Monday, February 13, 2012

An Exciting Choice for Underpainting Colors

'Winter Solitude" 11x14 ©Karen Margulis
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I love playing with Complementary colors. When deciding on what colors to use in an underpainting I often turn to using complimentary pairs. In yesterday's post I talked about using local colors to set up aerial perspective in a painting. Using complements in the underpainting can lead to a more exciting and interesting painting.

"An artist finds his happiest combination in the play of complimentary colors. They are direct contrasts yet do not jar; they awaken the beholder,but do not disturb him." Charles Burchfield

watercolor underpainting in complimentary colors on Diane Townsend paper

Tips for Using Compliments in an Underpainting
  • Use a color wheel to find the compliments if needed. Complimentary colors are colors that are direct opposites on the color wheel. They enhance one another when placed next to each other and neutralize each other or make grey when mixed together.
  • Simplify your reference and look at the big masses of color. Choose the opposite color to paint the mass. In my example, I wanted my sky to be lavender so I used yellow (the compliment) in the underpainting. I wanted the cliffs to be golden yellow so I used purples for the underpainting.
  • For a pastel painting you can underpaint with any medium including pastel. I am using watercolor in this demo.
  • In your underpainting you can use different values of your color. I used 2 values of yellow for the sky.
Watercolor underpainting with my first pastel marks...blocking in the darks and the sky.

Are you intrigued with the possibilities of using compliments? I will be sharing more ideas for complimentary pairs later this week. Join me in playing with compliments this week!

Today's painting is from a reference photo I took one winter in the Book Cliffs area outside of Moab, Utah. I loved the warm yellows of the cliffs and dried chamisa against the cold snow.

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