Colours, the bane of my existence.
I just cannot come to grips with them.
I know about the color wheel(s) and how complementary colours create contrast, how cold colours creep into the shadows, about saturated colours draw focus and seem more alive, while desaturated colours are more for background colours, how in enviros the sky-colour overlaps the background and kind of fades it (though this might be a value-thing), ...
But for some reason I am unable to select a combination of colours that works together harmoniously. I feel like I'm missing a critical piece of information that everyone else seems to have been clued into.
I mean look at the frist forest picture that matt has over in his sketchbook:
There is blue, green, red, purple and everything in between.
I spent hours yesterday trying to find the right base colours for a simple field with some popies and sky with a already sketched girl walking through. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat,...
My frustrations have reaching boiling point. Put me out of my misery. PLEASE!
I'm afraid the "clue" you are missing here might be experience.
It's one thing to be familiar with the theory, but making it work is a matter of experience on using those theories and having a good colour eye that you get through from practice.
A good sense of design and composition matters too though.
Also, with your field image, did you use colour references or did you try to wing it from your mind?
@ Suhsealyuh: Thanks for the link, however it's a tutorial that is familiar to me. To be sure I still have things to learn from it, but when it comes to just doing skin I'm pretty ok. The wall I'm hitting is when I need to get colours to work together.
@TinyBird: I was afraid that was going to be the answer. The problem is that if I don't know what I'm doing wrong I don't know what to change. I think I'm making the same mistake(s) over and over and over again.
In my image I was winging it, because the colours I had in mind were more vivid that in reality. Kind of like in Matt's picture. (Also WLAN connection is really bad in the room I draw in so I'd unhook the pc, get a better connection, look for a ref and go back) In the end I got an OK result for the field and sky to work together, but then I had issues with the skin colour.
Sounds to me like you think you know enough but really don't. The examples of your knowledge you listed above sound like a grab bag of tricks you picked up from painting tutorials and actually show that you don't really understand the fundamentals of light and color.
Get a good book and read it and understand it is my recommendation.
Well, I'll suggest you to read Itten's "The Elements of Colour" or his "The Art of Colour" and just doing lots of colour studies from real life. Choose ref photos with people under different lighting and study those.
@Atreides: I'm not a woman. When I say there is information / knowledge I am missing, I mean exactly that. I'm not secretly saying I understand it all. Colour is something I cannot seem to wrap my head around. I stated some of the things that I've read about, and I tried to make work for me, but am unable to. Hence my cry for help.
@ Zazers: I had a quick look at the link. It's mostly text and graphs, without any examples. Just the sort of thing that will give me a headache and does not hold much promise for feeble-minded me. I will get the asperines ready and get to reading it.
@TinyBird: My budget for drawing has been used up already this month. But do you have happen to have any good links for such reference pictures?
also, try this: get an image and try to colorpick by eye, that is tool around with sliders and try the color on the image. Then compare the color you thought of and the actual color, you'll see that the original is 'more saturated and more blue'.
I'd recommend using R/G/B sliders. That way it's more like mixing paint, you can see that 'this color has more red in it than I thought', or 'it's pretty much gray, but with a dab of blue'.
Work from life dude. It will teach you because it's damn hard. Colour and tone are kind of musical; if you want to improvise freely and accurately (like you say you have a hard time to do), you have to work with them and explore possibilities; absorb all possible knowledge like a sponge. For many, it helps to solve one problem at a time: First drawing, then value and finally colour.
There are no theory books on colour in the world that will ever substitute working from observation. Yes, the theory can be helpful, but mostly they help you make sense of the things you observe.
My preferred method for colour selection is to go to my collection of digital photos and find the ones that have the colours that I'd like to use in my painting. In your case, I'd start out with photos of poppies and seasonal pictures of the outdoors that also represent the time of day that I want to represent (night, dusk, dawn...). I then use the area colour picker to extract the colours that I'm most interested in. Instead of using swatches, I like to draw each colour as a blob on the page. Try to limit yourself to 8 - 16 colours. This is now your base palette.
About half-way through your painting, you can start to use levels, curves and hue/saturation layers to help unify the colours on the page. I can't give any specific advice here - it always depends on the situation.
If you're not painting digitally, you can still create your base palette from photographs, print the palette using an inkjet printer and mix your paints to match.
Ask yourself carefully whether your problem really is just finding colours that go together "harmoniously", or whether it is more to do with creating effects of light such as are shown in the example you linked to. If it's the latter, then you may need to do some more study on how light and colour vision work. Try to find a teacher who encourages observation, analysis and understanding, instead of a collection of rules like the ones you quoted.
I have a bit about colour and light on my site (linked below; see especially the section on "Principles of Colour"), but if you haven't read it already I'd recommend you read James Gurney's new book "Colour and Light" first. If you're still having trouble I'd be happy to comment on your work on my colour theory discussion thread (also linked below).
Study is helpful but to really learn you have to go outside and paint landscapes. If you know what you say you do, you should be able to see the colors in the landscape and then paint them as you see them. You will build a mental library of experience. And after awhile you will be able to contstruct landscapes from your imagination. It is the fastest way to learn. Photos are garbage compared to actually being outside and you can spot painters that never worked from life because their color and values are so bad.
dpaint: Photos are a great way to build and understand fast mental libraries of how colors work and relate to eachother. Going outside to paint is a lot more intense since everything, value, chroma and hue changes, depending on angle, time of the day etc, and its not what I would recommend doing as you're starting to learn color. Painting things around you on the other hand, and then eventually going out, starting out in simple color (brown'ish hues maybe) and gradually moving on to work with the temperature in landscapes etc. Is imho a better approach unless you're looking to be overwhelmed by something that comes in a billion examples and variation that is color.
Looking at bad photographs doesn't teach you anything at all. Unless you want to paint like a bad snapshot.
For learning how color and light really work, life is best. It doesn't have to be complicated. You can start with still life subjects, self portrait studies, multiple studies of the view out your window, etc.
Actually, that's exactly the sort of thing you should be learning when starting to learn about color and light. Because that's kind of what it's all about.Going outside to paint is a lot more intense since everything, value, chroma and hue changes, depending on angle, time of the day etc, and its not what I would recommend doing as you're starting to learn color.
Why spoon-feed this stuff? You gotta learn it, so go immerse yourself in it, even if it's going to be frustrating for a while...
I teach workshops a few times a year and I have people come into my workshops who've only painted from photos for years. Many are professional artists who want to make the change to gallery painting.
Their color sense is horrible, they have no sense of lighting and their values are lousy too. Thats what you learn from photos and copying.
In a week I get them painting outside and finishing paintings in one sitting outside. Everything in those paintigs is so much better than what they were doing before. You just have to get out and paint. It's hard at first but any reasonaly intelligent person can learn it with in a few months of persistent effort.
thats how you can use them to see how color schemes work themselves out, or what colors causes a certain mood, or what colors makes you feel a certain way, and how color relate to eachother in the sense that using complementaries will help you with simplifying your color palette etc etc etc."By looking at paintings and good photographs, you can see how other people (photographers and painters) have handled various light and color situations"
And the above sentences is what i wanted to say in response to dpaint's comment on that "paint exactly what you see from life".
I have no idea how both of you interpreted my comment as being "draw only from photos. life is bad", I only gave my opinion on how to opt into it in a smooth way where you won't be overwhelmed by the amount of information observed. And all the steps you take into learning color, whatever its painting stuff on your desk, or painting a grand landscape filled with verdure and fun hue/saturation changes, can be backed up and re-insured by looking at GOOD photos or GOOD paintings.
The other thing is once you begin to look at nature as your guide you don't necessarily need to be out painting - you can just spend time observing, comparing and studying shadows, light, atmosphere wherever you happen to be - but it helps to know what to be looking for.
Anyway, just my two cents I wanted to add.
If you want to get better at colours it helps to love colour and pay attention to it. All the time, not just when you're lugging an easel around outside or sitting in front of Photoshop. You can get good colour sense from photos. You can get good colour sense from life. You can get good colour sense from hanging around the mall asking yourself whether those magenta pants really go with the brown boots or whether you ought to buy the teal sneakers instead. But you know, you gotta notice this shit before you get any good at it.
Hell, you could do worse than spend some time with a stack of paint chips trying to figure out what you like and what you think is butt-ugly.
I missed that "woman" crack... yeah. What?
When I was in school, they had us working exclusively from life for a year, we weren't allowed to use photo ref until our second year. We complained at first (students always complain,) but it turned out to be a very efficient way to learn in the end.
How can one hope to strangle that one has no "grasp" of?
Anyways, stereotypical sexist "humor" aside, I've struggled with this same issue, and the only thing aside from color theory that has helped me with color has been trial and error. I don't think there seems to be any finite solution to perfect color picking. Like design, there are guidelines for how to start, but the end of the journey is more up to you than any rule.
"Doing something half-assed more than once just makes you more of an ass."
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I am not saying that learning from life isn't very important, I'd be the one to say it if it wasn't already said, but its important to see other ways as well, and to suggest alternatives.
I've learnt, and as I said in my last post, confirmed/re-insured, a lot of information and come to a lot of realizations when looking and studying paintings and photos.