Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Color Play

    I'm very interested in color, color theory, and how it affects objects so I thought it would be interesting to write about a series of painted studies I'm planning to do using the book,  "How to See Color and Paint It" by Arthur Stern.  It's an out of print book, but it can be found and is a gem.
     Let's start with color basics -- that is primaries, secondaries, and tertiary colors.  There are 3 and only 3 primary colors: Red, Blue, and Yellow.  These are colors that CANNOT be mixed from any other color.  But the great thing about the primaries is that they can make all the other colors.  When two primaries are mixed together they are called secondaries:  Red and Yellow = Orange;  Yellow and Blue = Green;  Red and Blue = Purple.  A tertiary color is one that is, for example, more on the red or yellow side of orange, or more on the blue or yellow side of green, or more on the blue or red side of purple.  Remember those wonderful Crayola crayons?  Some were called 'blue green'.  That is one tertiary color.  As you can see, all the colors are variations of these six – red, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple.  

     Complimentary or opposite colors are opposite each other on the color wheel and are used to dull a color down.    For example, to dull down red, add some green.  To dull down blue, add some orange, etc…. These colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel.  An easy way to remember what the complementary color is to any of these basic 6 colors is to remember how the color is made in the first place and then add the  third color that is missing from the triad.  For example, to find the opposite of purple ask yourself how do you make purple?  Red + Blue.  What’s missing?  Yellow!  Hence, yellow is the opposite of purple.  What is the opposite of Blue?  What colors are missing in the triad?  Red and Yellow.  Red and Yellow make orange.  Hence, Orange is the opposite of Blue.   Eventually the color gets so dull it will be a neutral color and will be in the middle of the wheel.  In other words, it will be grey.
     OK.....now that we are all on the same page let's look at what Stern starts with as a simple set up and see and compare the results.

 This is a basic white cylinder set on a sheet of green construction paper with a black background.  The light is a regular warm light bulb and is facing the back wall of the set-up box.  It is a bit difficult to see in the photo, but the bulb has a definite impact on the black background.  Before we continue, understand that black acts in a similar manner to blue.  Therefore, a yellow/warm bulb, is going to make the black appear in the green range.  You can test this by taking black paint and adding some yellow to it.  You will see that as you add more yellow the black becomes more green.
In the painting, the black background is a seems to be more of a dull green, the construction paper is a bright green and the white has a warm cast on the flat surface of the top and a dull or grayish version of green on the cylinder.  Now, let's analyze why.  You can easily understand the why the back and foreground are in the green ranges. With the warm/yellow light of the lamp, the green paper is going to be even greener because we are essentially adding more yellow to the color.  The top of the tissue is going to be a warmer color, but the sides are going to be a bit duller and cooler because white paint is a cool color by nature.  Still, the roll is in the green family.

Look what happens when we change the ground color from green to red.

     I hope you are finding this as interesting as I am.  As I paint more of these exercises I will post the results and try to explain why things are happening as they are.  I always welcome your thoughts and comments.

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