There is a place. Like no place on Earth.

A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger!

Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.

Which luckily I am.

~The Mad Hatter

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Creative Process

Analyzing Local and Atmospheric Color

Knowledge will not always take the place of simple observation
-Arnold Lobel

The sky is green and the grass is blue.

Yes, you read correctly, and not just in my little private Idaho, but in certain realities.

Prior to and during a thunderstorm, a greenish cast appears through out the sky. And even on the sunniest of days, in the shadows in grass is a blue-violet.

Analyzing color and seeing the subtleties in an object then translating it to represent your vision or interpretation of the subject could be the hardest challenge the artist faces.

Local color is what we know about the object. Local color is the actual color of the object without outside influences.  Atmospheric color is added by outside influences such as; natural or artificial light, smoke or dust particles in the air, shadows or reflections cast by nearby objects, weather, distance, and light and shadows of the texture within the object itself. If you have a person wearing a blue sweater, a little bit of that blue, will be reflected onto your sitters skin.

What we know about the object often gets in the way of what we see and how we depict it. Beginning painters will often paint in large masses of one color giving a very amateurish look to the painting. While experienced painters will depict more variation and modeling in the highlights, mid-tones and shadows which, in turn, gives the subject more depth and dimension.

The artist sees what’s there, but can render the subject any way that pleases him or her. The artist can represent it accurately, idealize it, simplify it, dramatize it, or distort it.

I do not take color reference photographs but rather I make notes of the colors I see in the scene or an object. I do not want to be held hostage to a labs representation of a scene. You are dependent on the film type, the age & storage of the film, how fresh the processing chemicals used, if the technician is competent, and a host of other variables. I have found that all the subtleties are lost. That’s one of the main reasons I began hand coloring. I have total control.

Color Temperature & Perspective

Reds, oranges and yellows are considered warm while blues, greens and violets are considered cool. However, it is not that simple. There is a warm and cool variation of each color. Carmine is a cool red with violet bias while Vermillion red has an orange bias.

Objects in the foreground are brighter, sharper and warmer. They will advance in the scene. Objects in the background are paler; details are less defined and cooler. These objects will recede in the scene. Notice how the objects in the foreground are sharp and bright while that mountain range in the background is cooler, paler and bluer and as the mountain ranges progresses into the background they become more muted than the one in front of it. Distance subtracts the warmth from an object. A tree in the foreground will appear much warmer and sharper than the same tree placed in the distance.

JMW Turner often broke this rule by adding a bright light at some distant object, making it the brightest and most dramatic object in the image. Degas, on the other hand, often painted objects in the foreground cool colors and placing them against warm, vivid backgrounds. So you can see (pun intended), there are no rules.

Seeing the Light

A “tourist” sees the leaves in a tree as green - just green, while an artist sees the mid-tones as a variation of greens and the highlights as yellow-green while the shadows are blue-green. Analyzing what you see and translating that vision into paint isn’t based in any rules but rather how one artist may view color and form.

Every object has a mid-tone, a highlight and a shadow regardless of shape.  In general, highlights lean toward the warm, white-yellow side and shadows lean toward the cool blue side. This is just a point of departure, not the rule. Objects must be examined individually for the highlight and shadow colors.

Become aware of all the colors that make up a simple object. The color of an object can also be influenced by the color of the neighboring object. Neighboring colors can enhance or subdue each other. Notice how an apple on a white tablecloth will reflect some red into the shadow.

Don’t just look at what colors should be mixed together to make up the desired color, but also look at how colors relate to one another. Do they merge together? Do they sit on top or next to another color?

The color of light is constantly changing and is dependent on the time of day and season. Evaluate how objects are affected by atmospheric color. At pre-dawn and on rainy or overcast days, the overall color is bluer than at sweet light as the sun crests the horizon. Light is ever changing. Monet was fascinated by the changing effects of the light and revisited the same view of a subject at different times of the day and under different weather conditions.

Great artwork should never be accidental, but rather be created from an understanding of the materials, color behavior and techniques. Fore thought and planning will give you repeatable results. If a successful image was accidental or dumb luck, you will never know how you made such a successful image and can never duplicate those fabulous results.

Developing Your Power of Observation

For more information on analyzing color, find something you like and just sit and look it. Go to a favorite location or find an object in your home. Bring a notebook and a pencil. Find an element or scene and jot down all the colors and their relative location. Draw it out, don’t worry about your drawing skills, reduce the object to the most basic shapes, use stick drawings.

Pay attention to the color of the light and the colors in an object as the day progresses. How does it change? Move around the object, how does it change when the light source changes directions and angles?

Objects are comprised of shape and color. Relative placement of the colors and their relationships to one another will give shape definition and depth to an object. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and experiment with different color combinations.

No one can tell you what is the perfect green for a Pine tree or the right pink for a child’s cheek. This is totally subjective and offers many variables. One size does not fit all and it never will.

Before you begin applying color to your print, it is important to take a few moments to think it through. Pre-planning is important regardless of whether you are working with layers.
Ask yourself a few questions:

What is the overall feeling or mood that I am trying to create?
Do I want to create a fantasy or do I want realistic colors?
What colors are in the highlights, mid-tones and shadows?
What colors will enhance or carry the mood?
What local or atmospheric colors will be left in and which colors will be excluded?

As you go on with your daily routine, observe the everyday objects in your life. Take a moment to examine the colors in the highlight, mid-tones and shadows. Keen observation and practice will bring your vision to fruition.

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