Sunday 4 May 2014

From Behind the Easel: On Colour and Design

From Behind the Easel: On Colour and Design

‘Into the Black Forest’ | 12" x 8” oil (sold)

The design of a painting encompasses many facets: composition, weight, scale, movement of the eye, texture… and colour.  Colour is often overlooked or underutilized as a design element.  Many artists feel that the use of colour is simply intuitive (though intuition certainly has value) when in fact it can be one of the most powerful tools in conveying the artist’s intentions. 

Bringing colour under conscious control is a fantastic device for creative communication and expression.  While I’ll design a painting using my own approach to colour theory, it’s also inspirational to see how certain colour combinations appear in nature such as the particular green of stem and leaf complimenting a red rose. 

During a family trip to the Black Forest in Germany, we went for a hike in an alpine meadow and came across this lovely scene of a mountain stream carving its winding way down the slope.  I was taken by the natural harmony of the various greens in the grass enhanced by the analogous blue of the distant hill and reflections in the water as well as the hints of yellow in the setting sky.

For all you colour nerds/enthusiasts, these colours work well with each other because of their close analogous placement on the colour wheel.  In other words, it is the third of the colour wheel between yellow and blue.  Despite the dominant colours being green and blue, I feel I achieved an overall warmth in the painting through the use of yellow.

In the design of this piece, I consciously used colour (and saturation) to help move the eye through and around the various elements of the landscape. For example, the use of the two blues near the top and the bottom of the composition, move the eye back and forth between those areas.  The yellow of the sky reflected in the stream and then played up in the bottom left hand corner creates another path for the eye.  These keep the painting interesting and gives the viewer a sense of movement, despite the scene being idyllic and restful.

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