Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Developing Sheen and Luminescence; the Illusive Art of Mixing Color

"Fuchsia Fantastic" acrylic on 18 x 14 canvas
My latest project above, is finished. I do wish I could have achieved a better “hot pink.” There are so many variations of red, and when you add a touch of dark blue and a small dab of white sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes not. I wanted the painting to be seen as a whole and not have a bright color jump out and grab you, so maybe the compromise I made works best. I’ll let you be the judge.

"work in progress" hot pink!
One of the most complex colors to paint is white. If you’ve ever spent time in a paint store trying to select a white hue for your walls, you know what I mean. We currently have an off white color on our walls. I chose a sample square of “Marshmallow White” to make some touch ups. Ooooops! My color choice showed up grayer and darker on the wall.

I have another sample of “Antique White” which I’ll try next. I’m hoping this will be a match. There is a slight undertone of gold in the mix rather than gray.

Trying to paint white on a canvas is quite another matter. White isn’t just white. White reflects the colors you have in your painting and may essentially mirror every color in the rainbow. White is neither a primary color, nor a secondary or tertiary color. It is considered an achromatic color “of maximum lightness,” according to Ora Sorenson in her article “A Rainbow of White” in “the Artist’s magazine,” Jan./Feb. 2009.

“White is not the absence of color but a combination of all colors in the visible spectrum in equal proportions,” said Sorenson.

(Notice how the white costumes reflect every color in the painting and seem to glow from within)
When painting an all white composition, each element of white must differentiate itself from the one next to it in order for it to reveal its shape and appearance. Using a distinct set of complimentary colors in the shadows and contours of each object such as red and green, yellow and purple, or blue and orange, not only separates forms, but adds a luminous quality to the finished piece.

Another method of adding distinctness is through glazing. Once the painting is dry, adding a simple glaze of color over each object can add a glow and a hint of color. Contrasts and highlights can also add depth and interest to an all white painting.

(Notice how the white feathers reflect the water and lily pads)
Using too much white in the mixing of color can sometimes be overkill. Colors may look pasty and lifeless. But if white is the main color in your composition, play it up big and make it take on a life of its own as it shimmers and reflects from within all of the colors it actually contains.

Don’t be afraid of white. Use it sparingly in mixing colors, but turn it into something splendid when you use it as one of the main players.
(The whites in this paiinting reflect the colors that surround each object)