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Vibrancy and colour in a prime location

The workshop was about “Colour in landscape” so I’d got two clues as to what it would be about!

But there was more to this one, as it was colour theory. And using pastels. I always surprise myself when I use pastels, as I usually say that I don’t like using them, and yet when I do, I do some really good work. So they’re growing on me, slowly, and maybe I should do far more with them since they are great to use though, as its instant colour, bright, and easily assessable,  and no need to wait for it to dry, like watercolours or oils.

The workshop started, as they usually do, with us seated in an expectant group around the tutor, and waiting to hear the pearls of wisdom that would enable us to improve our own work. She asked us all individually what we wanted to learn from the day “….er, how to use colour in landscape, with pastel? At a guess…”  and then went on to explain about the colour wheel……. about the Primary colours (I learnt this at eight, in the Brownies, I thought!) – Red, Blue, and Yellow, because those are the colours you can’t mix from other colours. And the secondary colours are Green (blue and yellow mixed together), Orange (red and yellow mixed together), and Purple (you’ve guessed this already – blue and red mixed together, as you would expect!). The complimentary colours are the secondary ones opposite each other on the colour wheel  – so Green is opposite Red, Orange is opposite Blue, and Purple is opposite Yellow. Except, what she said is “Green is opposite red, orange is opposite er, purple, and yellow is opposite blue”. I looked at her, I looked at the rest of the group, and back to her again, and said “No it isn’t!” she looked at me as I said “Yellow is opposite purple, orange is opposite blue!” Not feeling at all confident in her ability to be taking the class! She immediately corrected herself, and went on with the rest of the session – before then going on to explain that there was also a different way of thinking, the ones that printers have used for many years, and that it was that the true colours are cyan, magenta and yellow, and their complimentary colours are red for cyan, green for magenta, and blue for yellow (ah, I can see why she said that earlier now!). To put it to the test we could spend the rest of the day painting a landscape, the subject matter was our choice, but, we could either use the traditional colour wheel, or the printers colour wheel, using only one primary colour (of our choice) and its complimentary colour, in a 75/25 ratio, of either colour and its opposite. Either way, it would give the painting more zing, and make the colours far more vibrant.

Ok…. down to work now…. lets get messy!

I knew which photo I was working from, since it was one I had acquired this last week, from my friend in America. He had sent it along with an explanation of where it was, why he liked it. I loved it the minute I laid eyes on it – for the use of light, for the darks within it, for the subject matter of a walkway by the side of water, the path winding around out of sight, the way the dappled light shone on the path, and the sunlight lit the leaves above. A very typical September  photo, heralding  the end of summer, and start of the change in the seasons, when the sky is a warm blue, the light is golden, and the leaves are starting to show more colour in their burnt oranges and vivid yellows.  That was the photo I wanted to use. And my gut reaction was to do the painting in red and cyan, but after standing looking at it for many intense minutes, I decided against it – no, it would be better in the more traditional blue and yellow. So, with that intent, I started the picture, making my 75% colour blue, and the yellow the 25% , adding to their yellowyness vibrancy. I knew the focal point was where the path disappeared behind the dark tree trunks, where the sun shone brightly through the trees above, illuminating the way forward……  and finished the painting just under an hour before the class ended. I stood back, and looked at it critically – yes that works, and works well. I knew others had liked it too by the admiring comments I’d had from the other artists in the class as they’d passed by my easel.  I stood back, and wondered if I could improve on it – no, the colours work well even if they are the traditional colours of the subject matter. I had added white, for the high lights, and black for the depth of the woodland, some cyans for the water, slashes of orange to highlight the vibrant colours of autumn through the trees. It worked as a painting, and gave the message I wanted to convey of sunlit walks, hidden aspects of the vista opening up infront, the warmth in the day, and the happy enjoyment of a leisurely walk with those you love, in  a place you love to be.


Salt Creek walk in dappled shadow in traditional blues and yellows

But, there was unfinished business……

There was still the gut reaction, that hadn’t gone away. I had to deal with it, or else it would always niggle away at me.

What would the picture look like, if it was done in the reds and cyans….?

Only one way to find out!

I quickly leant over my box of pastels, and deftly selected the colours, reds and scarlets, cyans, turquoises, and a dark prusssian blue for depth, they would do it, and lets see how this one goes………………..

I knew the picture so well, I’d spent the last few hours working on it – I knew the focal point, the light, the darks. But this was different – the red would have to be the interest, the point of reference, and the cyans were there to add the contrast, the compliments, the light, and the accents. Time was running out, but I knew I’d finish it when I got home, but in the meantime I went with gut reaction, and covered the paper, more energy in this start since I knew where I was going with it. And later on, when it was finished, I saw the different paintings of the same woodland scene – one traditional, one more abstract and fantastical. But, they both got the point across – two colours, the primary and its compliment, the ratio of 75/25 the lights and darks, the forest in light and shadow. I love them both. I think they would make a nice picture to have them both together, framed in one frame, but in a double mount, one above the other, two viewpoints of the same picture, two sides to the wood – what you can see, and what you can feel. But one certainly has more atmosphere in it than the other, don’t you agree….. ?

Salt Creek fantasy walk in dappled shadow using reds and cyans

And if I was walking that path, with someone I loved, I know exactly where I would want to be kissed. Look again, at both the pictures, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

 X marks the spot! 🙂