Deliberate Color Choices

Wine and Fruit by Artists Network forum member Spunkin-z (user name) is a classic still life done in a mosaic style using small pieces of colored paper and Mod Podge. From a normal viewing distance the small pieces blend together to create lively color effects. In this work, the little pieces of colored paper function as brushstrokes. They add texture, and their shape and direction suggest the form of the objects, giving them a faceted look.
   
Working in this medium requires a lot of patience, but it also offers a lot of control. The process encourages deliberate color choices. The artist needs a palette composed of many different colored-paper hues. Each chip of color incorporated in the composition requires conscious thought, because there’s no possibility for blending colors or making soft transitions from one color to the next.
   
The color scheme in this work follows the “most, some and a bit” rule, which specifies three levels of color usage:
• Most of the colors in a picture should be of the same tonal value and color temperature.
• Some of the colors should be of a different tonal value and color temperature.
• Just a bit of highly contrasting color should act as an accent, often appearing at the composition’s center of interest.

In Wine and Fruit, most of the colors are light or mid-value blues, giving the picture an overall cool look. Some of the colors are yellows, tans and oranges (the fruit and basket), and just a bit of the color is red or purple (the grapes and wine).
   
The artist has created a pleasing color affect by using touches of warm and cool within larger areas of color. Notice in the background drapery the little chips of blue-violet and blue-green, which give the cloth a vibrant quality. Including notes of slightly contrasting colors in the wine bottle and in the wine in the glass makes them sparkle and enhances the illusion of transparency.
   
A good way to identify opportunities for improvement in an artwork is to look for areas of confusion. These are the passages where there is a lack of clarity, some inconsistency in technique or a noticeable lack of resolution. Each area of confusion represents an opportunity for making the picture clearer and more exciting.

Wine and Fruit is well conceived and executed and has only a few minor areas of confusion. For example, the right handle of the basket and the orange fruit behind it are too close in color and value; at first glance, they blend together. The solution is either to make the handle more tan and perhaps a bit darker overall or to put one edge into shadow so it contrasts with the fruit behind it.

Another area of confusion is the wine bottle’s shadow on the drapery. The hard edges make the shadow appear as another bottle in the arrangement. With a paintbrush, softening an edge is relatively easy, but the artist doesn’t have that luxury with this medium. Using paper with a torn edge plus a more subtle color change would suggest the shadow without making it too distinct.

My final suggestion pertains to the single grape on the right. This item, which adds balance to the composition, seems to be floating in space. A shadow beneath the grape would make it appear to be resting on the cloth. Also, placing the grape at the base of the wine glass would tie it together with the rest of the still life, giving it a less random look.
   
Wine and Fruit is a traditional still life done in an unusual medium that has some unique challenges. The artist has handled these challenges well, creating a pleasing, eye-catching piece.

Click here to read about Greg Albert and his approach to critiquing.

Artwork for the Art Clinic is chosen from work posted on the Art Clinic forum, which is part of the Artists Network message board. (You must log on as a registered member to post on the Art Clinic forum.)

Check out other Art Clinic critiques at the Art Clinic Main Page.

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