Especially since the mid-1800s, many
artists have stressed color over other elements in painting. The Impressionists
are notable examples. Monet, for instance, explored how to paint light and its
effects on the colorful scenes he saw in his mind's eye. Although many think of
Monet as a painter of colors, he is perhaps more accurately described as the
original "painter of light."
||Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son
by Claude Monet, 1875, oil on canvas.
Adapted from an article by Bob Bahr.
Paintings fail or succeed most often
because of how accurate the values are in the work rather than because of poor
color choices or color mixing. The viewer "reads" a painting through its values,
and a composition relies on how light and dark values are arranged. The problem
is that beginner painting artists
often see a color's hue and chroma instead of
its value. Painting a grisaille (a composition in shades of gray) before
applying colors can help us in matching the correct values in a scene to a
desired hue in the proper value. A few exercises juxtaposing values on a
grayscale with various local colors also help in training our eyes.
"The best way to understand color is
working with it," says Laura Antonow, who teaches a class on color theory in
the art department at The University of Mississippi. "Learning how to mix
paint, matching paints or fabrics, looking at colors in daylight and then under
artificial light-all of these can help develop your color sensitivity."
Antonow also stresses that painting
artists should be vigilant about one painting art misconception: that color
exists in a vacuum. "When considering a certain color, people forget to take
into consideration the surrounding colors, the lighting conditions, and even
the cultural context, all of which are extremely important to the way a color
appears," she says.
Beyond encouraging trial-and-error
color experimentation, Antonow also suggests reading about color theory from
authors such as Josef Albers, Albert H. Munsell, Johannes Itten, and Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe. She also recommends paying close attention to the work of
artists known for their dynamic use of color, such as Wassily Kandinsky and
Mark Rothko. You can also discover more painting techniques and painting tips
from trusted artists and instructors found in The Artist's Magazine. A subscription will give you the opportunity
to learn how to paint a picture in new and exciting ways while brushing up on
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