In this Still Life, what colors do you see?
If you aren’t familiar with the Color Wheel, in essence, it is a system of organizing the colors of the rainbow by placing them in a circle that flows from one color into the next. Red and yellow make orange, so red flows into orange which in turn moves into yellow. Yellow and blue create green, so yellow melds into green, which flows into blue, and so on. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet move around the Wheel, then violet connects back to red.
The way colors combine with other colors on the Color Wheel, interacting with our eye to create certain optical effects and emotional reactions, are called color schemes.
For my recent Mastering Color workshop, after setting up these objects, I lit them with a spotlight covered with a green theatrical lighting gel to demonstrate how a color will create natural shadows of its complementary color. Complementary colors are those opposite each other on the color wheel — in this case, green and red.
Look in the shadows cast by the objects in this still life. Once my angled green light hit the objects, the shadows appeared dramatically redder. The complements look for one another.
They also neutralize each other when mixed, and look for one another. This is the most dramatic of color schemes, and provides the highest color contrast. As artist Marc Chagall said, “All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”
Claude Monet knew this when he painted his wife and son in Camille and Jean on a Hill — or any number of other works, for that matter. He did not hesitate to daub red within the dramatic cast shadow in the green grass, rather than simply relying on a darker green. This results in a lively, rich shadow.
The other main pairs of complements are yellow and violet and blue and orange. Start looking around you!
The Report on Mastering Color
On the weekend of August 27-28th, I hosted the Mastering Color workshop at my studio, and was thrilled with the color scheme projects created by the participants.
We explored the nuances of that most emotionally evocative of elements with the help of the Color Wheel, and examined some of the reasons behind our physiological and psychological reactions to color. The participants’ enthusiasm was infectious!
Many thanks to all those who attended! If you missed it, I hope you can join me the next time I offer the workshop.
All the best, and Namaste,