Sunday, February 14, 2016

Colour and value

I've enrolled in an on-line Jane Davies class, "Beyond the Colour Wheel - Advanced Colour Studies", which will run for the next 12 weeks. This is my third on-line class with Jane, an abstract artist with a wonderful sense of colour and composition.

For Week #1, we are looking at colour and value. Value contrast can be useful in organizing a composition. We began by making our own grey scale, mixing black and white paint to make 9 swatches, gradating from light to dark. The goal was to make a smooth transition from one shade to the next.

Then we squeezed out paint and used our grey scale to assess just how light or dark each colour is. Evaluating the value of colours is deceptive, so this activity was designed to sharpen the eye. Look at these reds, for example.

You can probably pick out the lightest red and the darkest red, but could you assign each swatch of red a value number? Just how light is that scarlet? How dark is that alizarin crimson?

Besides a scanner, one of the tools we're using for this exercise is photo software that "de-saturates" the colour, changing a full-colour jpg to black-and-white. Now it's a bit easier to assign a value number to each of those reds. This is useful when pairing that red up with other colours. You could achieve the same thing by making a black and white photocopy of the colour swatches.

Another exercise was to choose a single colour of paint, and add to it white paint (to make tints) and black paint (to make shades). Then we took these paint chips and tried to match them to the closest value on the grey scale. Here is what I did with Phthalo blue (red shade):

After de-saturating the scanned image, it becomes clearer to see that I overestimated the strength of the blue tints (those paler colours) but was more accurate with the darker shades:

The final assignment for Lesson #1 is to use paint to make a colour wheel that uses only colours of equal value.  This will be a real challenge, and I will share my efforts in the next post.

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