Tag Archives: complementary color

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


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Developing Your Personal Color Palette, Part 1

Blue and Orange Complementary Color Scheme

Have you noticed that you always gravitate toward certain colors in your home or wardrobe?

Do you wonder where to start when building a harmonious color scheme for an art project?

Would you like a more precise vocabulary for describing and mixing colors?

In this series of 4 posts, I will describe ways to identify and use your personal color palette.  These exercises are aimed at collecting or creating art, but can also be used to develop a color palette for your wardrobe or home décor.

Over the years, people have been challenged by how to describe color.  Clothing and paint manufacturers raid the thesaurus to come up with names like “live wire” and “confetti”.  I doubt even Merlin could imagine his namesake color.

In the early part of the 20th century, a painter and art teacher, Albert H. Munsell, developed a system for naming color.  He said that color has three characteristics; hue, value, and chroma.  Hue is the color name such as red or green.  Value is how light or dark it is.  Chroma (also called intensity) describes the purity of the color.  In general, paint straight out of the tube has the highest chroma.  However, there are exceptions.  For example, Hansa yellow has higher chroma than yellow ochre.  The intensity scale moves from pure color toward neutral gray.  All colors can be described using a combination of these terms.   For example, “live wire” is a light-medium value, high chroma, yellow-orange.  And Merlin, bless his heart, is a medium-dark value, medium intensity violet.  Are you getting a better picture?  Being able to describe colors in this way is a good starting point for mixing colors and talking about it with others.

In part 2, I’ll talk more about the Munsell color system and how to use it.

In the meantime, start collecting color samples that appeal to you from magazines, personal photos, favorite objects, and natural elements.  Don’t be concerned about the images; just concentrate on color and try to identify what you like. Later we’ll identify common themes in your collection and build a collage of your personal palette.  At the top of the post is an example of one of my favorites, a high intensity complementary palette of blue and orange, but yours will likely be very different.

Read the other parts of the series..

Part 2:  Developing Your Palette Using the Munsell Color Wheel

Part 3:  Analyzing Your Personal Color Palette

Part 4:  Using your Personal Color Palette

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Sunny Palms

Last Dance Acrylic 11x14"

This week I’m continuing the tropical garden theme.  Isn’t it nice to remember the  warmth of the tropics during a cold snap in the winter?  This abstract palm painting has the same sunny color scheme as the bathroom mural I was working on last week.  The dominant yellow is contrasted with blue purple shadows and accents of red-purple and blue-green.

Wishing you the warmth of the tropics for your holiday season!

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Why Fauvism?

Once I was in a choir where the director taught us how to hit the high notes.  She said if you strain to slide up toward the high note, you’ll always be flat.  To hit the right pitch, imagine that you’re on a path in the jungle.  A wild beast jumps out of the shadows and scares you.  You let out a screech and jump for the tree branch overhead.  With enough momentum, you may miss the branch, but you can catch it on the way down.   So aim above the note you want and land solidly on it from above.

Color in painting works the same way.  The pure hues of Fauvism bring in the wild beast energy, but leave you with options.  If you decide to reduce the intensity, you can do some mixing and blending.  On the other hand, if you start out mixing low intensity colors, it’s very difficult to pump up the color excitement.

Little Venice

Do you want more color excitement in your painting?  Do you appreciate brilliant color in paintings that you observe or collect, but want to know more about how it is created?   If so, try this experiment….choose a pair of complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel), for example orange and blue.  Paint some simple paintings or find photos of art with a lot of blue and orange.  Find a level of intensity that is “too much”.  Then find one that is “just right”.  What makes the difference?  Does the “just right” color combination add in some lower intensity version of the colors?  Does it include other pairs of complements, or some grays?  Is “just right” accurate natural color, or do you like some exaggeration? Do you find your self appreciating the art for the color combination as well as for the subject matter?   How does this affect your painting or collecting?
Please post comments about your observations.

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Fauvism: Part 2

Georges Braque was another French artist who was influenced by Matisse and Derain.   He painted in the Fauvist style for a short period before evolving toward cubism.  See several examples of his work in this article:  http://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/braque.php

In House Behind the Trees, the red and purple tree trunks and bright yellow roof are examples of the arbitrary color favored by the Fauves while the light and dark values allow the subject matter to be clearly recognizable.  Bits of red carry the eye around the composition.  Landscape at La Ciotat ventures even further into pure color. Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel such as blue/orange or purple/yellow-green) are juxtaposed to create visual vibration.  In both of these pieces dark outlines add linear elements, and the composition is enhanced with pattern.  As with the other Fauves, simplified shapes suggest the landscape, but keep focus on brilliant color.

First Light, Acrylic, 14x11"

My paintings often include many of the Fauvist ideas.  Painting on location, I capture shapes that characterize the place, then look for complementary colors and exaggerate the contrast.  In this piece, from Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the early morning light touched the tops of the cliffs and tips of the trees, while the canyon walls and red dirt road remained in deep shadows. So I enhanced the colors using the contrast of blue with orange and green with red.

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