Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Color is Like Cooking

6x6 oil on linen Cactus Color Study for Larger Painting
Color is like cooking. The cook puts in more or less salt, that's the difference! (Josef Albers)

Two of my favorite color strategies are color dominance and color complements. I could easily spend the rest of my studio life exploring just these two endless color journeys. I have a tendency to include the entire spectrum when I paint (that fresh palette is just so darn tempting!) so having a color game plan gives me focus.
"Green Finch" 6x6 oil on linen color study (note the warm toned canvas)
In this little house finch study for example I made the green the dominant color pushing every shape, every line, etc. toward green (warm and cool). Be brave--choose an unexpected color for your subject such as a red seascape, orange snowscape, violet portrait, etc.

Using a complement color pair is another almost no fail way to insure your colors look brighter, richer, cleaner. (I took some cues from  "Mother Nature" for my magenta and emerald prickly pear cactus study above.)
Did you think chocolate or cake first?
Remember the goal with these strategies is color first, subject second. To use Albers cooking analogy imagine you're baking a cake for a chocolate contest. If you really want to win you're going to add chocolate chunks, dark chocolate ganache frosting, chocolate shavings, cocoa power dust, chocolate mousse filling--You get the idea (and now I want cake...)  

Speaking of contests, color dominance or complement pairs can help give your work that extra “punch" when you need your painting to quickly get attention such as a juried competition or in a thumbnail size.

Ever wonder what colors you use too much/too little of? Color Explorer is a free color analysis program that allows you to "extract" the colors from your image (or painting). I found it fascinating to upload some of my  favorite masterpieces (such as a Van Gogh, Bonnard, O’Keeffe, etc.) and look at the color tendencies. Thanks and have fantastic week finding color in your world!  


  1. Great blog. Funny thing I was just thinking of looking for a colour analysis tool. Thanks

  2. Thanks for stopping by Sea--I really appreciate the nice note. Have fun with the color tool. It's kind of addictive! :)