Sunday, May 23, 2010
Back when I first started to paint, taking an evening watercolor class after my day job, I quickly became fascinated with color. Over the next few years, I explored it with my watercolor paints and became acquainted with a lot of the properties and dynamics of the different hues. When I began to use oil paint, I continued to love mixing the colors that I wanted, but a lot of what I was doing was learning to color-match, to adjust the color of my paint to that which I was observing in the landscape. Now, with this new direction of abstract work, and the color-field approach of creating blocks of color on panels to be joined later, I find myself returning to those early days and the joy of just using color for color's sake.
I pulled out some of my old reference materials, not because I care about the theory behind color so much (although it is fascinating!) but rather to serve as a guide to color mixing and to help me avoid concocting too many piles of mud. The two I am using at the moment both come from Stephen Quiller, the well-known water- and mixed-media artist and instructor based in Colorado. They are his book Color Choices, which gives wonderful guidance in color mixing, and his Quiller Wheel, a color wheel that is a great reference tool to hang on the studio wall.
Sometimes I like to be brazen with the colors I use, but more often I prefer a certain amount of subtlety. Often, the colors that I use together in a given layer are analogous hues -- different specific oranges and reds, say -- and much of the mixing I do creates neutralized colors (for example, a gold toned down with a violet). Quiller's materials get down to the specifics of these techniques, because which green mixed with which red very much affects the outcome.
As I move back into the use of color as an expressive end in itself, I am absorbed by the play of one hue against another with a given panel. A red panel is not just a flat solid red, as in some color-field work, but is rather the presentation of a variety of reds nudged up against one another, a perhaps more Rothko-ish approach. And added to that, now, is the play of one layer over another (or multiple others), which adds a whole new dimension to the process. And all of this links into the texturizing that cold wax and oil paint allow, permitting either the exposure or the partial coverage of previous layers. But more on that another day. The image above is of a panel with three layers on it, and it is the panel that led me back to my reference materials for guidance in considering color.