Sunday, September 27, 2020

Looking at Artists: Use of Color

 Scrolling through my Instagram feed today, I came across a post by Teresa Oaxaca.  It's a series of 3 detail shots of a face in one of her new paintings.  Here's the image that I keyed in on:

I have been focusing a lot of my attention on mixing and using rich but subdued colors.  Teresa's not that way at all: she uses rich, saturated colors.  For 99% of artists who try that approach, it results in gaudy messes.  Not for Teresa.  Her colors are vibrant and lively, everywhere.

And it's that "everywhere" that drew my attention.  Let's zoom in even more:


Do the blues jump out at you?  They should.  Look along the line between the lighted and the shadowed areas.  This area is called the intermediate zone, transition zone, and a variety of other names.  It's often darker than the shadowed area, which gets reflected light, and it's usually a bit cooler in color temperature.  Here, Teresa doesn't really make it darker.  And she doesn't just make it cooler, either.  She changes the color to a very definite blue.  Look at the lines along the cheek, just above and below the eyebrow, and along the underside of the nose: blue lines!  Now when I've done those areas, I mix some blue into the color, but it's really just been a muted cool dark, and my attention has been more on the warmer reflected light in the shadow zone.  Now I'm going to try some very definite blues for the transition zones.

And the eyes!  Look at that intense dark blue.  It's just as dark as the rest of the eye (which is disturbingly red over to the shadowed side), but the blue just reaches out and smacks you.  That's confidence in your colors.

There are subtle color shifts all over.  The skin color bounces back and forth between a cool red (alizarin with white?) and muted yellow (Indian yellow?).  They're laid next to each other, rather than mixed together, so your eye puts them together to say "flesh color".  

Great stuff.  More things for me to experiment with in the studio!

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