We all have our reasons for making art, and find satisfaction from various aspects of it (not to mention frustration, but that’s another topic). Wilson Bickford says that utilizing color is what brings joy to his painting experience. Before one can find joy from the spectrum, though, one should understand the basic concepts of color theory, which he explains here.
from Wildlife Landscapes You Can Paint by Wilson Bickford
In my opinion, color is the true joy of painting. Infinite shades and tints (or dark and light versions) of every hue can be obtained by mixing. Most of my students tell me that mixing color to achieve a desired color is far more demanding than any brushwork. The best advice I have for you is to experiment and study the relationships of the color wheel.
Primary and Secondary Colors
In painting, these are the three main pigments–red, blue and yellow. The three secondary pigments–orange, green and violet–are created by mixing the three primary colors. The color wheel is the standard way to display the colors and how they relate to each other.
The best method for mixing hues is to use complementary colors. Simply put, any primary or secondary color can be dulled by adding a small amount of its opposite color on the color wheel. These combinations work conversely with each other. You will find that a small amount of a color’s complement will make a big difference, so add just a touch of it until you achieve the desired shade. White can always be used to lighten a value.
In terms of color, value simply means how light or dark a color is. Every painting should have a broad range of values from very dark to very light, with all the nuances in between. Without enough contrast in values, your painting will lack depth and appear flat. Generally speaking, darker values are achieved by using a stronger concentration of pigments, while lighter values are achieved by adding white (and sometimes lighter colors such as yellow).
The distant objects and background elements appear lighter in value while the foreground and animal subjects appear darker. This is known as aerial perspective–creating a feeling of distance and spatial depth on the otherwise flat canvas surface.
Viewing your paintings from a distance or through squinted eyes will eliminate the details and make the value contrasts more discernible. It’s a great way to judge your overall values. Remember, strive for strong lights, strong darks and everything in between. ~W.B.
Bickford has just come out with four new DVDs on oil painting basics, all of which are available for immediate download:
You’ll learn color mixing, application techniques and more.
Color me happy,
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