~Color Against Color~
Last month I discussed warming and cooling colors by adding
other colors. Color is also transformed by its surrounding colors.
This brings to mind an oil painting of a portrait I once saw - the mans
face appeared a sickly greenish tone. Weeks later, I saw that same
painting in a gallery. The green face now looked healthy and warm.
What changed? The artist simply reworked the background color from
a pinkish red to greens and blues which brought out the warm skin tone.
Complimentary colors, placed side by side, will intensify one another.
Red placed next to green looks redder and the green looks greener.
Blue and orange placed side by side will intensify one another as well,
and so on.
Color does not exist in isolation in a painting. It is influenced by
what is placed next to it as well as what you mix with it. Every color
can be intensified, lightened, darkened, cooled or warmed by its
The phenomenon of color contrast exists in every painting.
The distant mountain which you painted blue appears gray in
contrast with the brighter sky color. The blue sky is actually adding
the complimentary orange to the mountain, which neutralizes the blue,
thus making it look gray. The solution is to introduce a touch of warm color,
such as yellow along the horizon line; or by adding some warm low-lying
You're painting a vibrantly green forest. The center of interest is a
large mossy rock - but the rock fails to hold your viewers attention.
It can't be painted any greener. The solution is to introduce warmer
tones behind the mossy rock. Some of the surrounding plants can be
painted a brownish-red, as seen in nature. This simple change will
intensify the greens of the mossy rock and restore its dominance as the
As you control these color contrasts, your pictures will be more
successful and your compositions much stronger.
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