Colorists see color intensely. Some have this ability naturally. Some study color with a colorist to see hues that are normally overlooked.
A colorist may select to use a yellow color to depict a lighter value rather than automatically grabbing white to mix in with a color. There are ways to keep a color alive when you do add white- add the next color up on the color wheel toward yellow.
Colorists immediately see a bias toward either yellow or blue that a color has within it.
I was trained classically as a tonalist by many masterful artists. It took me years to master seeing values. As I advanced in my academic training I gravitated toward brilliant colors that lifted my spirit. Using a limited palette, a harmonious and colorful painting can be created. I use a double primary set: a warm and cool yellow, a warm and cool red, a warm and cool blue and white. See my supply list.
The marriage of the left and right brain, the logic and intuition, the intuitive and academic training assists me when painting.
Everyone starts as an intuitive artist before any academic training. All kids just draw or paint with wonderful compositions and pure colors.
If you have the desire to understand more about brilliant colors and remember what pure expression felt like, simply start with a doodle and just bravely color it in. See what colors shows up. Try using more of the intuitive side of your brain again.
Attempt to use prismatic colors, ROYGBIV, you know, the colors in a rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Mix them together in some areas of your doodle to see what happens to them when mixed with other colors. When overly mixed, mud is created. Colorists keep their colors purer.
In my workshops you have an opportunity to learn how to mix colors confidently and see and use color charts to better understand colors relationships and temperature changes.
Color is relative. The variety of hues will be affected by what lies close to them. Colors appear differently, lighter or darker, warmer or cooler, depending on what they are sitting next to or what is beneath the skin as can be seen in a portrait.
A particular red may appear bright and warm when next to a green but dark and cooler when on top of an orange.
Colorists look for a value and temperature change. Is the color warmer (leaning more to yellow, orange or red) or cooler (leaning toward blue, green or purple)? Each color has a bias and colorists are able to use these undertones to make their paintings come alive using interesting color combinations.
Look at the local color in an object, say an lemon. It could be painted a darker and lighter version of yellow to create form. Illustrators often keep the colors simple to convey their message quickly and simply. Colorists may use color to create form as Cezanne did.
Colorists think about what surrounds an object also affecting its color. What is reflecting up from the table surface onto the object in the shadows? Is it the green napkin or a blue plate or a red tablecloth? Is there a warm or a cool light source? In the case of the lemon, instead of darker and lighter versions of yellow, colorists see oranges and blues, and many other colors. They look for subtle color reflections.
Is the world that a colorist lives in much brighter than what most people see?
The students in my Introduction to Art class at State University of NY in Orange County often would proclaim "I see the violets in the mountains now!". They were so excited! I loved teaching them to see color. It is like going from black and white tv to color tv for the first time. When that happens you are beginning to see like a colorist.
Keep reading below for Clue #3 and #4.
There are rainbows all around us which is why I chose a prismatic set of colors when creating the "Color and Energy" Signature Set by Jack Richeson of 80 handrolled soft pastels. The method of using prismatic colors was taught to me in classes I attended regularly from 1999 to 2001, by John Phillip Osborne who learned it from his teacher, Arthur Maynard, who learned it from his teacher Frank Vincent Dumond who studied in Paris and was more of an impressionist. Once I saw Dummond's work, I knew how to take all I learned from Osborne and make it my own.
Begin with the foundational skills and then adventure beyond what you see and know to incorporate what you feel within when using color.
Yes, I believe colorists see colors differently. I also know that I feel color very deeply and so do some other colorists I know. Think about your favorite color shirt, how does it make you feel? Does something shift in your body when you wear your favorite color?
I remember how I felt when my favorite shirt blew overboard on a canoe ride down the Delaware River when I was only 18 years old. That shirt made me feel so good and when it went overboard, I felt a loss.
Colors speak differently. Some are softer and peaceful while some are energetic and uplifting.
People don't see colors the same so of course they think differently about them. I am convinced of this. In a self portrait I painted around 1988 I painted colors that I felt instead of what I saw. I was then studying portraiture with Arthur Sarnoff (after he retired from teaching at Pratt). He was then teaching at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Recently I found out that his teacher was Andrew Wyeth.
In his class I thought I was painting a "realistic" painting of myself. Sarnoff taught me to use three values only in one single hue to paint a portrait. I chose three values of purple (and the green is the reflected light from my green shirt). It wasn't until years later that I realized my "odd" color choice for the flesh tone. It looked normal to me until I began studying more about the temperature of colors. Years later, I noticed it was not "realistic" after I took a week long workshop with Daniel Greene .
I believe our seeing changes each time our perspective shifts. This is based on the fact that when I was very young and in a bad environment, I painted in mostly dark, somber and gray tones with a small amount of bright, pure color sparks.
My mood affected my colors. Doesn't mood affect the colors you like? Think about what colors you have gravitated to from year to year and how they make you feel.
What do the colors you paint or like tell you about you?
Come play in one of our workshops in Sarasota, FL this winder. Or you might want to join us in Greece, Sept. 2019, to play and understand color even more. The founder of the International Plein Air Painters, Jacq Baldini and I will be leading the group. If you have interest, please contact us and let us know what your interests are to see if you are right for this trip. Contact