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

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...

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