but it is only to possible to mixt one-tenth of that intensity of color that you do see.
So the trick is to capture the relationships of the colors to create a illusion of that intensity. EX: I may paint everything much cooler and desaturated to really make that warmth of the sun to pop out. To match the intensity I see in real life.
Another trick is to use broken colors (impressionist) and have the viewers eyes to mix the colors in their brain to create and more vibrant color that have more depth. That why is better to not completely mix your paint.
Notice how if you cover the yellow spots on the bottom, everthing else is actually very cool & desaturated. They help stage up to create the vibirancy of the yellow. Kind of like having the rough green leaves to make the rose redder and more fragile. It's all about contrast and relationships.
Here is another example of using grey, greens, blues to stage up the red and orange so we can feel more of the bright sun shining on the horse and rider. Look at the white on the ground. It's not really white, but of green grey shade. Everything is nuetralized to pop out the horse and rider. Everything in the BG is a very muted warm. And the sky is so vibrant yet have to be desaturated by the atomasphere that it can only be achieved by broken color (blue and orange makes very ugly color if you mix it flat).
That's why a lot of painters start their students with limited pallete. It forces them to rely on relationships to create a illusion of color. Learning how to use contrast(value, hue, saturation) to create intesity and greys to create color.
Color is made out of 3 main things:
The first thing to look for is value. If value is off then color is off.
Second is to consider it's temperature and how it relates to the big picture. It's always better not to stare at one area when you mix color, cause your eye will adjust to see what ever it wants. It important to look slightly off the target and see the impression of the overall image and it's color relationship.
Just remember there is the actual color and there is the color impression you see. What you want to mix is the perceptive color.
Just remember color is light. So when you try to mix a color of an object. Think of it this way:
Local color + Color of light (dominate, fill, bounce light) + Color of Atomasphere (air reflecting light) + exaggeration to match your impression = color you mix
A good practice is to paint small to learn to see how color relates. It also takes a lot less time.
Thinking in plane is a good tool to train your eye. Because if it is a different plane it will have a different color, you need to see that suddle overall gradation and transaction.
Third is Saturation. In oils, it is better to paint it a bit more saturated than you think. This is cause it is easier to desaturate than to pump it up.
The trick is how to change saturation without changing the hue and value. You can do this by either adding comlimentary colors and greys.
This is where doing a color wheel paint mixing exercise is important. It teaches you to the properties of your medium.
Richard Schmidt have a good book that explains this. You can look it up here:
There is also another site that have great notes on painting by Andrew Loomis:
The best way to study color is to do some master copies and landscape painting. It will really open up your range in color and see how other artist create amazing effects with limited paint.
September 17th, 2002 #9
I love you
I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate this topic. I can't add to it, I know too little yet. Are there books out there that bring such in-depth colour analysis, e.g. of masterworks or famous illustration? I desperately want to know this... I'm colour-fumbling too much as it is. More, more! :nod:
January 20th, 2003 #10
Even though I haven't read them yet, which I will in a while. Im bumping cuz I know it will help us all out!
There is nothing wrong with using a photo to help you see things.
No one complains about life drawing,
so take a photo.
its easy, and will improve your piece greatly."
January 20th, 2003 #11Registered User
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Lucky Me ,,, I just got a new job at Asel Art and was thinking about taking up painting again,,,, And I run into this thread..
Thanks guys:beer: :chug: ...... This is really helpfull
I am everywhere,
I am Nowhere.
January 22nd, 2003 #12
just wanted to say thank you ! this is one of the most educational post ive seen great job !
January 22nd, 2003 #13
please visit the sijun art forums and read the color theory thread i worked on...i want to move it all here so it doesnt get lost. do a search...it is the best and most informative thread on color theory to date.
its about a hundred posts deep...check it out
January 22nd, 2003 #14
The Colour Thread on Sijun was moved during a restructuring phase, here's a link:
I learned a great deal from those pages, and I still benefit from it in my work.
January 22nd, 2003 #15
Great Thanks guys i that thread is so large i can actauly study it like a book ! to me this info is like gold you have a hard time finding resources like that.
January 22nd, 2003 #16
January 22nd, 2003 #17
I, too, just wanted to say thank you to everyone involved. I know you guys are busy and it's awesome that everyone took the time out to gather this information. Thanks again!
January 22nd, 2003 #18
another great post on color excersise ! found while i was there would be cool to list post as many of these as we can find ! wisdom like this is often not found in books in my experiance
its a excersise in seperating color and value and you can learn tons just from the pic no text needed
here is another artist that i think is realy good at using color as well> funny he says theat he and his wife make boring company Id love to go to his house lol
Last edited by Travis_Bourbeau; January 22nd, 2003 at 11:37 AM.
January 22nd, 2003 #19