Hank Washington’s paintings vibrate with color. In the summer 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we shared an in-depth story about how this lifelong teacher has impacted his students’ creative lives while also refining his own painting techniques. Here’s another work by Washington not shown in the article, and a bit of our conversation with him about his masterful use of color.
Acrylic Artist: Who was the subject for Cookie?
Hank Washington: Cookie is my sister. The painting was created from a reference photo taken on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we were attending my son’s wedding.
AA: Cookie is a bit different than your other works? Is this difference inspired by the color intensity of the islands?
HW: Yes, Cookie is a diversion from many of my previous works. I wanted to capture the flavor, color and textures of the island. I chose a more textural style than I normally do because the island offers so much eye candy with all its natural beauty.
AA: Can you talk us through why the painting has such high-definition detail?
HW: That high-definition appears because of contrast. The eye naturally sees warm colors first: red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow and yellow-green in that order. Next we see the cool colors: green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, violet and red-violet. When this color theory is applied, the cool colors push the warm colors to the front. Therefore what happens in Cookie is the cool colors (blue, blue-green and green) recede and the warm colors (red, red orange, orange, yellow orange and yellow) jump forward.
Additionally, because of the distance between red and blue in the color spectrum the eye can only see one of the two colors at a time. Time being relative in this equation—we are talking about milliseconds. Our brains put these milliseconds together and the result is a slight vibration of the colors that some call a glow.
I also applied the use of what I call “color contrast.” By placing the lighter colors in the background and using the deeper tones in the foreground, the vividness of the work is increased. During the process of mixing my colors I don’t use black for creating shades; I only use complementary colors. I personally find black mutes color too much for my taste. I like to finish the work with a high-gloss acrylic spray sealant—it adds an additional level of depth to all the colors.