“The more things change, the more they stay the same”…as the saying goes…certainly applies to many art related principles.
Some years ago when I was actively involved in Artists and Craftsmen Associated (ACA), I was befriended by Vi Froman, the wife of ACA founder, Ray Froman. I never had the opportunity to meet Ray but Vi, over the years, graced me with several books, magazines, sketches, and paintings from Ray’s studio. I’ve referenced articles from some of the early American Artist magazines in this blog.
Artist and featured writer, Russell Cowles, made some interesting comments concerning color in the April 1949 issue that I think still apply, and will therefore instruct and/or reinforce some important principles when working with color.
“The business of color is complicated. While it is probable that the supreme masters of color are “born that way,” I am certain that whatever native gift they may have has been developed through training. Our painters seem to me to submit willingly to self-discipline in drawing, composition, organization of their pictures in light and dark balance, but to leave the matter of color to feeling or “instinct.” The result is usually accidental or capricious.”
“If you decide to train yourself as an artist, I see no reason why your use of color should be the one anarchistic element in your work. Emphasizing again the prime necessity of developing the greatest possible sensibility of the eye, without which no system or theory of color will do any good, and disclaiming any interest in color systems good or bad, I still think that certain things about color, the result of long experience by many artists, can be stated for the benefit of others.
“Perhaps the first of these is the balance of cool and warm colors. Cool and warm are relative terms.”
‘A neutral gray alongside a hot red will feel cool, while the same gray next to a cold blue will feel warm.’
“Neutral tones, incidentally, are extremely important, so much so in fact that a fine colorist can almost be distinguished by the way he uses neutrals in modifying and balancing his strong colors.”
“Next in importance might be the use of a dominant color. Everybody knows the old gag of what would happen if an irresistible force met an immovable body. The answer can be found in most any large art exhibit. When a picture contains two opposing colors, each in its fullest intensity, and of relatively equal quantity and importance, a conflict occurs that must destroy the unity of the picture in spite of anything the painter can do about it. The answer is that one color should dominate the others, just as one form in a composition must dominate the rest.”
‘A saturated color in a small area may balance a large area of another less saturated color in a way that does not destroy the picture unity.’
“Two opposing colors that clash when adjacent to each other often live happily in the same picture when separated by a neutral area. Strongly opposing colors set up a tension between them, and such tensions should not occur in haphazard fashion in a picture, but should be reserved for the occasions when needed.”
“When beginning a painting, decide what is to be the dominant color, and stick to that decision. Then perhaps try another sketch with the same palette, but choosing one of the other colors as the dominant.”
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