Sunday, October 25, 2009

Morning Has Broken

Of the last 25 days most have been overcast and the remainder have had only promised sun to come.  This morning came bright and early.  I was painting in the studio and thinking that the colours seemed unusually brilliant outside.  Then I realized that I have been painting outside (in LaCloche) and locally in cloud covered and rainy conditions.  Even in the studio the incoming light was cool for this extended period of time.  By comparison today's sunshine seemed surreal.  In painting, the two extreme conditions are called the warm and cool colour keys.  Observing and painting in the cool colour key is quite demanding but a great training and learning opportunity.  In this condition the colours are often saturated and rich.  They approach local colour.  The contrast or values are close and the shadows are near non existent.

Many artists and painters paint tonally.  That is they paint the colours of the shapes - either as they believe them to be or as they observe them.  (There is a often large difference here).  The overcast provides plenty of tonal opportunities.  Most people prefer to paint in full sun.  However, to learn to really see what is happening in full sun, overcast provides fertile training.

Here is a painting done at roadside in LaCloche ducking the showers but aware that the sun actually was teasing us with a few warm spots in the sky.

Ambitious Undertaking, 10x12, Oil on canvas on board

After taking this painting down I saved the paint on my palette and went back to camp in the late afternoon in order to get dry.  After a few minutes in front of the oven the sun shining outside caught the corner of my eye.  I scrambled to set up on the shore in front of the cabin and painted the image across the channel.

Sun Shower, 10x12, Oil on board

Quite a difference.  Here you can see the effect of light on the shapes.  The local colours are modified by the light.  In order to capture these colour keys I suggest people paint from life and train their eye to see the intricate differences.  This takes considerable time since preconceived notions (we all develop these from childhood) have to be ignored in order to register what is really before you.  This is key to taking colour theory into practice.  There are no formulas.

Colour is a simple yet complex concept to teach and to grasp.  In the coming blogs I will write some thoughts on the subject without getting scientific.

Both of these paintings were done with the same palette and the same brush, approximately 2 hours apart.  The Palette consisted of a version of the primary colours (Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin) plus two mixing modifiers - mineral violet, and Viridian.  Titanium white was used for tinting and value modification.

Comments and questions about colour are welcome.

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