All art copyright (c) Mike Kloepfer
"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."
-Steve Vai

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Color Studies... testing it out...

The main color charts are finished. So I thought I'd take 'em out for a spin.
I perused some of my reference photos, and pics of paintings by artists that I admire, and looked for specific color mixtures on the charts.
The good news?
I could easily find the colors I was searching for on the charts.

So I tried to do some color studies.
The bad news?
Even though I had some initial success, when I tried mixing them, everything came out gray.

What did I learn?
When I mix colors, I have a tendency to 'get too fancy' - in other words, I try to move the hues by adding more and more colors to the pile, rather than by finding the simple color mixture that is closest, and then tweaking that with a simple color.
Everything turns to gray. And not the good type of gray, but the dead, lifeless gray that does not look rich and lifelike.
(I am being a bit harsh on myself. This is at the very least a step in the right direction.)
The other problem that I had was that the paint kept drying out by the time I had the color mixed. Yecch. I realized that I had a fan going, and that was probably adding to the problem.

I did, however, have some fun while looking at a section of a figure study by Jeremy Lipking.

I went back to simple two-color mixtures, tinted slightly with a third.
This section is the heel of the left foot:

(The photos were taken with my laptop web cam, so the colors are hideously inaccurate.)
Honestly, the values here are very close to each other. However, they are given more impact because the focus is on the temperature/hue shifts.
Although it is not a complete success, I am beginning to see the colors taking on the qualities that I had been thinking of... for some reason, Norman Rockwell comes to mind. Don't ask me why. (Probably because he tended to have interesting grays in the flesh tones, and rich reds in the noses, ears, and the other areas where there are more blood vessels.)
Not bad for a first stab.
The lesson to take away from all of this is to keep the color mixtures as simple as possible. think about them first, try to figure out the simple 2-color mixture, get it as close as possible, and then add a hint of a third color (if necessary.)
Really, I found that quite often, the third color is not even necessary if the initial 2-color mixture is done well.
Good to know...
What else did I learn?
That I was still trying to go for value shifts (light/dark), rather than color (hue) shifts; and I have a tendency to overdo it. Looking back over the reference photos again, the majority of the values fall in the middle range. The values of the areas in the light are not that far away from the values of the areas in shadow. I was pushing the values rather than really exploring the color temperature shifts, and the particular differences in hue. It's the same as with the intensely saturated colors - the more contrast, the less effective the value shifts; the closer in value, the more dramatic each shift becomes. (It's almost counter-intuitive, but it works.)
The lesson?
Try to keep the values closer together. Leave room for the lightest lights and the darkest darks. The majority of the action is in the middle range. Still pay attention to what is in light and what is in shadow, but don't push it to such extremes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Color Charts - An Epiphany; An Adventurous Journey of Discovery in Color.

So I am working on the last parts of the current color charts. I pull off the tape, and decide to label the color mixtures. However, rather than label them with text, I decide to simply use swatches of the raw tube color.
In other words, instead of using verbal language, I decide to speak in the actual language that I am working in: the language of color.
Smart move. As I put the swatches on, it becomes more and more clear to see how the base colors affect each other.

Now, I am looking at photographs and paintings by artists whom I admire, and seeing where they fall on these new color charts. At first, I thought I would have trouble finding the colors amongst all these neutrals - especially since I am using only five colors - but not so...
and it dawns on me...
The troubles I have had with color in the past are due in part to the fact that I have been using raw colors that are beautiful in themselves, but pretty darn high chroma. In other words, they are saturated color - bright, intense hue and chroma. And they are strong when mixing with each other.
As I look at paintings by artists such as Sargent, Bouguereau, and Alma-Tadema, and contemporary artists like Jeremy Lipking, I am seeing that the majority of colors in these paintings fall into the category of 'tinted neutrals.'
There are very few colors that fall into the intense chroma of Cadmium Red or Cadmium Yellow straight out of the tube, or even Ultramarine, or Burnt Sienna for that matter. Most of the colors are falling in the neutral range, and lean towards one or the other of these colors.
And as I compare the colors in the charts to one another, they appear richer in context of the colors surrounding them, especially the neutral purples and greens. (Harkening back to Charles Emerson: "Color is color only, according to amount, placement, and application." e.g. A color is profoundly affected by the surrounding colors.)
The problem I have been struggling with is that, if all of the colors are intense and high-chroma, then they are all competing with each other for attention, and none of them appear to be as saturated as they should be.
However, when the neutral colors are placed next to each other, they intensify the richness of the hues and it takes much less of a shift to create a dramatic effect. The end result is rich, satisfying color.
At least that's how it looks at this point. The next step is to put it to the test in some color studies...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Color charts - Continuing on...

Starting the new year right.

Continuing with the color charts, I mix a color with each of the other colors in the palette, keeping the first color dominant. I then take this mixture down to almost-white in 5 steps.
I do this for each of the colors in the palette.
Tonight, I finish up the mixtures with Titanium White. When these dry, I will do the same using Zinc White.
When I am done, I will have a comprehensive color chart showing how the colors in my palette interact.
In these simple mixtures, I can already see some beautiful rich neutrals, the purples and gray-greens are just yummy. And there is an inherent color harmony.
And I have been looking at pictures of paintings by artists I admire, and finding that most of the colors in their paintings can be achieved with the limited palette.