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Old 10-25-2019, 03:38 PM
ca.via.seattle ca.via.seattle is offline
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Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

First of all, thank you so much for this community. I am self-taught and have been painting in oils for 20 years, and just discovered this resource about two weeks ago. What a wealth of knowledge.

On to my question about a muted color scheme versus a more saturated color scheme (versus warm/cool complements). In my attempt to make the color in my landscapes look more sensitive, and done with a more sophisticated palette I just read this great article at Draw Paint Academy:

https://drawpaintacademy.com/the-bea...-muted-colors/

I have painted and enjoyed a pretty saturated palette for years with still lifes and portraits, but in my first ever year of attempting landscapes, that highly saturated attempt looks juvenile to my eyes. I've previously painted only intuitively, and have done little reading on painting (until I found this forum!), so almost all of the discussion and academic understanding of painting is new to me.

My question is this: how does one train themselves to ratchet down their color scheme? I've been enjoying California artist Brian Blood's landscapes, and how uniform all his scenes look, with only a narrow, analogous range of gentle, harmoniously shifting colors:



I know how you practically mix those colors - mix something saturated with a complimentary color - but how do you practice seeing and developing a more desaturated, subtle, harmonious palette? When I paint I see so many colors! I know my answer is not a limited palette - because I already use one - but I still end up mixing and using very saturated colors, although I suppose I could swap some of my colors (cad red, ultramarine blue, etc) for just earth tones, for example. That however seems like cheat, when I really need to learn how to see and create a more harmonious and subtle color scheme.

I am - bashfully - including some of my own work here as a good and bad example. (I am not principally here to get a critique of my work, just to give an example of what I still don't quite have the vocabulary for, although of course feel free to discuss.) The still life is typical of my usual work and I am decently pleased with it:



But as you can see in the painting of the ocean (my first ever landscape, and which frustrates me to look at):



and then the green hill (my second ever landscape - I think I learned a little, for example I brought the intensity of the blue of the sky way down so as not to compete with the hill, but I still don't understand the theory as to why that was a good idea, even though I know it was):



the chroma is much too high in both, and it looks like these bright, primary colors are fighting with each other. I've learned on this forum I could perhaps go back and desaturate the ocean for example with a crimson glaze, but the problem is all those colors are what I saw! How do you train your eye and your palette?

Complicating matters, I am equally baffled by those like Gauguin or contemporary artist Milt Kobayashi, who use a wide range of bold colors - which I enjoy - but their works still looks harmonious and sophisticated, and I can't quite see how this is accomplished, except generally creating a warm versus a cool piece? Here are two of Milt's works and then of course Gauguin:







Upon inspection, maybe what Milt is doing is using a careful selection analogous colors and complementary colors, and Gauguin perhaps desaturated certain colors the same number of steps? Any thoughts? I would love to be able to create landscapes with this sort of saturated palette, but in my two attempts it looks very amateur.

Last but not least - and I really hope someone has some good thinking on this - I keep reading about the desirability of warm and cool complements, and I don't understand practically how that works in a muted or narrow range color scheme - if I'm making a picture with a narrow color range of analogous warm brown tones for example, how and why do you introduce some complementary cool colors without losing the precision of your narrow color selection? What's your decision-making process for keeping it harmonious? Is it all equally desaturated or something?

I've never actually thought about paintings - I just painted what I saw and was decently happy with the result. Now that I'm attempting landscapes (possibly introducing a range of blues and greens I've never used in large quantities before) I'm realizing my education gaps, because I am just not happy with what I'm producing. My goal is not realism at all, but just a color scheme that is a little more refined. I appreciate any advice you can give, and picture examples, or critiques of what I posted, are very much appreciated! Thanks again for such a lovely forum.

(This is a cross-post from the Color Theory forum - it was suggested this forum would be a better place for this question.)
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Old 10-25-2019, 04:04 PM
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Gigalot Gigalot is offline
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

While most artists are thinking about their Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna, I can take Phthalo green and Quinacridone.
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Old 10-25-2019, 04:12 PM
ca.via.seattle ca.via.seattle is offline
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

How does this choice affect your work, Gigalot?
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Old 10-25-2019, 04:37 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Personally, I like your landscape color schemes considerably more than the muted one you presented. Not at all too chromatic, in my opinion. And even though your paintings are fairly chromatic, the color selections are in a limited range (mostly blue-greens for the first, mostly warm greens/yellows for the other), thus working very well.

If you want to limit the chroma, then it might work if you limit your palette even more. The example painting looks like virtually every color is a mix of greenish-gray or mixed with greenish gray. There's a little brownish red, but no real red, blue or yellow.

One possible way of achieving this type of scheme, is to use one basic color (with some subtle variation if you want) to block in all the main shapes. If you squint at the example painting, you can see that almost all of the land could be painted with that gray-green-brown middle value. Then some darker green shapes are added, and the light areas are either added or perhaps they were left light. A few little details are slightly different in color, but the whole painting can be done with only a few slight variations from being monochromatic.

That's my take, anyway.

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Old 10-25-2019, 04:48 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

My process for achieving color harmony is to add one color to every other color on my palette. Then I can largely ignore considering how they are going to mix, because they all have one color involved.

I have a painting that I am currently reworking due to the problem of overly intense extremes between some colors. I solved this by glazing over the entire painting with one color, and am now rebuilding the entire painting with the new color relationships established. This process is taking far longer than if I had chosen a color from the start to tint all my other colors with.
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Old 10-25-2019, 05:31 PM
ca.via.seattle ca.via.seattle is offline
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Don and Delo,

Thank you, you've introduced a technique I've never heard of before, using one base color as a mix to all other colors to create a very unified look. Is there a term for this? How do you keep it from looking like mud? (Although, I suppose that is part of what I'm going for with a muted color scheme.)

I already block everything in using a basic wash, usually of burnt sienna, and then - if I remember! - lay a light scumble of my basic lights and darks, but this is a new concept to me. It sounds promising.

And Don, I'm so flattered about what you said about my landscapes! I appreciate it very much. Landscapes are very, very new to me.
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Old 10-25-2019, 07:44 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

I find that mud is what we often notice when values and hues are either too close together and being able differentiate them becomes difficult. Value > Color generally, ensure you have solid values and color is very much up to you.

This concept of introducing color harmony through adding one color to each other is similar to the idea of the "Mother Color" as describe by many artists, where they will seek to move every other color in their painting towards that one color. My method is describe by Andrew Loomis in the book Creative Illustration and a similar idea is conveyed by James Gurney in the idea of "Gamut Masking".

Read more on Gamut Masking on James Gurney blog: Gurney Journey. Alternatively he goes into the subject in his book: Color and Light.

Page 156 of Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis has the method I currently employ for creating color palette. The entire book is one of the best I have found for Fine Art painting actually as it helps one understand basically every aspect of creating a piece of art, regardless of it's final usage (which generally defines it as an illustration). Great pieces of Fine art are often great illustrations as well, they tell a story that is usually impactful in it's execution, even on relatively still subject matter.

If you need to source a copy of Creative Illustration, you can reach out to me by PM.
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Old 10-25-2019, 08:24 PM
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Post Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

I too struggle with oversaturation in my landscapes, I see colour and I want to paint it.

I often see James Gurney use very intentional colour gamut choices which indirectly desaturates his palette. For example, the most saturated yellow in a scene would be a dull yellow ochre or his red is an oxide earth red etc... and all colour modulation is done with these earth colours rather than coming from cadmiums. He knows exactly what he's doing and it's always to allow another part of the painting to sing.

I guess the lesson is, know what your colour strategy is for your painting before pressing out your paint.

Good post
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Old 10-25-2019, 10:42 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

From reading your post I get the feeling that you don't understand some of the basics of painting as well as you should.

Find a tutorial on YouTube about using a limited pallet so you can master mixing colors; complementary colors, high chromatic, low chromatic, etc.

Make sure you understand color perspective and aerial perspective, and all the other ways distance is visually manifested. Sure, linear perspective too.

With time you'll learn how to do different things with paint to make things look the way you want them too.

But you should always paint things any way YOU like; muted or saturated, complementary colors or related, whatever.
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Old 10-26-2019, 03:45 AM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Does the color look "juvenile" to your eyes only? To my eyes - not at all. Maybe you posted your bests and you do have others that are juvenile indeed? I like your blues. I may suffer from oversaturating, look at my killing blue here:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show....php?t=1462123

Also, read the post by Pinguino in that thread. Still, I did something similar recently and had to repaint the blue into gray.

But, what you do looks really good for me. I do not compare that to my results as I am a beginner. It's more a matter of taste and what I like to see in museums - I like the colors of 19-20 century French, when they broke with the boring colors of the past. Why do YOU want to kill that on your paintings? Too often I look at Web sites of painters who apparently are able to sell a lot, and too many of them have that boring boring color.
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Old 10-26-2019, 01:50 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Thank you for bringing up this topic.
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Old 10-26-2019, 02:45 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ca.via.seattle
How does this choice affect your work, Gigalot?
Take more colours and mix better color harmony. People who use too much limited palette, they can't mix proper color gamut, they just have pseudo-chromatic colors, a kind of mono-chrome or triple-chrome colored paintings. They have not violet, rose. bright green poor color gamut and they call such color scheme "cool-warm" balance, - sienna, ultramarine, some gray as a mix of both..

Last edited by Gigalot : 10-26-2019 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 10-27-2019, 02:14 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

Keep in mind that it’s a bit of a trick of the mind to notice “color” first. When someone is viewing a painting the first thing your mind thinks is “oh, beautiful color!”. But what is actually happening is the hidden attraction of very well thought out value plan.

In my opinion, the problem with both of the paintings you posted is not color, but rather incorrect values. You ask how to “see” that, but both artists you mention, Gauguin and Kobayashi paint highly designed and highly planned paintings. They look at nature for suggestions but put down ONLY what works for the current painting. Technically all painters do this, but these artists make it the outermost priority and do not hide it.

The reason why the skies in your painting “work” is because they convey atmospheric depth through value. The reason why the “colors seem to fight each other” is because the value plan is all over the place and is fighting itself. (Darks and lights all over the place with no clear separation of foreground, midground and background, no shadow plan, no eye-pleasing pattern, etc)

I find portraits easier than landscapes too, because landscapes depend soooo much on a plan. You need to plan depth if you want it, while with figurative the mind is more willing to assume depth. In figurative, the minds focus is always the figure, it's actually very hard to make it not be the focus, etc.

Milts paintings are actually not as saturated as they look. Most colors are grayed versions of themselves, even white is not white. They look colorful because he designs the values and cool/warm contract very well and he might allow for a small pop of color when that design dictates.

I think there is confusion on limited palette. You can physically limit your palette by literally putting only 3-5 colors on your palette. Your painting can still fail if you do not plan ahead and let all 3 compete with each other. You can also plan to use a limited palette despite of what is actually on your palette, but you need make a choice to let something dominate and everything else support that choice.

Physically limiting yourself until you get a hang of it is helpful though. For example, if you are struggling with too high saturation, you can use a palette like Zorn, and then you wont be able to mix highly saturated colors no matter what you do. That doesn’t mean it’s fail proof though as you still need to make a decision which way to lean. But your strategy would be to paint in low saturation and then selectively bump up very specific areas with a cadmium (rather than your current strategy of trying to power down all your cadmiums)

Keene Wilson's notes might be helpful to read: Notes on color and etc

Especially Plein Air Notes, as I think Elio Camachio art and strategy might appeal to you.

It's a huge amount of information and there is no way you can keep in mind as you are painting, I use it as a troubleshooting check list when I run into a problem.

Hope this helps! You are on the right track

Last edited by dustlilac : 10-27-2019 at 02:50 PM. Reason: more links
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Old 10-27-2019, 02:48 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

"Better gray than garish."
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Old 10-27-2019, 03:29 PM
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Re: Your Perspective on a Muted vs Saturated Color Scheme?

To add about your question on seeing, one trick is to never let yourself look at one area of the scene for too long. The more you stare at one area the more your mind makes it the most detailed, brightest, colorful, on and on.

Remind yourself to flick your eyes between different areas and always compare. "The mountains are bright BUT not as bright as such and such." "The trees in the background are detailed and green BUT not as detailed and not as warm of a green as foreground trees" etc
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