Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behind the Art: Rocks

People sometimes ask me “what colour do you use to paint rocks?” My response is “red, blue, yellow and white”. If they comment, “so surf is white, right?”  My response is “surf is red, blue, yellow and white, and never only white”

Whether it’s rocks or surf, I paint with red, blue, yellow and white, and never only white.  To be more specific, the red is “Cadmium Red Medium”, the yellow is “Cadmium Yellow Medium” and the blue is “Phthalo Blue”.  Everything I paint is done with those colours, along with white. And I never, ever use black.

Yesterday, I featured the print of my painting “Swallowtail Surf”, which is mostly rocks and surf

If we zero in on the foreground in the print, we can illustrate these colours in rocks and surf.

First of all, let’s look at the surf.  The “white” part of the surf is made to look a little brighter by adding just a tiniest hint of red and/or yellow to it, depending on the kind of day being depicted.  It actually looks brighter with a hint of warmth than if left plain white.  On the lighthouse itself, the white on the sunny side is not white, but has a hint of warmth to it. And the shaded parts of the surf we have the white darkened with blue with a hint of red to give it a little mauve tint.  The shade in the surf is bluer as it reflects the shade from the nearby rocks, but the shady side of the lighthouse has a redder mauve tint as it is reflecting the sky away from the sun.

The colour that we see in rocks is actually the light reflected from them.  Now a rock is pretty dull in surface, so light reflected is generally low, and that is why they usually look sort of greyish or neutral.  But if you look closely at these rocks, you will see that the lighter areas have a mauvish (my spell checker would say that is not a word) tint to them.  And the shaded areas of the rocks have a blueish shade. To approach very deep shade, mix all three colours together: red, blue and yellow, a bit heavier on the blue.  If you mix all three together with emphasis on the red or yellow, you can get various shades of brown.

The colour of the rocks depends on the colour of light shining on them.  The rocks of “Swallowtail Surf” reflect the light of an early afternoon sky.  But early morning light is very different, as can be seen from this rock which is part from my most recently completed painting.

Here the early morning light is much more orange from the colour of the rising sun, and so the rocks look more orange, or orange-brown in colour.  This is calm water lapping up against a rock, so the water reflects the early morning sky too.  Also, note that the wet rocks (wet next to the water’s edge) reflect the light much more brightly than dry rocks.

Colour is one of the gifts to life that we often take too much for granted.  But the full beauty of coulour is there for us to enjoy, so let’s enjoy!

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