See it. Think it. Work it.


I started this jag a while back talking about how I use vibrant color in my artwork. I kinda jumped ahead to talk about photographing artwork and using image software to reproduce the color as accurately as possible. But how do you go about creating the vibrant colors in the first place?

I’ve analyzed my method and the process that seems to be in play is this…

See in color. Think in color. Work in color.

See in color.

Everything we see reflects light and light contains all colors. Our brains have a tendency to mute colors after a few seconds of exposure. Ever walk into a bright red room? At first it can be overwhelming. After a few moments you get used to it and don’t even really notice it that much. I keep this in mind when painting. If the colors look correct right off the bat, they may be perceived as much more dull after a few moments.

Think in color.

Sometimes it’s necessary to over think color. You can compensate for your brain’s natural tendency to dull the colors you see by intellectualizing what you are seeing. Daylight is actually quite blue. Just look at the blue sky shining down on everything. Your brain reinterprets that light to filter out the blue, but you don’t have to do that when you paint. Rather than a white highlight, try brushing on a bit of light blue for the highlight. Keeping in mind that everything we see reflects light, try bouncing the color from one item in your painting onto another – even if you can’t really see it.

Work in color.

To keep your paint colors as pure and vibrant as possible, don’t over mix them. In an effort to match the color of the item being painted exactly, artists may tend to over mix too many colors, adding a little more red here and a little more blue there. By the end, the color can be a bit muddy. Instead, try painting right from the palette without mixing, using a color that is somewhat close to your subject. Also change your brush wash frequently. Dirty wash makes for dirty colors. Let the colors on your canvas lay on one another without over blending them. Your eye will do much of the blending for you, and even add a little shimmer as it interprets the vivid, unexpected colors.

These may be some ideas that require a little getting used to. But it’s stepping out of your comfort zone that can lead you down different paths to destinations you never knew you wanted to visit – until you’re there. Enjoy the trip!