Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Imagining Color

A friend of mine took a fabulous photo on a small family farm we were visiting in Colorado a couple of years ago.  I love the composition and the animal faces.  I also love that it is black and white.  It was a very gray day. A distant storm was brewing over the mountains so there was very little light.  Black and while suited the scene perfectly.  Recently I decided to use this reference for a painting but I didn't want it to be colorless.  Here is the photo-

I cropped it in a bit but kept the square format and decided on a 12"x12" sized panel.  The values were set.  All I had to do was imagine color.

My initial block in was with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue thinned with some mineral spirits. I used a little ivory black for the darkest darks.  At this point the animals are just simple shapes that needed refinement.   I eliminated the cow's head at the right edge of the painting.

I toned the canvas with burnt sienna immediately before starting the painting.  That way I didn't have to stare at a white canvas but could still wipe out some highlights.  As a result of toning the sky is a pinkish orange color which I liked.  

Under the circumstances there could only be so much color.  Sheep, a cow and lots of mud doesn't scream "colorist territory" but I thought I could play with the tree and the distant mountains and sky.

Here I have put more paint on the canvas and tried to approximate the values in the photo.  I exaggerated the size and color of the distant mountains with a lighter more saturated blue and made the sky pink with some light yellow breaks in the cloud cover, giving it an over all orange impression.  I added some nondescript debris in the shed (so it wouldn't look like a black hole) and gave the fence a little more personality by leaning some posts and adding random stokes to suggest vegetation.  All the greens in this painting were made with ivory black and cad yellow light to keep them very grayed down.

Lastly I put a bit more light on the tree with some red tones, but I didn't want to indicate bright sunlight. I lightened up the ground and developed the faces of the sheep in the foreground trying to leave the animals in back as suggested forms.  I filled in the darks in the sheep with some warm and cool half tones.  After the painting was dry I glazed the distant field, the foreground and the shed with more chroma (saturated, less grayed), both warm and cool.

I had fun with this one and will try it again.  Exercises such as this help painters develop their imaginative skills and offer a break from the same old routine, just like trying challenging new subject material.

Many thanks to Laura Todd for providing the reference photo.

And thanks to you for reading!