|Schloss Kammer at Lake Atter I by Gustav Klimt,
1908, oil on canvas.
It seems impossible, right? I mean I'm out there painting, everything looks so fresh and crisp, the air and wind feel so good on my face, and then all of a sudden I am practically in tears because I've done it again. I've slipped into the same old way of working, reaching for the same colors and color mixes that are ordinary and predictable and booooring. Don't let this happen to you!
Here are a few of my rut-fighting color strategies so that I don't find myself painting the same plein air scene—no matter where I am—over and over again.
Flat planes of color can be just as interesting as brushy areas, but it does very different things for an outdoor painting. Flat color makes a work, well, flatter or more one-dimensional. It becomes more about consistency of color, saturation, and color choice than anything else. But when I find myself veering toward predictability, assessing color "flatly" can help me break through that tendency.
I love Egon Schiele's landscapes because of the ways he composed, but also because he used vibrant pops of color to make his views exciting. In a snowy landscape painting with browning trees he'd incorporate bold hints of red, yellow, blue, and green on a line of fence or expanse of shingles. Or the view of a narrow grey alleyway would have facades of mustard and bright, almost salmon-pink facing each other. The colors are like little gems in what would otherwise be an austere setting.
|Stein on the Danube by Egon Schiele,
1913, oil on canvas.
The clouds are not white, the land is not green or brown, and the water is not blue. This is a game I play with myself—not even allowing my brush to touch the colors that would generally describe the view I'm looking at. Once I leave those behind, I start making thoughtful, more interesting color choices.
And to further ensure I'm not painting with anything resembling a formulaic approach, I'm keeping many of these resources nearby. But remember color is not a cut and dry science. It is intuitive and changeable and always ready to show me something new. Enjoy!