What’s in a Color?
Those who have seen my work know that one of my signature ingredients is color. But I’ve never attempted to explain the significance of those colors,
Where did my love of color in my art come from? I think it began as a young teen who was attracted to artists like Marc Chagall, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, and Georges Rouault. They used colors liberally to convey mood and emotion in their work.
When I began painting again, I was drawn to color, just as they were, and began to experiment with it and make them my own.
My palette contains a spectrum of colors that I lay out before each painting and refill as needed: Titanium White, Beige, Naple’s Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium (lots of yellows!), Cadmium Orange Medium, Cadmium Red Medium, Magenta, Cadmium Green Light, Spruce Green, Phthalo Green, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Purple Dioxine, Burnt Sienna, and Burnt Umber. Lately I I’ve also been putting a few metallics off to the side: gold, silver, and metallic blue.
Do I have favorites? Yes!
Yellows. It’s funny because I neither wear much yellow nor decorate with them, and yet I love to paint with them! My two favorites are Cadmium Yellow Light and Cadmium Yellow Medium.
Cadmium Yellow Light is yellow in it’s pure, untarnished state. It’s the color of the sun. It’s blissful and happy.
Cadmium Yellow Medium is a more sophisticated yellow. It is wise and intelligent. It is also a great color to use as a glaze to brighten other colors.
Blues– Blue is a moody yet harmonizing color. It is space and movement. Perhaps not fast movement, more like a steady momentum through time. It is also a good color to use in the shadows.
A blue I recently discovered is Wedgewood Blue. It’s more of a mysterious, hazy blue and seems very appropriate for my China Paintings, particularly of my Beijing Market Series- with its smoggy beauty. This color juxtaposed with the metallic blue is a knockout!
Titanium White– I always feel a bit rebellious using this color. I had an art teacher once who abhorred the use of white. Her reasoning was that we would use it as a crutch. She felt that we should mix our true colors and avoid white because it would wash our painting out.
But, on the contrary, I find that when I use titanium white, I create a more decadent version of that color. Green becomes a honeydew melon. Yellow becomes a yellow sherbet. Red becomes, (you guessed it!), a soft pink. These colors must be used sparingly but they can add a lot of oomph to a painting. (so, anonymous art teacher, I defy you!)
Burnt Sienna– A reddish brown. As a glaze, it has the ability to darken colors while allowing them to maintain their core values. I really like this color, but dole it out in small quantities since it can quickly change a color to mush if not used wisely.
Ultimately, colors need to have more than paint to back them up. They have to have design, composition, and a little knowledge to know which tones will look good together and how to blend them. But it really isn’t rocket science, it’s magic. Or at least, that’s how it feels to me.
How about you? What colors are you drawn to in life and in art? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Have a Wonderful, Colorful Week!