[ Home: ArtSchool Online: Color Theory & Mixing: Bobber Stare Down ]

Composition, Color, & Contrast

"Bobber Stare Down" - (1/6)

Author: Larry Seiler, Contributing Editor

I'm going to dissect an older portrait work of mine to help you think about what makes a painting work. This is of my younger son, Jeremy, when he was four years of age. Jeremy is nineteen now. I have done my share of portrait commissions, most of which relate to outdoor activity, and all to that which adds up as recreational and pursued with a passion.

The title is fitting, because the little fisher-guy would burn a hole in that bobber waitin' for a bite. He's like that still today. Focused and intense in whatever he does.

There are many subtle things happening in this work, and principles and devices I used that may help you. First..it certainly helps that orange is the opposite color of blue on the color wheel, so let's make the obvious obvious, and move on from there. I took advantage of how white or light grey sweatshirts easily reflect surrounding colors, and made sure the material reflected the sky...giving it a bluish tint throughout. Then there is the bluish water, and sky.

By surrounding the life preserver with the color blue, I took advantage of the effect that opposites or "complementaries" provide. Being the minority subdominant color it stands out.

There is a saying that if everyone shouts, no one gets heard. The same with color. Paintings come off colorful because the artist learns where NOT to emphasize color and it turns out to be the same place the artist doesn't want the viewer's eye to spend any time on anyway. Limit your color, the purity of your color to that which you want to appear brightest and most colorful, and downplay the rest.

Beginning artists believe wrongly that to make a color brighter...you add white, and more white. Not so. You go for the purity of unassisted color, and surround it with contrasts. Contrasts like that which is different in temperature. If your desired color is to appear warm, make surrounding colors cooler even if only slight by degree. To appear lighter...surrounding colors darker in value.

To darken a color...I don't add black. I'll add a darker pure pigment in that same color family...and, so the color doesn't get out of hand always use a small amount of the opposite color on the color wheel to grey it down slightly. While my work is Impressionistic often in appearance, I suppose this distinction is what separates me. Impressionists used for the most part pure color everwhere, and straight from the tube.

As a matter of routine practice, I tend to grey down or neutralize the colors of all areas I do not want the eye to spend a great deal of time looking at. So...I spend more time thinking about manipulating the eye, and orchestrating the viewer's time while standing in front of my picture.

I used the color blue added to orange for creating the shadows on the preserver. Greying the color down with its opposite doesn't "kill" the color. It also sets up the brigher area of the jacket to look brighter still for that bright yellow-orange is pure pigment.

[ Next Page ]