Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bending rules on muddy colors

A failed attempt
Being reworked
Today was another day at Wal-mart, were I work so that I can avoid the designation, "starving artist".  At one point I was helping a customer with a house paint purchase when we started discussing color.  It turns out that she is a hobby artist.  Of course we got talking.  One of the things that came up was what to do when a painting becomes muddy, or is otherwise not working.  I suggested that in what ever medium you are work, mud can be overcome with a glaze of color applied after the painting has dried.  So called mud is the bane of many artists.  It is caused because, once there is white in a pigment, it can not be turned dark again.  Conversely, when you have a wet underlying dark color and you try and lay a very light color into it, you can't add enough white to make it truly light.  What we call mud is actually the loss of contrast and or the intensity of colors.  There actually is no such thing as a muddy color, because that same color can work well in some other context.  Red is often a problem.  Most red pigment is some what transparent, and dark.  In a black and white picture for instance, red lipstick appears to be  almost black.  If I have a dark color and paint red over it the result will be dark, even if the paint is very thick.  In order to make red bright we could try and add white to it.  Unfortunately that creates pink.  Most beginners are taught to start with dark tones and work towards lights.  Once you lay down a dark don't mess with it too much, and where you want lights either leave the canvas white until you get to that color, or wipe it off.  A thin layer of red over the white canvas, will glow.  To successfully do this in painting a red rose take a lot of practice and control. Glazing is an alternative.  Using the red as an example.  I can get very pressies tones in the area I want to be glowing red.  I don't care that it is in fact a range of pinks.  When the paint is dry, I can lay a thin transparent glaze of red over the top, and reestablish the darks right into that glaze.  It will not turn to mud, because there is no white involved.  Finally I can add some highlights with thick white.  This too will not turn to mud because the glaze is so thin.  Instead of sticking to a rule. I have bent it and used the problem to get a better result.
Sometimes I do paintings that just don't work.  I have to put them aside and come back to them latter.  I have been doing that in the last week.  I have posted before and the (so far) after pictures.  Because I was getting impatient, the first version had some mud in it, and was going far too blue for a fall scene. You tell me if I am getting a better result.

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