Atul’s Painting Sessions

Colour matching in painting

Atul Vohora ran a 3 week project focused on colour relationships in portraiture painting.  The key point is colour looks as it does because of its relationship to the colours around it rather than in an absolute way.  If the surrounding colours are essentially contrasting ( in hue, tone or intensity) then the particular colour will look exaggerated in that dimension.  For example surround red by green and the red will seem more intense.  Shockingly, surround grey by green and the grey will look red.

This is both a problem and an opportunity.  The problem is that when closely examining a subject, a particular colour may seem more intense than it is and so we are tempted to over mix the colour and it will look wrong on the canvas.  Alternatively, especially in darks, a dark surround by similar darks will lose it true colour and so needs to be looked at very carefully to understand its proper colour, value and intensity.  If this is not understood, people tend to paint darks in a dull and uninteresting way.

The opportunity, is to make colours that you want to stand out do so by putting contrasting colour near them, even if the contrasting colour is so dulled down that it hardly registers in the painting.  This is a route to paintings that sing, without using or mixing high intensity colours.  Especially useful in skin tones.

In this particular portrait there is a strong contrast between the relative warmth of the skin and clothing, when compared to the very cool background.  However, the colour of the back cloth also comes into the skin as it reflects onto it, creating strong contrasts in the skin tones.

I particularly enjoy the angular tilt of the head, the sense of slight displacement, a statement of existence. It says  .... I am here and strong in my self even if uncomfortable with people looking at me.....

HeatherlyPatrick Earle