- Lesson Details
We are pleased to share with you a 10-week long class brought to you by Art Mentors. In this class, renowned Disney Art Director and Instructor Bill Perkins will teach composition for artists. In the 10th and final lesson, Bill tackles the mammoth topic of color. He identifies common hurdles to understanding of the color wheel, hue, saturation, and value. He demonstrates a great lesson about outdoor color temperature using a diagram featuring a “sky dome” and the position of the sun. Bill talks about our perception of color temperature, local and light colors, and analyzes various works to identify such characteristics. He finishes the course with an excellent lecture about composition, where he “puts it all together.”
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Color itself is a huge, huge topic.
What I really want to focus on are just some of the basics of color and then how it can
affect your composition.
There are different ways to look at and talk about color.
There is the affect about color light through a prism.
There is also symbolism or symbology of color,
how we might emotionally respond to color or colors.
The thing that I kind of look at is our perception of color, these different qualities of color
and color relationships.
When you’re looking at composition and you’re looking at designing something, every mark
you mark, every color you put down, everything you do has a consequence.
If you’re not aware of the consequences, then you’re muddling around.
Oftentimes, we muddle a lot.
Today we’re going to talk about color.
Color itself is a huge, huge topic that we really couldn’t cover in just a couple of hours.
What I really want to focus on are just some of the basics of color and then also how it
can affect your composition, how your image will change or how you can change your image
in how you use or apply color, one of the different characters or properties of color.
Let’s get started.
Now, when I say three properties that define a color’s position on the color wheel, it’s
pretty much just that.
I find that when people talk about color in the books you read about color, they get very
confusing for one very, very simple reason.
That is that there are different ways to look at and talk about color.
There is the effect of colored light through a prism.
Some of the things that we read, some of the data is really pulled from that idea, how
light falls through a prism.
So, some aspects of color theory are based on that.
They have questionable relevance to our actual mixtures of color.
When you look at these or think of these different color characteristics that are in a color
theory, they don’t seem to apply directly.
They are a little skewed.
It’s hard for us to really kind of dig into that.
There is also one aspect of color that people talk about, and that’s symbolism or symbology
of color, if you will.
How we might emotionally respond to color or colors.
That again can have some subjective quality to it.
The thing that I kind of look at is our perception of color, and it’s really how we perceive
color and how we perceive mixing color, and how we can create these different qualities
of color and color relationships.
That’s the direction that kind of go at.
I do edit some of these other aspects of color theory.
They all enter in, but I’m really trying to be very, very careful about splitting those
things off that really define one aspect of color information than another.
We’re going to look at this color in terms of how we mix and use color.
When I say the three properties that define a color’s position on the color wheel, I
mean just the color wheel.
That’s hue, value, and saturation.
There is a lot of different people that use different terms for these.
Value, they might just say lightness.
They might say tone.
They might say lightness.
Different words for hue.
Some people call it chroma.
Some people call it color saturation.
Some people call it vividness.
Some people call it brightness.
There are different terms.
I’ll just use these terms consistently, just for clarity.
You can see on this little diagram that value doesn’t sit on the color wheel like this.
A color wheel like this is a two-dimensional thing.
It sits on the surface, and if we have three components to measure, you’re not going
to be able to measure three components on a surface like this.
What happens is, if we look at our color wheel, we see hue sits around the circumference of
Hue designates the color or the characteristic
that has to the do with the chroma of the color.
Now, saturation resides along the radius of that color wheel.
From the center, if you mix your compliments together you get like a gray.
From that center out is your range of saturation.
Full saturation being on the exterior circumference of the wheel and full neutral or gray in the
middle of your complimentary scheme.
Now you can see from this diagram that gray doesn’t land in the real concentric area
or the center of the geometric circle.
It’s off that center a little bit.
This has to do with your color mixtures.
This has more to do with your color mixing.
Now, if you said theoretically it would be right in the middle, we’d be skewing that
chart right away.
Now, value is the element of color that measures the lightness or darkness of any color.
That sits on its own scale.
For our compositions, value has some of the greatest impact.
It appears to have a little bit more dominant impact that hue and saturation.
Hue and saturation both have impact in our compositions,
but value seems to be the mood maker.
It’s the one that controls the mood of your piece.
When we had our second or third week, we were talking about tone or value and tonal relationships,
and so we went over that then.
Hue and saturation are two other characteristics that we’re going to deal with.
There is some basic contrast of color, and so we’re going to take a look at those as well.
We’re going to look at lighting and different painting techniques as well, a little bit.
The seven contrasts of color are cold and warm contrast, contrast of hue, light/dark
contrast or value contrast, complimentary contrast, simultaneous contrast, and contrast
There is also contrast of extension.
We don’t often talk about, we don’t often utilize it, but that’s about proportion.
It’s the proportion, the amount of one color to another that will change the appearance
of a color.
To understand the range of possible expressions of these color properties as well as the possible
design directions is a scheme.
We paint them in as many variations and combinations that we can.
This workshop does not focus on visual components as much.
With each setup, I’m going to offer different information on the color interaction.
Now, what I did is on the PDF that you’ll be able to review,
this is a series of definitions, okay?
It’s just a long series of definitions.
It gives you some clarity on characteristics of color.
I think it’s worth noting.
Even achromatic, all shades of gray,
having no intensity and hue quality, but varying in value.
Anything achromatic doesn’t have hue and it doesn’t have saturation.
The interesting thing is that, about color—and I’ll just mention and go back up here—this
kind of a color wheel is a subtractive color wheel.
This is based on paint.
When we’re mixing paint, we’re looking at a subtractive process.
As you mix more hue together, you get more mud.
If you mix your complements or you mix more hue together, you tend to get, it tends to
neutralize more and more.
It becomes achromatic.
So even your most intense colors, if they’re complementary colors, if you mix them together
your result is going to be achromatic.
The interesting thing is that additive process.
That would be the process of using light to mix your color like you would on a computer
or a television or something like that.
Or lights, physical lights.
When you add different colors together you get white light.
By mixing your complements together you create white.
Again, the result is achromatic.
Adding chroma, actually in both cases, reduces the amount of saturation and the amount of
hue, so there is a reduction going on in both additive and subtractive color mixing.
There are a lot of notes.
I think you’re going to find that there are a lot of things in here that are very
helpful in the description of these.
We can come back to these if we want to go in.
I’ve got a lot more information on here.
You can see they’re all in alphabetical order here.
We’ll go through all of these things.
Okay, now, the one thing I want to get through, too, is how we look at things.
Oftentimes, when we’re mixing color what we end up doing is saying, okay,
what color is that? What color is that?
We try to look at that area and match that area and paint it.
That’s actually the wrong way to approach it.
As tempting as it is, it’s just the inverse of that.
It’s really more about—for instance, a good example is when you’re trying to determine
the value of things, just the value range, what you might do is you might squint.
What squinting does, squinting will kind of close down the aperture in your eyes.
The light values will push to the light, the dark values will push to the dark, and you’ll
see a little greater separation between your light values and your dark values.
That will bring a little clarity to what you’re seeing, and some focus.
Now, on the other hand, if you want to see color, you don’t squint because, again,
that will skew the saturation and it skews the hue.
You don’t skew when you’re trying to see a color.
What you want to do is you want to see color comparisons, the relationships of—let’s
just say you’re out doing a landscape and there is going to be a bunch of green out there.
You’re going to mix a green.
There is so many greens out there, you go, where do I begin?
How do I mix this?
If you look at your area, whatever your composition is, look at the area contained in there first,
but then also you can look outside of that area as well.
It’s not contained to just that area of space.
You can look all around.
If you’re making a comparison.
What you do is you flip your eyes around rapidly, extremely rapidly,
and move your eyes just like this.
It looks silly. It looks crazy.
It’ll give you a headache, but what happens is when you move your eyes around, there is
something that happens; it’s a saccadic eye movement, and you basically disrupt your
When you’re looking at something our eyes scan in a natural timing, in a natural order
in our little rhythms and stuff, right?
But when you disrupt that, that data going into your brain is more true, so you’re
getting, you’re not isolating to those little ideas.
For instance, we’re conditioned to observe the world around us.
First, you know, is it for us, is it against us?
Do we fight it?
Do we run?
Do we, you know, all those kinds of primal kinds of feelings.
We also look at things from early on and say, okay, it’s a tree.
Here’s one example: You go outside and you’re painting and you go, okay, there is a palm
tree here and there is a eucalyptus tree here.
They’re two different trees, two different types of trees, two different varieties of trees.
But, when we go out and look at these trees and landscape, we go,
oh yeah, that’s a palm tree.
Okay, you’ve identified it?
You’ve logged it with every other tree in that little file cabinet in your brain with
every other palm tree.
Now, when you sit down to paint and go, okay, that’s a palm tree, you’re painting kind
of that palm tree mixed with all of the palm trees you’ve ever seen before.
You tend to average everything out and you don’t really see that palm tree.
You see your recollection of everything else that you’ve ever learned and thought of.
Now, when you disrupt your scanning pattern, you’re seeing the true color of what’s there.
What you’re looking for is your looking for the real relationships that exist out there.
It doesn’t exist with staring into one area or the other.
You perceive it by scanning the whole area rapidly.
If you can scan the whole area rapidly and you say, okay, what color green is that section
of that bush?
When you scan your eye around rapidly and just look crazy, you know, just flip your
eyes around back and forth and stuff and do that, what ends up happening is you start,
and you think green.
I’m thinking green.
I’m focusing on that, but I’m now scanning my eyes all around, just flipping my eyes
I’m going to start to see green relationships.
I’m going to say, oh, that’s a little duller than that green over there.
It’s a little bit bluer than that green over there.
It’s a little bit darker than this green over here.
Now you’re adding characteristics specifically to that area, or you’re starting to see
that color better because you’re comparing it more naturally to its surround.
That’s how you see color better.
So, when you’re out painting, that’s a way to help you perceive color better.
Even in a setup—whether you have a model or a still life or whatever, inside, outside;
it doesn’t matter.
It’s really the way that you look at things.
It’s a big, big part of it.
Outdoors we’re surrounded by beautiful scenes,
each one in perfect harmony while continually changing.
That’s the thing.
If you do a lot of landscaping you realize, oh, that’s a beautiful painting.
Twenty minutes later, oh, it’s changed.
It’s beautiful again.
Twenty minutes later it’s changed and it’s beautiful again.
And so here you go.
You could continually chase your tail, but the relationships are changing.
There are so many possibilities, and it’s so difficult to capture the beauty of all
those different fleeting moments into one painting unless you freeze that moment.
You have to kind of freeze that moment in your head.
[Student asks a question... (unintelligible)]
Okay, so the question is about underpainting
and if, is underpainting, if you’re going to look at greens, would underpainting in
a purple be appropriate or what would be the use for that?
Is that the question?
[Student: Similar to… (unintelligible)]
That’s a good point.
It’s a fair question.
This is what I’ve found, and this is my personal opinion on this, and I found this
When I go out and paint, I’ll go out and do—and I started doing this when I started
painting larger landscape paintings, going out and taking a larger canvas.
I would go out and I would start on one day and I’d block something in.
I’d only spend so many minutes because I knew it was going to change.
I would only time myself for that time, and then I’d take it away.
I’d come back the next day or similar weather and paint at the same time, try to capture
that same thing.
Now, if you do that a couple of times you’ll really get a sense of that time of day and
the dynamics of that.
There is another way to do that, and that is to, when you do your simple little matrix
you identify somewhere between seven and 15 colors.
Any image that you create you can break it down to a simple matrix like that.
And the reason I say that range is because it’s going to be important if you have a
strong light, you’re going to have for each element, each local color you’re going to
have light and shadow of each local color.
If it’s a person they’re going to have light of their hair, shadow of their hair;
light of their skin, shadow of their skin.
These are basic colors.
Light of what they’re wearing and dark of what they’re wearing.
Light of the background and dark of the background.
There is eight right there.
So, if you get that relationship or those relationships right, you’ve blocked it in.
You’re going to get better feeling of that moment, that time of day, and that color than
you will by rendering anything.
[Student: You said seven to 15?]
Approximately seven to 15.
It’s what we can remember, too.
It kind of runs in that range of what we can remember naturally.
It kind of fits pretty well.
But, if you can break something down, break your image down into a finite number of little
spots somewhere in that range.
When you get more than that you start breaking it up too much.
When you’re less than that, you might not have enough to really capture the effect of light.
The effect of light is going to come in between the relationships you capture between the
light and shadow of one thing and the light and shadow of another thing.
If there is a relationship there, all of a sudden you sense, oh, it’s light.
It’s something affecting these things.
That’s how you would do that.
Now, an underpainting, and the color you might put down in an underpainting, and what I’ve
kind of found through taking these larger paintings out, when I go out and paint, I
don’t know my temperament.
I don’t usually take my monitor, take my temperature or monitor myself, but I’ve
always realized that I’ll go out and start a painting one day, and if I come back the
next day, I’ll wait to that moment and start painting, I can see it’s the same moment,
but the one thing I don’t have a handle on is my point of view.
I walk out with a slightly different point of view, different feeling, different mood
on Tuesday than I had on Monday when I went out there.
What I realized was when I approach a painting, what’s at the basic root of going on in
my head is I’m either in a contrast zone or a similar zone.
So, when I go to paint something, I’m thinking it’s so subtle and things are so similar
and look at the subtle relationships there, or I’m saying look how bold this is.
Now, I might not verbalize that.
I might just be feeling that that day, and if I started a subtle painting, and I go back
the next day with a bold feeling and not verbalize that, I’ll repaint that whole thing.
Why the heck am I repainting this whole thing when I’ve begun that.
I realize it doesn’t lie with that.
It lies with me and where my brain is and my feelings are and stuff like that.
That’s kind of like a, that’s why I say it’s kind of my opinion about it.
It’s a self-awareness kind of a thing.
Now, underpainting is, if you are underpainting something, and a lot of people put a coat
of something down.
If you underpaint something, let’s just say you’re going to paint greens, and you
underpaint with a purple or a red, okay, something that’s a near-complement.
What you’re going to get if you let some of that come through, you’re going to get
a bolder, more vivid color relationship that occurs.
If you put something down that’s similar you’re get a more similar, subtle effect
in the end.
Now, if you’re going to use an underpainting or an undercoat for your color, what I would
suggest—I caution you.
Don’t ever, ever, ever mix a batch of some color and slap it down as an undercoat.
If you’re going to prepare something, look at what you’re painting and determine what’s
the overall key and is this painting a painting that gives me the feeling of a little bit
more contrast or something that’s more subtle.
Once you determine that then pick your undercoat color.
It’s not independent from what you paint.
Now, a lot of times if you go into the museums and stuff you’ll see red oxide.
Some people painted over red oxide.
Impressionists, some of them would paint over a yellow ochre wash.
What they were trying to get is the color temperature shimmering when they put these
blues over the top.
It was laying down the effect of a color temperature difference where you get vibration.
That was the intention there.
That red oxide was a case that, red oxide would seal a surface.
It had a lot of lead in it, so it would seal it like a ground, a white ground.
It was pretty much just a ground.
Now, when we look at it later, it’s like, oh, look at that, a beautiful traditional
painting has got this red oxide.
Let me slap on the red oxide.
I can make one that looks just like that.
To me I kind of look at that and think, again—again, when you’re looking at composition and you’re
looking at designing something, every mark you make, every color you put down, everything
you do has a consequence.
It’s just being conscious of the consequence.
Not that consequences are bad; they can be great.
You put something down that has a great consequence, and you’re enhancing your painting.
If you’re not aware of the consequences, then you’re muddling around.
Oftentimes, we muddle a lot.
[Student: We paint in circles].
And we do.
We paint in circles.
That is something that is, that’s something to kind of be aware of.
Be clear about that when you move forward.
You can read through most of this.
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time going through this, but this is really, that’s
our topic, basically.
One being tone or value and value contrast.
In a painting like this, this is just a sketch.
This is showing tonal contrast.
There is an ambient light.
You don’t read a whole lot of form in here.
The greater contrast is between her shirt and the background, her hair in the background
and skin and background and so on.
There is some subtlety in the more subtle value relationships are going to occur where
there is a little bit more form, so you will see it some of those areas.
I put a little bit more of it in the mid-value of her skin tone.
For two reasons: One, it appears a little bit more clearly in these mid-values.
The other is that’s the area of focus or how I want you to focus on the painting.
I’m going to give you a little bit more subtle variations or range within the area
I want you to view.
This is a still life with just black, white, and blue.
The warm values or the warm hue—or appear to be warm hue in here—are really only gray.
When you surround a color, in this case, when I surround the gray, this vase on the right,
the tall vase on the right, if I surround that with predominantly blue and put a little
bit of blue in the core and in the shadow, the light area is going to appear warmer.
That will happen all throughout.
What happens is—this is called a simultaneous color contrast.
This is the effect of the surround changing the appearance of any color.
This is a fun assignment.
Just take one color and mix it with black and white and see how much range you can actually
get out of that.
These might not be paintings that you’re going to do to sell, but they’re definitely
wonderful learnings tools.
We used to just explore color.
There is just one color.
I think it was inspired by this one cobalt bottle, and so what I did is chose a blue
that was closest to this.
It was like an ultramarine blue.
It was closest to that bottle color.
That’s why I chose that.
It’s just gray with a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of blue.
Now, when that is next to gray alone, you sense the coolness of it.
The gray looks a little warm, so it appears a little yellow.
That area where it’s greenish has just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of blue in it so next
to it, it appears greener.
It’s just a tiny bit of blue.
That’s why I say this is a great exercise because with just black and white and one
color, you can explore that range.
You’ll end up getting gray so you’ll go from one color into gray, but you can create
the illusion of pushing towards the complement.
You can get a little of that.
This is another limited palette, and this was black, white, red, and yellow.
The black, white, red, and yellow that I use, I’ll use a black and white, but instead
of a cadmium red or some people use an alizarin red, and I don’t.
I don’t use alizarin on my palette at all in any paint because I find that it doesn’t
mix well with other colors.
It neutralizes too quickly.
I use a naphthol red as my warm red and I use a quinacridone red as my cool red.
I realize that after looking at some of Soroya’s paintings that how he would expand his color
palette was to have a warm and cool version of his primaries, so not just have a red,
a yellow, a blue, but have two versions of each.
Those would be a warm and cool version of each.
Yellows would be—so in this, it would be red, yellow, black, and white, but I would
have two reds and two yellows.
The yellows that I would have would be a cad yellow light and raw sienna.
Raw sienna is a warm, dark yellow.
It’s a warm, saturated dark yellow.
If you take your cad yellow light and you want to mix a medium value or do a dark value
yellow, you can’t get it.
You’ll neutralize your color.
That’s the result.
Out of the tube cad yellow light is a light value color.
When you mix anything with it to make it darker, you’re actually neutralizing it down.
If you’re going to create a dark, saturated yellow go straight to raw sienna.
It’s a darker, warmer, dark yellow.
Right out of the tube you could that easily.
[Student: So, your cad yellow would be your cool yellow?]
Cad yellow with white will become cool.
The thing is, if you take cad yellow, that’s your warm yellow, cad yellow light is your
warm yellow, but if you add white to it you’ll get a cool yellow.
[Student: Because white is the coolest color? What is the coolest color?]
White is a cooling agent.
[Student: Oh, okay.]
The color wheel doesn’t have a beginning and an end.
Even the demarcation of a warm hemisphere and a cool hemisphere is questionable.
You talk to different artists and it’s questionable.
Where does it begin?
Where does it end?
How does it work?
It’s very, it’s relative.
It comes down to color temperature.
That’s a more subtle component.
And comparing it, if you read through the definitions, you’re going to see that you’ve
got all these factors involved.
Because of those, it’s hard to say this is absolute here, absolute there.
Color is so relative, it’s more relative than even music.
With music we can hear a note, and then later we can hear the same note and identify it
—oh yeah, that’s the note.
With color you can’t because it’s so dependent on what’s around it.
[Student: Question-when painting, I think I found the answer, but I get very confused
with highlights. Do I put yellow in this highlight?
Is the highlight dependent on the light temperature?
How do you know what highlight to do?]
I’m going to get a pencil here.
Brian, I’m going to do a little diagram on the paper, so if you want to get a paper.
Actually, I’ll use this.
I painted this as a demo the other day.
I’ve got this.
[Student: That’s good. Just happen to have this.]
Alright, just happen to have this, and it’s a good thing.
What’s happening in this is I painted three balls here.
What I did is I used a different local color and a different highlight.
What happens here is I have a warm light affecting this green ball, and the shadow is going to
darken this, lean toward the complement of the light source.
It will in any of these cases.
I have a red ball with a cool light.
Then I have kind of a more fleshy kind of color with a warm light like this one up here.
Okay, not quite as saturated as the one up there.
So, what’s going to happen is, every object has a local color, and the local color is
going to land somewhere in this halftone.
That’s the local color of the object.
Everything in this light area is going to be that local color plus the color of light
at a certain percentage, depending on the reflective quality, the type of surface it
is, whatever; it will be a combination or proportion of those two.
The object color plus the color of light that’s hitting it.
That could be anything that’s happening there.
Okay, so what ends up happening is the area in light is the color plus the color of light.
The highlight is the color of light void of the local color.
That’s why a highlight sits on top and separates
[Student: So I did finally figure it out.]
Yeah, so what ends up happening is, as you can can see here, anytime you have a highlight,
it’s not just highlight, it’s not just white.
It has to be light, but it’s going to be the color of the light source that’s hitting
Is it warm?
Is it cool?
It depends on your light source.
You have to look at your light source and see what color that is.
That will determine what color that highlight is.
[Student: Okay, so is there such a light source that is right in the middle and if so, what do you do?]
Hmm hmm. Okay.
what would that be?
There is, and here is how it works.
I’ve got a landscape.
Here is my landscape out here.
I’m painting this landscape, and all through, all this stuff out sitting on this plane,
this ground plane, trees, okay.
I’ve got maybe a mountain back here, something like that.
I’ve got this big picture box, basically.
Here is this picture box, and everything is sitting in this little world.
Does that make sense?
Out in this landscape along with me is the sun.
Here is the sun over here.
Okay, its intense light is coming down and hitting all these objects.
It may put this tree into shadow and cast a shadow, something like this.
Maybe these bushes have a shadow side to them that comes like this.
Maybe the mountains have a little shadow side if we see some of the backs of these mountains
or some little ridges that come down, something like this.
We have this landscape that’s broken into light and shadow because we have this strong
This isn’t the only light source out here.
The sun is the most intense light, but our biggest light is the sky, the sky dome that
Now, our sun can be warm and very intense.
And the sky dome is cool with variable intensity.
This relationship is going to change, depending if the sun is here, here, here, here, here,
here, here, or here.
Now, this sky dome being so broad, this is the biggest light source outside.
The sun is the most intense light source outside.
There is a competition that occurs.
There are a lot of people that don’t like to paint when the sun is straight up above.
Exactly what you said.
It’s not just the shapes.
It’s the color.
Up here, what’s going to happen is this intense warm light mixes with the large cool
light and makes that neutral light.
They tend to cancel one another.
It makes people want to lean one way or the other, and they can’t make up their mind
what it is.
Okay, so there is your color mixing up there by the light sources, and when they mix and
don’t have a strong point of view, you’re going to see a greater point of view of color
when your sun is down towards the horizon in the beginning, in the morning.
Let’s say this is a.m. and this is p.m.
[Student: In photography it’s the worst time to shoot because it ages a person.
All the unflattering shadows, but what happens?
Does everything just go gray in the shadow when the sun is there?]
The question is what happens to the shadows when this color gets kind of neutralized up here.
Again, it’s dependent on the degree of the intensity of the sky, and it’s going to
You know, you get clouds up here.
You could have a blue sky.
You could have any kind of occurrence.
Again, it’s a harmony, it’s a range that occurs.
Now, if your sky is overcast, say it’s all flat.
This big dome is all cool.
No direct light but it’s all cool or appears cool.
It appears gray.
What’s going to happen is—if you have a still life.
Let’s just say you have a ball here and it’s gray.
You’re not going to have strong shadows.
These are going to be real soft.
It’s not going to be a strong light like this with a hard shadow.
This might appear strong light.
This is going to appear hazy.
Now, if you have this kind of overcast morning that’s a little bit hazy and gray out there—if
your sky is gray, the larger light is going to appear gray.
It’s going to appear gray.
It’ll have a neutralizing effect.
Your shadows might appear more saturated.
[Student: It’s saturated in...?]
In the shadow area.
This is neutral so the color here and the color here is going to be exploited.
This local color, this local color will be exploited.
Now, every object is going to reflect this light into a lesser light.
This ground is going to reflect its light into this and have some influence, but with
a soft gray light up here, it won’t have the same influence that this will.
This light down here under a strong light, it’s going to hit this area here and bounce
back under here with greater effect than it will here.
We’ll see a little bit more, generally, we’ll see a little bit more of a local color
and a little bit more saturated version of the local color.
You’ll still get saturated colors here, but it’s going to have a stronger color
temperature difference because you’re going to be looking at some of those things, particularly.
There is also another thing that probably in the definitions you’re going to see,
but I’m going to put it down here anyway.
There is a term that we call, mostly you’ll hear it in photography and stuff like that.
Morning light, some people refer to it as cool light.
Afternoon might be warm light.
These terms specifically are about the range of tonal contrast, not color.
Okay, I’ll say it again.
These terms—when they’re used that way, these terms have to do more with less contrast.
So, in the morning we might have a cool light which means it’s going to have tonal value
changes that are going to be subtle and less contrast.
In the afternoon we’re going to see greater tonal contrast or value contrast, greater
tonal contrast or value contrast, and because you have such a strong, intense light source
down here, you’re going to see greater color difference in the saturation.
In this area, you’re going to see a lot of temperature difference.
You’re going to get a color temperature difference in this cool light, this a.m. kind
of a situation.
You’re going to see warm colors, cool colors, and they’re going to intermixing all over
In the afternoon, where you get a strong, warm sunlight directly hitting something—say
the sun’s down, well, let’s just make this the afternoon.
If the sun is setting over here, and you have these shadows, these are going to be much,
appear darker because it's going to make the light, this intensity is going to feel stronger.
You’re going to get more of this effect.
Along with this effect, you’re going to see the intensity of this color.
So, if the sun is dropping down into a smoggy atmosphere, you’re going to get a warmer
yellow-orange color, and it’s going to affect these lights more.
What’s going to happen is as it goes down and we get this direct light source hitting
this way, look at the range.
See the range of the sky?
More sky, which is getting darker now because this is going down.
It’s getting a little darker now.
We have this larger area of blue, and that larger area of blue is going to intensify
That’s why you get those strong blue shadows in the afternoon.
It’s the greater influence of the larger amount of sky affecting the shadows.
The appearance of the complement in the shadow is also a phenomenon, too.
Part of it is just the phenomena of appearance of the complement.
It’s not all physical, tangible.
It is a perception.
[Student: So in the morning the San Gabriels are more magenta and in the afternoon they
are more violet?...The light setting on the San Gabriels look more violet in the afternoon
and more magenta, purple.]
You have an observation of color in the San Gabriel mountains of being more magenta in
the morning and more violet in the afternoon, right?
Yeah, look for the difference between the two.
It’s always good to paint the difference.
Go out there.
The more that you go and paint the same thing at different times a day, the more you’ll
start to recognize the quality and the effect of light.
If you want to learn light, that’s the best way to do it.
Go paint it, and go paint it at different times of day, particularly if you have a location
that you can go, and you have an element, let’s say and element, let’s say a white
element, a white building, and mid-value elements, and then a dark value element.
Go paint that different times a day.
You’ll actually learn a whole lot about how color works.
It’s a great exercise.
This is what we might look at in terms of a limited palette.
This is like a green and red—it has a green and a red, predominantly green and red and
some yellow in the palette.
And so, this is just a range that’s created with a limited number hue on the palette.
If you want to look at a certain color influence on something, one of your choices is to limit
Again, if you limit the palette, what you might want to do is look at the range of colors,
like you can see on his lip.
In light there is the warmest, on his lip in the light and underneath his lip you’re
going to get the warmest colors, the warmest reds—excuse me—and then cooler reds down
into some of the reflected areas or shadow areas that are reflecting into, skin is reflecting
Under his chin, in his ear over there.
You’re going to see those areas.
Even the wrinkles under his eyes are going to be a little bit more saturated in there
because they’re reflecting skin into skin.
But this would be a palette change or a limited palette.
Again, this is a limited palette.
This is a warm and cool temperature palette.
This is just black and white and kind of a blue and a yellow.
It has a red in it as well, but the red is a dull red.
It’s restricted to kind of like a Venetian red.
This is a color temperature.
We’re getting a strong tonal contrast, but we’re getting a lot of effect of just color
temperature differences in this sketch.
This is another painting that has an overcast, hazy day, and it’s a situation where you
see mostly the local colors.
Now, if you look at her sweater and stuff, you’re going to see that the lighter areas
of her sweater and on her legs or pants and so on, even on the rocks the surfaces that
are facing upwards are a little bit more neutral.
They’re lighter and a little more neutral.
As they turn away from that light source, they start to take on a little bit more of
their local color.
As forms turn away from light source and it’s overcast, kind of a soft lighting, they end
up picking up more of their local color.
This is a complementary scheme that has a cool light and, therefore, really, really
This is with a cyan filter over the light source.
Any time that you put a strong color influence on the light source, you’re going to get
the appearance of its complement in the shadow.
[Student: You said warm shadows?]
[Student: …cause the shadows are cool?
There is a redness.
If you look at the shadow in the background—take a look at the shadow on her face.
Her skin in light has more cyan in it, and in shadow it has more of an orange and red
So, it has warmer tones there.
The background has more cyan in the light, cyan and some yellow, and the shadows have
more blue-purple, have more red in them as well.
[Student: Oh my gosh, maybe I don’t see color correctly.]
Some people perceive color a little differently.
I also think that there is a, because there is a discrepancy in determining these color
hemispheres, what’s cool or what’s warm, whatever we’ve learned, whatever we tend
to stick with that idea.
And so sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
And so we kind of have to look at our perception.
I had one class one time, and I was doing some watercolors.
It was a watercolor class and we had models coming in.
People were painting with oils or watercolors both.
I remember one day there was a really well-known artist that came to down and he did a workshop,
and it was a watercolor figure painting workshop.
He said he never uses cool colors in skin tone.
Well, it was the next day after the workshop, everybody was excited.
They came in and what I do but put a cool light on the model, and all of a sudden I
remember there was one woman that started arguing with me.
She said, “Oh no, he never puts cool reds in his skin tones, and how can I mix that?
My painting doesn’t look like that.”
She wanted me to help her mix that not using a cool red when I’ve got a cool light on
It really breaks all the contrived rules.
You kind of have to look an assess what goes on.
It’s our perception of sometimes what we’ve learned, what we’ve been told.
We have to really sit back and look first and see, you know, what is it that we actually
see up there and kind of break it down that way.
Sometimes we can get used to kind of following along with, you know.
[Student: Yeah, that’s for sure.]
Okay, so this painting is about color temperatures.
She is wearing a real vivid red outfit, put a red cover on the chair, and I wanted to
get enough difference—I put a cool light on the front of her, filling the shadows on
her face and the front of her.
It was a warmer light behind her.
What I did is I got similar color.
The background was a little bit bluer, but what I did is I put a warm light on her, and
then I put a cool light bouncing into her shadow area.
I get a good amount of color temperature difference.
You’re going to see that planes that aiming toward the light source like on her cheek
and her shoulder and so on, they’re light in appear a little yellower than on her forehead
and forearm and chest and right along kind of the core of her shoulder.
On her hip you can see a lot of blue.
That’s the effect of this cool light coming at about a 45 degree angle from the left.
If you look at her tummy, it’s red as it turns facing into what was—if you look at
the far left of this image, down at the bottom of the far left—the red fabric going over
the chair, it comes out because there are arms on the chair.
You can see it will start to get really warm on the lower left there.
That was getting hit by the direct warm light and bouncing back up into her tummy.
As planes turn and start to go back to that, angle back towards that chair they’re going
to take on a little bit more of the red.
Same thing, similar like that.
You’re going to look at her, under her forearm that’s she’s leaning on.
Look at her skin in shadow.
It’s a really strong reflected light.
It really picks up that red that’s reflecting into her skin from that red material.
This is just a color temperature exercise.
This is a more neutral palette with a color temperature situation here.
In this kind of a situation, it is a warm light, but it’s not a strong warm light.
It’s not a real yellowish light.
It’s just a little bit warmer.
We don’t see a lot of incredibly saturated area except in some of the recessed areas
where there is a little bit less of that direct light, around by his ears, around his eyes
or around his ears and stuff like that.
Here is a little bit of a warm light.
It’s more of an extreme uplighting situation, so it feels a little bit stronger, but this
is just a case where it has a strong color background that doesn’t really affect her
Her tones are these warmer and cooler tones on her and on her skin tones kind of play
a little bit more subtly because the background is kind of blocked out with that big dark
area up there.
As far as the design of this, the background up above is real simple and down below it’s
Her hair is simple as well.
Her skin has a strong breakup based on form of light and shadow areas.
Then her kimono down below, the stronger breakup of light and dark is in pattern.
The designation of design has changed from zone to zone to zone.
That was something that I kind of planned on as well.
This is a warm light and a cool shadow, and it’s just trying to capture subtle variations
within these light areas.
Within the light areas you’re going to have, if you look at her neck there is going to
be cool and warm, and in her skin in light there is going to be cool and warm.
In the shadows there is cool and warm.
You’re going to see both in those areas.
It’s not all one and all the other.
You’re going to see variations in there.
They’ll sit in these different value regions, and they have to sit in those values in order
to stay in those areas.
Okay, this is kind of an exercise in greens.
It was, again, an overcast day so that the lighter areas of the building seem a little
bit grayer, and a little bit more of the recesses there is a little bit more saturations that
appears in some of those areas.
This was a situation of hue, basically.
I was trying to designate different hue to different areas, and then with just a simple
light, just trying to define blocks of blue, blocks of yellow, blocks of orange, blocks
of red, you know, that kind of a thing.
This is a complementary scheme, again, where I put more of an orange to red light on one
side, almost 90 degrees to his face.
Then on the other side was a very, very cool light that I put on.
We’re getting a little bit of local color, but mostly affected by those two strong light
Most of the local color might happen along the frontal planes of his face on either side.
Still, on the warm side it’s local color skewed warm.
On the cool side it’s the local color, you know, less effect.
Do you see the cool light was less intense than the warm light?
On the cool side, it plays a little.
It plays very cool on the planes that are mostly perpendicular to the light source and
a little less on the ones that are more 90 degree to the light source like the frontal
plane of his cheek under his eye, and on his forehead up there you’ll see a little bit
less of the affect of the blue light on those areas up there.
Yeah, there is a real hard line running down from his nose, upper lip, lower lip, down
his chin, down to his neck; it’s very distinctive.
His nose was a little bit redder as a form anyway, so it appears much more saturated
in there as well.
[Student: It sounds like it’d be hard to do what you did.]
Again, this is a great way, this is one of the ways I learned how to see form.
It was really putting multiple colored lights on an object, and you see form more clearly.
You see these planes turning more clearly than you would if it was just one room light
or a natural light.
If you like paintings that have natural light and soft tones, that’s great.
But if you really want to understand form and see form, blast it with light from different
directions and flood it with different colors, and you’ll see those forms.
They just pop out on you.
You’ll see all the nuances on there.
Because you see them, you’ll see their boundaries and you’ll see their demarcation.
You’ll see where they turn and how they turn.
You’ll register a whole lot better those forms.
This is a warm light on a predominantly cool material and a gray background fabric and
a white pot with some warm flowers and a transparent vase and a gold plate.
There are some warm elements in the cool environment, and then I hit it with a warm light.
There is kind of a cool ambient around in there.
You can see within the bowl and the left side of the bowl you’ll see some cool colors.
You’ll see some cool in the top planes of the vase as it starts to, the base of it as
it starts to turn away from the light source and in the flower too as it turns away from
the light source.
This is a limited color palette.
This is kind of a range from yellow to orange specifically skewed for this.
I made sure that I had light, medium, dark, and I made sure that I warm and cool temperature
changes in the light, warm and cool temperature changes in the medium, and warm and cool temperature
changes in the dark.
So, playing those ranges and just maintaining that condition.
Again, this is design quite a bit.
As long as I have the relationship of warm and cool in one area and the other area and
the other area, there is going to be something that makes it feel like it’s a more normal
This was a little color study from a color class.
Again, this was a scheme that was set up with yellows to greens, and it really played off
of her skin tone, so we see the warmth of her skin against these yellows to greens.
These were all pretty quick sketches.
That’s kind of the color class.
They’re all very, very quick sketches just so you register color and move on.
This is a little landscape painting, a little sketch.
Again, kind of looking for the color and how—we were sitting in the shadow so that we get
a lot of color temperature difference in the shadows, in the base of the tree, in the ground,
in the shadows of the water.
In the light you’re getting most of the warm lights.
The strong orange of the float really reflecting in their skin quite strongly there.
Little accent there.
A similar range of colors here, but in this one, this was just trying to capture that
time of day.
This was a little watercolor where you see, you can see it in the yellow building to the
right, the intensity of the warm light where it’s in light and then where it goes to
It goes into a cooler, darker yellow, the range in there.
That warm light under the eave, it was painted all yellow up there, it’s much more saturated
up there because that’s in a shadow which would normally be cooler, but that strong
warm light hitting that strong yellow bouncing up in here under that eave gets much more
saturated than the frontal plane of the garage, the building on the right.
[Student: That’s when she asking, when she was asking about purple and the green, you
have that one frond in the shadow that’s purple.]
That’s the shadow of the frond on the gray base of the palm tree.
That’s the shadow cast on the tree.
You’ll get the color difference, the temperature difference, too, if you have something in
there that is close to white like the wall.
You’ll see the shadow of the telephone pole.
You’ll see, it’ll register.
That’s why I say when you go out to paint and really examine color, make sure that you
have something that’s very light, very medium, very dark.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you have something that represents those strong value
If you have something white out there, you’re going to register the color of light and the
color of shadow like that.
It’s void of its local color.
It doesn’t have a strong local color so you’ll see the color of the light and the
influence of the color light on that object, whatever it is.
This was just a subtle warm light, just kind of a studio warm light with cooler shadow.
Again, like I was saying, if you have, you know, between 7 and 15, 13, whatever spots,
just identify them and try to hit those first.
For instance, with this it was like the dress in light, the dress in shadow, the chair in
light, the chair in shadow.
The blanket on the ground in light, the blanket in shadow.
The vase to the right in light, and the vase in shadow.
The background too if we want to go there, but there is about eight spots.
[Student: There is a good example, like the chair, you said it was one light.
Do you remember what you put into the light on the highlight of the chair because that’s
a very strong highlight, very sharp on the top of the arm on the left?]
The question is it’s a strong highlight on the highlight on the chair?
The question comes in, you know, I think your question is is it a warm light or a cool light?
[Student: Well, you already explained that you have a warm light source so we know now
that that highlight is going to be a warm light.
Do you remember, did you do white with some yellow in there or how did you, what did you
I’m dealing with that right now in a current painting so I’m interested.]
Okay, the question is, how did I actually mix the color of the highlights in a situation
This chair, there are a couple of things happening with the chair that you don’t see in the
fabric and you don’t see in the material on the ground, you don’t see on the vase.
That is the lacquered finish of the chair.
This is just a, like I said, it’s just a studio light.
It’s not a real—I didn’t put a filter on.
It’s not a real warm, warm light.
It’s just an incandescent bulb.
It’s not super, super warm.
Now, anything that is perpendicular to the light source is going to get that color in
Any area that is facing away from that particular light source that might be getting a reflection
from the ambient area in the room is going to appear cool in relation to that, particularly
on a lacquered surface.
You will see cools mixed in with those.
[Student: I am glad I asked that question.]
What’s going to happen is you have to look at the materials as well and how it reflects
If you see multiple highlights or the appearance of multiple highlights like on a shiny chair
or something like that, you’re going to get the appearance of some cooler highlights
in there, but they’re not coming from the same direction as your initial light source.
You don’t want to mix those because you have one light source.
It’s that one temperature and that’s the effect.
In a case like this, you’re going to see some cool.
You’ll see some cool mixed in with the browns in there, but you’re going to see a little
bit of warm light, and you’re also going to see a little bit of cool highlights in
Those are coming from a different direction because of that lacquer, because of the surface
[Student: It’s acting like a reflector, or mirror…it’s catching whatever is…]
Yeah, the color of light.
Every object is going to reflect its light into a lesser light.
In this case, like we were talking about a sky dome, the cool sky is a lesser light,
but it’s a big light.
Here we have the ambient room that is a lesser light.
It’s a cooler element than the light source.
And so when you have a strong, intense light source.
This is not super strong, but when you have a fairly intense light source, those secondary
lights are going to affect those shadowed areas.
Those will come in from different areas or different planes, so that’s when you’re
going to see a little bit more of that.
Here is an example of two different lighting conditions.
What I did is on the left is I opened up a skylight.
You’ll see it’s more of a natural, indirect light source so it’s more the effect of
the cool sky.
It’s more of a north light.
It’s the indirect, not a direct sunlight, it’s the indirect light coming from the
Then the paining on the right, I used a warm gel and I put a warm background behind her.
What ends up happening is I’m getting a very strong warm light on her.
You can see on her face as it turns around it turns to shadow, and then because of the
warm background that goes extremely cool because the warm light on that warm background really
intensified that color.
The shadow goes a lot more neutral in that case.
And if you can see that as her planes on her face start to turn back away from the, or
start to turn into the background or toward the background on the extreme right side of
her ear, extreme right side, they start to get warm again.
They’re getting warm because the background was so warm.
It’s starting to hit those planes that are getting that bounced light from that area.
Again, it’s distance and angle in the direction in the intensity of the light and light source.
There are a couple of plein air paintings.
This was a about time of day.
The one on the bottom, I’ll feature that one first.
The one on the bottom, I went out and painted this one day, and I started it one day, and
of course, the lighting had changed.
I painted on for about 40 minutes.
It was mid-afternoon, about 3:00.
I painted on it for almost 40 minutes, and then I packed it up.
The lighting started to change.
I started packing it up.
I was going to come back the next day.
When I packed up I went back to the car—or I packed up the stuff, and as I finished packing
things up, I saw this.
The light had changed.
Here it was a little bit later in the day, and I thought, wow, that’s a whole other
So I came back the next day with two canvases.
I started on the first one again—this one—and I painted a little bit more on that.
Then I started this one and painted on that one.
I really tried to look for the differences in time of day.
What really makes this part of the day look that way?
What makes the other one look different?
It had to do with the values.
It had to do with the saturation.
Of course, the form was different.
The light direction was different.
It had to do with the impact of the light and shadows and the saturation of color.
Once I did these, once I did the second one, started on that one, I finished when it was
later in the afternoon, and the traffic going over the bridge—this is up in San Francisco,
and the traffic going home over the bridge was so heavy, I decided to stick around and
got a bite to eat.
And then I thought, I might drive by there at night, and so I drove by there at night
and it was lit up with artificial light.
It looked totally different, so I took some photos and I did a painting of a nighttime
version as well.
Then from those three, I completely contrived a morning version.
I had a morning, mid-day or mid-afternoon, afternoon, nighttime.
But, I could really explore then the effect of light and how you would have to mix it.
It was a great exercise.
Now, this artist is using a limited palette.
It appears they’re using a limited palette of sorts, but using certain colors in a color
There is really a caricature feature.
It works more as a kind of an abstract adaptation to the use of color, but again, here we’ve
got a mid-range, and we have a dark range, and we have a light range, and so what happens
in those relationships in the light, medium, and dark, you know, we can find similarities
When you do it starts to feel more like light.
In this image, you’re going to see that the woman in the middle eating the watermelon.
You know, she has this vivid, bright skirt on.
Her blouse being white, you’ll see the warm-cool version of that.
There is hardly any tonal contrast or value contrast.
It’s all temperature change.
What we see is almost silhouetted.
Her white blouse is almost silhouetted, the area in shadow.
It’s brought down a little bit darker so you register the rim light.
It’s all bleached out white almost.
It feels a little overexposed, much like the other woman leaning down and picking up the
If you look at her scarf, the shadows go real cool, and there is a real warm accent in the
reflected area, but the lights go just burned out white, almost.
That has to do with exposure and the appearance of the exposure.
Over her should and down her back down to her waist, you’ll see along the core there
is a strong cool effect, and then where the surfaces turn down you’re going to see her
dress reflecting up into her dress, and that’s where it gets real saturated again.
The woman eating the watermelon, right from her waistband down, there is a darker area,
and that’s really saturated because the sunlight hitting her dress on her lap is bouncing
up in there creating that warm and intensifying the color in there.
The question is that area between her waist and her lap is the local color.
That’s her local color intensified because it’s the local color of her skirt that’s
intensified by the local color on her legs, that color bouncing back into itself.
When you have a color bouncing into itself in this extreme light situation, you get intense
This goes into shadow.
We’ve got a highlight here.
We’ve got a cast shadow on the ground, big old cast shadow.
In this situation we have an area in light.
That’s going to be the light, light, light color plus local.
Your highlight is the color of light.
Pretty much, this is pretty much how it works.
This is the color of the light source.
This is the color of light plus some local color.
You get down into this range in here, and this is more local color.
No, no, you were right.
You were right in saying that you get more of the local color near the light.
[Student: Actually, I was thinking the local color was light plus the local color as well
like on a face, so I think I looked in the wrong place.]
Well, yeah, what happens when, there is a tendency for us to mix these two.
When we simplify something, say we’re painting a person, and there is a little bit of a glare
on their skin tone, we tend to mix that into the whole skin.
We tend to mix too much of the color of the light into the local color.
We have nowhere to go for the highlight.
The highlight doesn’t sit properly, and we end up making it whiter than anything else.
What’s happened is we’ve basically made a mish-mash of this relationship.
We have to see that there is a little bit more local here.
As it goes toward the light source.
It’s going to get more and more of the color of light.
There are planes in here.
There is this plane.
There is this plane.
There is this plane.
If you broke these down into these different planes and this point right here, you’d
get something like this, right?
What you’re going to get is you’re going to get the area of light in here, and this
is going to be light plus local color.
This has a little more local color.
And then you’re going to get a little more.
Plus, some of the shadow.
Then you’re going to get shadow.
There might be a little local color in here.
These are all proportional.
They’re all relative on the distance and angle of the light source, so it’s hard
to say it always is here.
It’s going to change, but predominantly this is kind of how it falls.
This is the idea.
Again, you have to look at the individual situation.
If this isn’t orange, and you’ve got a watermelon sitting right here,
it changes everything. It changes everything.
If you put this on a light plate or you put it on a red towel, it changes everything.
It’s always the condition, but generally speaking.
This area down here is going to be the area of reflected light.
That’s going to be whatever this is bouncing up in there.
There is—I’ll just do this.
See this kind of a shape down in here.
The other woman’s head is here.
Okay, so we’re looking at different planes and the effect of
these different planes going on here.
Now, there is a strong light that overexposes these lights.
These are white in this bright, bright light.
It overexposes these.
It makes these really white.
Those areas are quite white.
Then we get her face in a shadow.
This goes in shadow, and then a rim light on her body.
This goes into shadow.
All this is shadow in here.
Now, her dress is a little bit darker.
This is what it might appear like in light.
[Student: That’s the local color?]
The local color is going to be somewhere in here.
Yeah, and see this is the area in here, it’s the color plus the light source because it’s
perpendicular to the light source up here.
This is going to be the color with a good amount of the light source added to it.
This area that is the local color with some of this light source, it’s a warm light.
This is warm so it’s warm on warm, bouncing into another warm.
That’s why it’s so saturated and intense, yes.
[Student: You explain one thing and it raises more questions.]
Yeah, one question just brings up more questions, doesn’t it?
[Student: Yeah, okay.
I have to paint from photographs, very often in a photograph you see what looks like white,
but when I look at artists that I admire, you don’t see highlights on the faces.
That’s where I have trouble.
You explained that earlier about the, you know, the temperature of the light is going
to dictate the temperature in the highlight, but again, I’ll show you after class, but
you have these strong white highlights, how do I paint those on my painting that I see
in the photo?]
The question is how do you determine the color temperature when painting from a photo?
How do you determine the color temperature if it appears so white?
Well, okay, you have to kind of register or commit to what is the color of the light source.
Then what you might do, what’s going to happen is your exposure might be a little
too hot, and it’s going to burn the color right out of that highlight.
Maybe what you need to do is paint the whole image down a step darker, and then include
that color into the light source and you’ll get it.
You’ve got to step it down just a little bit, enough to not make it white, but you’ve
got to get into that range of color that you can actually mix a color, whatever that is,
and then put it in.
Then make sure that color is the color of light that, if we’re looking at our image,
whatever that is, it’s consistent throughout the image.
Okay, this is an image, again, black, white, and blue.
I believe this is Dean Cornwall.
I think, you know, the thing is they use one color.
When they were printing it was just used pretty much from that standpoint.
Black, white, except they were printing in black and in a color.
They could utilize a color.
In this it feels like there is a range of saturation, a little more depth than just
a black and white image, but it’s only one color.
In this image, you can see the saturation is really designated to one area.
You can design how the saturation works within the area, and you can see the area on her,
there is a lot more saturation.
It’s saturated to neutral.
The background is more neutral.
There is more saturation and warm tones on her.
It doesn’t mean they don’t exist in the background, they are just more subtle.
If you look at the area of the shadows on the background, particularly the one under
her arm, her dress is reflecting into that shadow, and her dress in shadow is a light
source to the wall.
It faces the wall so it becomes the light source of that lower area.
There is a little bit behind the little cherub, or to the left of his lower leg.
It’s cool and then it gets warmer as it goes out, and same above.
There are a few little warm, there are warm, cool color temperature differences in the
shadows of them all over the place.
In fact, if you look at the form underneath a little reflected light under his arm, it’s
getting a little bit warmer under there, too.
It helps create the form, and it echoes these warm tones into the rest of the painting.
Rather than just go completely neutral and completely saturated, there is a little conversation
where one feeds into the other just a little bit.
You have to design that effect along with everything else.
This is a color temperature difference.
It goes from saturation to gray, but you can see the grays in the background; there are
warm and cool grays in the background.
There are warm and cool tones on her face.
There are more neutralized lights on her face as well and little saturated accents on there.
This is really about color temperature.
Same thing here.
This could have been a study for that other painting of that woman reaching down for the
You can see how it goes from that bleached out white, that overexposed imagery to that
very saturated color in the shadow areas.
This is more of an analogous scheme, so it’s more of a purple to orange kind of a thing.
And grays, with a range of grays.
It has a range of hue and a range of gray.
Okay, I put these on here, too.
These are examples, and also, I listed underneath here kind of the procedure of what we did
to accommodate this.
This is a situation of warm and cool contrast.
You can see in this image I put a little warm light on her from one direction, and a cool
light from the other direction just so that you can register a little bit greater color
Then I’ll give you some information on how I was arriving at that.
Here is another situation of where I put a cool light and a warm shadow.
With a cool light the shadows became much warmer.
Then what I did with this is I put like a black filter over it, you know, just darken
everything down and just isolated the effect.
You can see the circle on the background, on the upper left.
That’s the color or the appearance of the color in light and the same fabric in shadow.
When you look at those two spots, they’re very, very different.
You look at the spot of her skin on her nose in light to her cheek in shadow, there is
a huge range of difference.
You’ll see that down below here too.
With the background warm and cool and the skin tones warm and cool.
There is an extreme difference on those.
When you isolate those hues, that’s when you’re really going to see the effect on
that quite a bit.
There is a complementary effect on here.
What I’ve done is I’ve put a red light on here, but this is the same setup that I
had before when I was just looking at kind of a yellowish scheme.
I have a yellow background, kind of a yellow-green, and then she’s wearing a green dress, but
I put a red light on her so it enhanced some of those warm skin tones and neutralized some
of the dress.
That’s kind of what happens here.
You can see the color of the light is this pink color.
Along the bottom I put the color of her skin and the color of her dress, and then you can
see the effect of how the light works on those two different areas.
I found that this way of, you know, color theory, like I started to say in the beginning
of class, color theory is one thing.
We can talk about theories about color, but it’s really hard.
I remember when I was in school I had a color class, and it was color theory and advanced
color theory, and we would go in those classes and paint color swatches and talk about color
theory and paint swatches.
The very next day I would go into a portrait painting class or a figure painting class,
and you’d be painting the model from what you see.
I remember hearing my classmates saying I don’t know what the heck that color theory
was because they didn’t see it applied.
It was hard to plug in color theory into what you do.
When I realized that later, I started realizing that when you can apply these ideas that surface
in color theory, when you can apply those to the real-life world, you know, the real
world, then it makes so much more sense.
It brings everything to life.
What I did was is I set up this color class where I would set up the models with an idea.
This would be an analogous color scheme.
An analogous color scheme in which you use a narrower range of hue.
The class I found most successful in learning color is to have a topic for every setup,
have short setups so you don’t muddle around with your drawing and rendering, right?
Don’t mess up that.
You just get to the point where you’re putting down and blocking down those colors.
There were short poses.
Everyone is different.
Everyone back to back to back; every pose is different.
It’s complete bombardment of color.
And so you don’t get used to any rules.
You don’t get used to any conventions.
You have to see the color for what it is in those color relationships.
The other thing is that it’s really dependent on me setting up a setup that is only true
to that one-color theory.
If the setup is true to that theory, I can write the theory on the wall.
You can just paint what you see, and if you’re having problems with your painting, just turn
around and look at that theory, and you’ll fix what’s wrong with your painting.
But it’s all dependent on that setup being exactly that idea.
[Student: You did a color bootcamp before?]
Yeah, so this is kind of breaking down some of these things, and you can see how I broke
some of these things down in values and so on.
Here is a saturation, complementary color, and simultaneous color contrast.
These things are all occurring in the same condition.
I’ll set up a condition that has all of these situations, and I can kind of go through
and show you how I would break it down, and these are little demonstrations on how you
You can take your time and kind of go through these.
Again, this is about color temperature.
Now, she had very, very fair skin.
What I did was is put kind of a normal studio warm light, just the incandescent light and
illuminated her with that.
Then I used a very, very subtle cool gel over another light and filled a little bit of the
shadow with the cool light.
You can see that reflected into the fabric, in the shadows particularly because those
are very reflective on the material, and those picked up most of the color of the secondary
Now, it’s hard to see in here, but the simultaneous color contrast, the shadow of her nose on
her cheek went bright blue.
It was icy blue.
You don’t get that in this photo.
You can’t see it in the photo because you don’t register.
Because it’s partially a phenomenon of how perceive color, it doesn’t pick up in the
It only picks up in how you perceive it.
When an artist has a really good perception about those, or can perceive those things
clearly and push it in the application of paint, then we realize what the artist realized,
and it’s vivid and it’s bold.
It’s bigger than life.
Those artists that do do that provide that for us.
It’s like, wow, this is amazing color.
You mentioned Edgar Payne.
He’s one person that did a lot of observation.
He painted that.
He pushed it into the paintings.
He pushed that quality of simultaneous color contrast into the actual color combinations.
So, he enhanced it so that we could see it and it would be there on the canvas.
[Student: When you say pushed, like he would really like show, this is ice blue, yeah?]
Yeah, just clarifying.
He would overstate, overemphasize some of those relationships.
They all had to be fairly true.
If they’re true to his perception they’ll stay true.
He wasn’t just saying, oh, it looks blue; I’ll mix more blue.
He was actually looking—through his perception he was looking at what is the color relationship?
I see this blue.
What kind of blue?
It’s this kind of a blue.
How light is it?
It’s this light.
It’s this saturated.
And so he painted very articulately from the perception.
Maybe if he said this is a, you know, to push things I’m going to take these blues, and
those certain surfaces that are gaining that illusion, I’m going to intensify those planes
coming from that particular area.
He could do that.
You could do that.
If it’s true to the rest of the relationship, then it will seem real.
But, it has to have that clarity.
It can’t just, you can’t just ready, fire, aim, and blow in some blue.
It just doesn’t work that way.
Most artists go, I’m going to push color.
Well, they’ll push it one side and down the other without building that relationship.
If you knock it out of that relationship that exists, you no longer have pushed color, you
just have a bold reference.
[Student: It looks like paint.
It doesn’t look real.]
It has the appearance of just paint.
It feels clumsy.
Now, here are just swatches of some of the hue that I pulled and then looking at the
value relationships of those.
I did a demonstration in oils, and then what I did is I took a photo of it, and I scanned
it, and then what I did is I pulled some of the colors.
You can see them here.
Some of the background colors.
You can see the color temperature differences.
If you look on the A model over there, under the word background you’ll see there is
like three different hues.
One that is gray, one that is warm, one that is predominately cool.
All those areas are close in value, and they all sit within a certain area.
Just directly above that there is a couple of more values.
One is warmer.
One is cooler, and so on.
You can see that on the left side there is an exchange of warm to cool color temperature
changes at similar values.
On the right side of that diagram A, you’re going to see warm and cool versions in a darker
You have to maintain your value structure and then keep it in that.
This is an ambient situation.
It’s more of a notan dominant painting.
There is no strong light and shadow, but what I did is I tried to create a color scheme
that had a little bit of a complementary element in it, so it was a broader range.
You can see the little ellipses in my color wheel there.
Those are the ranges of color.
If I’m designing a painting, if I’m doing a setup or designing a still life, it’s
just like if you’re designing a flower arrangement.
You think of flower arrangements.
You’re going to look at different shapes, different colors, different hues and values,
and you’re going to put those together in order to create a handsome overall design.
What I’ll do is I’ll look at a lighting situation.
I’ll look at the shapes that they create.
Or, in this case, a flat lighting and the shapes of her dress or robe, and so I’ll
put her in a chair that has yellow.
If that’s more purple I put it in a little bit more of a pale yellow.
Make the background more neutral so there are specific choices that were made in order
to make this subtlety to come across in a certain way.
Okay, so I’m looking for, I want to find some richer accents of colors like a deeper
purple or burgundy in there.
What I want to do is I really want to make sure that I’m getting a range of hue in
through her skin tone and stuff that I can really make the featured element in there
surrounded by something simple.
Something simple is the value of her hair and the value of her robe is so similar.
That closes that area off a little bit.
Then I’m looking at the saturation and the color range within the areas that I designated
in her face.
Here are some warm and cool schemes.
Let me lower that down.
Here we go.
Alright, if you take a look at the photo on the left and the photo on the right, these
are the two different lights or light sources that I put on the model, and the one on the
left is clearly a cool light.
See how it cools down everything.
The highlights are the color of the light source.
Then you’ll see the same thing in the situation on the right.
Take a look at the reds.
Look at how different the reds are, and then the orange of the pumpkin.
Look at the difference in those.
You can see even in her sweater.
It looks more saturated in the warm one on the right than on the left.
Okay, so from this point, what I’d really like you to do is put a piece of tissue over
this and look for the shapes that actually move your eye around the image.
In this image—let’s just take a look at this image.
You’ve depicted the image, but what I want you do is I want you to see what’s actually
making it work that way.
What’s actually happening in this image to make it work that way?
We’re going to look at maybe what the story is, but we’re going to look at the shape
of these things that he’s created, and we’re going to look at some of these.
Here is the frame because that’s important.
You can see the high contrast coming in here like this and also coming up here like this.
That’s also framing.
We get the tabletop like this, but we also get this.
This keeps our eye in the frame.
It keeps us moving around the frame.
We also have this white shape on him of his shirt, and if we look at that shape, it moves
our eye in this direction as well.
Now, we’ve got this, the arms of the chair.
It just cut in a little bit there and here, and it’s straight.
Here it’s straight, but we see that cut in just a little bit more here.
Is the cut-in important?
Yes, it’s important.
Look at this.
This is important to have right there to move your eye.
Do you see that in there?
This is very, very important.
The same thing, where if we want to focus in here, he’s giving us this large chair
He’s putting a cap on it like this, and he comes down here, and he brings it out in
space this way and down.
That gives us some closure right here.
Do you see that?
Follow it up and around.
Echo that around.
This helps bring you right into here.
It keeps you close.
Keeps this part of the frame.
Our subject is in here.
It keeps moving around there.
If we keep coming around here we get this around as well.
We get this as well.
Moving our eye around in here.
We get an edge in there.
We get an edge in there.
Do you see these edges?
Again, pointing, pointing.
We have this coming in over here too.
[Student: That’s a … the lights…?]
Yeah, those shapes.
The shapes that he has created with these values are creating shapes that actually move
your eye around.
The greater contrast, one of the greatest contrasts is right here, so the area of greatest
contrast is going to be right here, right toward the center of this.
It’s going to bring you right into here.
Now, we get a little bit of framing around the window here.
Look at this.
We get a nice little framing around him as well.
We get a little bit of framing around the window here, and look at this, we get a nice
little framing around him as well.
But, if we’re going to frame him, we need to frame him with something else.
What would that be?
That would be a clock that hangs down, and the bit of a frame over there.
Do you see that?
If I want to move your eye back, come down here and get back into the picture.
I’m going to put something in here like that.
What would that be?
That would be the edge of the chair coming up here.
So, what Cornwall does is he creates the design and the rhythm moving throughout the image.
First, I’ll figure out what those things are.
It’s about the design first.
It’s about the rhythm of moving through, that whole image with shapes.
And say he’s got an arm coming down here.
If he wants to frame this guy little bit as well, two things will happen: One, you can
either go around something like a target, or you can do it like a target or an arrow.
If he wants them to look up here he’s going to give you some targets.
He’s going to give you something on this side, too, or he can give you an arrow, something
pointing up at him like the cuff.
[Student: So, he would start with the figures and then develop the rest of the composition
to make your eye move how he wanted you to see the figures?]
Yeah, yeah, all of this stuff, it’s not a coincidence.
There are too many of these things to call it a coincidence.
He uses not only their axis lines, but he uses all the other shapes, the silhouette,
the folds, places and things in the environment, everything to move you around, move your eye
where he wants you to look throughout this image.
Again, these are more subtle things, but if we’re going to be looking right here, too,
he’s going to have something pointing.
He’s got these little top planes like the little books things, so they are arrows, arrows,
surface going around here like this.
Picks up a little bit of it over there just to get closure.
We create closure by having these little focal points and a little highlighted area will
create that for you.
[Student: The texture in the window, it doesn’t detract?]
The question is does the texture in the window detract.
Now, detract from what?
[Student: From wherever you’re supposed to look.
It seems like the guy standing is where you focus, and so the window seems to be counter
focal point because your eye goes to the high contrast.]
I guess the question is does the window conflict with, in terms of kind of running the whole
show here, does it, does the window get more dominant because there is a high contrast
here and detail.
Now, if we have, what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at this.
Here is your window and here is where you have your detail.
And the detail would be an area if we define detail, we might define that as, is the area
in your image that has the highest concentration of small contrasting marks.
This has a concentration of small contrasting marks, doesn’t it?
What else does in here?
His face right here has a high concentration of small contrasting marks.
Now, what’s the difference between his face here and all of this that we might call his
[Student: Symmetry, maybe?]
This is all regular.
It’s all regular.
When you create regularity, it goes flat.
What’s going to be dominant?
The more interesting small contrasting marks?
They will hold more interest and more intensity than a surface.
[Student: That was a great question.]
Okay, so you can have things like this as long as they’re regular.
That will become a texture.
It’ll sit on the surface, and it’ll be less dominant than something that is more
dramatic in here like this.
[Student: And just for fun so we understand further, now we have this situation of architecture
being symmetrical with the canvas, but you said if there are enough elements breaking
up the space, it’s not going to flatten out?
For example, we have … we have this—is that parallel with that?
That was last week.]
Oh, when we were looking at things that are parallel.
If there is a lot of architecture and it’s parallel to the edge does it flatten it out?
[Student: Right, and do we have enough elements that are going back in space to knock it,
Well, for one thing, if you take a look at them, he bends these a little bit.
They aren’t really parallel.
[Student: What’s this wall doing?
It’s a little tilted.
If you take a look at it, do you see that?
It’s a little tilted.
[Student: It doesn’t look crooked, though.]
Now, what ended up happening is, you know, in a drawing, and I discovered this doing
animation and layout, if you want to draw something that feels more normal you have
to draw into it, not perspective, per se.
There will be perspective, but you have to draw into it, optical distortion.
That’s where our eyes perceive things.
Again, it’s drawing what we perceive more than what we mechanically know is right or
It’s draw how you perceive things.
Make it look right.
What happens with optical perspective—can I just draw up here a little bit?
Actually, let me get a piece of paper here.
We’ll look at this, and I’m going to draw over here.
When I have a situation like this, and this is optical center.
What’s going to happen when I say optical center, everything is going to be concentric
around circles, even if it’s a vertical portrait or a landscape.
It doesn’t matter.
If it’s vertical—I’ll do a real extreme vertical out here like this.
We could do it out here, or if it’s a landscape it might be like this.
Let’s just say it’s an extreme landscape.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters more is everything from optical center.
It goes out and radiates out in this way.
So, things in the middle might seem more straight.
As they go out, they’re going to bend.
They’re going to bend.
They’re going to bend more.
As they go up here, they’re going to bend a little, bend a little, bend a little, bend
a little more.
The same thing more—just a little bit, a little bit more, a little bit more, a little
Now, this is kind of the effect of kind of the distortion, but if you take a look at
our image right in here, given this idea of a little of optical distortion, and we can
take a look our image here.
It’s predominantly vertical.
Our focal point is low center.
It’s in here.
It gives you this chair over here like this.
He bends this wall just a little bit.
This might be a little bit straighter over here.
On the other side of the guy he gives you this, his elbow.
So, if we look at the relationship of these things, in the background it’s subtle.
In the character it’s much stronger.
Now, the table in the front comes down like this.
He may bend it just a little bit.
I mean just a little bit.
I’m only looking at pencil thickness, right.
And where he’s got the guy sitting in here—we don’t see any of this, it all goes dark—he
gives us the newspaper like this.
It’s following along the normal mapping of this optical distortion.
So, besides perspective, he’s playing off of this.
Like I said, with the arms of the chair, if they’re going like this, they have a directional
force pushing in here, but going in here this little thing in here, you see, again, here’s
your distortion there.
It kind of picks up along those lines.
And so they become important.
He has recognized that these things are important.
He’s going to get the light of the chair back in here too, he’s going to get it and
get you back in here like this again.
He’ll make more of an issue, maybe get a little bit more contrast in there just subtly.
This one is cropped.
You don’t even see it, but it’s just enough.
If that was like this, and the other one was like this, the force would just be pushing
you in this direction.
But this has this direction and this direction.
This direction, pointing at the boy here, and this direction.
There are a lot of rhythms in here that are super, super subtle.
[Student: Everywhere you look there is something else.
Oh, it does this.
Everything has a purpose.]
Yeah, everything has a purpose.
That’s why I say, you know, with composition it’s really, every mark you make has a consequence.
To understand that, it makes every mark important.
If you give every mark and importance or a value or get it to mean something to the overall
image, then you’re making a really impactful image.
The viewer looking at goes, can’t stop looking at it.
There is something that’s deeper, more to connect with.
That’s why we look at some of these paintings, when we go to a museum and look at them for
a long time, it’s because they thought about these things.
They put these things in and they were compelled to look at them.
Let’s do that.
Let’s start up here.
These are kind of what we’ve covered in the class.
Line, tone, shape, space, color, and rhythm.
Now, how they all come together—I have shown a number of similar images, or the same image
for a number of reasons, and almost all of our images are going to contain all of these things.
Our compositions are not just based on one thing or another.
They are a visual statement that actually includes all of these things almost all of
the time, so juggling those things is what composition is about.
It’s about managing your line, tone, shape, space, color, and rhythm, and how those things
all come together.
In line we were looking at different types of lines.
Physical lines that we might see in nature or eyelines.
In line we might have a physical line that we might have in nature.
Maybe it’s a tonal contrast.
It might be a line on a baseball.
That’s a physical line.
A telephone wire is a physical line.
Then we have implied lines.
Those would be eyelines.
Say we have somebody else over here.
We have an eyeline connecting those two.
This would be more implied lines.
We also have closure.
So maybe there is a person standing here.
Maybe they are with two more people standing here, and maybe there is a window in the distance
or there is a contrast in that window in the distance.
What’s going to happen is we’re going to get closure between these.
Sometimes we’ll be looking at, you know, in a landscape or something maybe there is
going to be a focal point, multiple focal points.
Maybe there is something here, something here that goes up like this.
You’re going to get this closure or the appearance of you’re going
to connect the dots. Your eye is going to want to connect the dots.
That’s going to create these implied lines.
They aren’t physical lines.
I talked a number of times, too, with rhythm about surface and surface and edges.
This could be the surface plane or the edge of the contour.
These things also help rhythm and your axis lines.
All of these things, you know, it’s not just axis that control rhythm.
It’s all these other things that move your eye around the surface.
We also have, in talking about moving your eye around the surface, we have this idea
of a figure ground.
There we determine with the figure ground as we talked about moving around using a little
bit of optical distortion, we’re moving your eye around on this figure, on this ground,
this pictorial ground surface.
We’re literally just drawing around the surface, but it’s giving you this spatial quality.
It’s still working with figure/ground relationship.
Does that make sense?
We have that as one aspect of moving your eye around.
Tone, if we look at our tone or tonal relationships, then we’re going to be—this is looking
at value and contrast.
Value and contrast.
This has to do, just like figure ground, the connected tissue here is I’ll go figure
ground and matrix, determining your matrix.
Your tonal contrast creates the design pattern for a matrix.
Both with your tonal contrast and your figure/ground relationship, that’s where your building
It could be 2D.
It could be 3D, illusionary space, flat space, whatever.
Now, your value or tonal contrast is going to create the mood.
It’s basically, it’s the mood maker.
That’s how you can really establish the mood within a piece.
It’s happening through your tonal contrast.
Shapes have a lot to do with edges and contours.
We’re looking at the surface, the edges and contours, the axis and stuff.
Shape will always have a direction and a balance.
So, they have the potential to move your eye all over the place, okay?
The other thing that we’ve noticed is the arrangement
and the range of various shapes.
Oftentimes, it might be the range of shapes than so many different shapes.
There is a range that you deal with.
A lot of images that look like they’re strongly designed really limit the type of shapes.
They’re really limited.
They are far more limited than we think.
They are very limited, but they express a range of shapes similar to contrasting shapes.
It’s just within a limited number.
It’s within that limitation.
There is variety within limitation.
[Student: Would you say they’re stronger in a limited number because with a lot of
stuff going on it’s—I don’t know I’m trying…]
Okay, I think I can explain what you’re saying.
Is it stronger using, utilizing a limited number of shapes than using a whole lot of
variety of shapes?
The reason that seems clear or clearer is because we’re more able to read the nuances
between the similarities.
We see greater difference, but we also want to connect things.
That’s one of the things that we do.
Our brains want to bring order to something, understand some things, so we’re looking
at things in terms of similar and different.
When we have a few number of things but each of them have a little bit of difference, now
we’re engaged in that other level of variety.
Now, that goes to our methods of measure over here.
That has to do with major key, which is proportion.
That just means what to what; it’s mostly this or mostly that.
We’re talking about shapes.
It’s mostly these limited number of shapes.
If we say this image is made up proportionally of mostly these shapes, fewer of these shapes
and fewer of these shapes, now we’ve determined that.
A minor key, which we have to have is the range of contrast.
This is how we measure things through the range of contrast.
Say we have a limited number of shapes, but it’s the range of contrast that brings death
It brings interest.
You need these two things.
When we talk about a key, this is how we measure all of these visual components.
We measure them through their proportion and through a range of contrast.
Now there is something else that’s going to happen in here because of their proportion
and because of how these forces are used, you’re going to create dominance and subordination.
Dominance and subordination is a result of this and this.
It’s the result of.
It’s not a separate tool.
It’s the result of those things.
Everything has a consequence.
Is that clearer now?
[Student: I thought it only applied to value, the major and minor keys.
I didn’t really connect that it would be shapes, that you could do that with shapes
to create subordinates and dominants.
That’s the thing.
Okay, the question is, or the statement is, oftentimes, we look at a key.
When we think of a key, we think of either value or color alone.
We don’t think of it as a measuring device for all of our visual components, and yet it is.
It’s the way that we interpret this language.
This is a language of art.
It’s a language of art.
It’s our visual language, and there is a language to it.
And this is how we express the language.
It’s through these components.
This is how we measure them.
It’s unlike our written language.
Our written language would have words and the words would have meanings, and then we
combine those words in sentences to create greater meanings.
We create these connotations.
We connote different ideas, thoughts, feelings, and so on through that manner.
There is a structure.
There is a grammar.
We use words in a certain way.
We combine them in a certain way to convey a specific, to become specific.
In our visual language of art, we don’t have a grammar.
There is not structured way that you have to put this shape next to that shape in order
to say one thing or another.
We don’t have that, but we do have, we do create a syntax or relationships within these
components, and we create them through the proportion, the range of contrast of all of
That’s how we measure all of these things.
That’s how all of these things start to fit together.
If we’re looking at space, we have limited, we have flat and limited, we have deep and
we have ambiguous.
We have kind of a cubist.
We have a range of different applications of space.
We can create images that have a flat space and are very flat dimensionally, but they
do have dimension and yet they’re flat.
We have some feel limited, feel boxed in, feel close by finite.
We can create images that have deep space.
Long, longitudinal lines that go deep into this illusionary space, and we enhance that
Ambiguous space is when we purposely confuse the viewer’s recognition of that space.
If we purposely confuse that or disrupt that it becomes disruptive to the viewer.
This can be good or bad.
If you’re planning ambiguous space like a German expressionist, then you’re designing
on how that impact is.
If you’re trying to do an image but your drawing is incorrect, and it creates some
ambiguity, then that’s not good.
That’s on of the things that you have to play into.
Cubist space is a different interpretation of space than these other elements as well.
With that type of space, we’re really dealing with shallow spatial qualities and surface
planes and passages that will go in edges and contours.
These have to do with shape, but our surface planes can also have passage that move your
eye from one area—if I have a couple of shapes here and I have this in the middle,
this creates a transition between these two shapes, so this creates a passage from here
If I have two shapes like this, and I have one in light and this is in shadow and it
casts the shadow on this.
Now my matrix has connected these two.
This becomes a passage right into this.
That value creates a passage in those two.
This is just a tonal gradient that can be nonform or faux form
so you can have a faux form.
We might look at it as counter change.
That might be moving something like this.
If we have a shape like this, it might be going from dark to light as a background goes
from dark to light.
This gives the appearance of light and dark or light and shadow, but there is no light
and shadow there.
It’s a faux form.
Counter change is just a manipulation of surface that kind of rides along this idea here.
These all move into this.
This idea moves into more of a traditional, deep, limited flat space, but these two lean
into this kind of a faux form and are dealt more within the world of shapes and stuff
Color—whoo, we have more space over here.
We have saturation.
These are the things that come forward.
These tend to come forward and contrast of tone.
Some people talk about this as dark.
Dark comes forward.
I’ll put it over here; go back, come forward.
Neutral, cool, low-contrast, and light.
Now, when you think about it, if you’re thinking about these two things in a traditional
sense, we tend to group them in here.
I’m going to make a caveat here.
There is a tendency to say dark comes forward, light goes back, only because we associate
that with aerial perspective, only because of that reason.
When you ditch aerial perspective in your image, it doesn’t apply anymore.
When you’re creating a different context, a different world or a different situation,
it doesn’t apply anymore.
Since we think of this in terms of aerial—is it a-e-r-i-a-l?
When we think of it in terms of aerial perspective that’s one thing.
Let’s just say that on a stage—this is natural light.
This might be natural light.
If we look at a stage, light comes forward, dark goes back.
That’s on a stage.
Under water contrast comes forward and then no contrast
We have different conditions.
Natural light, stage lighting, or artificial lighting, under water.
There are different conditions that occur.
The changes, these ideas of rules.
You kind of have to look at the situation that you’re exploring and try to look for
those basic relationships that occur.
You can see that all of these things have an influence on your images.
That’s why I look at composition as more of an understanding of our visual language.
I’m even going to write that down.
When is a case of just understanding our visual language.
It’s less about independent rules.
It’s not about the rules.
It’s really about understanding the impact, the potential, and the characterization of
these different components.
When you understand, okay, this is my finite set of components, but each component has
a range of application into itself.
Then it can work in contradistinction to everything else.
It can be its own element, and yet it can integrate with everything else.
It’s unique that way.
All these things are unique that way.
That’s what makes it mind blowing.
That’s what makes it completely otherworldly.
Actually, the thing is, what ends up happening as a result of all this is when you don’t
look at this as a language, but you learn it as a set of rules, you’re always looking
for the rule that will fix your problem, and you won’t look at what is the, you know,
what do I want to express and what are my tools to express it.
When you ask what is that you want to say and then understand the rules to express it,
that gives you a point of view that you can now push and pull the components back and
forth and manipulate them and trial and error and find the things, you know, that will work.
All of this information for me personally, this information doesn’t make me hit home
runs all the time with any image.
It allows me to fix my mistakes.
It allows me to find, assess, and fix my mistakes a little quicker than I normally would by
just kind of intuitively feeling it.
I can try something.
If it doesn’t work, then maybe my feeling is it doesn’t work and I don’t know why,
but now I’ll go back and look at my components and go, okay, what’s working with it.
Are these things working?
Oops, it’s the space issue or oops it’s the line issue.
I can go in and I can define some of those things.
So, I have my visual components up here, and I have my methods of measure.
I have my methods of measure up there too.
The third part of this whole triad in putting it all together are my primaries of design.
This is line, texture, mass or notan, and form—chiaroscuro.
This is the third part to this whole thing.
This, our primaries of design really applies to our application.
How we apply all of this information, how we put it down on paper.
Is it dominated by the lines, the shapes, and everything else?
Is it interpreted through the lines or textures?
Is it interpreted through the mass without effect of light and shadow, or is it determined
through the shapes created by light versus shadow.
That’s why this is an important component in there as well, and that has to do with
Again, if we don’t recognize these, which often we don’t.
Most people just look at form, and they’ll only talk about form.
If you don’t recognize or acknowledge the effect of line and texture or your local values
through notan or the effect of lighting or flat lighting, then you’re not going to
You’re not going to be able to put all the parts together or interpret it.
You’re going to end up with, again, looking back at certain rules about, you know, this
works, this doesn’t work or whatever.
You won’t try anything new either.
That’s the thing.
You end up falling into these tropes.
You’ll just continue to do the same things over and over.
That’s, you know, or get these habits that you can’t break out of.
All of us have a—and I said this during the week—but all of us have a particular
We’re either prone to line and texture or mass and form.
We tend to find one of those more appealing generally.
When we do we tend to lean on that naturally, whatever it is.
Now, they all exist, but we tend to just lean on that one to kind of solve our problems
because we like that one, and we’re going to lean on that.
To get yourself to move off of that or explore other things, this can be the most hardest
thing to do.
It means that you have to fight your habits.
You have to go and lean into something else.
I find this is interesting, too, about—I was talking before earlier today about going
out and painting.
You either walk out there with a frame of mind of how bold things are or contrast, and
then some other days you go how subtle they are, how beautiful they are or whatever, regardless
of the subject matter itself.
You just carry that with you.
At the same time, we have this kind of a bias, if you will, towards these components, and
we tend to kind of impose or put things down with that bias most often.
When it doesn’t, when the relationships don’t exist that way, we run into a conflict,
and we see it in our work, but we can’t put a finger on it unless we’re looking
at these components as a manner of expression.
We have to kind of look at those things as well.
It becomes part of the big picture.
[Student: Cause you just use it your whole life?]
No, remembering this stuff, it’s really just a case of, okay, this might be the first
time you’re taking this class, and I’m just pointing out these elements, but really
when, for me, kind of researching the aspects of composition, it really comes down to a
It’s just another language.
Oftentimes, we’re not taught another language.
We’re taught to copy.
We’re taught to use our observation skills but put it down in this way with these rules.
That’s what we’re told.
[Student: …understand our question.
It really amazes me because you’re clear.]
I think the clarity of this information really just comes in understanding the impact of
Try to get rid of all the rules and really look at the consequence of the marks you put
What is it doing?
You know, you put something down and it doesn’t work.
Maybe you only feel like it doesn’t work, but I don’t know what it is.
Good, that’s the first step.
You recognize something is wrong.
Now what you have to do is groom those assessment skills.
Those are going to come when you start looking at the language itself and saying, okay, these
are my tools.
Now, what is that’s not working.
Well, this might not be looking here, working right here or here.
Oftentimes, with color or with shapes or with other things, any of these, I guess, those
are a couple of things that come to mind that are most obvious for me.
Oftentimes, what happens is within an image, I might look at something and go, you know
what, I don’t have that nose right.
That nose isn’t right.
Well, go ahead and cover that nose and stare at the image for a moment, and then pull your
hand away rapidly, and you’re going to see if that nose is right or wrong.
[Student: That’s what I struggle with all the time.]
What you’ll actually find is it’s not your nose; it’s something else.
It’s something else next to do it.
It’s the relationship between that nose and something else.
So, if you sense something is wrong with your drawing and you’re drawing from the model,
then look at the model, okay, just look at the model.
Then look at your drawing and cover the area you think there is a problem.
Cover that area and hold and just stare at your drawing long enough, and then pull your
hand really quick.
Your brain is going to readjust your drawing to what is right, to what you recall is there.
You see it.
It’s up here, but again, when we start to draw something, we look at the model and we
say, okay, that’s a guy sitting in a chair wearing a kimono.
I know what a guy sitting in a chair with a kimono looks like.
I’ve seen it many times, right?
Okay, so when I’m sitting here drawing, I’m drawing partially that, and a lot of
what I remember or imply or impose on that drawing.
Now, when I’m trying to analyze what I see, if I look up there, I see something is wrong.
I put my hand over this and I stare at that drawing, I have a fresh idea of what this
really is in front of me, but if I cover that area just a little bit long enough and then
move my hand away quickly, my brain is going to fix that area.
When I pull my hand away I’m going to see that’s where the mistake is, and then you
fix the mistake.
[Student: Oh, it takes me four days to get a small face right on a page, like what I
brought last week.]
Cover an area.
If you think there is a problem, cover the area.
Refresh your idea about what it is you’re looking at, but don’t talk to yourself too
much about it.
Don’t say, oh, is it this, is it this; don’t obsess.
Just quiet your brain.
Quiet your brain.
Observe what it is.
Quiet your brain.
Cover an area and then pull it away really fast, your brain it’ll fix it on its own.
[Student: Oh, that’s so great.
One last question.
I find, because, you know, you have to train your brain to see properly as a master artist.
For me, a lot of times I think, okay, I go to bed happy—I fixed the face.
Then I get up the next morning, it’s terrible.
It’s like, was I on drugs yesterday?
You know, optical illusions.]
Yeah, you know, your question is what happens when you spend a lot of time working on something,
you think you’ve solved the problem, and then the next day and you wake up and you
go in and you think who was working on my painting.
Well, the same thing happens to me, so I really wonder who those guys are working on all our
They screw it up every time.
It always happens when you’re gone.
It didn’t happen when you were there.
It happens when you’re gone.
I think those same guys are attacking all of our paintings.
You know, oftentimes, we see at different levels, and I think we grow at different levels
But I think the consistent between all of us and the way that we grow is we learn so
much, and then it takes a long time for us to put it into practice.
During that time, we’re frustrated because we know more than we can actually get down
on the paper, and we’re frustrated.
After a little while, it starts getting easier and easier and we start feeling good about
We start feeling good that what we’re doing is actually successful.
Then all of a sudden we get hit with a crisis.
That’s not right again.
There is something wrong with us again.
What happens is, you’ve just gone to the next step.
It’s a stairstep.
It’s not an incline.
We learn in stairsteps.
You feel good about yourself then you recognize that you’ve got a problem and you plateau,
and then you learn something, and then you struggle with that next step.
Then you feel good about yourself and you plateau.
Then you learn something new, and you go, oh no, it’s all gone again, and I’ve got
to go up another step.
The bad news in that goes on forever.
So, there you go.
It’s nice to hear from you that it’s normal.]
Welcome to art, yeah.
You know what, there is a lot of satisfaction along the way, and I think with something
like this, it’s—I’m glad to just kind of put this stuff out there as a reminder
that it’s really about a whole different language that we use.
As artists we communicate, and this language communicates beyond all different written
and spoken languages.
We can look a picture made by somebody who speaks a completely different language and
get with they’re feeling and get what they’re saying.
There is that capability which is unique.
You know, music and dance have the same qualities.
Other than that, nothing has the same quality.
You know, really, you’re kind of embarking on this language.
I look at it and think, you know, until after I learned some of these things, I realize,
oh my gosh.
I work with large teams of artists and stuff, and I think our verbal communication to interpret
some of these things, we’re still just throwing sticks and stones at one another.
If we don’t understand the language, we’re going uh-uh-uh-uh, you know, and that’s
the confusing thing.
It’s really, really complicated particularly when you have to communicate with large groups
Well, it looks like our time went way too fast, 10 weeks, a lot of information, though.
I hope you guys review all the material and come back to it from time to time because
there is a lot of information.
It’s hard to run through the first time and really get it all, but like what we were
saying, in closing, it is a language, art.
Composition is just the way we interpret this language and the understanding of the tools
of this language.
You can do anything with it so keep working at it.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview1m 7sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Color Properties and Meaningful Use23m 18s
3. Bill Explains His Color Choices9m 56s
4. How the Sun's Position Affects Color Temperature11m 15s
5. Perception of Color Temperature30m 2s
6. Demo: Identifying Local Color and Light Color9m 24s
7. Analyzing Lighting Scenarios of Various Works18m 25s
8. Analysis and Demonstration from a Dean Cornwell Image16m 2s
9. Composition: "Putting it all together"36m 38s