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Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Secret Of Yellow....Pastels 101

'The Goldenrod is Yellow'           6x8          pastel       ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase $145
 Oh Yellow how I love you.....but how you give me fits in a painting.  No matter how vibrant and beautiful the yellow pastel stick is it can have a tendency to look dull or washed out.  You know when you are painting something yellow like sunflowers....and they turn out dull and muddy looking rather than crisp and vibrant?
What is the secret to vibrant yellows?

'Nature's Finest'        4x4     pastel
click here to purchase $50
 Have a look at Mother Nature for some advice. She gives us a clue. Which is why painting from life is so helpful.  Yellow comes alive when it is surrounded by duller, grayer colors. Also,  Violet, or purple or lavender, whatever you want to call the friend of yellow. It makes yellow pop when it is next to it.

I saw this happen in real life last week when painting this wonderful field of Goldenrods. There were several large expanses of Goldenrod in it's full glory. It was almost overwhelming.  But off to the side of my easel was a smaller patch of yellow and mixed in were some wonderful purple wildflowers.  The patch really stood out and caught my eye.

I also noticed that the yellows looked more vibrant against the grayed green of the tall grasses. So I incorporated both of these ideas in my paintings.

'Fields of Yellow'      5x7      pastel
click here to purchase $100
This 'secret' was actually something I knew about from books and teachers....but to see it occur in real life made a huge impact.  I don't think I will ever approach yellow in the same way again.  So what did I learn?

  • Don't just use local color....if I wasn't really looking I might have painted the flowers yellow and the foliage dark green. Not as interesting!
  • Purple is the secret of yellow...find a way to incorporate some purple into your yellow painting (without going overboard!)  Use it in the block in or use it for punctuation marks.
  • Orange is the friend of yellow. I find if I gradually build up to my most vibrant yellows by using a duller orange makes the yellows pop.
  • Surround your vibrant yellows with a duller, greyed down color. If everything is vibrant....nothing is vibrant.
  • Mix some warm yellows with some cool yellows.
  • Use your softest pastels for the final yellow marks....don't be afraid to use bold strokes!


Julie Ford Oliver said...

Thanks for passing on your secrets to usng yellow effectively. The results really show up on your beautiful goldenrod's paintings.

Jacdesusbielle said...

What a good advice ! Thank you for reminding us

robertsloan2art said...

This is so true and your examples are so beautiful! I hadn't realized that about the muted greens and oranges but I've used violet around yellow very often, it's one of my favorite combinations. Got to try the dull greens and muted oranges building up to it sometime too now!

Alex said...

Thanks for the advice. Makes sense to me. Keep up the good work.