Because learning about color complements on the color wheel
is often one of the first lessons we are taught in art class, complementary
color paintings--those contrasting blue and orange, yellow and violet, and red
and green--are often thought of as for beginners.
||A painting by Leonard Rosoman that shows
how subtle complements can be.
It doesn't help that these color schemes are sometimes
illustrated in a really heavy-handed way. That is especially off-putting to me
because I know that oil paintings
showing colors mixed in this way can be quite subtle,
and not cheesy or elementary in appearance at all. It's really just all in the
way the complementary art colors are used by the artist.
For example, sets of complements can be used together but
their visual power can be balanced or mitigated by white or black. Another way
to make complementary color schemes successful is by using different
proportions of each color. Equal amounts of color can cause eyestrain, but a
limited use of blue in a largely yellow oil painting, for example, creates an
enjoyable viewing experience.
One can also use complements in a painting that is mostly
made up of neutral colors, so that the pops of color don't dominate, but
enhance the whole painting and give it a center of interest.
|Green Silk on Chair by Desmond Haughton,
oil on canvas.
And there's always the possibility of using split
complementaries, which means pulling in colors that are on either side of a
complementary color on the color wheel like red-violet (I love this one!) or
Basic color theory is such a fascinating
subject because it can be both elementary and complex in fascinating ways. We just published
a batch of great eBooks, and the one that is inspiring me right now is Color
Theory for Oil and Watercolor. It is informative,
straightforward, and has a lot of great images, and speaks to the vast
permutations of color that are available to painters. Enjoy!