I’ve spent the past few months studying Munsell color notation and color mixing with Paul Foxton. My goal was to learn to discern value and color more accurately and to be able to efficiently mix those colors in paint. I’ve posted some of my course studies below. The above painting was done outside of the course, and doesn’t represent what is taught in the course. It is just a fun little alla prima still life, done before taking down my shadow box and lighting set up used in the course. I learned so many important things in the class. I think the number one thing I learned is how much lower chroma (aka less saturation/vibrant) most things are. Most things, including people, are much less colorful than I thought. Also, regardless of race, we humans are all low chroma orange (or as Munsell would have it, Yellow-Red).
After struggling for a few days trying and failing to do a one-hour painting exercise as I posted yesterday, I returned to the studio determined to tackle the challenge again and this time, obey the timer. I “cheated” just a little, redefining the project to better suit my current abilities by doing a quick outline and monochrome block-in with diluted burnt sienna and pre-mixing my paint (below) before starting the timer. At exactly one hour I stopped and then gave myself 5 more minutes to soften the edges on the shadow and back of pear and to add a highlight. It’s not a masterpiece but I met the challenge and, most importantly, enjoyed it!
One done, two more to go before moving on and returning to some skull drawing and painting practice to enhance my ongoing portrait drawing and painting study.
I thought this color and portrait exercise was going to be hard, if not impossible, because of the crazy neon green and red lighting on the model. But because she was lit from the sides her face was modeled with visible planes and shapes it was surprisingly easier than the previous red/green portrait experiments. It was fun to paint and I’m really happy with everything about it. Below is the reference photo and the teacher’s study. I enjoy seeing how he makes each painting look like a different person, using the model as a jumping off place rather than going for a specific likeness.
Usually I pick the one image that I like the best to put at the top of my posts but after doing this exercise six times, I don’t know which, if any, I like at all. My struggles and mood on the day I was working on these studies really came through in the images. Each portrait seems to be saying what I was feeling, from “WTF!” to “I’m confused” to “Erk!” to “Help! Get me out of here!” To “Maybe it’s time to move on.” More about complementary colors and what I learned from this exercise after all the awful paintings below:
The goal of the Complementary Color part of the New Masters Academy Color Boot Camp is to work with different pairs of complementary colors under different lighting conditions and observe the way the colors interact, both visually in the image, and when mixing together on the palette. Complementary colors are clearly explained this Wikipedia page.
The easiest way to remember which colors are complements are to think of the triad of the three primary colors: red, blue and yellow. Pick a color; the missing part of the triad is its complement. If you pick green (composed of blue and yellow) then red is missing. Red and green are each other’s complements. Pick yellow and what’s missing? Red and blue. When combined they make purple. Therefore purple and yellow are complementary colors. Ditto for orange (red+yellow) and blue.
Things I noticed: Red and green, like all complements, when beside each other make each other look brighter, more vibrant. When mixed together they dull each other down and make a grayed color. I really struggled to get a likeness, and even though that isn’t the point of the color exercises I got determined (obsessive?) until I finally gave up. Flat, frontal lighting makes it hard to find landmarks and planes in the face.
The last images are of the original photo reference, the teacher’s painting and two Photoshopped pictures where I selected color spots on the reference photo using the eyedropper tool and painted a spot of that color on a layer above the photo layer (displayed here with and without the photo). I do that when I have trouble recognizing what colors I’m actually seeing. I never really nailed any of these, in likeness or color. But the next exercise came out really great and I’ll post that soon.