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Avoid This Beginner Painting Mistake
Since the mid-1800s, numerous artists (and beginner painting students) have stressed color over other elements in painting. They mistake color choice as the root of all success or failure in painting. And, they cite the Impressionists as examples.
However Claude Monet, for instance, explored how to paint light and its effects on the colorful scenes he saw in his mind’s eye. Although many think of Monet as a painter of colors, he is perhaps more accurately described as the original “painter of light.”
Paintings fail or succeed most often because of how accurate the color values are in the work, rather than because of poor color choices or color mixing. The viewer “reads” a painting through its values. And a composition relies on how light and dark values are arranged. The problem is novice painting artists often see a color’s hue and chroma instead of its value.
How to Paint Like a Pro Instead
Painting a grisaille (a composition in shades of gray) before applying colors can help match the correct values in a scene to a desired hue in the proper value. A few exercises juxtaposing values on a grayscale with various local colors also help in training our eyes.
“The best way to understand color is working with it,” says Laura Antonow, who teaches a class on color theory in the art department at The University of Mississippi. “Learning how to mix paint, matching paints or fabrics, looking at colors in daylight and then under artificial light — all of these can help develop your color sensitivity.”
Antonow also stresses beginner painters (and veterans, for that matter) should be vigilant about avoiding one painting art misconception: that color exists in a vacuum.
“When considering a certain color, people forget to take into [account] the surrounding colors, the lighting conditions, and even the cultural context, all of which are extremely important to the way a color appears,” she says.
Beyond encouraging trial-and-error color experimentation, Antonow also suggests reading about color theory from authors such as Josef Albers, Albert H. Munsell, Johannes Itten, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Additionally, she recommends paying close attention to the work of artists known for their dynamic use of color, such as Wassily Kandinsky and Mark Rothko.
Hone In on Color
Discover more ways to hone your color sensibilities with the Acrylic Color Essentials bundle. With the exercises in this collection, you can combine the brilliant colors and buttery application of the acrylics you love with value and color savviness. Create color wheels and mix tints, tones, shades and neutrals.
What’s more, learn how to layer color, explore value in-depth, figure out what to do when color “accidents” arise and see how to let your own personal color instincts lead the way. Below is a preview of art you can make with this colorful bundle. Enjoy!