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Perspectives No. 412 - Color Mixing Master Class

Color Mixing Master Class

Perspectives No. 412

The Grand Canal, Venice, 1908, Claude Monet 
The Grand Canal, Venice     1908     Claude Monet

   What makes an object look three-dimensional? We use a variety of cues to give us this information: light and shadow, contrast, pattern, color, texture, scale, temperature and value, usually in combinations. Our ability to measure these different parameters and make a decision about the importance of something in our field of vision is automatic and immediate—a product of millions of years of evolving visual sophistication. Our color-sensitive binocular vision has enabled us to be the among the most successful of the sighted animals on the planet, and it is what allows us to perceive and appreciate visual beauty. Most people do not have to think much about visual perception, but as artists, it is useful to investigate.

   When we first began to study drawing and painting, we learned to render a 3-D object in a realistic manner employing a host of the visual cues, often in an unconscious way. As we began to learn more about black and white drawing, we came to understand more fully the effects of value—what the Italians term "chiaroscuro" (literally, light and shade). By the time we gained some proficiency at chiaroscuro work, we started working with color and quite naturally began to use value changes in our colors to create a three-dimensional effect.

   This is all well and good, unless our education lacks a solid understanding of color temperature, and how temperature, by itself, can and does affect our perception of form. As the shape of any object turns away from the light source, it undergoes a temperature change. It may also display a value change as well, but not in every case. There are some situations, such as an overcast day, dusk, pre-dawn, or a dimly lit interior when light conditions are not intense enough to create significant value changes in objects, yet we are still able to perceive reliable information about our environment and the objects in it. This is so because we can perceive temperature changes as changes in form and distance.

   The Impressionists loved to exploit this effect in their paintings. Temperature changes were an essential ingredient in their paintings and allowed them to create their scintillating, light-filled canvasses. They thoroughly understood the power of a limited value range in reproducing the effects of sunlight. Cezanne and Monet especially triumphed at these kinds of techniques, so much so, that most people aren’t aware of the “missing” values.

   If you would like to learn more about the importance of color temperature and how to mix vibrant beautiful and clean colors from a limited palette, don’t miss our articles: Creating Three Dimensions with Color Temperature, and Mixing Colorful Grays in Oil.

   Better yet, take one of our LIVE online painting workshops. Paint along, ask questions and get instant feedback. You’ll learn more about color and painting in three mornings than you thought possible. Guaranteed. Join us!

 

(Portions of this blog were previously published in: Creating Three Dimensions with Color Temperature).




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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