Lesson 6 Color

Because entire libraries have been written about the technical aspects of the fine arts, and just as many DVDs on the subject are available, I will limit my contribution. I do still owe you the last bit about color. Later in this series, I hope to discuss some ideas about composition, the organizing element, and everything that goes along with it.

However, the essential part will concern a mental approach: how do I transform reality, how do I make an artistic connection between image and reality, how do I achieve my own style. This part, which has been wrongly left out of the literature about the fine arts, will come from a philosophical/psychological perspective rather than a technical one.

But before we start on that, first the icing on the color cake.

Color choice is very personal, so follow your own taste and don’t lean too much on another’s palette. I am not giving out recipes, just a few personal hints.

Limit your palette to the three primary colors in various shades. Blue can be cobalt or indigo, red can be madder or burnt sienna, yellow can be lemon or raw sienna. These are only examples. There are many more choices, of course. Some painters have a cool and a warm version of each primary on their palette: madder besides burnt sienna, phthalo next to ultramarine, and lemon besides raw sienna. Others use only the so-called printer’s colors: magenta, cyan, and primary yellow. The choices are unlimited, so experiment for yourself.

A perfect example of a limited palette

Don’t turn art into trickery by imitating others too much, including in your color choices. There are plenty of epigones already. Don’t become yet another Zbukvic or Castagnet. Become yourself by rising above technique through trial and error, thus developing your own handwriting. But be aware that developing creativity takes time. You don’t help an emerging butterfly by prying open its cocoon. This rarely serves the butterfly well. Art teachers should therefore limit themselves to being guides along the way. In fact, too much knowledge can be a hindrance to creativity. Your joy in playing must show in the work, not just how cleverly you have created that atmosphere again. Trust in your inner voice rather than in fads and brief successes based on secondhand examples. The results can look quite good at first glance, but closer inspection reveals a lack of soul. An experienced viewer will notice this. Therefore, I don’t teach merely the development of technical skills. I gladly leave that to other teachers. It is more important to me to change attitudes and provide the right conditions. I know from experience the false starts, the pitfalls, and the urge to imitate which threaten your creativity.

More next time about this mental process which gets little to no attention in the literature and DVDs, in “Listening with your eyes”.

The Image is a perfect example of a limited palette

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