i am describing this process in detail in the My Painting Methodology section of my website under the following tab. You can click on the button below to take you directly to that section. To wet your appetite I picture below two of my initial sculpting efforts using Golden Molding Paste.
I have always been fascinated by paintings that give a sense of three dimensions on the canvas. Recently I have been using a new technique to heighten the sense of three dimension, specifically in addition to the traditional painting techniques I have begun to actually sculpt on the canvas.
i am describing this process in detail in the My Painting Methodology section of my website under the following tab. You can click on the button below to take you directly to that section. To wet your appetite I picture below two of my initial sculpting efforts using Golden Molding Paste.
I think that there are three major challenges to learning to paint. The first and fundamental is learning to see! The second is becoming familiar with the visual cues of how light, color and form interact in the real world. Finally, the third is learning how to mix and apply paint to the canvas to realize what we see before us. These three factors are not independent, but support each other in producing exciting paintings.
The first challenge of seeing what is before us may seem trivial, in that we can all look and see. Right?? Well partially true in my experience. It is my experience that to a surprising extent my mind interprets what my eyes record, and registers what I should be seeing, as opposed to the details of the scene before us. For example, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the tree is green with a brown trunk. The trick is to learn to get our preconceived notions out of the way and just observe what the eyes record.
The second challenge of becoming familiar with the visual cues of how light color and form interact in the physical world helps us recognize the nuances in the scene we are trying to represent. This will, for example, enable us to get beyond our preconceived notions and recognize the actual variations in the sky and the symphony of greens, yellows, browns and blues that exist in the grassy lawn before us!
The third challenge is to learn the physical techniques of mixing and applying paint to realize on the painted surface the nuances of what we are seeing before us. With experience and training we learn more and more ways of handling the paint, mixing colors, glazing, etc.
These three challenges are not independent of each other. Learning the visual cues is key to seeing the nuances that we then need to realize through the painting process. When we keep these cues in mind, they cause us to notice the interesting details that actually exist in the scene we want to paint.
In the future I will create a Blog post just discussing the visual cues. For now, I have listed below a number of key visual cues that helped me improve two of my older paintings.
Revisions to Sandy hook Bay Painting
Below are presented four versions of my painting Sandy hook Bay. If you compare the initial and final versions the changes are most apparent, The intermediate versions are the steps it took to get there. If I had had the visual cues in mind initially, it probably would have evolved more quickly. Which I why I feel having the visual cues in mind from the beginning greatly helps me produce a better painting from the start.
The first cue to consider is that with aerial perspective the distant surfaces have a lower chroma or intensity. In the initial version both the right hand land mass and the distant horizon are too intense and bright compare to the foreground. In the final version, the land mass gradually becomes less intense in chroma as you go off toward the horizon. Similarly the intensity of the cloud mass at the distant horizon has been reduced in intensity.
The next cue I want to consider is that reflections have a lower chroma or intensity as compared to the source. Notice in the initial version, particularly at the distant horizon in the center, the reflection on the water is about as intense as the the distant clouds. In the final version the intensity of the reflection has been reduced below that of the source clouds, causing the water to lie peacefully in the foreground.
And finally, I want to consider I want to consider the combined implications of the first two cues, namely that all light sources have a color which interacts with the object or surfaces that it illuminates and that surfaces are not uniform in color. These cues, along with the last listed above, that color temperature changes follow the color wheel, lead to a number of changes.
First the sky. In the initial version. the blue of the sky is too uniform. In the final version, a gradient of color was added from a lighter blue green on the left side where the sun is setting to darker violet blue on the the right hand side. This reflects the fact that the left hand sky is closer to the sun and therefore warmer, and the right hand sky is further from the sun and therefore cooler,
It may be difficult to see in the photo, but these new colors were not added in a uniform manner, but in a mottled effect. This gives the feeling of passing through various depths of air modified with various moisture content.
Once these blues of the sky were modified, additional corresponding intensity blues were added to the reflections in the water. I will come back to this point after discussing the modifications to the land mass.
Notice the right hand land mass in the initial version is a nearly uniform questionable color! Remember the visual cue that light has color and this color impacts the color of the objects and surfaces that it illuminates.
In this case we are considering the surface of the right hand land mass illuminated by the sky. Notice that our sky light has many different colors, depending which part of the sky it comes from; a light yellow orange from the light coming from the left hand side from the clouds illuminated by the setting sun, a light green blue from the brighter pats of the sky to the left, a violet blue from there the darker sky to the right, a blue gray from the high clouds, to name a few.
Each of these colors comes from a different part of the sky. They all fall on our sandy land mass. The sand has little color of its own and get its tone primarily from the light that shines on it.
When we look at the sandy beach we are to a great extent seen the color of the light reflected from the sand. Now a sandy beach is not a uniform flat surface. I has many little hills and valleys from foot steps and the effects of debris and wind and water movement. Each of these little hills and valleys will be facing a different part of the sky, hence taking on a different color!
For this reason, when i modified the beach in the final version, it is painted with small blocks of color, each block related to a different part of the sky. All colors are distributed across the whole land mass. However, the sloping beach in the foreground facing the warm clouds illuminated by the setting sun has more warm yellow orange colored blocks. Whereas the distant part of the beach approaching the horizon has a predominance of violet blocks corresponding to the violet blue sky on the right hand side of the motif.
Returning the the reflections in the water, i added more different low intensity blues to correspond to the different parts of the sky.
This illustrates to me the usefulness of having these cues in mid as we approach a painting.
Final Version - Sandy hook Bay
Second Intermediate Version = Sandy Hook Bay
First Intermediate Version = Sandy hook Bay
Initial Version - Sandy hook Bay
Revisions to Sky Sea and Sand Painting
I went through a similar process in revising the Sky Sea and Sand painting pictured below.
Notice that in the initial version the sky is too uniform of a cool blue. In the final version a mottled progression has been introduced from a lighter warm green blue toward a darker more violet blue.
A warmer tone has been introduced into the clouds, to reflect the warm summer afternoon.
All of these colors were then introduced in the form of different shaped color blocks in the water and on the beach.
Final Version - Sky Sea and Sand
Second Intermediate Version - Sky Sea and Sand
First Intermediate Version - Sky Sea and Sand
Initial Version - Sky Sea and Sand
Before discovering the techniques I will present in this section, I was concerned about the claims that many people state about the problem that acrylic paint exhibit color shifts when they dries.
In the above photo, I first painted a thin patch of acrylic medium. I then lightly misted water onto the right hand side of the patch of medium. Note that you can barely see any haze in the area of pure medium on the left hand side of the patch. On the other hand, in the area misted with water, the medium has turned noticeably white, and It turned a brighter white in the areas that received more water. However, upon drying, the whole patch will be transparent.
This is the heart of the issue. If you use water in the painting process you will lighten the paints that you are applying, but when they dry the whitened medium will turn transparent and the applied paint will appear to become darker. Another problem associated with using water in the painting process that if too much is used it will weaken the paint film.
The cure for this problem is DO NOT USE ANY WATER IN THE PAINTING PROCESS!
The people whom I have seen talking and writing about the color shift issue use a lot of water in their painting process in a number of ways. For example, they use water on the brushes to thin the paint, they mist their pallet with water, and they use a sponge base to keep their pallet moist.
The fact is - it is their use of water in the painting process that causes their "problem"!
If no water is used, the color shifts are really not noticeable. In fact even oil paints experience a slight change in color when they dry.
The painting methodologies that I present DO NOT use water in the painting process, with two exception. To clean a brush while painting I will dip it into water but then dry it thoroughly with a paper towel before using it again to paint. At the end of a painting session, I also use water in the process of cleaning my brushes. However, as I will describe in the appropriate section, water does not even do a good job of this, and I depend on the paint thinner that the manufacturer supplies to really get the brushes clean!
I will provide the details in the various sections of the website on how I avoid any use of water in my procedures. This will include items such as using a totally non absorbent pallet, and using the various mediums that the manufacturer supplies to control the consistency of the paint. It is totally analogous to the various mediums that oil painters use. They just don't use turpentine!
This post is a copy of the new section in the My Painting Methodology section of this website.
Warm and cool are useful properties when identifying and mixing colors. For example, when painting a yellow flower in the warm sunshine, we would want to depict the pedals that are in the direct warm sun light with a warm yellow paint. Whereas the yellow pedals in the shade would be a cooler yellow as they are being illuminated by the cooler blue light from the sky. When painting any motif it is important to identify the warm and cool variations in any of the colors involved.
The following color wheel depicts the distribution of the various hues like spokes of the wheel. Later we will enhance the wheel to also depict the intensity or chroma of the various hues. However this version of the color wheel is useful to understand the fundamental temperature relations of the hues on the color wheel. Understanding the relationships of these colors, or hues, and their temperatures will help us in choosing and mixing the colors for our paintings.
The wheel consists of six segments, one for each of the primary and secondary colors. Within each segment the colors vary. For example, within the yellow segment at the top of the wheel, the yellow hue varies from a green/yellow (G/Y) next to the green segment to an orange/yellow (O/Y) next to the orange segment. In the middle of the yellow segment would be a yellow hue without a distinct green or orange characteristics. A useful way to think about the color variations within a segment, such as yellow, is that all of the yellow hues have a minor green and an orange component. However, for the yellow hue at the green boundary the green component is larger than the orange component. Whereas, for the yellow hue at the orange boundry the orange component is larger than the green component.
The same is true for each of the segments, as they tend to blend with their neighbors at each of the boundaries. In this way way, the wheel resprsents a continuous variation in hue as you go around the wheel.
On the wheel depicted below, each of the boundary colors are indicated, including green/yellow (G/Y) and orange/yellow (O/Y) for the yellow segment, yellow/ orange (Y/O) and red/orange (R/O) for the orange segment, orange/red (O/R) and violet/red (V/R) for the red segment, red/violet (R/V) and blue/violet (B/V) for the violet segment, violet/blue (V/B) and green/blue (G/B) for the blue segment, and blue/green (B/G) and yellow/green (Y/G) for the green segment.
Let's now see how the relative warm and cool properties vary for the various hues on the wheel. The warmest color, yellow, is placed at the top of the wheel. The coolest color violet is placed at the bottom of the wheel.
As we progress up both sides of the wheel the colors get progressively warmer. For example, on the left hand side, as we transition from the violet segment to the blue segment, the violet/blue is warmer than the blue/violet because it contains less violet and more of the warmer blue.
Similarly, the green/blue is warmer than the violet/blue because it contains les violet and more of the warmer green component.
Moving on to the green segment, the blue/green is warmer than the green/blue because it has less of the blue and more of the warmer green. Again the yellow/green is warmer than the blue/green because it has more of the warmer yellow component and less of the cooler blue.
Similarly at the top warmest yellow segment, the green/yellow is warmer than the yellow/green because it has less of the cooler green and more of the warmer yellow.
An important point to note is that the temperature of a hue is a relative term in relation to the surrounding hues.
A similar situation can be described for the right hand side of the wheel where each of the successive hues gets warmer as we progress from the red/violet to the orange yellow.
Now that we have seen how the hues get warmer as we progress from the bottom to the top of the wheel, let's consider the temperature relationship of the left and right sides of the wheel.
The left side of the wheel is cooler than the right side, as it consists of the cooler greens and blues as compared to the warmer oranges and reds.
Similarly, in the yellows at the top, the green/yellow (G/Y) on the left is cooler than the orange/yellow (O/Y) on the right since orange component on the right is warmer than the green component on the left.
Also at the bottom of the wheel, the blue/violet (B/V) on the left is cooler than the red/violet (R/V) on the right since the blue component is cooler that the red component on the right.
The following wheel shows how the colors of my Augmented Golden OPEN Modern Color Pallet are distributed around the wheel.
In order to understand how the wheel can be used to help us choose and mix colors, an additional property will be added to the wheel. So far we have seen how the various hues are distributed around the wheel like spokes of the wheel. The intensity or chroma of the various hues can also be displayed on the wheel.
The chroma or intensity of the individual hues are highest at the outer boundary of the wheel and become progressively lower chroma or duller as you progress to the center of the wheel. For example, the radial line, or spoke of the wheel, connecting any hue point on the boundary to the center will contain duller and duller versions of the hue as you approach the center.
As described in the Mixing Colors in the Modern Color Gamut section of the My Painting Methodology Section tab on this website, when you mix the colors represented by any two color points on the Hue Chroma Color Wheel, the resulting color will lie on line connecting the two original colors. Where along the the line the resulting color lies, depends on the ratio of the two colors in the mix.
The following Hue Chroma Color Wheel depicts the positions of the seven colors on my Modern Color Pallet.
We will use this representation of the colors on the wheel to show how we can control the temperature in mixing colors.
The example that we will consider is the mixing of various basic skin tones.
To create my basic skin tones I first mix an orange by combining my orange/yellow (O/Y) and my orange/red (O/R). This is depicted by the straight line connecting the (O/Y) and (O/R) points on the following color wheel.
This mixture is shown at the top of my pallet, shown in the photo shown below. This mixture yields a relatively high chroma intense orange. This orange is too intense to describe the skin tones I need. Therefore, you can dull the orange and control the temperature of the resulting mixture by mixing this orange with one of the colors on the opposite side of the wheel.
To show how we can control temperature we will mix the orange with three different colors: blue/green (B/G), green/blue (G/B), and violet/blue (V/B). These three mixtures will fall along the respective three lines connecting these colors to the mixed orange on the above color wheel.
Note the relative positions of these three lines on the above color wheel. The (B/G) line is the highest and warmest of the three lines. The (G/B) line is lower and cooler and the (V/B) line will produce the coolest mixtures.
These three mixtures are displayed on the pallet depicted below: blue/ green on the left, green/blue in the middle, and violet/blue on the right.
The three mixtures in the middle were done to dull the orange to a similar value. Each of these piles were then tinted with white to creat similar value pools of color for a skin tone. If you look carefully the left hand pool based on the blue/ green mixture is the warmest and the violet/blue mixture on the left is the coolest.
The differences between these mixtures are very subtle. This is to be expected when you look at three lines representing these mixtures on the above color chart. As you progress from the orange point and move to the left, the lines are at first rather close together. However as you move further to the left, which corresponds to adding more of the cooler colors. The lines for the respective mixtures move further apart and the temperature differences will become more apparent.
To illustrate this, more of the cooler colors are added to the middle color pools on the pallet as depicted in the photo below. The mixtures have become so dull that is is not possible to asses the color properties such as temperature. In order to see the temperature differences, some white was added to the three pools as depicted on the photo of the pallet below.
Note that once the white is added, the the hue and temperature differences become apparent. As expected the green/blue mixture is clearly the warmest and the violet/blue mixture is the coolest.
This demo illustrates how a knowledge of how the the hues relate in the color space of the color wheel enables you to predict and control the hue and temperature of the color mixtures.
The color green has always been a difficult color for me to handle in my paintings. I have also noticed that many people seem to face the same challenge. I think that the cause of this is that our minds have trained our perception to follow rules such as grass is green, sky is blue, water is blue to extent that we do not see or recognize the fantastic variations in color that actually occur in a field of reeds or a lawn of grass. The result of this is that, until we over come this rule set and learn to truly see what is before us, we often paint fields, lawns, and trees with a uniform and somewhat unexciting green tone.
There are two key aspects to this problem. First, we must learn to ignore our mind's rule of what the color should be and to learn to see the actual color before us. Second we must learn how to use our paints to achieve the color that we are actually seeing. Both aspects of the problem will be discussed in this post.
Let me digress briefly to give a recent personal example of how the mind can trick us in seeing the actual colors that are before us. I was taking a portrait class with Scott Nickerson, where I paintied the following portrait of Bre.
In the class we work directly from life without the use of any photographs Bre was wearing a standard light gray hoodie, which I recognized and painted in a gray tone. She was sitting under a very warm light. Suddenly, Scott came by and said you have the color of the hoodie all wrong. It is not gray, but a warm tan color under the very warm light!!! I made the change but could hardly believe it.
At the end of the series of sittings we were allowed to take a photo of the model. Below is my photo. I was shocked when I looked at my photo, as I was inwardly still believing that her hoodies was "really" a somewhat cool light gray. As you can see, my mind had really been playing a game with my perception!
Another key lesson to learn from this is that the color of the light greatly impacts how we see any local color. Bre's jacket would look entirely different under a cool blue light! This same rule applies to the greens that we paint. The same lawn will look quite different under a warm afternoon sun, as opposed to a cool overcast day or in a shadow area.
Greens have been a good example of this type of problem for me, and i have also observed it widely in others. Recently, I have been working on a large landscape with many types of greens in trees, bushes and a large extensive tailored lawn. One of the source photos for this painting is pictured below.
I decided that once and for all I would use this exercise to fully explore the use of greens and the capabilities of my augmented modern color palette to achieve an exciting use of the color green!
I began by studying how master painters of the past handled the color green in their paintings. I particularly found the paintings of William merit Chase a wonderful example of how to handle the greens found in nature. Pictured are two examples of fields of tall grasses in the beach areas of Long Island.
More to come on this post, as it is still in preparation! But from what has been posted so far, you can see where it is going. Please check back as I continue to add details! Thanks!
Notice the fascinating variations of green including warm yellow and brown greens to cool red and blue greens of various values and intensities.
One can just see all the variety of shrubs and grasses with various lighting conditions that can be found is a seaside meadow.
On the other hand lets consider a grass lawn. One might be tempted to think that a cut grass lawn would be uniform. However lets look at four examples of Chase's lawn paintings.
Look carefully in detail at each small area of the four lawns above. You will find warm yellow and red greens, and cool red and blue Greens as well as blue reflections of the sky and cloud colors. These variations are the result of factors such as the bumps and gents in the ground surface, the health of the grass is each spot and the lighting on the area. Again, it is these variations that makes these depictions of the lawns so real and identifiable.
The challenge is how can we use our augmented modern color pallet of paints to realistically represent the exciting variations of green that are found in nature.
Four Ways of Varying Green
In the following sections I will describe four ways to achieve a variety of greens. These will include:
Augmented Modern Color Pallet
The color mixing that I will be describing uses my augmented modern color pallet, pictured below. It consists of seven mixing colors, two tinting colors and two shading colors. The mixing colors consist of a warm and a cool version of red, yellow and blue, along with a green.
The diagram depicts the color components of each of the paints. Note that both yellows have color components of yellow, orange and green. However the warm yellow, Hansa Yellow Medium, has more orange and a small amount of green. Whereas the cool yellow, Hansa Yellow Light, has more green and very little orange.
Similarly, the two blues have components of blue, green and violet. However the cool blue, Phthalo Blue/Green Shade, has more green and less violate. Whereas, the warmer blue, Anthraquinone Blue has more vile and less green.
As described in the Color Mixing section of the My Painting Methodology tab of this website, when two colors are mixed they take on the characteristic of the color compost that they share while the others tend to cancel each other out.
Therefore if you want to mix a strong green color you would choose the yellow and blue that have the largest component of green, Hansa Yellow Light and Phthalo Blue. A significantly less brilliant green will result if you mix the yellow and blue that have the smallest component of green, Hansa Yellow Medium and Anthraquinone Blue. You will see examples of this in the color mixing exercises pictured and described below.
Color Gamut of the Augmented Modern Color Set
The Color Gamut of a set of paints describes the color pool of all of the possible colors that can be obtained by mixing combinations of the original set of paints. In order to understand the use of the color gamut, we must first define the color wheel depicted below.
The hues, or colors, are represented as spokes of the wheel. You can see that the wheel has been broken into segments of six hues, yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and green. There is a variation in the colors within each segment. For example, in the yellow segment will be a yellow green, moving toward a pure yellow in the middle of the segment, and becoming progressively more of an orange yellow as they move toward the orange segment.
Each spoke of the wheel therefore represents a specific hue or color. In addition there is a change in the chroma or intensity of the hue as you travel along any specific spoke of the wheel. The chroma of a color is a measure of the intensity or brightness/brilliance of a color. A high chroma color is a brilliant/ bright color and a low chroma color is a dull color.
The outside of the color wheel pictured above represents high chroma and the center of the wheel is low chroma. For example, on a red spoke of the wheel, the outer edge would be a brilliant red and as you move down the spoke toward the middle the hue would be come more an more dull with a lower chroma. in the case of the red spoke we would go from a bright red to a duller red to a red brown to a near black at the center.
The chroma of the colors in the augmented modern color pallet are shown in the diagram below.
The following figure plots each of the mixing colors in the augmented modern color pallet according to its hue and chroma. For example, the Hansa Yellow Medium is an orange yellow so its spoke is near the orange side of the yellow segment. And since Hansa Yellow Medium has a high chroma, aa shown in the chart above, it reside near the outer edge of the color wheel.
Similarly each of the seven colors of the augmented modern color pallet have been positioned on the color wheel above. The four tinting and shading coors have not been shown, but as indicated in the chroma chart, they are all of very low chroma and would reside near the center of the wheel.
The color gamut for this set of seven colors is defined by connecting the points for each of the outermost colors of the set, as has been done in the figure above. Once you have done this, any color that lies inside of this boundary can be mixed by our set of paints. Since our paints have relatively high chroma, our pallet covers a large area of the color wheel, and we can mix a very wide range of colors. For example, all of the earth tones, such as the burnt sienna or raw sienna have a low chroma and reside near the center of the color wheel. and these colors can be easily mixed with our modern color pallet.
This color wheel provides a unique understanding of color mixing. For any two colors positioned on the color wheel by their hue and chroma, mixtures of these two colors will fall on the line that connects the two mixing colors, as depicted on the color wheel below.
In this case we are mixing our warm orange yellow, indicated by O/Y point on the above color wheel, with the warm orange red, indicated by the O/R point on the wheel. All of the possible mixtures will form colors that will fall on the line that connects the points of our two mixing colors. For example as we mix more and more red with our yellow, the resulting colors will move across the line, first a yellow orange through a pure orange and turning into red orange as more red is added.
Below is an example of the mixtures on the lines connecting five external colors defining the boundary of the color gamut for the augmented modern color pallet.
Let's now apply this to mixing various greens!
Mixing Greens with the Augmented Modern Color Pallet
Phthalo Blue Mixtures
The chart below depicts mixtures based on the use of the Phthalo Blue and our two yellows.
The string of mixtures in the left hand column was created from mixtures of Phthalo Blue and Hansa Yellow Medium (O/Y), and represent by the line depicted in the color wheel below.
As you go up the string more yellow was added to the blue.
As indicated in the above chart of paint mixtures, each of the mixtures has been tinted on the left hand side with titanium white and on the right hand side with zinc white. This is to provide examples of how tinting can raise the value of the mixed color. Note that the opaque titanium white tends to give the paint a somewhat chalky pastel characteristic. Whereas the transparent zinc white raises the value without a major impact on the hue.
In the next two columns of the mixture chart, the green mixtures have been mixed with a small amount of the orange red Naphthol Red Light (O/R) and the violet red Quinacridone Magenta (V/R) respectively. The color wheel below shows how these mixtures move the initial green mixtures to the right. As you can see in the chart below the resulting mixtures will reduce the chroma of the initial mixtures since they move the resulting mixture toward the center of the wheel, The violet red mixtures will be duller than the orange red mixtures, since the V/R line is closer to the center of the wheel.. If enough of the reds are added, the initial mixtures will be moved into the brown, gray or back range, as depicted in the chart below.
The fourth column in the mixture chart depicts the mixtures on the Phthalo Blue and the cool green/yellow, Hansa Yellow Light (G/Y). These mixtures involve the yellow and blue paints from the augmented modern color pallet that have the highest content of green. Therefore, the resulting mixed greens are a more pure green, as can be seen by comparing the fourth and first columns of the above mixture chart. The line on the color chart that represents these mixtures is depicted on the color wheel below.
The two right hand columns depict the addition of the O/R and V/R reds to the Phthalo Blue and Hansa Yellow Light mixtures. As discussed above, the addition of the reds will move the mixtures in color space as shown in the following chart.
Anthraquinone Blue Mixtures
The following mixture chart presents mixtures of the warm violet blue, Anthraquinone Blue (V/B), with the warm yellow orange, Hansa Yellow Medium (Y/O) in the first column, and with the cool green yellow, Hansa Yellow Light (G/Y) in the fourth column. As with the previous discussion, these mixtures are then dulled down with the two reds.
Anthraquinone blue has a lower green content that the Phthalo Blue discussed above. Therefore, the resulting mixtures will result in duller greens with less green content. This can be seen by comparing the Anthraquinone Blue mixture chart with the Phthalo blue chart above.
Similarly, when the reds are added to the mixtures the resulting colors are also duller. This can be seen by studying the color weeks for the Anthraquione Blue mixtures shown below and comparing them with the charts for Phthalo Blue above.
Phthalo Green/Blue Shade Mixtures
The following mixture chart presents mixtures of the cool blue green, Phthalo Green Blue Shade (G/B), with the warm yellow orange, Hansa Yellow Medium (Y/O) in the first column, and with the cool green yellow, Hansa Yellow Light (G/Y) in the fourth column. As with the previous discussions, these mixtures are then dulled down with the two reds.
Phthalo Green has the greatest content of green of the colors in the pallet. Its mixtures relult in the purest and strongest greens. To see this you can compare the G/Y columns in the above three mixture charts.
Similar results are obtained when the mixtures are dulled with the two reds, as can be seen in the mixture chart above.
These mixtures are plotted in the color space of the four color wheels below.
Color Mixing Summary
The above examples demonstrate the ability of the Augmented Modern Color Pallet to produce a wide variety of greens. The examples above are only a small sample of the possibilities. Remember the whole color gamut of the pallet colors is available to be mixed, yielding an infinite number of possibilities. A very important property of these modern is that due to their purity in pigment content and lack of complete opacity they can be mixed without creating mud! So feel free and mix to your hearts content!
The image below is my painting that set me off on this detailed study of "greens" which had always been problematic for me. The painting done in response to the source image presented at the beginning of this post and the customer's request for a different flower arrangement. As you can see the image contains a tremendous variety of greens. It is after all a motif in Ireland!
Studying the image below, you can find each of the families of greens in the above mixing charts. These mixtures were painted directly wet in wet on the canvas in many cases. However, some of the most exciting and delicate effects were achieved using the layering, glazing and fan brush techniques discussed below. This is particularly true in the optical effects achieved in the expansive "green" lawn. This will be discussed in detail.
More to come! This post is still in preparation. Please check back!
Layering and Glazing
Fan Brush Magic
Tricks of the Trade - Color Effects: Color Triads, Layering, Glazing, Half-Tones, Complements and More!
Achieving dramatic color and value effects with paints can be achieved by exploiting the properties of the paint and a knowledge of how colors interact with each other. This blog post documents a recent experience of mine that I think illustrates a number of the key tricks for handling paints and color relationships.
I host a monthly Adult Artist Workshop at the Red Bank New Jersey Public Library. The participants often give me challenging questions that help crystalize various skills in my mind. I learn a lot from the participants!
Recently, Anita, one of the regular participants, brought in a picture that she wanted to paint. It depicted a heron silhouetted against a brilliant sunset! Anita asked me for my opinion of what color paints to use and how the achieve such dramatic effects. After some initial suggestions, I took this tough assignment and went an gave it some serious thought in order to bring Anita some more complete answers for the next month's workshop.
Anita had given me a copy of the photo which she wanted to work from. I decided I would do my version of the painting as an experiment. As I got into it I realized that this motif was an excellent example of how to use a number of trick of the trade to achieve such dramatic effects.
The initial version of my painting is shown below.
As I worked on the painting I was amazed how this motif clearly illustrated many useful painting techniques that are important to understand on to use.
What Color Paints to Use?
This was the first question that Anita asked me. After looking at the motif for a while the answer was obvious to me.
In my 9/20/14 post I discussed the concept of using Color Triads to organize my thinking of how to exploit my limited modern color pallet. The motif Anita had chosen to paint was clearly composed of very warm colors. Therefore, I want to use the warm color triad pictured below. This color gamut of this triad clearly covers the warm section of the color space!
The triad consists of the warm version of my yellow, red, and blue. The colors and various mixtures are pictured below.
To illustrate what can be done with this triad, I first mixed across the top combinations of the yellow and red to give various oranges. I then mixed blue into each of these mixtures as you go down the canvas.
Blue is the compliment of orange. Therefore as the blue is added the color of the orange becomes more neutral. The more blue mixed the duller the orange becomes. Ultimately, proceeding through various dull oranges, browns, grays and blacks. I have added some white to some of the color pools so you can see better what the color actually is.
At the bottom of the canvas, I have mixed various oranges and some white with the blue so you can see some of the posible blues that can be realized.
On the left side of the canvas I have mixed various amounts of the yellow and blue and some of the oranges to show just oa few of the greens that can be achieved.
On the right side of the canvas I have mixed the blue and red, along with some white, to achieve a variety of purples.
As you can see, a wide variety of colors can be achieved with this triad. As another example, as I discussed in my 9/20/14 post, the following painting was also painted using this triad!
How to Achieve Brilliant Colors
Now that we have chosen the three tubes of paint that we will use for this painting, the next question is how to achieve the brilliance of the this amazing sunset!
Adding Various Whites
As a beginner we might think to add white to brighten the colors. Well let's look at this a bit before deciding what to do!
The following images illustrates two ways of brightening or increasing the value of the yellow that we are using for this painting.
The yellow is painted on the left. In the center titanium white has been added to brighten the color. There are two things to consider when doing this. Our yellow is a somewhat transparent paint. Titanium white, on the other hand, is an opaque paint. When we add titanium white to a paint mixture, two things happen. First, the mixture becomes more opaque and will tend to cover whatever it is painted over. Secondly, when titanium white is added to another color it not only makes it brighter but it makes somewhat chalky and gives an opaque pastel look to the mixture. This may or may not be the effect you are after. Particularly in our case of the brilliant sunset, the colors are not chalky, but have a pure color transparent glow. So adding white is probably not what we want to do in this case.
On the right side of the above canvas. zinc white has been added to the yellow. Zinc white is a transparent paint, and adding zinc white to a color tends to brighten the color without changing the nature of the color, i.e. it does not introduce any chalky pastel effect.
Also, since it is a transparent paint, when it is mixed with another transparent color, the mixture will also be transparent. This can be very important when layering paints to achieve subtle variations while maintaining the brilliance of the resulting surface.
This brings us to a third way of increasing the brilliance of a color without changing the nature of the color, as illustrated below.
Here the somewhat transparent yellow is painted over a thoroughly dried patch of titanium white. This provides the brightest version of the yellow while preserving the nature of the yellow itself.
Another version of this is pictured below.
Here a band of titanium white was painted over the dryer orange background. After the band of white has dried, the transparent yellow was painted over the white. For the purpose of illustration, the street of yellow was continued over the orange and as you can see it is almost imperceptible.
The key to this layering technique is that each layer must be thoroughly dry before the next layer is applied. This is the technique that was used to in the sunset painting for the tops of the clouds and the rim of the sun, as pictured below.
Another form of layering that was used in the sky is the layering of semi-transparent mixtures of various dulled oranges. This is often referred to a sufamoto. This technique was used extensively in the sky and the water. As you go down in the sky the number of and darkens of the layers increases.
There are two aspects of this type of layering to keep in mind. First, the paint must be allowed to dry between layering. Second, each layer will darken the surface so this requires some planning so that the value of the surface will be of the desired value.
Another way to increase the brilliance of of a color is depicted below.
The image above pictures three versions of yellow. Notice that the yellow appears to become more brilliant as you move from left to right.
In fact, the three cases are the same yellow. the middle case appears brighter than the left case as the surrounding black provides a greater contrast in value. The right hand image surrounds yellow with its compliment of purple. This is an important case as it illustrates that when compliments are placed next to each other, they enhance the brilliance of each other.
This technique is utilized in the sun of the Sunset painting above. It is interesting that in the source photo that Anita provided, the sun appeared to be bright white. The reason for this is that when there are great variations in value in a scene being photographed, the very bright objects such as the sun will saturate and just appear white. However, the sun is actually the source of the all the warm light!
Therefore, when I painted the sun I initially painted it with solid titanium while. When this dried, i painted transparent dabs of blue and orange over the surface. These dabs of compliments enhance each other and tend to give the sun a brilliance composed of the colors that are used throughout the rest of the painting, which also provides for color harmony.
Glazing is when a highly transparent version of a color is painted over another color. The two colors then optically mix. For example, if a thin blue glaze is painted over a dry orange background, the orange will be dulled to a less intense tone. This is pictured below.
Here the blue paint on the left, was mixed with clear gloss medium, forming medium light and dark glazes from top to bottom. Note, when these glazes are painted over the dry orange, as the glaze has more blue pigment in it, it dulls the orange to a greater extent.
At the bottom the sky and the top of the distant land mass a glaze of transparent zinc white and blue provided the haze of the distant aerial perspective.
The way colors interact in glazing is the same as when they are mixed together physically. For example, blue and orange dull each other. I illustrated this previously with the mixing on the pallet of the warm color triad. However, glazing can give a more subtle airy look, which was exploited in gently dulling the orange in the sky at the top of the painting and as you go down lower in the bottom set of clouds.
Glazing can also be used as a final coat to further unify a painting. My painting Mankey Mallard is an interesting example of this use of glazing. monkey Mallard uses quite a different color triad, as discussed in my 9/10/14 Blog Post. Pictured below is the version of the painting before a final glazes were applied.
After looking at this painting for a while, I felt that it was a bit too cool in its coloration. Therefore, I applied a yellow green glaze to much of the water area and the bottom edge of the duck, and a yellow glaze to the top of the duck. The result of these glazes is show below.
I also applied the edge control technique discussed in the next section to the back of the duck's head and to the top and rear of the duck's body.
Edge control is an important aspect of this painting since the tree and herron are starkly silhouetted against the background. If the edges are not properly treated this can look very cut out and artificial. To mitigate this, a halftone is painted along all of the edges, as illustrated below.
The half tone is a color mixed to be lighter than the overlay and darker than the background.
In the above example the dark brown streak is painted over the orange background. Note the edge of the brown ribbon on the bottom and the top left. It provides a very sharp and cut out looking boundary. Note the lighter brown line of halftone coming in from the top left of the brown ribbon. When it is painted along the edge of the brown ribbon it gives a nice soft edge. Compare this to the edge at the bottom of the ribbon to appreciate the effectiveness of this technique.
In the Sunset painting you can see half tones painted on all of the edges of the tree and heron In the case of the heron, since it has a soft feather edge, some of the edges has a light halftone to signify the feathers catching the light of the evening sun!
Pallet Knife and Opaque Painting
Two other techniques were used extensively in this painting. One is opaque painting , both as a dry layer and wet in to wet paint. Here the the tree and the heron were painted opaquely over the dried background. Whereas, the sea was painted with many different blues, greens and oranges, often applied in a wet on wet fashion.
The sea did also have some glazes and sufamoto to bring done the reflected tones of the sky, on top of the dried wet in wet painting.
Pallet knife painting was used to apply thick orange blue and white paint to create the highlight reflection of the sun in the sea.
This painting of the brilliant sunset provided an excellent example of the application of a number of painting techniques, or "tricks of the trade" as I referred to them in the title to this post. I think they are clearly illustrated here in that this motif required specific techniques to be able to attain, in paint, the dramatic effects of the motif being represented. If you are not familiar with these "tricks" as a beginning painter, I do not think it would be obvious how to obtain these results. This is what motivated me to write this post, in hopes it would help others further their own painting processes.
There are many challenges involved in learning to paint. Mixing colors and applying the paint are basic skills to be mastered. However, as I look back on my career and observe the beginning painters that attend a monthly workshop I host at a local library, there is an even more fundamental problem that we all face. It can be summarized as fine art representational painting is not the same as wall papering or house painting!
Let me explain. Most of us grow up with certain stereotypes built into our way of thinking and seeing our world. For example, the grass is green, the sky is blue, trees are green, tree trunks are brown, and water is blue. With these built in rules, as beginners we struggle to mix a green color for the grass and a blue color for the sky. We then tend to apply the same green to cover the whole grass area, and used the same blue to paint in the whole sky! This type of color application works well for house painting and wall papering, but not for the type of fine art painting that we are trying to master.
Let me illustrate with one of my own paintings that I did early in my painting career.
Notice the grass is a pretty uniform green, the sheep is light grey and the sheep house is a darker grey. Years later I set about to improve this painting. Note the sheep are now many shades and tones of a grey brown. The grass is many types of greens, yellows, reds and browns. The old sheep house has many colors of the worn wood, with reflections of the warm evening light and the blue of the sky! Quite a change!
Learning that there are virtually no flat areas of color in nature and how to realize this in my painting has been perhaps the greats single learning experience of my art career! I came to fully appreciate this based on three experiances:
1. The study of 750 of Monet's paintings, which I will discuss below.
2. Learning the painting technique for painting skin tones that Scott Nickerson taught me in his portrait class. This is a method for applying broken colors of paint into a surface covered with clear medium. It gives the skin a transparent and vibrant appearance, as depicted in my painting below.
I will discuss this painting technique in another post, and eventually in the My Painting Methodology section of the website.
3. The color pool painting technique that I describe in the Painting Methodology Section is a perfect process to obtain the harmonious color variations that are required. My method is based on using a Triad of colors as the starting point for constructing my color pool. I will describe this in more detail below and eventually in the My Painting Methodology section of the website.
Monet's Gift to Us
Monet's gift to me is the realization is that there is no flat area of color. This became apparent to me as I studied 750 of his paintings. I have picked out three to illustrate to the point.
First, consider his snow scene pictured below. It is white snow under a gray sky. But notice there is no area of either a uniform white for the snow or gray for the sky.
The sky is a vibrant mottling of blues, grays and purples of different values and tones. The snow on the ground is also a beautiful patterning of whites, grays and violets. Note also that the walls and buildings are a darker value of the same colors found in the sky and ground. A beautiful color harmony is achieved.
Now consider the painting of the railroad station shown below. The concrete floor of the station is anything but a uniform gray concrete color. It is a gray indeed, but it varies from point to point: sometimes a gray with more yellow, sometimes a gray with more blue, sometimes a gray with more red, sometimes darker or lighter! These colors match those found throughout the painting in the smoke and buildings. Again magnificent color harmony!
Next consider Monet's landscape shown below. This is a perfect example to show that neither the sky or the water is a flat blue! Zoom in and look at any area of the sky and you will find that it is a combination of many small patches of related colors. Look at any small area of the water ant you will see the same thing, where the individual patches of color match the patches that you can find in the sky or the trees and other objects on the land. Again, since different values of the same colors appear all over the painting, a fantastic sense of color harmony is achieved.
Another good example is a painting by my teacher Scott Nickerson, shown below.
Notice that this little statue is mounted on a concrete church wall. However, the wall is not represented by a flat gray concrete color that our built in rules would tell us! The wall is indeed a gray color, where the gray can be achieved by mixing blue, red and yellow. However, each adjacent patch of wall is represented by a slightly different combination of the three colors. This yields a beautiful color harmony and a vibrating realness to the wall!
Two other example can be seen in my Rumson Sea Bright Bridge painting shown below.
Consider the beach area in the lower left of the painting which is shown in detail below.
The color of this beach area is created by mixing a yellow, red, and blue triad of colors, along with white. The interesting variation in the tones on the beach are all obtained by just varying the proportions of the three colors: more yellow in the sunny areas, more blue in the shadow areas that are open to get the sky reflection, and more red in the areas of deeper shadow. Also note the variation in the colors of the water, which mirror the colors of the sky, discussed below.
Similarly, the detail of the sky area shows the interesting variation in the sky obtained from the blue, magenta, and yellow triad of colors along with white. Again, these variations are so much more realistic and interesting than a flat blue painted sky!
In each case the color variations are obtained by varying the proportions of the paint mixtures of three colors. The three colors that define the triad form a color pool or gamut in color space. These spaces contain all of the possible colors that can be mixed from these three colors and will form a triangle in color space, as described below.
First let me review what i mean by a color pool, as introduced in the My Painting Methodology Section of the website. A color pool can be defined as a color gamut, or area, on the color wheel as depicted below.
Remember every color has its position on the color wheel defined by its hue, for example is it a red or an orange or some sort of reddish orange, and by its chroma or intensity. A high chroma color is very bright and intense and falls toward the outer edge of the color wheel. Whereas a dull or low chroma color will fall near the center of the wheel, with a neutral black or gray found at the center of the wheel. This is described in detain in the Color Mixing section of the My Painting Methodology section of the website.
In the chart shown above, the seven colors of my Modern Color Pallet are shown at their respective location on the color wheel.
I have connected the outer colors with straight lines to define my color pool or gamut. Any color that falls within this space on the color wheel can be mixed using the colors of my Modern Color Pallet. The fact that these tend to be bright high chroma colors is very useful, since it enables you to mix a wide variety of colors. Bright colors such as these can always mix duller colors such as earth tones, but dull colors can never mix to form the brighter colors.
Remember, when we mix any two colors, the resulting color will fall somewhere on the straight line that connects these two colors in color space.
Color Tiads are the Secret to Achieving Success
The use of color pools is discussed in the Color Mixing section of the My Painting Methodology section of my website. A color triad is a specific type of color pool as pictured and described below.
The color pool of the triad is defined by the triangular shape on the color wheel. The color triad is defined by the three colors which define the points of the triangle. In this case it is a color pool defined by my orange yellow, orange red, and violet blue pallet colors. Any color that falls within the boundary of the triangle can be mixed using these three pallet colors. In this case a tremendous variety of earth tones, reds, oranges, greens, red, violets, grays, and blues can be mixed from just these three colors.
I will add to this post in the future many examples of the type of color mixing that can be achieved with color triads. But for now, let me emphasize that the types of related color patches observed in the above paintings can be achieved simply by slightly changing the ratios of the three colors used to define the color point within the triad color pool. This is very simple to do and I will be providing a number of examples in the future.
This simple principle of avoiding flat planes of color by slightly varying the proportions of the the colors in the color pool has been the single most significant benefit to me for improving my paintings and my appreciation of the art of the masters! I hope you will find it beneficial also!
Examples of Color Triad Paintings
Manky Mallard Example
My painting "Manky Mallard" is example of a painting using a three color triad.
The color triad used is pictured below.
Every color in the painting was mixed from some combination of Phthalo Blue Green Shade, Quinacridone Magenta, and Hansa Yellow light, with an appropriate amount of white to help set the value.
The pallet that was used to paint this painting is shown below.
The various grays were mixed as follows. As you can see above, an orange was mixed from the yellow and red. Then as you go down below the orange on the pallet more and more blue was added to the orange miture. When white is added to these mixtures you can see a sequence of grays, frist a red gray moving down to a blue gray and even a black as more blue is added to the orange.
The following painting, "Hello" is another example that used a different color Triad.
The color Triad used for this painting is shown below.
In this painting all of the colors, with one minor exception, are a mixture of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Light, and Anthraquione Blue, with an appropriate amount of white. The one exception is that in order to get the deep cool red of the fall leaves in the background some Quinacridone Magenta was added to the mix.
Again, the minor variations that you seen, for example in the fur of the sheep, are easily achieved by slight variations in the mixture within the color triad.
Using a color triad guarantees that you will achieve color harmony in your painting, since since all of the colors are created from the same three base colors. Choosing a color triad is based on where you see the image you are to represent in color space. Consider the two previous examples.
The duck on the pond was a scene of cooler colors. Hence, the color triad used includes the cooler yellow and red, and excludes the warmer upper right hand portion of the color space. See the chart of the v/y-v/r-g/b Triad above.
On the other hand the sheep painting was depicting the warm evening sunshine. Therefore the Triand used, o/y-o/r-v/b, includes the warmer part of the color space as you can see in the chart above. The violet/blue color was included in the triad in that it mirrors the warm blue of the late afternoon sky.
Just in case your are tempted to say that the two previous paintings are quite simple and of course you only need three colors to paint them I am including the following.
This is my recreation of Greome's Bashi Bazuk, done in Scott Nickerson's Master Class at Colorest in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Notice in the painting and the detail of the head that the colors are subdued but of tremendous variety. However, 98 percent of this painting was accomplished using the high chroma colors of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Light and Phthalo Green Blue Shade, pictured as the top three colors in the image below. The only other color used, except white, was a minor amount of the Quinacridone Magenta, pictured at the bottom of the image below.
As I mentioned previously, bright high chroma colors can always mix dull neutrals, but not the other way around. This painting was a perfect example of this capability.
My painting "Swan Lake" involved an interesting triad of colors , which I will describe in a future update.
These are just some of the considerations in choosing and using your color triads. More to come! Stay tuned!
I am continually impressed with my Golden OPEN Acrylic paints. I have documented my method of using them in the "My Painting Methodology" section of my website. However, recently I have started to work in two new genres of painting, portraits and life figure painting from a live model. This has increased my respect for theses paints
For example, recently I have been painting in Scott Nickerson's life class at Colorest in Red Bank, New Jersey. Below is my first figure painting after four sessions. This work has been developed entirely with paint and brush. The first phase was to do a line drawing with a raw sienna type of color, followed by block in of the shadow shapes using the same paint, followed by the application of color spots and firming up the outline by placing the dark background.
Here is another example.
Similarly, depicted below is the current status of my first portrait work in progress.
The controlled drying properties of these paints, along with the purity of the colors in my augmented modern color pallet greatly facilitate this type of work. The following are specific examples how OPEN supports this type of work.
The paints are great for wet in wet painting. If applied thickly they dry very slowly and can be blended easily. However, if applied thinly they will set up relative quickly and it is possible to gently paint another layer over the first without the colors mixing. However, the thin layer remains workable for hours and can be blended with with another layer with firmer brush work.
This provides tremendous flexibility as you work from under drawing to various color spots and transition, as well as give and take as you tune the shape and the background edges.
Another property of the paints is that the purity of the pigments in the modern color pallet allows for extensive mixing to attain the desired hue and control the value and intensity, without the fear of creating mud. This facilitates color pool management of the paints on the pallet.
Pictured below is my pallet that I have used for the four weeks of the painting process in the life figure class. You can see the many nuances of color that have been attained. If you compare the pallet photo to the figure painting above, you can spot where each of the colors on the figure reside on the pallet!
Since i keep the pallet in a sealed container when not in use, the exact same paint mixtures have been available to me for the two week period and will stay workable for a month or two, based on my experience.
This is a a very beneficial property. Over the extended life of the painting process, the same skin tones will be available to me to reuse or to push in a new direction. You can see the various migrations of hue, value and chroma by observing the variations within the color pools on the pallet pictured above.
The greatest challenge of moving into the portrait and life painting genres has been to develop the appropriate color pools for this type of work. As covered in the Painting Methodology section of the website, the modern color pallet is capable of mixing an extremely wide range of colors with seven pigments, plus white and black. This is great. While the other students in the class are running to buy a new magic pigment and carry a container of dozens of tubes of paint to class, all I have to do is to figure out how to mix my limited pallet and attain the same results that they can, without the fear of mixing mud. A great capability in my estimation!
Interesting enough, my pallet in the portrait class did not evolve as well as the figure pallet. I will write more about this as I formalize my approach to pallet management and color mixing for portrait and figure work. However, I have come to the conclusion that the reason that i had more trouble in the portrait work was that I tried to mix a number of isolated color pools that each matched a classic color. This lead me to a confusing disjoint approach to color. Based on my figure work, I think I have developed an approach using a single color pool that can be pushed in various direction to cover the full gamut of colors that are required. I will write more on this in the future.
Here is an example of one of my more recent portraits, along with a snapshot of the pallet that I used,
Here is another of my portrait paintings that used a different pallet. It is a painting where the sitter was illuminated by a very warm light, as opposed to the cool light used in the previous example.
Here is another example of my recent work.
My approach to color mixing has become organized around color triads with appropriate deviations. I will be discussing this in future posts.
My latest painting, "Supper Time", pictured below has been a fascinating project to capture the sense of light and serenity that I experienced when I visited a local farm in the early evening, on a beautiful fall day.
I serve as the Artist in Residence for the monthly Red Bank New Jersey Public Library Adult Artist Workshop. As part of this function, I bring still life materials and reference photos for the folks to choose and work from. Several months ago the workshop was approaching and I wanted to bring some new photographic reference material. The participants like animals, so late one afternoon I hustled off to a farm which is part of the local park system. When I arrived, I discovered that it was feeding time, which at first seemed to be limiting my photo ops. The problem with this was that instead of wandering around posing for pictures in the proper lighting, all of the animals had their heads down and rumps up at the food bins!
I finally was able to find a group of sheep, and although the lighting did not seem to be right, i finally got one of them to look at me for an instant. This happy accident introduced me to the beauty of back lighting, and resulted in the painting, "Hello", pictured below, As I painted this picture, I was chuckling with delight as this friendly fellow came to life on my panel. I will discuss the process of this painting in detail in another post.
Having finally found a back lit sheep, I next came across a back lit mule. Again, at the time, the lighting did not seem the best, but I went on to collect a number of images of the mule.
Back in my studio, having been tuned into the delight of back lighting with the sheep painting, I began to look through my photographs for another painting. Below is the initial reference image that caught my eye for the back light mule. I also noticed the beautiful back lighting of the warm fall foliage, which nicely complemented the cool blue light reflected from the evening sky.
I will discuss the three phases of developing the Dinner Time painting, namely, Composition and Initial Drawing, Base Painting, and Finishing Painting. Following this, I will describe the unique properties of Golden OPEN Acrylic paints and a number of the painting techniques used in executing this work.
INITIAL REFERENCE IMAGE
COMPOSITION AND INITIAL DRAWING PHASE
While the initial reference photo, depicted above showed promise, clearly this image needed some processing. The first thing i did was to straighten the image and do an initial cropping, which is shown below. At this point I decided that I would do a 16 by 20 inch painting of the scene, so I cropped the image with a 16 x 20 aspect ratio. However, when I considered this version of the image it was still not quite what I wanted. It was not a pleasing composition, wrong head position, wrong tail position, etc., as depicted in the photo below.
NOT CROPPED RIGHT WITH WRONG HEAD AND TAIL POSITIONS
Before addressing the head and tail positions, i worked the composition issue. I first superimposed a grid over the picture using Photoshop, as shown below.
I wanted the focal point of the mule's muzzle to be at the lower left third point. Using Photoshop, I slid everything to the right of the wall to the right until the mule's head was at the lower left one third point. With the this move I also positioned the left lower edge of the roof of the shed at the upper right third point. Conveniently, the slant of the roof line also leads our eye toward the mule. The result is shown below, where a gray filler band was inserted to fill the space to the right of the wall. This image maintains my 16 x 20 aspect ratio. When I draw the actual scene I will replace the filler band and the drain pipe with an extension of the scene to the right.
Also, when I draw the scene I will modify the head position using the reference pictured below. This will bring the muzzle of the mule directly to the lower left third focal point.
BETTER HEAD POSITION
In my final drawing, I will also use the more interesting tail position depicted in the following photo. Note the orange highlights on the tips of the tail as they are backlit by the late afternoon lighting. Note also the cool backlighting on the body and the warm orange back lighting on the ears, which matches the tail.
BETTER TAIL POSITION
In order to draw the final scene for my painting, I put a 6 by 6 grid on a 16 by 20 inch paper, the size of the panel I intended to use, and the same aspect ratio as my gridded photo reference above.
Using the above references, my final gridded drawing is depicted below. I only drew in the most critical items to insure accurate size and spatial relationships of the key elements of the painting. You will notice that added two chickens in the shadow of the shed to add completion to the composition and to the story line, the chickens are also having dinner! I used other reference photos that I had of chickens and appropriately scaled my rendering.
I then transferred the drawing to the panel using carbon paper and fixed the panel with Workable Fixative in preparation for painting.
BASE PAINTING PHASE
My first step in painting was to block in the major simple color shapes to begin to work out a sense of color harmony.
I then began to add coloring to the background in order to begin to develop a consistent lighting scheme for the scene.
I continued to add details to the mule, fence, chickens, and hay filled feeding bin, as depicted in the following three photos.
I spent a good deal of time developing the shadow and hue of the blue wall of the shed, as you can see by comparing the six photos above. To achieve a scintillating quality to the wall involved using muted versions of the blue with varying amounts of its compliment, cooler versions of the blue adding a cool red, and small application of spots of its muted compliment orange to provide contrast and life and simulate some reflection from the ground cover being illuminated by the evening light.
The work on the wall of the shed was also done in conjunction with establishing the hue and values of the chickens in the shadows. They are supporting actors, so I did not not want them to compete with the mule but to blend into the background, with the head of the right hand chicken being the brightest point. I will say more about the methods use to paint the wall in the Techniques section below.
The blue wall also played a key role in establishing the sense of light in the painting. These are two types of lighting in this scene. There is warm afternoon light coming from the left and filtering through the colorful foliage. There is also a cool blue light reflecting from the sky overhead. I used the same hue as the shed wall to characterize this light. You can see it reflected in the surface of the mule, the shed roof, the fence, the foreground wall and the shadows on the ground. More on this in the Techniques section.
I also spent a great deal of effort on the image of the mule to establish the warm and cool backlit fringes of the face, ears, back and tail, the to develop the sense of volume in the body, and to capture the reflected blue light from the sky.
At this point, I had completed the Base Painting Phase, having dealt which each part of the scene. At this point I put the painting on my mantle piece so that i could look at with fresh eyes for several days before proceeding with the Finishing Painting Phase.
FINISH PAINTING PHASE
The finishing phase of this painting was perhaps the most challenging and interesting. The finishing process turned out to have two steps. The first step progressing beyond the Base Painting is depicted below.
FINAL PAINTING STEP 1
I find the hardest part of assessing my own work is to be able to look at it with a fresh eye and really see it without preconceived notions. To deal with this issue standard recommendations include looking at your work in a mirror, or turn it upside down. I discovered another method and that is to photograph your painting and then "photoshop" the digital image to try to match the photograph to the painting. I will describe this in more detail below.
Another point I want to make about the finishing phase is that your reference material is of less use. What is important is to decide what you are trying to covey by the work and to make any changes required to integrate all aspects of the painting to achieve a self consistent realization of you goal.
My major objective for this work is to convey a uniform sense of light integrating this peaceful motif.
Two initial problems were identified. First, my wife pointed out that the foreground wall did not read quite right. Was it made of logs or what?? Once she pointed this out i realized that I had been so preoccupied with the mule, trees and shed that i had not paid much attention to the wall.
Second, I started to photograph the painting to put it up on my website. As I started to "photoshop" the image I realized that the lighting in the painting was not consistent. Particularly, the lighting on the foreground wall and the shadow on the blue wall of the shed. If I adjusted the reflection on the wall to the desired value, the shed shadow would be too dark. Similar problems were uncovered when adjusting the values of the mule, wall and ground cover. For example, when I adjusted the shadows to the desired level the subtle shifts in value and color that defined the form of the body of the mule would saturate and the mule would look like a cut out! These findings lead me to redo the various value relationships in the painting.
This use of photography to understand the consistency of my painting was a fascinating revelation to me. In this case, this was particularly important to me in that i wanted the painting and the image to accurately reflect each other, since I intended to submit the digital image to an art contest through the internet.
This new process lead to weeks of changes to the painting, new photographs, and more modifications to the painting! All of this was aimed at bringing the lighting on the wall, mule, fence, ground and shed into a consistent relationship.
Achieving the consistency of the lighting involved adjusting the hue, value and intensity of each of the components of the painting.
Having completed this, I put the painting back on my mantle for further review and got other fresh eyes to take a look at it. This lead to the Final Painting Step 2. The final final painting depicted below.
FINAL PAINTING STEP2
There were three major modifications in this final phase that i feel finally achieved the sense of light that i had set out to achieve.
The roof of the shed was modified to so that it s slop receded and its value and intensity placed it clearly in the background. Note the lost edge at the peak at the upper left.
A warm halftone was placed at the edge of the ground shadow that matched the warm glow on the edges of the mule's tail and ears.
The foreground shadows were strengthened, and a missing shadow from the right front leg was inserted.
Finally, I feel that I achieved what I was striving for. This has been a fascinating project. As a final assurance, when I processed the photograph of the the final painting, all of the lighting was consistent and needed no adjustment. The photo read as intended.
PAINTING TECHNIQUES USING GOLDEN OPEN ACRYLIC PAINTS
Properties of Golden OPEN Paints
I used my Golden OPEN Augmented Color Pallet, which I describe in detail in the My Painting Methodology section of my website. The following describes of few of the techniques that proved very useful in developing this specific painting.
Controlled Drying Time
I worked on this painting over a two month period. I can not over emphasize the beauty of working with Golden OPEN Acrylic paints with their slow controlled drying time. The same pools of mixed colors stayed workable on my pallet throughout the several month period. This is great for being able to maintain color harmony throughout the painting period, in that the same paint mixtures can be reused, modified or augmented for each stage in the extended painting period.
The following photos depict the three physical pallets that I used, with the paints and mixtures remaining workable and useable through out my extended painting interval.
Support for Color Pool Painting Techniques
I also included an image to reference the Golden OPEN colors that make up my Augmented Modern Pallet set. These are pure high intensity colors which mix without becoming muddy and can realize a very wide range of both intense and muted colors. This provides an amazing capability of realizing a very wide range of hue and chroma. It also helps maintain color harmony in that all of the mixed colors are made up from the same limited set of paint colors.
PALETS AND PAINT COLORS USED
The upper left hand pallet contains the mixtures primarily used in the foliage of the background.
The upper right hand pallet contains two primary color pools. One composed of an orange composed of the warm yellow and warm red, mixed with various blues to give various muted blues, purples, warmer browns and burnt sienna like colors. This pool contributed heavily to the shed, fence and wall.
The other pool consisted of a orange composed of the warm yellow and the cool red, mixed with the various blues to give a wide variety of cooler colors. This pool contributed heavily to the mule body and shed roof, along with spots in all of the other components.
Note that the muted color of blue which appears in the wall of the shed became the unifying color of the painting. It was used to represent the reflection of the evening sky in the body of the mule, the roof of the shed, the fence, and the foreground wall. You can also see specks of this color in the ground representing the shadows in the uneven surface strewn with strands of hay. The notes of a muted cool blue contrast nicely with the effects of the warm evening light filtering through the colorful fall foliage.
The controlled drying times of Golden OPEN Acrylic paints beautifully support the wide range of painting techniques which were used to realize this complex painting project.
Key Painting Techniques
Wet in Wet
The slow drying times of these paints allow for wet in wet painting and blending. These techniques were used extensively. They are particularly evident in the blue wall of the shed and the body of the mule.
A key aspect of the drying properties of these paints is that when applied thickly, they dry very slowly. However, if applied thinly they firm up quite quickly, in that you can gently layer additional paints over the thin film without them mixing with the under layer. However, these thin layers can also be worked back into for a matter of hours and blended with the new paint if you use more vigorous brushing techniques.
These techniques were used extensively in the layering of the colors in the foliage. The over layers sometimes were applied opaquely and gently blended at the edges, or not. In other cases the over layers were somewhat transparent, and there would be subtle optical blending with the lower layers, similar to the velatura technique of the old masters.
These layering techniques were employed to obtain the subtle colors of the foliage. However, another layering technique was used to achieve the few brilliant highlights of the the light shining through the yellow leaves. These are the yellow highlights that you can see in the foliage of the final painting above.
First let me say that it is not possible to obtain the brilliant yellow high light that I wanted by adding white to the paint. Adding white to a color tends to give it a chalky characteristic, while fine in many application, who not convey the brilliance of light that i wanted to achieve.
The technique that i used is based on the fact that that the yellow paints are somewhat transparent. Therefore, as depicted in the following photo, I painted the spots of highlight with a heavy application of opaque white paint. When these spots are dry, I then gave these white spots a coat of the somewhat transparent yellow paint. As you can see in the image of the final painting shown below, the spots created using this technique successfully achieve the brilliance of the light shining through the transparent leaves in a few key places in the foliage.
Glazing is achieved through the application of a transparent layer of color over a dry layer of paint. Generally the generally the paint is mixed with a medium to increase transparency. In the Dinner Time painting, I used glazing extensively to glaze the color of the sky reflection over the roof of the shed, the fence, the mule, the ground, and the hay bin.
In areas such as the fence, it was used as an even application. Whereas in the ground cover it was used in small spots to simulate the shadows in the rough ground cover. These are small spots in the lighted area and larder areas in the shadowed foreground.
The blue hue mixture that I was using was somewhat transparent. However, I thinned it with the Golden OPEN Gloss medium to achieve a smooth and very transparent layer. I varied the amount of medium, depending on the transparency that I desired for the various portions on the painting.
Zinc White Paint
I mentioned previously that adding opaque white, such as titanium white, to a color tends to give the resulting mixture a somewhat chalky characteristic. Where this is not desirable, there is an alternative, and that is the Golden OPEN Zinc White paint.
Zinc white is a very transparent white. It can be added to a darker color and increase its value, make it lighter, while preserving the hue of the color without adding a chalky pastel characteristic.
This was very important in this painting where I was trying to convey the subtle lighting of late afternoon. I used zinc white extensively in the blue wall of the shed, the modeling of the body of the mule, and the fence.
Velatura is a technique of the old masters of applying semi transparent paint over a generally darker surface in a mottled fashion, sometimes using their hands i understand.
I finally used this technique to achieve what i wanted for the highlights of the reflected light from the sky on the foreground wall.
Looking at the wall in the final painting, the reelections had to be brighter on the upper part of the wall as you looked up toward the sky, and significantly less as you looked at the lower parts of the wall near the ground.
As I discussed previously when I described my use of photography to balance the levels of the lights and shadows, the level of the reflection on the foreground wall was key to achieving this balance. In addition, this reflection could not be too prominent so as to distract interest from the focal points of the painting.
I went through many iterations of the color and value of the wall. Finally i felt that I had a color and value that was harmonious with the rest of the lighting in the motif. However, I had no reflections!!! What to do??? This is where velatura came to the rescue.
I mixed two colors; muted version of the blue sky color, and a very muted almost grey version of the sky color. These mixtures were not very transparent, so I mixed in some of the OPEN Gloss medium to give a semi transparent mixture.
I applied the less muted version to the lower edges of the upper wall boards, and used a rough brush to gently mottle the mixture up toward the top of each of the wall panels. I used less of the grayer mixture on the lower boards since they were to be darker and reflect less of the sky.
As you can see by studying the final painting, this achieved a subtle and natural distribution of light over the wall.
Pallet Knife Painting
Pallet knife painting was used for the hay in the feed bin and to give highlights to the hay strewn ground cover.
Golden OPEN acrylic paints work very well with a pallet knife application. I discuss various techniques for using mediums to control the drying times for heavy applications in the Pallet Knife Painting section of the My Painting Methodology tab of this website. However, this painting utilized a very simple application.
the hay was achieved with simple small strokes of the side of a pallet knife. the paint was used at its regular consistency. It was a thick application, but i just let it dry by itself over a number of days.
The pallet knife was used in two ways in the ground cover. the edge of the knife was use to apply little thin strips of light paint to simulate random pieces of hay on the ground being hit by the evening light. if you look at the ground cover in the final painting, you will notice that it contains small dabs of many colors, many of which appear elsewhere in the painting, such as reflections of the colors of the foliage in the evening light, the blue of the sky in the shadows, the various light and dam colors of the hay, ground etc. Many of these small dabs were placed with the flat tip of the pallet knife, and contribute to the rougher texture of the ground.
This painting has been a fascinating experience in applying the many techniques of composition, color theory, and paint application. I have found the Golden OPEN Acrylic paints and mediums to be an excellent vehicle for realizing the many classical painting techniques, many of which people have considered the unique realm of oil painting. I hope you have found my journey as interesting as I have.
In these short days of winter, I have been upgrading an old painting of mine titled "Summer". The painting had nice bones, but I felt that using my new techniques I could significantly improve it. The new and old versions are pictured below.
Here are some of the changes that I have implemented.
The color cast has been modified to better reflect the feeling of entering the beach on a brilliant summer afternoon. This impacted everything, including the sky, sea, sand and plant growth.
The color of the sand has bee modified to reflect the various planes of the sand and dunes.
Details were added to include the wire fence on the right hand poles, and a slat fence has been added to the far dune.
The lifeguard stand is the primary point of interest located at the upper left hand third point. A secondary point of interest was added at the upper right hand third by moving the life saving tower slightly to the left and adding a ship at the horizon. This reinforces the composition to provide a triangular path to move your eye around the painting, composed of the fence post in the lower right, with its enhanced details, and to two upper third focal points.
I feel like I have better recreated some of my summer memories, as I worked during these winter evenings. Almost like taking a vacation!
Joe Bergholm - artist.