Addicted to color

Article by Ruth Read, award winning painter and photographer, a published author, and a Certified Grumbacher Teacher, Beginner & Intermediate

First thing I would like to do is ask this question; what is your favorite color? Or maybe it’s a non-color. Since black or white is not considered ‘a color’. Maybe we can talk about that.
Ok, I can’t help myself. I have to tell you a little about color, let’s take the color black. It is (in my opinion) the most colorful non color.

Some artists like to use the color black straight from the tube. That is ok, however, as you will see, I prefer to mix my own colors. You can really spice up a painting and make it explode with emotion if you mix black from scratch. If you mix no other color, black is the color to mix. Again, this is just my opinion.
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Fall colors
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For black hair, or shading, you might try Vandyke brown mixed with French Ultramarine Blue. These colors mixed with other dark colors will result in blacks that are truer to nature and much more luminous. For black hair (as in the mane of a horse I painted recently) I put all these colors and also added oranges and yellow ocher, Teal and viridian along with the purples and browns.

I know it sounds yuck, but it is smashing! I love French ultra marine blue mixed with Burnt umber. Sap green and burnt umber is another favorite, or sap green and alizarin crimson. I once listed a long, and I mean long list of color mixes that became black, and then I added more mixes to the list. And Oh yes, Payne’s Grey mixed in there is awesome.

If you use a dark color like alizarin crimson with Payne’s grey you could be in heaven with your creation! I so love color…
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Wild black colored wolf
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And if you have your mix in front of you and you use a palette knife to scrape the paint thin along the canvas, you can see all those colors. Then, you can tell which colors were used to mix the colors you have made.

Try testing it and lay out a few dots of dark colors and then make another line of dots with a few more dark colors. Use the colors I listed above. Then try to mix just a drop of any two of them and see which ones make black. Which ones are shading colors? Then experiment and add a little lighter color for shading. Branch out and experiment with new colors.
That is a lot of fun!

Nothing is as it seems. I have discovered something science proved long ago; everything has its own vibration including color. The chair you are sitting on has its own vibration. Just as each color has its own vibration. The mind is consciously as well as unconsciously affected by color. This is the main reason I mix my own colors. That and, well, it is just exciting.
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Paint and nails
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White is also full of color; the combination of several colors. As they vibrate they unite to form the white rays; white light is the combination of those rays. A rainbow is full of color, each with its own vibration rate.

But Black is the color that fascinates me.

I use color in a variety of ways; if I am painting a living, breathing subject such as an animal, I will use a wash of alizarin crimson on the canvas under the subject. Then I start my layers of paint. I do a lot of glazing. Even if your subject is a black animal, if you glaze red first under the subject, you will feel the life emanate from the subject in the painting.
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White sea ice
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Think about the following quote:

“The human face is an outward and visible expression of the soul.
It was shaped by its spirit. The painting must reverse the process
and by constructing a face, give expression to a spirit.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Isn’t that exciting? This quote shows da Vinci understood that emotion shapes a painting.
Let me explain why; our eyes and mind are designed to read the vibrations of color. If I use a warm red glaze on the canvas it will make the animal feel alive because your eye can see it and you can feel it, Even if I have added many layers of different colors on top of the red. Physically you cannot see the red, but your eyes and mind can see and feel the vibrations of the red. This emotional response is what will cause a person to be drawn to a particular painting. The red has given the subject life. It is the color of blood and blood is life.
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Red sand dune
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Color is very emotional. You can inject emotion into the painting with the correct use of color. By layering and alternating a warm color, then cool color, back and forth many times, you can create emotions in people that they don’t understand. That is why some people will cry, or feel happy when they see a painting. Or they first HATE the painting, but they can’t leave it, or stop thinking about it until they just have to buy it and take it home because of the way it makes them feel. They don’t even understand why they have these feelings. The painting may not even be a subject they care for.

So, as a painter, I think of painting as a very emotional process. I get totally lost in it and time and space disappears. When I am finished with a painting I feel it from inside me and I lay down my brush, look around and think “wow, I am hungry.” After all, I just painted for 8 to 10 hours without even thinking about food or water. And many times when I lay that brush down, and look around, I see a sandwich there on the table beside my palette. My dear husband had placed it there for me, but I had no recollection of him bringing it to me. I had no concept of time or reality. He is kind of used to this now. We have been married for a long time. I wish I could live in this place I create.
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Autumn colors
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Nothing is just “a color”. Color is spectacular emotion wrapped up in vibrating rays of color consciousness exploding outward.
To paint a really good painting, is to crack your heart open and expose your inner self; who you really are. Color is a tool of expression that allows the painter to do that. Some painters do that really well.

So, let’s get crakin’ – my intention is to inspire you to paint some awesome paintings, and my hope is that you will infuse them with layers, and layers of color. Yes, it takes longer to finish a painting when you paint like this…but the journey you take as you paint and the emotions evoked from the finished painting is what makes it worth the time spent.
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Yellow Florida wildflowers
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