Your Painting Needs Unequal Color

Altered paintings, color theory,  nancy reyner, perfect color, Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.A Color Theory Built on 80:20 Works Wonders

Sometimes we generalize the “genius” of the Old Masters, explaining their skills as innate and sent from above, and defining them in terms that don’t reflect the effort, skill, and technique they brought to bear in their painting. That’s where we miss a crucial inroad to understanding how we, too, can take on those same skills and teach ourselves just like the Old Masters.

One area that happens most often is in color theory. People forget the treatises, books, and manuals written over the centuries on color theory alone. And that is mostly because they aren’t exactly page-turners and many are hard to find. But in Nancy Reyner’s Perfect Paintings Collection you will find a color theory approach that really makes you see what is possible with color.

Color theory: Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.

Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.

That’s why I want to share one of Nancy’s exercises on the 80:20 color ratio with you, so you can see how this kit will give you the building blocks the Old Masters used to create their art.

The fact is that uneven color attracts the eye. In Breughel the Elder’s painting, Landscape with Fall of Icarus, the green to red ratio is about 80:20 or maybe even 90:10, directing the focus swiftly toward the central red shirt and warm browns. An unequal relationship for a pair of opposites adds powerful attraction to the image.

Altered version #1

Photographically altering to remove all red (100:0 ratio green to red) creates an overly green experience, forcing eyes into a quick exit to search elsewhere outside the painting for red.

Color theory ration 80:20. Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.

Altered version #2

Photographically altering to remove all green (100:0 ratio red to green) creates the same viewing issue and quick exit. When only one of a pair of opposites is present, the image is unappealing. Avoid ratios of 100:0 with any pair of opposites in a painting.

Color theory ration 80:20. Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.

Altered version #3

In this altered version, more red was added to the image to create a 50:50 green-to-red ratio. Avoid using both components of a pair of opposites in equal amounts. It can create too many focal points, adding confusion rather than more interest, or create an overall feeling like wallpaper.

Color theory ration 80:20. Landscape with the fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1560s, oil on canvas.

No one is saying you want or should want to be an Old Master. You and I should always paint the way we want to. Our muses are one of a kind. But there is something to be said about starting with the right approaches. With the techniques you learn with Nancy Reyner’s Perfect Paintings Collection, you get those skills and that means your next painting, and the next, and the next, will be show-stoppers–at least in my eyes, artists. Enjoy!

Courtney

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