JOHN POTOTSCHNIK FINE ART

Color Concept

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Color is an important part of painting. Some artists believe it is the most important part. I don’t agree. The reason for my position is that masterful paintings have been achieved using just black and white. It’s value that establishes the mood of a painting, not color. Color only enhances the mood.

Having instructed many students over the years in the basics of creating a solid painting, I have stressed the importance of having a clear concept, a well organized composition, accurate drawing, a simple value structure, harmonious color, technical excellence…and even appropriate framing. All these elements are important, but concept needs to reign supreme. What do I mean by concept? It is what the artist chooses to communicate through the painting…and every one of the basic building blocks mentioned above, need to support that concept.

Color is no different.

Before beginning to apply paint to any canvas in the studio, after deciding what I’m going to paint and how it’s going to be organized on the canvas, I always spend some time thinking about what set of colors will best showcase the concept of the piece. The selected palette needs to support the concept. The subject of the painting shown here is a sunlit Italian coastal scene set in the month of May. Summer has not arrived, the foliage is still rich and lush.

Having selected Prussian Blue (a greenish-blue), a variety of yellows were tried to determine which one would yield the greens I was after.

Having selected Prussian Blue (a greenish-blue), a variety of yellows were tried to determine which one would yield the greens I was after.

 

Being able to create a wide variety of interesting greens was the starting point for palette selection. After experimenting with a variety of blues and yellows, I settled on Prussian Blue and Lemon Yellow.

The three primaries selected for this painting: Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Lemon Yellow.

The three primaries selected for this painting: Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Lemon Yellow.

 

I have used a limited palette of just the primary colors since the mid-eighties, so that is always the starting point. You may notice from the color wheel, shown above, that the center of the wheel contains three values of gray. The darkest ring contains the three primaries mixed together, and the other two values have white added. I discovered this palette yields an almost pure neutral.

Before finalizing the palette I make sure it will provide the colors needed for the task.

Before finalizing the palette I make sure it will provide the colors needed for the task.

 

Additionally, for this painting, some extra yellows were added: Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Yellow Medium. As you can see, all of the yellows have been mixed with Prussian Blue. Cadmium Yellow Light was also tried but was rejected because of its closeness to Lemon Yellow. This is only the second time I’ve used Prussian blue. The color was first discovered in 1704 and widely used, but there has also been considerable controversy as to its permanence. Winsor and Newton gives it an “A” rating (Permanent), equal to most of their cadmium colors…and more permanent than the popular Alizarin Crimson…so I am comfortable with that. Phthalocyanine Blue would be a suitable replacement. Beware however, Prussian Blue and Phalo Blue are very powerful. Both are greenish blues and have tremendous tinting strength. Just a dab goes a long way.

With the color concept established, the hard work begins. Click images to enlarge.

Initial states of the block-in on untoned canvas. The drawing was done using Cadmium Red.

Early view of the block-in phase on untoned canvas. The drawing was done using Cadmium Red.

Refinements are made from the focal point outward.

Refinements are made from the focal point outward.

"Afternoon Luncheon" - 32" x 46" - Oil

“Afternoon Luncheon” – 32″ x 46″ – Oil

 

This painting is currently available through Southwest Gallery.

 

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John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE