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John's Blog

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Color Concept

Color is an important part of painting. Some artists believe it is the most important part. I don't agree. The reason for my position is that masterful paintings have been achieved using just one color.
Having instructed many students over the years in the basics of creating a solid painting, I have stressed the importance of having a clear concept, a well organized composition, accurate drawing, a simple value structure, harmonious color, technical excellence...and even appropriate framing. All these elements are important, but concept needs to reign supreme. What do I mean by concept? It is what the artist chooses to communicate through the painting...and every one of the basic building blocks mentioned above, need to support that concept.
Color is no different.
This is the painting I've been working on this past week. It shows the very beginnings of the block-in stage, after having established the drawing. The canvas is 32"x 46". Normally, on large canvases, I begin with a full monochromatic value block-in. This time I decided to jump right in with color on the white canvas.
Before beginning the color stage, a set of colors {the palette) must to be chosen, and the selected palette needs to support the concept. The subject of the painting is a sunlit Italian coastal scene set in the month of May. Summer has not arrived, the foliage is still rich and lush.
Being able to create a wide variety of interesting greens was the starting point for palette selection. After experimenting with a variety of blues and yellows, I settled on Prussian blue and lemon yellow.
I have used a limited palette of just the primary colors since the mid-eighties, so that is always the starting point. You may notice from the color wheel, shown above, that the center of the wheel contains three values of gray. The darkest ring contains the three primaries mixed together, and the other two values have white added. I discovered this palette yields an almost pure neutral.
Additionally, for this painting, some extra yellows were added: yellow ochre, and cadmium yellow medium. As you can see, all of the yellows have been mixed with Prussian blue. Cadmium yellow light was also tried but was rejected because of its closeness to lemon yellow.
This is only the second time I've used Prussian blue. The color was first discovered in 1704 and widely used, but there has also been considerable controversy as to its permanence.
Winsor and Newton gives it an "A" rating (Permanent), equal to most of their cadmium colors...and more permanent than the popular alizarin I am comfortable with that.
Phthalocyanine blue would be a suitable replacement.
Beware however, Prussian blue and phalo blue are very powerful. Both are greenish blues and have tremendous tinting strength. Just a dab goes a long way.
Before finalizing the palette choice, I like to create a chart, like the one above, in order to make sure I have selected the colors needed to achieve the desired concept.

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Blogger V. Deshmukh said...

This is a very interesting and informative post. Thanks for a peek into your working method.
Best wishes,

July 31, 2011 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Pleased to be helpful, V. You may find some of my other postings helpful also.

August 2, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger tim said...

Does each color mixture in the chart correspond to an item in the planned painting? Was the muted green in column three row one, for instance, mixed specifically for a part of the painting? Or do you just look for variety and harmony… a feeling about the chart?

September 5, 2011 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger Teresa Cowley said...

Since seeing your work in person at the Greenhouse Gallery I have loved your greens! This is an invaluable peek into your thinking, John. Thank you for sharing it.

October 10, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Tim and Teresa, I'm really sorry about the slow response to your comments. I'm not notified when a comment is posted and I obviously have failed to check on any incoming comments.

Tim, I am just trying various mixtures to see what the palette will do for me. I was wanting to check what was possible from dark to light. The mixtures noted are only altered with white. Another whole variety of greens can be achieved by adding varying amounts of red, and or, blue to the mixtures. Mixtures for specific areas was not my intention. The color charts were all about making sure I could achieve a suitable variety of greens. I was not worried about color harmony as the palette is very limited and therefore a lot of intermixing was going to be needed.

Teresa, thanks for your nice comments. I'm pleased the blog is helpful.

November 13, 2011 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Gary Klingemann said...

To paint from your imagination and make it this convincing is truly an art form and godsend. Knowing how much you struggled on it and where I last saw it, all I can say is bravo and congrats.

November 16, 2011 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger john pototschnik said...

Thanks, Gary, my friend.

November 18, 2011 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Mario Vargas said...

Hi John, do you have any blog stressing on temperature relationship in your paintings? I'm very much confused about this subject. Thank you for your excellent blog, it is so instructive and clear, I've learn a lot from it.

October 22, 2015 at 10:08 AM  

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