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How to spice up saucy browns

As requested by Hardin in his comment in the last blog post I’ll show you the working painting and corresponding blocks of colour here. Please bear in mind this is not a finished painting, it is a working painting, and if I was to repaint it I would do it slightly differently by placing the couple less central to the painting, and with more subtle tones to their body shapes and certainly more subtle background than this one is. But, I digress…..

On the top left of the photo are the blocks of acrylic colour from Burnt Sienna to French Ultramarine, starting with the Burnt Sienna and adding a little of the French Ultramarine bit by bit, whilst lessening the Burnt Sienna until it has disappeared all together and there is only a block of the pure blue of the French Ultramarine. The tutor only asked us to do half of that colour blocking – ending at the darkest brown when there is an equal mix of the Burnt Sienna and the French Ultramarine (on the right hand side of the second line). But, just because I’d done it quite quickly I thought I’d carry on until I had ended up with the pure blue block showing the “journey” the colours had taken. When the tutor walked around looking at everyone’s efforts he said in passing my workspace “You’re getting close to being Teachers Pet with that!” which brought a big cheesy grin from me.

The larger blocks of colour on the bottom left hand side of the photo are the ONLY colours used in the acrylic painting – the brown ones that is, the blues are just to show the colours I would have used if I had made the painting a “cold” one instead of a “hot” one. Browns being on the hot side and blues on the cold, as you well know.  

The tango painting of the man and woman dancing is painted only in the browns on the bottom left hand side of the painting. There are only those four tones in the painting. The whole of the painting was painted in the second shade to give the background a cohesive tonal unity. Then I painted the darks of the mans tee shirt and trousers in shadow and his hair. The lightest colour was used next on his next,  his arm, her arm, her legs and outstretched neck. Then the midtone was used for the rest – her dress mostly. Pure Burnt Sienna was put on the areas of focal importance, being the strong diagonal of their arms mostly.

So, there it is, a simple  working painting, four tones, strong abstract shapes, a feeling of unity, and heat, done on just three colours – Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine, and White. Pure and simple. But very clever too, in its simplicity!

But, what do you think of it? Would you like to see more of my work done in this style?

16 thoughts on “How to spice up saucy browns”

  1. This is an attractive composition–and by that I mean the poses of the subjects are arresting, and the curves of the woman are so perfectly shown. But getting past that to the point of the exercise, using the limited palette, the effect is intriguing in that I see the painting as having all the colour you would expect, though obscured by dim and yellowish light . . . perhaps a single incandescent bulb, off to the right. His shirt looks black to my mind, her dress red and I can see the sunburn in her leg muscles. Yes, following this style could lead to some effective results, quite different from the “living flame” style.

    1. Hardin – I’m glad you find it an attractive composition, its one I love very much for the passionate interaction between the two dancers and the strong diagonals in their legs and arms. But if you deem it to look like the lighting is a dim and yellowish light that gives me the message that this colour combination doesn’t work as strongly as I would like. Having said that, there are only four colours there and the brightest light isn’t pure white, it is a pale browny creamy tone, which would make the whole scene look like its lit by weak light. I think the painting would work better with a sharp clear white to highlight the light on the skin, and perhaps some more red within the picture, probably in her dress and hair, even if it is muted with the burnt sienna colour. But, the whole point of it was to learn a technique and I have certainly achieved that!

      And as you quite rightly point out, totally different to my brightly coloured and vividly vibrant “Living Flame” style of paintings!

      1. Oil paints are a great medium of art which has produced some of the greatest artists all over. If one is willing to buy oil paintings, it becomes essential to know at least the biggest artists of all time and their works in order to differentiate between a great painting and cheap paintings.

        1. Dede – they are indeed a great medium, and its certainly a great idea to know more about them before you buy, so that you can tell if the art is of good quality

  2. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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    1. SO beautiful . Can I borrow from your blog and post to my site too? I would love to share about you and your artwork with my audience, too. I will certainly give you the by line for interested art enthusiasts to be able to contact you.

    1. I went to your website and love it! I will put a link to your site on my blog is I can figure out how to! This is all new to me but I am figuring it out bit by bit.

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