Who Buys Those Colors?

Going through the online art supply site, making up my order for paints I’ve often wondered who buys those strange “off colors” like Dove Grey, Grey Green or Monotint?

My question was answered last week when I attended the Joseph Lorusso  Workshop at Scottsdale Artists School.

One of the key reasons I signed up for Joseph’s class was to see how he achieves those rich but subtle color harmonies. Viewing one of his paintings is like discovering gems, little interactions of color everywhere.

The afternoon of the first day I was faced with uncorking these odd tubes of paint that were on our class supply list.  Next, trying to figure out what to do with them. Ummm…Monochrome Tint Warm, kind of a khaki beige, maybe I’ll put it right here next to the Yellow Ochre on my palette. Green Grey, maybe next to Olive Green, Yellow Grey, a lot like Monochrome. These colors felt like total strangers to me.img_2452

It took me a full week with these colors on my palette to see the unique usefulness they offered.

Joseph talked a lot about suppressing white, holding the values close. The more I studied his paintings the more I saw the magic happened in those midrange tones.greyscale

The mid-range between values 4 and 7 also happen to be where most of these “off colors” live. Now I get it! These colors are just midtone greys, mixtures I would probably end up making on my palette eventually, but now I can could easily grab these to modify other tones. If I have a value 4 red that needs to be muted,  I have a two-step process in front of me. First I need to add green, now it’s too dark, the value has slipped into 2 or 3, so I need white to bring it back to value 4, unless I use Holbein’s Green Grey which is already a value 4. Once I got the hang of these new colors they transformed from strangers to friends.

It’s always good to open up the possibilities of using new materials, seeing things a little differently. The painting below I did in open studio using some of these concepts, no white and only a small amount of Naples Yellow .peasantlr

 

 

Conserving Values

Lately I’ve really been concerned about conserving values. When I first learned to draw, the number one challenge was to see how many shades of grey I could capture in my sketch, after all, the visual world is made of hundreds, maybe thousands of shades from black to white. But the more I paint, the more I have a respect for other artists who exercise restraint with their values, which in the end produces a much stronger image.

Floating, by Robert Lemler
Floating, by Robert Lemler

For an example look at this painting by one of my favorite artists, Robert Lemler. The image on the left is the finished painting, the image on the right is the grey scale version. Removing the color in an image makes seeing the framework of values easier. This painting is mainly composed of three values and a dark accent but wow, the impact!

Painting by Casey Baugh
Painting by Casey Baugh

Another artist I admire is Casey Baugh. Here he uses two values from the high end and two from the low end to produce a more solemn, moody piece.

travelDemo1

I decided to work from this photo. A great subject, but as you can see the scattering of many values makes a fractured image. This happens a lot outdoors in bright sunlight, the camera makes the shadows too dark while the lights get blown out. I decided to keep the girl in the 8 to 9 value range in order to stand out against her surroundings, while everything else in the 3 to 4 value range with a few dark and light accents.

grayscale

Travellr
The Traveler, by Diane Eugster

Conserving the values gave me the cohesion I was after, staying mid to light on the value scale gave the painting a freshness.