View Full Version : The Spotlight - February 2017 - Color Temperature, Part II

01-31-2017, 08:53 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere.

And, remember, no critiques unless specifically asked for.

The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month were taken by me or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is on…Color Temperature, Part II !

Last month we began our discussion on Color Temperature. We concentrated mainly on the more general definition of warm and cool colors – calling yellow, orange and red the warm colors and green, blue and violet the cool colors. We discussed using either almost all warm or cool colors in analogous color schemes, and also how you can use the contrast between warm and cool colors to create bold, dynamic works. Here’s a link, in case you missed it:


Last month, in our discussions, most of our examples were of paintings that kept the warm and cool colors separate to large degree. In our discussion of contrast, we had paintings that either had a warm or cool foreground and the opposite temperature background. This month we will look at another use warm and cool colors – mixing them together to create a vibration or luminosity in our paintings – as we continue our discussion on… Color Temperature!

Before we continue, I do want to make an important point. When we discuss topics here in the Spotlight, please be aware that many times we are discussing ideas and methods that are possible strategies that are available to artists when they paint. Hopefully, you will enjoy experimenting with these ideas and methods, but they are not rules or requirements that you need to use.

Let’s see how we can mix and merge warm and cool colors in our painting! But first, you may ask, why should we? As we saw in the previous Spotlight, putting contrasting colors next to one another can create a lot of visual excitement. Many artists through the years have placed complementary colors next to one another with the idea that this enhances the apparent intensity of each color. In other words, a red and green look more intense when placed next to each other. The same with orange and blue, or yellow and violet. We are stretching that concept a bit by including all cool colors contrasting with all warm colors. Another idea is that when small bits of these contrasting colors are next to each other, a sort of vibration of color is created.

One way to create warm/cool color contrast in our painting is to use a complementary underpainting.

For our purposes here in the Spotlight, we will describe an underpainting as the beginning stage of a painting that is done in colors that are unrelated to the final colors of the objects or scene. In many oil paintings over the centuries, doing a monochromatic underpainting (often in grays, greens or browns) has been quite popular, but in pastels I would say that this technique is far rarer. What is more popular when working in pastels is to do an underpainting in complementary colors to the final colors, or near complements (such as warm and cool contrasting colors). The idea is that, by letting some of the contrasting background colors show through, it creates that vibration that I mentioned earlier!

Here’s a demonstration by Michael Chesley Johnson:


A blog article by Richard McKinley:


McKinley mentions a very important point in his article – that the value needs to be similar between the warm and cool colors used. The key is that the two (or more) colors blend together and aren’t seen as separate entities.

In a previous Spotlight, I did a demo on using a complementary underpainting. I can’t say that this is a great example as I may have covered too much of the underpainting with the final color, but it may be the only time that I actually used a complementary underpainting!


Let’s take a look at some more examples. Of course, when we look at a finished painting, we can’t always tell if an underpainting was used, or if small touches of complementary color were added later. So, while some of these paintings look like they used a complementary underpainting, in other cases those small touches of contrasting colors could have been added at any time!


Above is a pastel painting by contemporary painter Bill Cone. Whether he’s using an underpainting, or it's just the color of the paper showing through (one reason to use a colored paper when painting with pastels) I’m not sure. The sky has a lot of color showing through – it’s hard to tell what color it is and may not be a warm color, but check out the distant hill. When I look at the painting, I see possibly oranges and reds mixing with blues and violets in those hills. To my eye, this helps create a vibration or luminosity that would be hard to achieve with any other technique!


Here’s an oil painting by Paul Strisik. Again, these are my interpretations, but I see a lot of complementary and warm/cool contrast in this painting. All the green grassy areas are filled with touches of reds and reddish browns. The red barn has some touches of blue-green and both roofs are made up of reds and blues. In the distant hills, I see what seems to be oranges and blues – although those distant colors are often subdued and close to gray. Here’s a detail that will help us see those colors better.


Overall, the impression of bright sunlight and strong color pervades the scene. Is the warm/cool contrast what makes the colors so vivid and gives the painting a sort of realistic luminosity? Maybe!

Another painting by Strisik, along with a detail below:


The sunlit plaza is not just painted in one color. Very subtle strokes of blue are intertwined with browns and oranges. Visually, it all mixes into a sort of warm gray, but it isn’t dead color – it’s alive and vibrates! At least that is how I see it!


Next is a pastel painting by Susan Ogilvie. Another beautiful sun-filled scene with beautiful and intense green/orange color contrast in the grassy areas!

As we saw in our Spotlight on the color green a while back, it is not unrealistic for green grassy areas or green trees to include reds, oranges and browns. The dirt or ground, after all, is often brown. And branches and dead leaves often add warmer colors into trees. So, it is not as if we are just making up some wild color scheme when we use these types of contrast in our green areas! But as artists, we can certainly exaggerate or even make up color schemes if it suits our purposes!

Here are a few more examples that take warm/cool contrast a bit farther (at least in my mind).


One of my favorite painters is Pino – who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. In this painting, we see some subtle warm/cool relationships as well as some others that are more exaggerated. The background wall has some subtle blues and browns mixed together. In my mind, whenever painting a larger area that is one color - such as a wall - it always works better to use more than one color to paint it. For lack of a better term (which I used earlier) it makes it seem more alive rather than dead. It creates a sort of luminosity that can’t be created when using just one color. Again, this is just my observation rather than some sort of rule.

When we look at the woman’s white apron, we see a riot of color! Cools (blues and violets) along with warm oranges fill the shadow parts of the apron!

The pitcher/vase holding the flowers is another example where Pino combines warms and cools. Are those brown/orange dots and lines a decorative color that is on the pitcher or is Pino just adding those spots to give it more life and interest? Notice also those shadow areas of the tablecloth – a subtle combinations of warms and cools!


Here’s a painting by Brigitte Curt. Those shadow areas sure are filled with color! Warm and cool color! Does that contribute to the wonderful luminosity of the shadow areas? I think so! Once again, those reds and oranges may really be there to a certain extent as there may be red light reflecting off the fence in front of the buildings. Reflected light is often a good excuse to fill shadows with more color (whether the color is really there or not!). Yes, this is very bold painting! I would be far too timid to try using this much bold color! Note the sunlit ground once again has touches of red/orange within those greens!


One last example – a painting by Armin Hansen. Although it’s hard to see in this small reproduction, there are lots of examples of warm and cool colors in this painting – small little touches in the foreground shadows, the wheels of the carriage, the blue of the carriage – even the horse! And again, the painting has a strong sense of light!

As I mentioned earlier, there is no rule that says paintings must include warm/cool contrast in the ways demonstrated. But it does give artists another tool in their toolbox of possibilities! Perhaps this is something you will use in the future! And of course, let's try it now - as we experiment with warm/cool contrast in this month’s Spotlight!

NOTE: All the paintings above - by Bill Cone, Paul Strisik, Susan Ogilvie, Pino, Brigitte Curt and Armin Hansen are under copyright and used here for education purposes. Please do not copy or reproduce them in any way.


Here are this month’s references:

Photo by Ivyleaf

Photo by BGorski

The rest of the references by me.




As always, feel free to modify the references. Play with the idea of warm cool color contrast! And have fun!


01-31-2017, 10:42 PM
Great references and lesson, Don! Weather permitting, I might have a go with one of these or a subject from life. The winter here is all muted greens and browns, no snow, so it would be very easy for any outdoor scene to have that vibration of rust and olive. I'm also really tempted to try the sky effect, I love that sort of thing when I see it and there are some spectacular skies here.

02-01-2017, 08:39 AM
Wow, Don, wonderful teaching in these examples. I must spend some time observing them. Thank you.

Van D
02-03-2017, 09:51 AM
Thank you Don! I had lots of fun reading this and giving it a try. This is my first paiting since surgery. I was very excited to paint anything at all! I am blind in one eye at at the moment but I had fun anyways.
I used the apples this time and I just might try another!
http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii23/BBwolfie/20170202_141652.jpg (http://s260.photobucket.com/user/BBwolfie/media/20170202_141652.jpg.html)
That was my underpainting...
http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii23/BBwolfie/20170202_143227.jpg (http://s260.photobucket.com/user/BBwolfie/media/20170202_143227.jpg.html)
This was halfway through...
http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii23/BBwolfie/20170202_145348.jpg (http://s260.photobucket.com/user/BBwolfie/media/20170202_145348.jpg.html)
And my finished product!

Van D

02-03-2017, 10:35 AM
Van D,
I hope you don't mind I've changed the orientation of your apples so I don't get a neck ache.:wink2:


Nicely done BTW!:)

Van D
02-03-2017, 10:42 AM
Thanks Leslie! My one eye is non compliant to most stuff!

02-03-2017, 10:52 AM
I think I've become addicted to your monthly challenge...
it gets the "little gray cells" working. (as Poirot used to say):wink2:

Tom Thomson is an artist I admire, he worked plein air on small wooden panels the colour of which is often seen through the gaps in his thick paint
..the warm tone effects the surface colour so it fits your guidelines.
I think they're a potential inspiration!
Cheers Leslie

Artist - Tom Thomson


02-03-2017, 09:57 PM
Van D, Thanks for joining us! Glad you have gotten us started this month with your lovely paintings! I really like the colors in your shadows!

Leslie, Thanks for rotating Van's paintings for us! And I will be looking up Tom Thomson and his paintings!


02-07-2017, 10:57 AM
Inspired by Don's challenge here's my attempt to be more adventurous with colour

Heavily influenced :lol: not exactly a copy:rolleyes: of the stylised work of Tom Thomson:smug:
C&Cs welcome.


Van D
02-07-2017, 11:49 PM
Those are lovely colours Leslie! I love Thompson's work. Very well done.

And thank you to everyone for the encouragement. I'll try another this month yet. 😊

02-08-2017, 11:23 AM
Great lesson Don and I love the examples you added! Van D, nice work! I like working red on top of green and vice versa.
Leslie, this is really good. The complementaries are used so well the whole thing is alive and vibrant.
I wish I could go do one now, but it's cold in the studio and dark too. New carpet tomorrow. Wonder if I'll have a chance on Friday......

02-08-2017, 04:22 PM
Leslie, Very nice and vibrant! Your color choices are always lovely!


02-09-2017, 09:51 AM
Van, I particularly like your shadows.

Leslie, love love love the sky! Gorgeous!

02-09-2017, 10:14 AM
This painting is a request for a painting of piping plovers as a gift to someone who has been fighting for the plovers.
9 x 12 on butterscotch pastel mat. I thought that the play of warm and cool made sense with this spotlight. I would be happy for comments. (yes, i know I have a composition problem with the blue going off into the corner but...I think the focus still stays on the portrait of the birds. yes?) Should I crop more? I'm not skilled with fine work like feathers and beaks.
This was painted with pans and pastel pencils. all comments MOST welcome.

02-10-2017, 08:33 AM
What a lovely picture.
It is so close to perfect may I suggest eliminating the background distraction?

If I've overstepped the mark forgive me:angel: Leslie


02-10-2017, 11:50 AM
Nice idea, Leslie. Thank you.

02-10-2017, 12:16 PM
The pastel spotlights are so informative and useful that I will try to join in when possible.
And I still have to learn so much about painting with pastels.

Here is my try with the apples. (Took the easiest subject :) )

The underpainting with pan pastels


And the final painting (done with soft pastels and pastel pencils)


It is done on gray Mi-teint touch paper

C&C always welcome

02-10-2017, 02:27 PM
Esther, Oh my! If you have a lot to learn, I quit!!! Those apples are gorgeous!

02-10-2017, 03:18 PM
Jay, Very nice painting! Lovely color combination of warm and cool!

Esther, Thanks for joining us! Those apples are very nice and a great example of using a complementary underpainting!


02-10-2017, 03:31 PM
Esther, you've captured the best qualities of those apples...they look delicious!

02-11-2017, 05:43 PM
Thank you for your comments JAY, Don, Leslie.

Jay, oh no don't quit. Your birds are lovely.
For me it was the first time I used an underpainting in complementary colors.
I am normally doing water colors and this isn't a technique you could use there.
I really was astonished how well it worked. And it really makes the colors more vibrant.

But I have a lot of questions. Should the underpainting always be darker than the later layers? Or do you a light underpainting for dark colors?
And what about metal things? What kind of color do you use there for an underpainting?
Are there situtations where you should not use an underpainting?


02-11-2017, 10:50 PM
But I have a lot of questions. Should the underpainting always be darker than the later layers? Or do you a light underpainting for dark colors?
And what about metal things? What kind of color do you use there for an underpainting?
Are there situtations where you should not use an underpainting?

Good questions, Esther! Alas, I am not an underpainting expert as I rarely use them, but even so, I think it is fair to say that there are no rules regarding underpaintings. I think it is a good idea if the underpainting is similar in value to the later layers. Otherwise the bits of the underpainting that peak through might be too noticeable. On the other hand, that might be what an artist may be looking for! While we discussed complementary underpaintings in this Spotlight, underpaintings can be any color or combination of colors. In many cases, since pastel papers come in different colors in some brands, an artist may just use the color of the paper in the painting - perhaps letting the paper color peek through in places. All things to experiment with!!

For those who use underpaintings more often, please let us know your thoughts and strategies on the matter!


02-12-2017, 12:49 PM
Great lesson! I gave it a try but in the end, the way I ended up rendering it, it wasn't noticeable. I used some pans as a base, mainly red and purple because I only have 8 colours. I used pastel premier paper and assorted pastels.

water girl
02-12-2017, 01:13 PM
Esther, your stroke work is beautiful. There is lovely volume in those apples.
Lucy, different strokes, but your peppers have nice volume as well.

02-13-2017, 07:14 AM
Lucy, those peppers are great. My eyes keep going over them and enjoying the colors. I think maybe your underpainting gave them a lot of life. I'm impressed. What color was the pastel premier paper you used? Just curious.

02-13-2017, 08:21 AM
A simple subject but composed and painted with maximum impact!
I'm very impressed with all the work this month.

02-13-2017, 08:46 AM
Lucyloo, Wonderful job on those peppers! While the underpainting may not be that noticeable, it seems like there is a hint still visible. Whether or not we can see that underpainting, the end result is wonderful!


02-13-2017, 09:10 AM
Thank you all. I look at them and see how crooked and warped they are. I've heard we're our own worst critics though.

Jay the pastel premier was a warm brown colour.
Esther your apples are great as are all the other posts.

02-13-2017, 12:41 PM
Lucy, the peppers look very convincing.
Ready to pick and eat. :)


02-13-2017, 12:46 PM
Another try with this concept, now with my own reference.

The underpainting with pan pastels

And the last version

I call it "Birthday is over"
as it was my husbands birthday table some days later.
And instead of cleaning it up I painted it :lol:

The only thing I am not really sure about, is the bluish background.
But I had no better idea.

C&C alwways welcome

02-14-2017, 01:13 AM
Hello all,

Really like the spotlight topic, and the selection of illustrative paintings is great. Wonderful to see the various entries too.

Here's my attempt at this based on one of the reference images (the camera has made it look a bit different, but I am unable to retain the look).

11.5" x 8.5" and wax crayons. Comments and criticisms welcome. Thanks.

- Srineet.


02-14-2017, 03:08 PM
I like the bluish background very much. It speaks to the yellow of the tulips and the pink of the cloth. And you have some echos of blue in the flowers and stems.
My eyes are drawn to the yellow jar. Where would you like the center of interest? The flowers or the jar?
You do such nice work....I even loved the blue tulips in the previous version. With the linear work on top...just so beautiful!
So glad you're posting.

CM Neidhofer
02-14-2017, 03:31 PM
Ok, I've finally jumped in. My muse has been missing for quite some time. I've wanted to paint, thought about painting, just couldn't seem to do it. This a feeble attempt at the peppers. Done on black card stock, which was my first mistake. That green pepper just didn't seem to want to be painted and I couldn't get the vibrant colors I can usually get. Ah well...at least I dipped a toe in the water again. Will probably try again on pastel paper and see what happens.


02-15-2017, 03:17 PM
Very nice orange trees, Srineet.

Christine. What a unique look! Reminds me of the artist that is in museums..the one who drew the look of newspaper. Maybe you created a masterpiece! I do like the yellow pepper very much. The paper does make A difference.

02-15-2017, 03:26 PM
Srineet, Very nice and colorful work!

Christine, Glad you are back to painting! The black paper is a real challenge and is no doubt the reason you couldn't get the vibrancy you wanted. Still, a very nice painting!


02-15-2017, 03:55 PM
Esther ...AWESOME.. the pan pastels are very effective....and your husband must have been a very good boy....two bottles of wine:smug:

Srineet... great to see another landscape painter in this group!

Christine.. nice to see your work...I like the black showing through.. very moody effect:wave:

As pastels are opaque and tend to cover up the background, Srineet and Christine have both used the colour of their paper to show through which I think can be as effective as an underpainting.

Cheers all,

02-17-2017, 06:30 AM
Thank you Leslie, Don and Jay. I think I managed to get a better photograph of it, so just attaching it again (hope you don't mind).

Christine, it is interesting to see how it came up on black paper - has quite some character. Have never tried on coloured paper myself.

Leslie, love your entries, and plan to find out more about Tom Thomson.

Esther, love the detail on your apples, and Lucy like the volume and shape of your peppers.

Jay, I think your subject is a rather difficult one to capture, and it's done really very nicely.


- Srineet.


02-17-2017, 12:04 PM
Thank you for your kind comments, JAY, Leslie, Srineet

Jay, good question where the CoI should be. I am not quite sure about it myself and maybe that is the weak point in this painting. Sometimes it is easy to decide and somtimes not.

Leslie, to be more precise only the underpainting is with pan pastels. Afterwards I used hard and soft pastels mixed.

Srineet, the second photo shows your painting much better. The orange trees stand out nicely.

Christine the yellow pepper works well.


CM Neidhofer
02-17-2017, 02:23 PM
Ok, I tried again on PastelBord. Still struggled with it, but it's a start. Yellow pepper isn't as yellow as it is IRL. But it was fun to actually create something, be ever so bad, again!! lol


CM Neidhofer
02-17-2017, 02:24 PM
Ok, I tried again on PastelBord. Still struggled with it, but it's a start. Yellow pepper isn't as yellow as it is IRL. But it was fun to actually create something, be ever so bad, again!! lol


I've come to the conclusion that I need more yellows and greens in my collection. Just couldn't seem to find the right colors.

02-18-2017, 12:10 PM
Heavens, you guys have been so productive this month. Excellent jobs Van D, Leslie, Jay, Esther, Lucyloo, Srineet, Christine.

Guess I better finish some, I had never done any fruit or peppers before.

water girl
02-18-2017, 03:24 PM
I agree! Shireet and Christine are on a roll.
Colorenthusiast, your beautiful bouquet of tulips in the glass vase could be a stand alone painting. I really like the background color.

02-18-2017, 04:30 PM
ColorEnthusiast, So sorry - somehow I missed commenting on your still life! Very nicely done! As Karen mentions, those tulips are wonderful!

Christine, I really like those peppers! Much better on the Pastelbord!


02-21-2017, 02:04 PM
Thank you for your comments Karen and Don.

Christine, much better on PastelBoard. Paper matters.


02-21-2017, 05:43 PM
Finally got some finished. I hope the undercover shows through enough, it was done with NuPastel and alcohol.

Size 9x12" on Uart 400
NuPastel and alcohol
Rembrandt and Art Spectrum pastels
Stabilo CarbOthello pencils

Size 9x6" on Uart400
NuPastel and alcohol
Rembrandt and Art Spectrum pastels
Stabilo CarbOthello pencils

02-22-2017, 09:53 PM
Nicely done Fana. I like how it's turned out, particularly thr water and feeling pf light in the second one.

- Srineet.

02-22-2017, 10:19 PM
Fana, Very nice paintings! In the first painting, the warmer color peeking through the grass is very effective! And the second is very nicely done as well with the greens looking quite realistic with some brown to mute them. And the water is very lively!


02-23-2017, 12:23 PM
Thanks for the comments, Srineet, Don.
Now looking at them here on line they just look so over-worked. I wish I could just do them with a few lines :)

02-24-2017, 08:46 AM
Fana ...don't think your pieces are overworked...very nice summer days!

I have been working on the underpainting challenge but haven't produced anything worth showing...finding it trickier than I thought....
I get carried away and the underpainting disappears:clear:
under the too many layers.:lol:
Better luck next month!

02-25-2017, 07:52 AM
Very nice painting, Fana. I especially like the lake and all the greens.

02-25-2017, 07:59 AM
Christine. Your peppers fascinate me. They seem made of glass and I really like the look!

02-25-2017, 03:59 PM
Thank you, Leslie, Jay! I liked the idea of landscapes this month.

Here are my two last ones. They were quite interesting but I had troubles with the grapes.
The sizes are 9x6", grapes Uart400 and peppers Uart600, underpainting Nupastel and alcohol, Rembrandt and Art Spectrum pastels, CarbOthello pencils.



02-26-2017, 09:28 AM
Fana, Very nice, bold and colorful paintings! There is a lot of warm/cool contrast in these! The background in the first painting not only has some nice warm/cool vibration, but also some great contrast with the apples!


02-27-2017, 10:36 AM
Hmm I gave it a go but my underpainting got lost in my obsession with getting the colours "right".

02-28-2017, 06:03 PM
sharia, lovely peppers!

02-28-2017, 07:32 PM
sharra, Very nice painting! Even if the underpainting seems to get lost, a hint or two may still remain! And it effects the final result - which in this case, came out very nice!