Sunday, March 1, 2015

Color Harmony/ Limited Palettes/ Gamut Masking

In a previous post I wrote about the value of an underpainting and the four basic components of every painting – composition, shapes, value and color. The underpainting resolves the first three, leaving only the color component. And it is with color that the magic happens – hopefully.

I use my reference photograph for my underpainting, altering shapes, moving and eliminating objects until I am satisfied. Now is the time to put the reference photo aside and let your artistic vision take over. If you try to copy the colors that you see in the photograph you will be disappointed with the results. The camera filters the scene through it’s digital components and mechanical settings, with no input of reality or emotion. Besides flattening perspective, the camera alters the colors and the values. And should you print the photo, there are further alterations from the printer and ink.

Color is a very personal choice. I prefer the color harmony of a limited palette using the three primaries -  yellow, red and blue, plus black and white. For different scenes, lighting conditions and moods, I can choose from the many available versions of these three primary colors.

I mix my secondary colors, oranges, purples and greens from these primaries when I lay out my paint. I prefer to use black and yellow instead of blue and yellow for my greens. Browns and tans are created by mixing all three primaries together. The resulting secondary and earth colors, quickly mixed, are more varied and lively than the blended colors found in a tube.

Black is a much maligned color. Ivory black, having a blue base, makes interesting greens when mixed with yellows and useful grays when mixed with white. Adding a bit of gray to a color softens and mutes the intensity. Ivory black is also useful for darkening any dark color without changing it’s hue. But, of course, neither black, white, nor their gray mixtures are ever used without the addition of a bit of color.

A limited palette of colors is my choice for landscape painting. For still life painting more colors may need to be added. These will vary by your choice of subject matter.

Gamut masking – an interesting experiment.

Using either the standard or the Munsell color wheel that includes the complete range of intensities of all the colors from full intensity on the outer edge to neutral in the center, a cut-out shape is placed over the color wheel and only the colors within that shape are used in the painting. All other colors are excluded. The shape of the gamut mask is the artist’s choice and some very weird colorations can result.

I experimented with the safer triangular shapes. The three points would indicate the three colors I put on my palette. All the colors within the mask were a product of these three colors. Colors outside the mask were excluded. As the mask could be moved in any direction, the hues and intensities of the colors chosen and their resulting mixtures would also vary. But no matter what three colors were chosen, color harmony was assured.

If you are having trouble with color, I hope this information will be helpful to you.

Thanks for visiting with me,

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