Sunday, September 16, 2012

Personality of color

Potted Petunias
Original oil painting  16x20"
by Susan Roux

Do you have a favorite blue? How about yellow?  

Do you have a favorite color in general? Which color couldn't you give up?

I don't know if I could answer any of these questions. I can tell you some colors I don't like. I can tell you some colors that I love to work together. But a favorite? Oh I love color way too much to pinpoint one as a favorite.

My palette started off fairly simple with 7 colors and white. It was my standard and I used it quite successfully for many years. I still teach it to my beginners. As time went on and my journey sent me exploring richer, fuller colors, I began rummaging the color charts. 

I purchased a few random ones, usually to help capture certain flowers I was struggling with. I think you can all identify with that. No matter what subject you're painting there's often a color present that you have difficulty capturing, so a tube close to the pigment becomes of great use to you. 

My purchases evolved in time. I became fixated on certain color families. I remember beginning with yellow. I bought a whole range of yellows. I didn't go crazy with them all at once. The tubes sat nicely available to me. One by one they got promoted to my palette as I saw necessary. It was a good way to get accustomed to them. I think had I put them all on my palette at once, I would have been overwhelmed. 

This way I learned each one individually. I learned how to work them with my existing colors in a way that harmonized with what I was already doing. I played. Mixing them with each color on the palette to see what little surprise they held. 

You'd be amazed how much I learned doing this. 

I don't squirt all my yellows on the palette at once. I've learned how they can assist me. It's a good feeling to have them at my fingertips and be able to go directly to the right one that will capture what I desire. That said, I don't think I ever use a color directly from the tube. It always gets to play with a friend first.

I did the same with blues. I must have at least 7 blues to choose from. Yes there are the old standbys that always have a permanent spot on the palette. Colors that get mixed into other colors no matter what I'm painting. But how about when I'm painting something blue? The sky, water, or beautiful blue blossoms? Having such a selection at my fingertips is priceless. 

In my quest for complex color, this has been a blessing.

Don't be afraid of color my friends. It's the best tool we've got. 

One of my students keeps remarking on the blues in my paintings lately. How do you get those wonderful blues? 

The answer is simple. Have a variety to play with, mixing them with other colors in your painting and soon you'll have a wonderful array of shades that visually dance together. The trick is to get to know each new addition. Think of them having their own personality. Once you understand them, they can be very useful to you.

I have many friends. Lots of personalities... Sometimes I choose to introduce some to each other, but I'm careful to pick the right blend for the right situation. If I have a boisterous friend I might not invite her to lunch with a quiet, somewhat introverted guest. On the other hand, she might be the perfect invitee at an art opening. Who better than to talk up your work? 

The same is true with your colors. If you're working in a sea of pastels, you might not want to use a really loud pigment with it, or be cautious to add in very small doses. Some personalities just go better together...

Have fun and good luck! 

So what's your favorite color again? What personality would you say it has?


  1. Susan, this is a wonderfully written piece on COLOR. Your painting is pretty too. I think you are a born teacher.

  2. I too love color. I am always on the lookout for the perfect blues. Then there seems to be a need to get more out of the 3 yellows I tend to use most. Once I ordered a lot of Da Vinci watercolors and they sent me tiny tube of Opus pink and I fell in I always have it on hand..Pink you say..well yes, added to oranges it makes them luminous, added to yellows..just wow, added to blues and luscious violets happen, it can make shadow colors sing..It is not cheap, I have tried other pinks, but this one does the trick and I always keep it on my palette.

  3. Hello Susan...

    I LOVE the potted petunias painting.

    I think my favoite blue is periwinkle but I also like cobalt blue glass.

    Yellow has to be pale. My kitchen is painted a color called "Morning Sunshine."

    My absolutely favorite color is pink and I could not give that one up. Even my fireplace mantel is pink!

    I think pink's personality is warm and happy! Maybe that's why I like it.

    Right now, however, the master bed is covered in white on white on white! Maybe I'll leave it that way for the winter UNLESS I can find a yellow floral ensemble that I like. Then I'll pack away the white til spring.

    Take care. Hope you are having a lovely Sunday. Susan

  4. The answer to my favorite color is easy: Taupe.

  5. So many combinations which yield so many surprises!
    My favorite color harmony is probaby the red/green. I love thalo green/viridian and magentas mixed together. When you add a touch of white the most beautiful grays emerge.
    I must say that they are all my favorites, depending on what they appear next to ;)

  6. A very interesting post,Susan. Color is everything. I am just starting to learn how to mix colors together and I'm having so much fun experimenting. I wish I went to one of your workshops to learn the "correct" way to mix...these petunias are painted so beautiful.!!

  7. I love the analogy comparing personalities to color - that's exactly what they represent to me! I started out with six colors - still use them a lot, but like you, I have added some friends ;0) Love the painting as well. Your posts are so wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  8. At first I thought this painting was a picture--it is so real looking--the pot especially. This one might border on being my favorite yet.:))
    Thanks for stopping by--I miss blogging and am glad to be back out here:)

  9. Ooh, I love this composition. All the lines and the contrast of shapes and colors, all leading the eye around at just the right pace. It has a lovely feeling to it! I like what you said about getting to know your colors. I have been thinking that I'd like to do a piece using only blues, and then another piece using only reds, etc. To get to know each and every shade and how they compare to one another. I think we tend to grab colors that have worked in the past, but we don't take enough risks (at least I dont) to try new ones. I hope you post more about this idea!

  10. You are a master at handling blue in all of its infinite complexities!

  11. C'est formidable que d'être un funambule de la couleur n'est-ce pas? Et sur ce fil-là tu es très agile et tu joues de plus en plus et ce sans filet car de toute façon tu saurais rebondir très facilement!...
    Une merveilleuse composition toute vibrante d'émotion et de délicatesse...
    Je suis si heureuse de te retrouver et grrrrr encore une bonne semaine de remise en route pour moi ... je t'écris la suite de mon mail dès lundi...
    gros bisous ma chérie

  12. A great lesson in color and I love this painting. As much as I love the blues, the edges are really impressive! It's so hard to have many parts like this, without them competing. This is perfect!

  13. You know what? I DO recognize your signature blues. That softy cornflower blue especially, that you always use so effectively. I have colors I reach for over and over again too. I should pay more attention to those and start building my palette around them. Thank you for the great post!

  14. I love every single colour and some I do use straight from the tube or pot. But so often once on the canvas they decide to play around with the other colours around them. What I do find difficult is the fact that some colours are better from one manufacturer rather than another. Trying to remember which ones I like best and what ones blend together best is a tiring task the older I get. Thank you again for a great post.

  15. Funny, I have a few colors that I just love and a few, that I love to paint with! Interesting post!

  16. lovely flowers!!!

    -fashion illustrator-

  17. Good questions, Susan! And I love your description of mixing color: "I don't think I ever use a color directly from the tube. It always gets to play with a friend first".

    Great analogy.

    As for me, I love many of the pigments we use in painting. Some of my favorites out of the tube look so luscious to me and I most frequently use them sparingly because they are such strong colors.

    My personal favorite on the palette is WN cad scarlet. It always gives me a lift to see that squeezed out but it is a color I would never wear!

    The earth colors may be my favorites to paint with, especially for figurative and portrait work. I enjoy their working properties.

    Although I don't use it much anymore, I'm very partial to flake white. It's a very useful colour with stellar working and archival properties. Like turpentine, however, it is now relegated to evil stepmother status because of potential toxicity.

    Several blues and a few purples I regularly use, along with some greens. They're probably my favorites and I enjoy mixing them for skies.

    Yellows are on my palette, too, although I personally dislike many of them as colors. I use them all the time, though, as they're very useful.

    I regularly stick with about a dozen colours and occasionally add or subtract what's on my palette, depending on what I paint. Like you, I find sometimes I might need, say, a cad red medium for a flower, but don't need it day to day for painting landscapes or figurative work.

    I guess we could spend a lifetime just learning about color and how to use it. I'm very thankful for eyes to see the color the Lord has put in our world. What an amazing gift.

  18. What a wonderful post on color. It made me think about what I am using.
    I have noticed that the same palette colors used by everyone in my classes produce completely different ranges of colors. I think it all depends on what they see in their mind as the right color. I think some are natural tonalists and others are definitely colorists.
    Thanks for making me think!

  19. Love this painting. It is like you captured all the sentiments that represent summer and the abundance of the season.



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