Category Archives: Color Theory

Colorways #3

Banks of the Congaree #3 12x12 inches Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas ©2016 Lucinda Howe

Banks of the Congaree #3
12×12 inches
Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas
©2016 Lucinda Howe

In my last two posts, I talked about changing the colorway of a design to change the mood. In this third painting of trees along the Congaree River, I used fiery sunset colors to contrast with the blues and greens of the trees.

To see all three of these paintings together, plan to visit my exhibition ABIDING TREES at Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia, SC, opening October 3rd.  Click here for more details and a short video preview.

Also posted in Acrylics

Colorways #2

Banks of the Congaree #2 12x12 inches Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas ©2016 Lucinda Howe

Banks of the Congaree #2
12×12 inches
Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas
©2016 Lucinda Howe

Last week I talked about changing the colorway of a design to change the mood. In this second painting of trees along the Congaree River, I changed the colors from cool blues and greens to yellow and blue-purple. I darkened the shadows under the trees to increase the contrast and suggest the golden light of late afternoon.

When I incorporate familiar shapes with personal color choices, I’m inviting the viewer to see common things in a different light.

Banks of the Congaree #2 will be on display in my exhibition ABIDING TREES at Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia, SC, opening October 3rd. Click here for more details and a short video preview.

Tagged |



Banks of the Congaree 12x12 inches Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas ©2016 Lucinda Howe

Banks of the Congaree #1
12×12 inches
Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas
©2016 Lucinda Howe

In the design world, colorways are different color combinations using the same pattern. You see it often in wallpaper and tiles. For a simplified example, think of a checkerboard pattern of light and dark squares. A traditional colorway is black and white. Different colorways might combine yellow and purple or pink and dark green. Even though the colors change, the pattern is still recognizable.

The same concept applies to painting. If you maintain light and dark relationships, you can use any colors you like.

In my series of paintings of the Gervais Street Bridge and surrounding areas, I selected this grove of trees along the west bank of the Congaree River to experiment with colorways.   The dark silhouettes of the trees and the dappled sunlight on the rocks form a strong contrast of light and dark. This first colorway uses the vibration of complementary blue and orange colors against cool blues receding the background. The mood is cool and cheerful. Next week, I’ll change the colors to create a completely different mood.

Also posted in Acrylics Tagged |

Pushing the Colors

McNair Farm 9x12 inches Oil on panel ©2016 Lucinda Howe $295

McNair Farm
9×12 inches
Oil on panel
©2016 Lucinda Howe

Another cloudy day. Sigh.

After a week of rain, an overcast day was an improvement. But I would have preferred a sunny day for a plein air excursion. The contrast of sun and shadow defines forms and adds drama to a painting. I heard grumbling from other painters about how hard it was to capture the soft light. However, our group had been invited to visit the McNair farm near Winnsboro, SC with a charming old house, numerous outbuildings, an old commissary, and a vegetable garden. I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity to paint in an unusual place.

I selected a view that included some very healthy tomato plants in front of a farm shed. I liked the shapes, but the colors were dull…green with gray-brown and rust. Since I like saturated colors, I wanted to see how far I could push the local colors while maintaining the limited value range of a cloudy day. I started on a red ground as usual with a predominantly green color scheme in mind.   I introduced complementary red-purple on the roof and damp bare earth. On a cloudy day, highlights are cool and the soft shadows are warm, so I used a dark orange for the pinestraw under the tomato plants. I chose blue for the weathered building and used muted light blue-greens for the distant trees.

During critique, the group noted that I had the tree and inside of the shed too dark, so I made a few adjustments in the studio today. Overall, it was a good experience to paint in circumstances I might not have chosen and get feedback from the group.

Also posted in Oil Painting, Plein Air Tagged |

Spring Haze

Spring Haze

Spring Haze
Acrylic and textured paper on masonite
©2002 Lucinda Howe

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In celebration of the day and of the beautiful warm spring weather in South Carolina, I’ve been thinking about GREEN.  Today I’m featuring one of my early pieces inspired by the verdant landscape at Sandhill Recreation and Education Center.  In early spring the trees have a hazy look, chartreuse and pink, leaves not yet distinct.  In this painting I used textured paper to give the illusion of tangled vegetation above the smooth surface of the lake.   The palette is monochromatic, but includes a wide range of greens to represent different kinds of trees and water plants.


Also posted in Acrylics Tagged |

Artful Living

Winter Garden Tablescape ©2014 Lucinda Howe

Winter Garden
©2014 Lucinda Howe

This weekend I was decluttering my seldom-used serving pieces and preparing for guests for dinner.  I discovered some forgotten pieces and started to put together a table setting.   I seldom use a matched set of china, preferring to mix odd pieces in a different way each time.   In this case, place mats in a natural green formed the base and mixed well with green palm plates and flatware with red-orange handles.

I also looked around my garden for anything that might work as a “floral” arrangement.  In South Carolina, there is always something green even in the winter…palms, holly, juniper, ivy.  I selected broad magnolia leaves for a solid green base of my arrangement and some variegated elaeagnus to add a punch of brighter yellow green along with nandina berries for a pop of red.  I put the greenery together in a glass bowl on an orange glass plate.

This morning I was complaining to my walking buddy, Cousin Pat, that I had not done any painting over the weekend and didn’t have anything new to post in my blog this week.   She reminded me that I was just making art in a different medium and should post a photo of my table setting.  As I made the photo and thought about my process, I realized I’m using a favorite color combination that often appears in my landscape paintings… blue and green with bits of red-orange.  If you look back through some of my previous blog posts you will see this combination appear often.

Have you had this experience?  Do you have favorite color combinations that appear repeatedly in your home, wardrobe, and artwork?

Also posted in Garden Tagged |

What Is Chroma?


Pear with Turquoise and Rose
Acrylic on paper
©2013 Lucinda Howe

Blue Green Dominant, Red complement
Discords purple and yellow
©2013 Lucinda Howe


Would you like to know more about how colors interact with each other?   Do you want to know how to avoid making “mud” when you mix colors?   Do you want to refine your own sense of color and be able to describe it to other people?  Do you have a favorite color that appears in much of your work?

In the next few weeks, I will be starting a new series on color theory based on the Munsell color system.  Click here to see the Munsell color wheel and learn how it is organized.

Because the terms used to describe color are often confusing and imprecise, the Munsell system focuses on three characteristics to describe color… hue, value, and chroma.

  • Hue is the name name we usually associate with colors such as red or blue-green.
  • Value is how light or dark the color is.
  • Chroma is the purity or intensity of color.  In general, paints right out of the tube have the highest chroma, and mixed colors have lower the chroma.

My favorite way to use color is high intensity complements (opposites on the color wheel) with bits of other colors as accents .  My blue-green color chart above is based on colors directly from the tube.   However, you can also develop a less intense color scheme using the same colors.  The pear is an example of using the blue-green and red color scheme as a lower intensity.  Although I’ve labeled it turquoise and rose, a more accurate description would be

  • Turquoise = light value, medium intensity blue-green
  • Rose = light value, medium intensity red

What do you think about describing color in terms of value, chroma, and hue?   Does that make sense to you?  Try it out by describing your favorite color in the comments below.



Tagged |

Paint Like an Impressionist


Study for Impressionistic color
Acrylic on paper
©2013 Lucinda Howe

Have you seen the Impressionism from Monet to Matisse exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art?  The exhibit presents a broad overview of Impressionism and Post-impressionism from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you have a few more days until it closes on April 21st.

My favorite piece from the exhibit is Berthe Morisot’s Peasant Girl Among TulipsI love the color harmony and the way the shapes of the tulips echo the shapes of the girl’s dress and hair.  The colors give the impression of spring by staying with pure light colors and tints of darker colors and having very few dark values.  Complements placed next to each other in similar values create visual vibration.  The color chart above shows the types of pure colors and tints that would create this type of mood.  I often experiment with colors this way to understand how the color scheme works, then use it later with my own images.

If you would like to learn more about how the Impressionsists painted, you are invited to bring your art supplies and paint in Boyd Plaza in front of the Columbia Museum of Art with About Face this Saturday April 20th between 9:00 a.m. and noon.   There will be a costumed model as well as the Columbia cityscape for inspiration.  If you don’t want to paint, just come and watch.

Have you seen the exhibit?  What is your favorite piece?  Would you like to try your hand at painting like one of the Impressionist masters?  See you Saturday!

Also posted in Plein Air Tagged , |

Using your Personal Color Palette

Blue-orange Example

Under the Bridge, 24×24″, Acrylic, by Lucinda Howe, with collage used to develop color scheme

Did you make a collage of your favorite color combination in part 3, Analyzing Your Personal Color Palette?  If so, it’s time to use this as a basis for creating art.

Start by collecting your favorite art supplies. You  can use paint, pastels, fabric, or any other medium.  Mix or select colors to match your collage.  Pay attention to value and intensity.

Once you have mixed or selected colors, then choose your subject.  You can choose an abstract or geometric design or find an image that relates to your chosen color scheme.   Draw the design and then paint it with the colors you have chosen.  If you use a photo, you may need to replace some exiting colors with a different color of the same value, but stick with the preselected colors.  This will result in a harmonious color scheme.

This process shakes up the usual method of selecting the subject matter first and reminds you not to be constrained by “real” colors. The painting at the right is an example of this process.  In reality, this  bridge is gray stone, but I replaced the natural colors with colors from my blue and orange collage.

Now it’s your turn.  Make some art and post comments about your results.  Have you enjoyed this process?  Have you developed a color palette that works for you?

Read the other parts of the series..

Part 1:  Developing Your Personal Color Palette

Part 2:  Developing Your Palette Using the Munsell Color Wheel

Part 3:  Analyzing Your Personal Color Palette

Tagged |

Analyzing Your Personal Color Palette

After reading the first two parts of this series, Developing Your Personal Color Palette and Developing Your Palette Using the Munsell Color Wheel, have you collected samples of colors that appeal to you?  Now it’s time to analyze what you have.  Do you have just a few colors, or did you choose a wide variety?  If you have a variety, sort them into piles that have something in common and choose a favorite combination.

Yellow color scheme

Color Collage: Yellow and Blue-Purple

If you have collected objects, take photos of them and combine the photos with your other pictures to make a collage.  This doesn’t need to be fine art. Just stick them to a piece of paper with a glue stick. I made my collage by gluing my pictures to an 18×24” piece of drawing paper, but you can use any size paper.

Now, think about how your collection of colors can be described using the  three characteristics of color: hue, value, and chroma.  For example, I would describe my collage this way:

  • Hues: Mostly yellow with its complement blue-purple and bits of red-purple and blue-green
  • Value: Full range of light (white and yellow) to dark (blue-purple)
  • Chroma: Mostly high intensity with some less intense lighter colors.  Very few muted or gray colors.

If your collection is mostly leaves and twigs from the forest floor your description may be more like this:

  • Hues: Orange, yellow, green (analogous)
  • Values: Mostly middle values, very little extreme light or dark
  • Chroma: Low intensity, muted, grayed down

These descriptions are very different, aren’t they?  Of course we can see the difference, but this exercise builds a vocabulary for describing color with words.

Let me know how you do with this exercise.  Post the description of your personal color palette in the comments below.

Go to part 4, Using Your Personal Color Palette to learn how to use your new color vocabulary when you make or view art.

Read the other parts of the series..

Part 1:  Developing Your Personal Color Palette

Part 2:  Developing Your Palette Using the Munsell Color Wheel

Part 4:  Using your Personal Color Palette


Tagged , , , |