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Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Exercise for Better Color

'A Quiet Spot'        9x12        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $145 
I just couldn't leave it alone. I tried. I had great intentions to paint a black and white landscape. But when it was all said and done Color won. It was a great exercise though. It really brought home the saying the value does the work and color gets the glory.

I started the exercise with a piece of white Canson paper. I only allowed myself to use black, white and a few values of gray pastels. I used a variety of pastels including Terry Ludwigs and Diane Townsend. Working in black and white was fun. It made me work! I had to be sure I had the values in the right place so that I could create volume and depth.

The black and white stage of the painting
Without the distraction of choosing color I was able to concentrate on developing the shape of the trees. Using John Carlson's idea that there are just four values in a landscape helped me create the illusion of depth and kept the values simple.  Darkest value = upright planes, Lightest value = sky
middle value = flat planes, middle dark value = slanted planes.

I came back into the studio after lunch and decided that despite the relative success of the exercise I wanted to play with color!  So I sprayed the black and white painting with workable fixative and painted on top with color! Because I had a value map already it was easier to choose color. The value did the work! I just followed the map.

Try This: Give the black and white exercise a try. Turn a reference photo into black and white to make it easier to see the values. (use a photo program or simply make a black and white copy) Can you leave it as a black and white painting? Or will you be tempted by Color like I was?


Anonymous said...

You can do the same thing with oil paints. Just paint the black and white version using Alkyd oils OR with acrylics. After it dries you can glaze over with regular oil paints. Helen Van Wyk used the acrylic/oils combo very successfully to teach value vs color.

Karen Rodgers

Countryfolks said...

Karen, so far this is usually how I work! My paintings start with a loose drawing done is soft vine charcoal, and then the values are smudged in with charcoal. I love having a value map right on the paper. This charcoal layer is fixed, and color is laid on top of that. I find the painting "comes to life" quickly using this method. Thanks for sharing! Rhonda

Shahar said...

Karen, I love the depth and feeling of the gray tone version; it clearly shows what a gifted artist you are! Although the color is nice, it lacks some of the subltle beauty of the first piece, like the grassy area in front of the tree on the right. As always, thank you for your open-hearted sharing. I have learned how to paint in pastels from you. One day I know we'll meet.

KMHrsn said...

I love both versions. I am learning how to paint in pastels, and you are my primary teacher. Thanks for your consistency in pointing.