Friday, February 26, 2010


Today I paint a gray morning sky. Values are close. Excitement in this painting depends on subtle variations of color. I decide to approach it with a different process than usual. Usually I choose the predominant color of a shape, lay that in, then make alterations according to variations that I see. This time I work backwards. The sky is predominantly blue-violet. Because it is very neutral, there is yellow in there. I find the most yellow part of it, identify it as an orange -yellow, mix it to the proper value, and grade that in from most to least. I continue in this manner with blue-violet, red-violet, and several other colors, grading each from its stronghold into the mix. I end up with a sky of proper value, with varied gradations of gray, ready to receive details.

The effect is almost magical, and much more vibrant than the effect I get by starting with gray and mixing color notes to reflect the variations.

What I think is going on here: This result is a recognition that the gray is never really gray at all. The reading of neutral colors is always problematic, particularly with very light and very dark neutrals. By starting with the less neutral qualities in the color, we invite the eye-brain to compare from the outset. Then the painting is variations that, when the eye-brain moves over the color field, allow it to form its own conclusions about the neutrality of the color.

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