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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Van Gogh Had to Say about Complementary Colors

'Share the Love' 8x8 pastel
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I have rediscovered the power of complementary colors. In pastel class this week we are revisiting basic color theory and working with complements. I came across this wonderful quote by Vincent Van Gogh on Complementary Colors.

There are colors which cause others to shine brilliantly, which form a couple which complete each other like man and woman.
Vincent Van Gogh


Underpainting in complementary colors done in gouache

What is it about complementary colors that Vincent found so intriguing?
  • For one thing compliments do just that....they make one other look better...more vibrant and more exciting. When compliments are placed next to one another in a painting, they seem to vibrate. They excite the eye and please us.
  • Compliments provide contrast in a painting which is a good thing. Not only a contrast in color but also in temperature. Colors that are opposite of one another on the color wheel are also opposite in temperature.
  • The trick is learning how to balance this contrast...you want to avoid having equal amounts. One color/temperature should be dominate.
  • When you mix compliments you get grey and sometimes you need these nice grey mixtures. Be careful in pastel that you don't blend compliments or you will get grey muddy color (unless that is what you want) Have a lighter touch and layer the compliments to let the colors peek through and vibrate.

For today's poppy painting I did an underpainting in the compliment of my final colors. I also used gouache for a bright vibrant underpainting. I will be doing a gouache demo in a future post.

To read more about using complimentary colors in an underpainting you might like this post.

2 comments:

Cindy Michaud said...

I love the underpainting...would have been relunctant to put anything on top! Good reminders about color theory.

Karen said...

Thanks Cindy! The more I do the underpaintings the more I really like them! maybe I'll get to where I'll leave them as they are!