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.

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