In Living Color

The Not-So-Simple Beauty of the Color Wheel

It’s a brand new year and I want to start it off with a bang! And the one thing that I can’t get enough of is color. The color wheel holds such simple beauty and complex mysteries, from saturated primary colors to more involved color mixes, that I don’t see how I could ever feel like I’ve learned everything about it.

Color wheel: Female figure, turquoise pillow by Peter Van Dyck, 20 x 17, oil painting on illustration board, 2011.
Female figure, turquoise pillow by Peter Van Dyck, 20 x 17, oil painting on illustration board, 2011.

But while I may revere all that the color wheel is capable of giving us, creating sublime and impactful color schemes for actual paintings can be a bit unnerving. I often get so involved with a color that I forget how to paint the necessary value and tonal changes that I need to make so that the color isn’t just an independent and abstract stroke on the canvas but a part of how I will add dimension and atmosphere to my subject.

Color Wheel: Camper by Peter Van Dyck, 22.5 x 32, oil painting on linen, 2008.
Camper by Peter Van Dyck, 22.5 x 32, oil painting on linen, 2008.

Peter Van Dyck is an artist who features sumptuous and often surprising color mixes in his artwork without letting the pigments take over his compositions. Teals, ambers, and pearlescent whites appear on Van Dyck’s surfaces but they always serve to perpetuate what the artist is depicting, whether it’s a camper van parked at dusk or a dim studio with nary a soul in sight. When I look at one of his paintings I fall a little bit more in love with the colors every time I look at them, but I don’t ever forget what I am looking at. Instead, I just shift from color to object and back again, mesmerized and taking lots of mental notes.

Color Wheel: Alabama studio interior by Peter Van Dyck, 24 x 22, oil painting on board, 2009.
Alabama studio interior by Peter Van Dyck, 24 x 22,
oil painting on board, 2009.

If you want to enhance or change the way you see color so you can improve your art, see if The Artist’s Magazine 2016 Annual Digital Collection is right for you. In every issue, color is at the forefront–in feature articles, technique spotlights, and painting profiles. You will see how so many different artists get the tones and values they are looking for so that when you mix colors, you’ll know what you are getting too! You’ll also gain a richer understanding of light effects as well as how to spot all those tricky colors that hide in the shadows. These are the essences of color, and every artist–with every painting they do–builds on them. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

One thought on “In Living Color

  1. For learning purposes –
    Natures light key is not about tonalism anymore.
    This is outdated perceptual thinking.
    If you have the right values in relationship it does not necessarily mean you have the right colors in relationship.
    However, if you have the right colors in relationship
    Then you will have the right values.

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