27 November, 2011

Colorist Methods - My Thoughts On The Subject Of Color


There has been some call for me to reveal my opinions on the use of color.  When I demonstrate in person, students invariably wants to know why I pick each color as I work.  This series of posts will be my attempt to draw back the curtain on my ideas about color.  

After perhaps six, or maybe ten, of these posts, there will be some organization to what I am saying. For now, I'll just write things down as they occur to me.


  Color choice is a very personal thing.  I mean that in both intention and in talent.  You have your own color sense, and it is up to you to let it reveal itself.  Choose the color you want.  WANT!

  Kandinsky got it wrong when he assigned meanings to color.  That is, I think that the artist's job is to make the patron see his, meaning the artist's, own meanings. One should not pander to perceived ideas of what colors may mean to the viewer.

...umber comes from the earth already umber.

  I use the RYB color theory.  Red, yellow, and blue.  The reason I do is that I am not submitting my artwork to the printing press or the camera, at least not at the conceptual stage.  I will become involved in color mixing, and the RYB color space works well for this.

  In thinking about color theory, and in spite of the fact that I use the "old school" RYB method, I do think in terms of modern, or contemporary, color.  That is to say, we have the fattest color array available today.  Raphael would have given his left arm to work with this many colors.

  I begin with the hue.  More on this later, when I lay out for you my own theories on what is most important in approaching color.  By the way, I hope you are arguing with me about these things.

  A Color Solid is a fun and useful tool, also.  I have seen it used with the Munsell theory, so I just make adjustments in my head to see it my way.  Someday I will construct a Color Solid as I see it.

  Just because you know that color theory has evolved over time, does not make you "right" in your opinions about color theory.  It does reveal that opinions are subjective.  I need to focus on what works, and my tools are laid out before me.  It is important for the artist to know how to mix a brown he likes, but please also realize that umber comes from the earth already umber.


Robert Gamblin has a great video about his Color Space theories.  I differ in that I think of each hue as a two-part system named by its color, but not by its temperature.  More on that later.  I say, "blue-red" and "yellow-red," not cool or warm red.



SamArtDog said...

This post is a treasure, Casey, and your generosity is, as always, remarkable. Just came down from the ranch, where everything is dun (except the chores -- heh). The veritable rainbow of neutrals leaves me quite color-confused, so this post is very timely. I will study it carefully.

Sharon said...

Brave man, disagreeing with Kandinsky like that! I agree with you. His defining terms are too rigid and make 'color' too small. And no color (usually) stands alone. Its 'emotion' draws from all that surrounds it.

The reason I adore painting has always been color. I agree with you that Raphael would have gone crazy with the array of colors available today. I'm reactionary here. I love working with a limited palette and having my colors grow through the BIG THREE I WANT as my base.

Great Post Casey!!! I'm waiting for the rest of this.

Casey Klahn said...

Sam and Sharon, your enthusiasm for color is wonderful. We will cover neutrals, Sam. Looking forward...

SippicanCottage said...

Could you move the sidewalk chalk so I can get a proper look at the fumed, quartersawn white oak, Crafstman table?

Thanks in advance.

Casey Klahn said...

Hi, Sipp. You mean the 44x26x30" Library Table from which I write my wonderful blog? The same one that appears in the Stickley DIY furniture book? That old thing?

Laura K. Aiken said...

Hi Casey! Well, you caught my eye with this post. I really enjoyed it. I am mostly a watercolorist, but love just plain learning something new. Now I can't wait to pass this on to my oil painting buddies. Thanks so much for sharing....as usual.
Best of days to you!

Casey Klahn said...

Hi, Laura. Thanks for commenting!

Celeste Bergin said...

I must say...the photo that goes with this post is
phantasmagorical! I liked what you wrote: "I do think in terms of modern, or contemporary, color" --That is accurate..your work is "contemporary"---that is your fabulous strength.

Donna T said...

Hi Casey and thanks in advance! I am so confounded by all the rules of using color that I don't even know what I like anymore. I admire your free-spirited use of color and am eager to learn more about it.

Casey Klahn said...

Hi, Donna. I do hope to treat the rules roughly, and show 'em who's boss. Please stay tuned.

Hi, Celeste. One thing I learned from your own Robert Gamblin is that the high chroma colors of today are ours alone, and not Monet's or Renior's. It will be our legacy to make these new colors work.

Those jumbo Sennies are the bomb.

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