Harmony Through limited Color continued

In the previous post I discussed the set-up to start my limited palette painting using only Yellow Ochre, Scarlet Lake, Ivory Black and white.

The last step before the brushes come out is an important one, the value sketch. I’ve said it before; real life, a painting and a photograph are three totally different things.

Real life has no visual boundaries, a painting does. Those four edges matter to your design. The two horizontal, carry gravity, pushing down on your subject from the top and holding it in from the bottom. The two verticals, squeeze in from the sides or allow breathing room.

Real life contains a ginormous amount of value information from light to dark. Distilling it down to five or better yet, three, gives a painting strength and readability.sketch

The sketch is a visual road map to figure these things out and will be something I refer to often to keep me on track.limitedBlog-demo1

Because intense red was the focus here I wanted to infuse this color into other areas. “Real life” didn’t present this phenomenon but it’s good for “the painting”.

Moving from area to area blocking in shapes – is it darker or lighter than whats next to it, cooler or warmer? These questions lead me through the color mixtures. Since I only have three colors, it forces me to be resourceful and sensitive to what I’m seeing. If there were four reds on my palette I might opt for a warmer one, but with only yellow ochre to make adjustments it consolidates my decisions, concentrating on the value relationships instead.limiteddemo2

Time to take a cold hard look at:

Values – referring back to my sketch, I’m getting there but feel I’ve been a little conservative on the lights in the tissue, but I’m not ready to go there yet.

Composition – think I’m going to eliminate that step on the lower right, caution- lots of blank space to the left, going to think about options here.

Color – running a little too cold, warm up the background.greyshoe

After more working, a good way to check my values is by comparing a grey scale image  of the subject next to a grey scale of the painting. Need to push the lights now in the tissue, happy with the rest, time to put more interest toward the left.SoMe-lr

Finished.

I’ll be teaching a class- at the Scottsdale Artists’ School April 7 &14

Harmonize Your Painting with the Limited Palette

 

Harmony Through Limited Color

Workshops, friendly suggestions, something that caught my eye at the art supply store; all of these contribute to an overextended, bloated palette of colors. It can be a waste of time working this way. Like weeding through a stuffed closet of clothes in the morning, making too many choices is tiring.

At times like these I go back to the limited palette, like a breath of fresh air it clears my head so I can focus on the important aspects of creating a painting.

The Zorn Palette, made famous by the Swedish 19th century artist Anders Zorn is one of my favorites. ZornPalette-lr

Yellow Ochre, Scarlet Lake (he used Vermillion), White, Ivory Black. Here I’ve separated the warms from the cools with white. This selection leans toward the warm side, having two warms and only one cool, which is useful because most paintings need warmth to give them life. But they do look a little lonely…ZornPalette-blog2

By mixing neighboring colors together, warms with cools and white, the palette is beginning to open up. These are not all the possibilities by any means, but it gives me a jumping off point.IMG_0659

I set this subject up in my studio, experimented with the lightly and elements until they worked together. The things I look for when putting something like this together are:

  1. Focusing on a “star”, one item that the painting is about.
  2. Other elements that visually or physically flow to the star, and around the picture plane, (the composition)
  3. A variety of angles and curves
  4. A variety of values; dark, medium and light
  5. A variety of textures, smooth, rough, etc.
  6. A dominant color, (usually the “star”)

Notice how color is the last consideration? Sometimes we get sidetracked into thinking that “it’s all about the color”, but if the first five on the list aren’t there, no amount of color will save a painting with a weak design.

Now that the preliminaries are ironed out, the next step is the actual painting which I’ll talk about in my next blog.

Letting the Mood Lead the Painting

Before I began my latest painting ” Delilah” the mood I wanted to convey was in my head. The question was how do you translate a mood into paint?

First I come up with some adjectives;

  • Mysterious
  • Dangerous?
  • Rich
  • Surreal
  • Ethereal

Translated into paint, I have;

Color, Red, Violet, Black, Gold, Cold Blues and Greens

Texture, Rough and Smooth paint, sharp and smooth edges

Value, High Contrast

This appeared to be a simple subject, all the more reason to do an initial value sketch. When there isn’t a lot of “stuff” in the scene, every element has to work especially hard.

 

Sketch for Delilah
Sketch for Delilah

This really helped me to see some areas that needed to be adjusted, much easier to push a sketch around than a painting. I could see what needed to be done to her hands, the subtle reshaping which would help the movement, making a comfortable eye path around the painting.

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Why not start with a red underpainting to get the mystery started. Keeping a cool light, I washed in some Cadmium Red Medium plus Viridian green and white. The shadows were made from a mixture of Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Yellow Medium and Viridian Green. The dark accents were Cadmium Red Medium and Cobalt Blue.

Delilah by Diane Eugster
Delilah by Diane Eugster

Working back and forth between the shadows and light struck areas I continued around the painting, scrapping off and building up, until there wasn’t anything else I wanted to say, and it was finished.

The Limited Palette

The image I wanted to paint was of a woman sitting on her luggage, facing a backlit screen. So the scene was in the shadows with warm illumination coming from the front.

It’s times like this I opt for a limited palette. Because all the tones are muted this is a good opportunity to use a complimentary scheme, using the compliments to tone down each other instead of placing them full strength next to each other for intense color effect.

The first stop, one of my favorite sites for color inspiration, Design-Seeds. They showcase a photograph and a break down of the main colors in it. This gets the creative juices flowing for me! Below are two combinations I was considering.

The first being more of a monotone, I chose the one on the right. Below are the three colors used to represent these tones, Yellow Ochre, Violet Transparent Magenta and Burnt Umber.BlogPaint

This is what it looked like on the color wheel –

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I made a chart with some random color mixtures from my three selected colors, a good thing to have on the wall as I paint in order to remind me of the possibilities.

colorsBlogSometimes the best way to start something like this is to begin brighter than intended and slowly knock down the color. This was accomplished by adding bits of the other colors of the same value, (amount of lightness or darkness). Using broken color is also a good way to animate large areas where one solid tone could be boring.

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In the above image you can see how intense the background color was in the beginning, and below, in the finished painting, “Last Train to St. Louis” how much I  toned it down.

Last Train to St. Louis by Diane Eugster
Last Train to St. Louis by Diane Eugster

New Painting, Sunday Afternoon

SundayAfternoon-lr
Sunday Afternoon by Diane Eugster

This is the kind of scene I love to paint, relaxed, casual and fresh. The vintage feel of the old porch and Adirondack chair set the perfect mood.

I have a sort of scale the I rate the difficulty of a subject on, this painting was right up there on the chart.

List of challenging things

+2= Full body, requires accuracy.

+2 =A small head, requires accuracy and softness.

+1=A small head at an angle, things are not where you expect them to be.

+2= Wild foliage, needs to be greatly simplified.

+2= Layered subject, foliage in front of a chair, in front of a girl, in front of a house.

SundayAfternoondemo1
Block-in for Sunday Afternoon

 

This was almost a ten on my scale, which made it fairly complex, but that’s ok, as long as I realized what I was getting into, the frustration level was kept to a minimum by slowing down and really concentrating on what I was looking at.

I used my limited palette of White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Red Medium, Viridian and Cobalt Blue.

 

Experimenting with Color, Painting without White

I like to throw a challenge out to myself when planning a painting, it wakes me out of the trance of doing things the same way all of the time.

I began this painting by using only the paint colors that I had to in order to paint the subject. Being very conservative about my choices was a good way of experimenting with color.

The most obvious thing I needed was a red, Cad Red Medium wouldn’t let me get the warmer orange reds, so I decided on Cad Red Light.

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As I looked further I could see some rich cool reds would also help the painting so I went ahead and added Cad Red Medium (though later on in the painting I saw I could have done without it).

The darkest darks in the image where brown, so Burnt Umber made the list.

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The warm light in the image made Naples Yellow my choice, which is one of my favorite colors because of it’s buttery light tone and it’s opacity.

blo4 I grabbed my tube of white as if almost by habit, than stopped myself, can I get by using Naples Yellow in place of white? The answer was yes,using Naples Yellow instead of white kept the warm glow in the image. The opaque quality lighten up the Umber, while keeping some warmth, burnt umber can get very grey when mixed with white. The pinks that were made with the reds and the naples yellow kept the color harmony in the painting.

Lady in Red by Diane Eugster
Lady in Red by Diane Eugster