I was watching a video about what is art and the topic of color choice came up.
My former stepfather liked to tell a story that I was “interviewed” by someone from an art magazine and when he asked me how I choose my colors, my reply was “that’s what I have in my box”. That interaction never happened, but the memory of that story and the video I watched gave me the idea to talk about how I really choose my colors.
I’ve already talked about the importance of using lots of colors to create depth and specifically about the role of color in creating fur, and I’ll put cards up for both of those. So now I’m gonna get into the ways I choose my colors.
The first and most common way that I choose colors is by what I see. I literally look at my reference photo and try to choose or mix colors as closely as possible to it.
The second way that I choose colors is by what I personally like. Like I just said, I usually follow the colors in my reference photo pretty closely, but I if I feel like taking some artistic liberties with the color, I have no problem doing that as long as it could still be believable. For example, I probably wouldn’t paint a blue dog. But if someone’s shirt was cobalt blue, I might paint it cureulean blue if I felt like it. Color is not even the most important thing really. Value is.
The third way that I choose colors is what will work best for the painting. An example of this is my painting of Shantih from 2015.
In the reference photo I took, his hat is more like a dark maroon color, similar to what I painted the background. So of course I couldn’t paint the hat the same color it was in the reference photo,’cause it wouldn’t stand out enough. So I decided to paint it a brighter red.
When doing portraits, I try to choose a background color that provides some contrast with the subject’s skin. I like to use colored or black backgrounds with portraits rather than brown or beige ones usually but I broke my rule with this portrait of Kit Medina.
While I was painting it, I thought Kit looked a ghost; he was blending in to the background so much. I knew I would need to amp up the rosiness in his skin to make him look like he was separate from the wall and was in fact a living, breathing person and not a ghost.
The last and least common way that I personally choose colors is symbolism. Every once in a while, I’ll choose colors based on what they represent because of what I’m trying to portray. I did this in my painting “Woman With Cabinet”.
The painting is inspired by the lyrics to the song “Killer Queen” written by Freddie Mercury. The woman in my painting is supposed to be a representation of who Freddie is singing about. I read that Freddie had said that the song was about a high class call girl. Based on that information and the fact that the song has the song has the word queen in the title, my goal was to create a regal whore. So I chose the red background because red is commonly associated with lust and passion and, for a long time, was in even closely associated with prostitutes. I chose the dark purple for her bed sheet and the dark blue for her mattress, because those colors are very closely associated with royalty.
So those are the ways that I choose colors. I hope you enjoyed.
Painter of portraits and wildlife