Colleen Howe: Creating Colorful Grays

“What I love most about pastels is that with careful layering, you can create colors that are optically blended without losing each of the original colors you?ve put down. That leads to a richness of color that?s unique to this medium.”

“In the layering, I usually start with the darkest colors, often rubbing them in with my finger, and then progress to the lighter values. This eliminates any unwanted background light and it allows me to gauge the complete value range of the painting early on, plus I?ve found that it leads to the most vibrant results. The most exciting work, however, comes in the color building. I test out a wide variety of color combinations, building both with analogous colors, for the brighter results, and with complementary colors, for a graying effect.”

Backlit Trees (pastel, 11×15)

“Besides choosing colors natural to the landscape, an important strategy for me is to use colors from elsewhere in the picture. For example, if there?s green grass beneath a pinkish sky, I?ll put green in some of the sky shapes and use some pinks and reds to enhance the grass. This is a key element of color harmony because it has the effect of unifying the different elements of the composition. And when you achieve a color harmony that makes the colors work together while letting them work independently as well, that?s when your paintings will really glow.”

John K. Flynn is director of J. K. Flynn Co., an art restoration and appraisal firm in Brooklyn, New York.

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