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In this video lesson world-renowned painter Steve Huston will cover the outdoor color theory of the impressionist painters. Steve will explore the techniques and theories that made these painters famous and distill the essentials that you need to understand in order to apply this theory to your own work.
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theory of the Impressionist painters.
Steve will explore the techniques and theories that made these painters famous and distill
the essentials that you need to understand in order to apply this theory to your own work.
We touched on it earlier.
We’re going to go back and recap a little bit, and then take it a little bit farther.
Then I’ll switch over to painting demos and show you how it works.
I want to go over the theory a little bit more carefully.
Outdoor painters, Impressionists.
They are the Impressionists.
Their theories came about, or their style came about for a couple of reasons.
One is we had the German scientists start to do studies in light, laws of light and
starting to learn exactly how light works, how it broke into colors and all that kind
They were able to kind of codify that and get it down into tables and charts and color
information that the artists could use.
The other thing was tubes of paint.
All of a sudden that simple invention of a tube where you could mix your paint in the
studio, put it in the tube.
It would last many days and you could go out and adventure and look around for just the
right situation and paint that at just the right time of day.
Monet was known for just traveling all over the countryside.
He’d walk six hours, it was said, to find or get to a spot that he favored.
He would get there an hour ahead of time, set up and wait for that perfect moment of
light and wait for that perfect 20 minutes of light.
He said if you paint outdoors for more than 20 minutes you’re not being faithful to
The reason for that is the sunlight.
The sun is going to move through the sky so the angles of light and shadow are going to
change on the face.
More importantly, as that sun shifts, it’s going to move up higher or lower in the sky.
As it moves in or out of the atmosphere, getting up higher or coming down lower, it’s going
to take on the color of the atmosphere and will start to become a different color.
Even different times of the year will have a different color to them.
Sunrises and sunsets, the sunshine gets much oranger and can even get strong red colors
because it gets down into the dusty atmosphere, refracts through that, and you get these wild
shifts of color that are so beautiful and inviting.
Impressionism was faithful to—not the form.
The indoor painters focused on the forms, and they used chiaroscuro.
Light and shadow.
It was to delineate the form, the light impacting the form.
The light was used to show the plane changes of the form, and that’s where we get that
formula, different value, different plane.
The Impressionists, of course, knew that because it came before, but they skewed that.
They skewed fine drawing.
They weren’t interested in form or even contour very much.
They were interested in the impression of light upon the form, not the form itself.
So the focus shifted to the impression of light.
When we look back at our formulas, different value equals different plane.
That’s what we’ve depended on most up until know.
Everything that receives light is a source of light.
This is the big one for the impressionists.
Light equals color.
We’ve gone through these before.
We’re going to look at them slightly differently, slightly more carefully.
Light equals color.
That means everything that receives light is a source of color.
Everything then is a colored spotlight that will then affect what’s around.
We did that little experiment with the pad.
Here it is right here.
I don’t have the red with me right now.
But it not only makes it lighter.
The reflected light makes it lighter, but it makes it yellower.
It bounces off things, bounces to our eye, and we get to see that image.
It bounces to everything else, and it can affect the color of everything else.
Not so much in the light side because that’s where the overwhelming sunshine strikes it,
or even inside where the north light skylight or spotlight, which are much weaker light
sources, but still enough to dominate the light side.
And so any reflected light off these secondary forces are going to have a negligible effect
on the light side.
That reflected light really affects the shadow side, and so the impressionists, more than
anybody else, understood that nature really works with two light sources.
That’s going to be the mindset we want to have.
We want to know what the color of the light is, and we want to know what the color of
the shadow light is.
We’re going to think of the shadow as a light source too.
Otherwise, we won’t see and understand the colors that are in those shadows.
In Impressionism, all of a sudden the shadows came alive.
Remember in the indoor school, it was also called the Brown School.
The Brown School just said that if it was not lit it was basically a noncolor.
It was a gray, muddy noncolor.
It was brown.
Everything rolled from strong beautiful light into dirty nonlight and just into brown.
Oftentimes, they’d even just draw in the shadows and not really put much or any form
in there at all.
It was just the absence of anything of interest to a large extent.
The color of light.
That gives us our formula.
The color of the light plus the color of the object equals the color we mix and paint with.
That would be true with the shadow light too.
Color of the object plus the color of the shadow light is the color that we mix and
paint with, again.
We now have to analyze and get control of both sides of the form, the light side and
the shadow side.
It doubles our difficulties.
Because of those shadows, they are softer.
There is less light in there.
There is reflected light but it’s a lesser light.
It’s hard to se into that dim murky shadow side.
It’s hard to conceive of and capture those colors.
They can give you trouble.
When you’re in doubt, we can always simplify the shadow side down to a noncolor, a generic
gray or a generic brown color and get away with that.
But I’m going to give you some strategies where
you can really make those shadows come alive.
It’s going to be a lot of fun.
There is going to be a little bit of a learning curve, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
I’m going to kind of give you the theory carefully right now, and a lot of will just
kind of—hopefully not go over your head—but it’s just too much to take in and hold while
you’re painting, when you’re in the heat of the battle trying to get that painting
to work, observing the model or copying the old master.
To start pulling out these color theory notes and making use of them is a little bit much
But over time, they’ll settle in, and you will know them very well.
They’ll become old friends, and they can be very useful for analyzing and correcting.
Oftentimes, when we learn of a technique or a theory or a process, it’s not necessarily
something that we will do all the time, but it can be a great double check, a way to double
check that you’re getting what you need to get down on the page or on the canvas.
So anyway, I’m going to give you a theory because I’m a theory kind of guy.
You can just ignore it.
You can fast forward through it, heaven forbid.
Then the next lecture and many lectures after that, we will do it on the job.
We will do it on the palette, and hopefully that will make lots of sense for you.
So, the Impressionists’ color theory is everything that receives light is a source
Light is color.
The main difference between the Brown School indoor painters is they are going to use full value.
That Zorn painting I did in an earlier demo, if you watched that, if you haven’t you
might want to, it went from white all the way down to black.
He is the full value range.
All his ammunition in his painting, from white to black.
Typically, the Brown School will use, not oftentimes all the way from white to black
but awful close.
Maybe from 2 to 9 or 1 to 9 or 2 to 10, something like that.
They’ll oftentimes, most of the time use most of their value because they don’t have
as much color.
The color that they have is rather vague.
The shadows have no color as we just said.
They are rather vague, indistinct, just kind of pale ghost versions of their true selves.
In fact, the skin tone is very much of a formula in Brown School.
It’s not the real color at all.
Then local colors, if you have a red shirt or blue flowers in your hair or whatever it
is, those things oftentimes can be painted fairly accurately if the artist was rich.
If you didn’t have a lot of money in the high Renaissance, Baroque, Rococco and back,
you couldn’t pain with certain colors.
It was too expensive.
Blue was the most expensive.
Purples were expensive.
Red was fairly expensive.
And so part of the technique was a matter of practicality.
We just found out that Impressionism, part of its development into a style was based
on the invention of a technology, the tube.
In this case there was a limitation of budget.
If you didn’t have a lot of money, you couldn’t paint with a lot of color.
You can actually see where Raphael or Leonardo would price out the colors that they wanted
to use and build those into the commissions because they were a substantial cost.
And so not a lot of color, mainly value.
Now, with the Impressionists, the outdoor group, what they realized very quickly, if
you want your colors to be intense, they wanted to use a lot of intense colors, relatively
intense colors right out of the tube.
They used intensity and temperature.
Now, we talked a little bit about how the Brown School painters used temperature.
They used a full range of temperature too.
Warms and cools, fire and ice, but not with the intensity.
We will talk more.
As I do more careful demos of the Brown School, I’ll show you exactly how they really had
the same theories of temperature that the Impressionists had but to very different effect.
It was mainly wrapped around intensity.
They wanted to get rich pastels or even right out of the tube colors, like fire engine reds
Brown School would use it at times.
That Zorn that we did had a red flower in the hair that was right out of the tube.
But for the most part, that’s a little spot here and there, an accent in the costuming.
In the Impressionists, they put the green grass, they made it as bright as they could.
The blue sky, the blue ocean as bright as they could.
The peach colored outfit the woman was wearing is bright and rich as it could be.
Real rich strong intensities.
Here is what happens with intensity.
Here is my value scale again from one to 10.
As an impressionist, I understood very quickly with just a little bit of experimentation
that if I tried to paint a lot of my painting down in the darker tones and realized that
the Brown School anchored everything with those really deep, dark shadows, those 8,
9, 10 values almost close to black and down.
The Van Dyck browns, deep dark browns.
They anchor the whole painting with the strong blacks, the shadows casting under the still
The dark environment and dark costume of a Rembrandt framing that light face.
The sense of weight and gravity came from those dark, dark black or almost black values
that felt like weight just pulling down to the bottom of the canvas and holding it and
giving it this sense of volume and mass.
The Impressionists realized that if they tried to do that, that value impact, that great
contrast, they would lose intensity.
They couldn’t do that.
The Impressionists worked more in the 7 and up.
Sometimes they’d blast out the whites, the lights, especially like a Sorolla on the beach,
a backlit or a portrait from a north light setup.
They would blast out the light areas and they would get as light as a Rembrandt would in
the forehead, for example.
But most of the time they drop the light side down also down to a 2-1/2 or a 3, let’s
call it a 2-1/2.
greater intensity to show off those lovely temperature shifts, those lovely colors, the
warm icy blues, purples, and greens.
They beautiful fiery yellows, oranges, and reds.
And so that’s going to be the main difference.
If I’m going to paint like an impressionist, to get that bang out of my color palette,
I’ve got to give up quite a bit of my value.
If I’m a Brown School painter that has limited resources, has a limited palette, or just
is in love with great value contrast, I’m going to have to give up quite a bit of my
rich intensities, the rich colors.
It’s going to then not show off those temperature shifts very well.
It’ll be kind of brown, kind of pale white.
Then in the darker half-tones we’ll show a little bit of color, the ruddy flesh, whatever
the costume is doing.
The Impressionists, more than any other group in history, understood that light was color.
Light is color.
If you want to get a sense of light in your painting, you will not push things very black
and very white very often because you won’t have a sense of light.
Rather than using value to show light, they use color intensity to show light, and that’s
what forces them into this limited range.
That will be our biggest adventure here.
The impressionists will paint very differently than the Brown School painters because they’re
going to work in a limited value range.
That means we can see into everything.
We can see into the light, see into he shadows, see into the foreground and background, and
see all the beautiful color there.
And so we’re going to get this kaleidoscope of possible colors everywhere.
There can be warm and cools in the light side, warm and cools on the shadow side, in the
It can be everywhere.
There will still be dirty gray colors that come up.
The sand at the beach may go dirty gray.
Some of the shadows might go dirty gray.
You’ll still get grays.
In fact, we’ll find that we’re going to need those grays for a breath of fresh air,
It’s like going to an adventure movie and every scene is this breakneck action.
After awhile you get breathless.
You can’t take anymore.
You kind of tune out from it.
It doesn’t seem all that intense because it’s like listening to really loud music.
Your ears adjust to it.
Your mind adjusts to it.
We’re going to use quite a few grays or a few spots of key grays in our composition
to quite down all that candy color so it doesn’t get too sweet and too pretty, and also just
to give us a visual rest and to show contrast, to show just how beautiful and rich that color is.
We want to play a gray against it.
I’m going to remind you of something I said in earlier lecture if you listened to those.
If I want something to look really dark, I can make it a little darker, or I can put
something really light or relatively light against it.
I’ve always got to paths to go as the artist.
If I want an effect, I can push that effect farther or I can play something that’s opposite,
a contrast against it.
If I want to Laurel to be really funny, I can make Hardy a deadpan grump, and he is
going to seem more funny in contrast.
If I want to look taller, I can get cowboy boots with high heels or I can hang around
with short people.
I always have choices to get the effect I want.
So in painting, if I want something to look lighter, put something darker against it.
Or put something, or mix it and make it even lighter.
We always have the choice.
If I want it to look darker I could paint it darker.
For whatever reason I can’t paint it darker I’ll put something light against it.
It will appear darker by contrast.
If I want something I can make it warmer or I can put something cool against it, the reverse
If I want something to be intense I can make it more intense, or I can put something gray
I always have those choices.
If I want something to look more complicated, more real, I can render it more realistically
or put something simple against it.
The Brown School painters would do that.
They’d simplify the shadows and the lights would seem more real.
We always have that binary choice, the yes/no. should I make it brighter?
Should I make it brighter?
No, I’ll make something next to it grayer.
It’s important to remember those choices.
Oftentimes, we just have the knee-jerk reaction.
Make it more, make it more, make it more when what you really need is to quiet down another
area so everything is not screaming for attention and that one thing can breathe.
The impressionists understood that more in some ways than others the relationship.
Art, the difficulty and the beauty and the magic of art is always about the relationship.
And so when I’m looking as a painter, I don’t want to look inside here.
Let me make sure I got it on the screen here.
I don’t want to look in here and say, what is that color?
What is that color?
What is that color?
That just means I’ll try and copy the color.
I won’t be able to because nature will be lighting this in light and shadow.
I’m painting on a flat canvas with a palette, and both are going to be all in light or all
I won’t be able to match nature’s intensity.
Nature paints with light.
We paint with pigment.
They’re not even close to being in the same ballpark.
There is no way we can copy nature, but we can get nature’s relationships.
This is relatively darker.
This is relatively lighter.
This is relatively grayer.
This is relatively more intense.
That’s relatively grayer to this.
This is relatively darker than this, let’s say.
What I want to do when I’m painting—I’m not going to look in the center of the silhouette.
I’m going to look at the edge.
What is this value in color?
I’m going to look at this in relationship to the background.
I’ll look at this in relationship to the shirt.
I’ll know that this is much darker than that, but it’s much lighter than that.
It’s much warmer than this.
It’s a little cooler than that.
It’s much more intense than that and that.
It’s grayer than this.
Seeing those relationships gives me control.
Look at where the silhouetted shapes meet against the silhouetting form or color.
Light against the shadow.
Foreground against the background.
One local color against the other local color.
Find something that’s warmer and something that’s cooler.
Something that’s richer and something that’s grayer.
Something that’s lighter and something that’s darker, even if you have to outside the setup.
What’s lighter than this?
Nothing I can find.
The spotlight itself is lighter.
I’ll use that outside the setup.
Find the relationship between things by bracketing each thing against the next.
And so it becomes a juggling act that can get a little tough at times, a little overwhelming.
We’re going to need some strategies for controlling that.
That’s what we’re after.
We’re after not a particular color, but the relationship between all of the colors.
They have to be just the right relationship.
Once again, color has the three aspects: value, which is the black and white, light to dark.
Temperature, which is the warm to cool, the fire and ice, and intensity, which is the
rich to gray.
Once again, we want to harmonize our colors, color harmony, which means the colors are
They relate together.
They have something in common.
And so if we do a color wheel, we have yellow and violet.
We have red and green and we have orange and blue.
Each of those are complementary, meaning—it’s really not a great term because they don’t
complement each other.
They don’t get along.
They fight each other.
They’re very different.
They don’t get along.
And so violet is very different than yellow.
In fact, they have nothing in common.
If we want them to have something in common, we could make them the same or similar value.
We can make them a similar temperature.
Warm them up or cool them off by adding blue or red.
We can gray them by moving them toward the color wheel.
What we find is when we physically move colors closer to each other, they became related.
They become harmonious.
The closer they become, we not only make the yellow a little redder,
but we make it a little grayer.
We make the violet a little redder, and we make that a little grayer.
Now they have a lot in common.
They’re very harmonious.
We find those beautiful together.
Remember that if I want to gray the violet, I just add some yellow.
If I want to gray the yellow, I just add some violet.
I could add gray paint to it.
We’re not going to do that as impressionists, though.
We might do it as Brown School painters.
We won’t do it as Impressionists because nature doesn’t do that.
Nature paints in complements.
Warm light in nature always gives us a cool shadow in nature, its complement.
A cool light, which can happen, gives us a warm shadow.
Nature is working in complements.
Now, nature works in complements, which we just said we don’t get along very well.
If it was true perfect complements, that would mean that the lights would look garish and
just bad, tacky against each other.
They wouldn’t work well.
They wouldn’t have anything in common.
The shadows would get very purple.
The lights would get very yellow.
The shadows would get very blue, and the lights would get very orange, whatever it was.
So, something else has to be going on there.
The reason we find these colors beautiful is exactly because we do find them in nature,
and our response to nature—we’re natural critters—is to like what nature offers us
most of the time, you know, beautiful sunsets, seas.
We find that beautiful.
Here’s what is happening.
A couple of things: one is, remember our formula.
The color of the light plus the color of the object is the color we mix.
When nature lights a sun, let’s say a sunset lights a red beach ball, we have the yellow
sun hitting the red beach ball.
Yellow plus red, yellow light plus red ball equals the color we mix, some kind of orange.
In the shadows, let’s just call it blue shadows.
Or we can call it violet shadows.
We’ll just make it a complement up here.
Yellow light plus red object equals orange mixture in the shadow light, color of the
shadow light plus the color of the object equals the color we mix.
The shadow light is violet.
The object is red and so we’re going to mix a red-violet and paint that.
Notice that orange and red violet have a ton of red in each other, in both of them.
And so they get along over red.
They may also gray.
The shadows or the lights may be a grayer version of themselves, and so that would move
them even closer again.
And so it’s working off that.
The other thing is, nature is working with two light sources, color of the light, color
of the shadow light.
That’s one way to think of the two light sources.
That shadow light is actually the reflected light.
It’s bouncing light reflected indirect bouncing light.
Not only are the shadows—we could go into a laboratory where everything is white on
white on white, and we could see the yellow light creating violet shadows.
When we put a purely orange light on that white ball, we’d see purely blue shadows.
When we put a purely red light on that ball we would see green shadows.
Or we could reverse it.
We could put a green light on that white ball.
We’d see purely red shadows.
We could put a violet light on that white ball, see yellow shadows.
We could put a blue light on that ball and see orange shadows.
We’ll actually do that at some point in some of the lectures.
I’ll get some cells on spotlights and we’ll se those effects.
They’re really beautiful.
They can be a lot of fun to play with.
Not only do we have that but we have bouncing light.
If we’re out at the beach, we’ve got the orange sand.
We’ve got the blue surf.
We’ve got the green grass.
We’ve got the yellow beach towel, whatever it is.
We’ve got a whole rainbow of potential colors there that can be bouncing color into the
And so this can get a whole rainbow of colors.
Between the two, the fact that the color of the object is helping to relate both together
and the reflected light is shifting this, we won’t ever get or not usually get a pure
Because of the color of the object coming through and/or because of the reflected light
of other colors bouncing into the shadows, the shadows will shift over a little bit and/or
the lights will have shifted over a little bit.
They’ll be on the same side of the color wheel, usually.
They will be near-complements.
We will see near-complements.
Near-complements start to get together.
Let’s go back to this again.
Color of the light is yellow.
Color of the object is red.
We mix orange.
In the shadow, the shadow color, the shadow light is violet.
The color of the object is still red.
We mix red-violet.
There is red in both because sometimes the light source or shadow source has some red in it.
This could have been a slightly orange light, oftentimes is on a summer day at the beach.
The light sources may have a lot or a little red in it.
But also, the object has a lot of red in it.
It’s a red ball.
And so we say that this light side and shadow side, everything in the picture that is receiving
light or receiving shadow is potentially going to key around red.
A keying means that every color is shifting substantially red.
The key, a color key is like a super harmony.
Not only does it have a little bit in common, it’s got a real strong red component.
Everything is shifting toward the reds, and so it makes it a more pleasing and easier
composition to do.
What we’ll find, one of the strategies for being an impressionist and getting your colors
to work, if you see a lot of color everywhere and you’re getting confused, find one color
to key them all around.
It can be the yellow light.
It can be the cool shadow.
It can be the local color.
Find something to keep.
Notice nature naturally keys all of the lights to some warm color, sunshine color.
Yellow, yellow-orange, red-orange, depending on the time of the day
and the time of the year.
Nature keys all of the lights to some kind of warm color, and it keys all the shadows,
usually a blue-purple, blue, sometimes a blue-green in this range.
Keys all the shadows to a certain color.
And so warm light, cool shadow is doing a job of harmonizing.
If I put yellow and everything in the light, everything in the light will key to yellow.
It will become harmonious.
If I put blue in everything in the shadows, blue in everything in the shadows, everything
in the shadows will key to blue.
If I push those both over to the warm, to the cool or the warm side, they will key around
that warm or cool temperature, and the whole thing will key and blah, blah, blah.
It’s going to start to get confusing here.
But I want you to have this theory.
I want you to look at is several times as a lecture.
You have full access to these things.
Watch these 100 times.
You can have this playing while you’re painting in the background to remind you.
The more you can start to get a sense of this, understand it, the better you will do.
What I found as I got to a certain level of confidence and competence both going to school,
taking classes, bringing models over, handing out with friends and talking, doing jobs,
all that kind of stuff.
But where I got to the next level in my craft was when I started to teach.
Then all of a sudden I had to explain this stuff to 20 different students, and half of
them might not get my first explanation, so I’ll have to come up with another way to
Then I’ll have to demonstrate it to them if they don’t get it or even if they do.
The demonstrations then would bring anther level of understanding.
I would have to demonstrate blue shadows and show them how to see and mix those blue shadows.
And so for me teaching really was like my Masters and PhD in art.
It really taught me how to see and how to understand things.
I didn’t really understand color.
Color was hard for me.
I was more of a natural draftsman.
I didn’t understand color until I started to teach it, unfortunately for my students,
Doing that all of a sudden, it started to make sense because I had to make it make sense.
I studied more of the theory.
I had to demonstrate and I did a lot of bad demos early on trying to get down on the page
what I was trying to explain to them.
But it really, really helped me.
I considered teaching my sketchbook.
Also, I considered my students my research team.
I’ll come up with an idea, and they’ll have to sit there and listen to it while I
Then if it’s in a classroom, I get to watch them perform and learn from their mistakes
and their successes.
Oftentimes, they do something better than I would have done, a color combination or
something that I can say, yeah, that’s great.
That’s the way to do that.
And learn from it.
So anyway, it’s a great way to learn to teach.
At the very least, you get these ideas that you’re excited about.
Start talking to your friends.
Go on the chat line, our website.
You can email us from time to time with questions, the faculty, and talk about it.
Think about it.
Color, Impressionist, value not so much, a little less value.
Temperature and intensity are kicked up several notches.
We know if we work in that midrange, that’s where we’re going to see real strong color.
We’ll see that it’s really truly blue, not just vaguely bluer like it might be in
The beard on a man in a Rembrandt might be vaguely blue.
It’s just a little bit of black-grey in there.
But an Impressionist, you’ll really see blues in the shadows and blues over here and
Then great intensity, relative intensity to show off that lovely color.
It’s going to be more beautiful.
All that intensity, all that temperature, though, can get really garish, or we can loose
control the other way and it can get really muddy.
And so we’ve got a fine line, a fine path to follow to get success.
It’s going to be real easy to fall one way or the other.
If whatever value range there is in that painting, in that setup, if we’re true to it, if we
can capture it well, that’s going to help support the temperature and intensity, and
it gives us a little bit more room for error.
If your values are off and things get a little garish or a little dirty, then you’re in
But if your values are dead-on, just right field.
Light when they should be light, dark when they should be dark, middle when they should
If your intensities are too intense or too gray, your temperatures aren’t shifting
quite right, it’s much more forgivable.
Okay, so color of the light plus the color of the object equals the color we mix.
That’s true of the shadow light as well.
That means if I have a warm light, color of the light hitting a warm object, color of
the object, I’m going to get a more intense color on the canvas, probably, and in the
Warm on warm intensifies.
If you have a real strong warm light, a sunset on the beach, and it hits that gray-orange
sand, orange light on orange sand, that orange sand is going to take off.
It’s going to be really rich orange even though midday it’s a pretty gray dirty yellow
All of a sudden, you get orange on orange, boom, it just flares up and starts to look
like it’s on fire.
It can get much more intense.
If we have a warm light on a cool object, that orange sand or that orange sunlight hits
that blue-gray beard of the old man on the beach, it’s going to look grayer.
It will tend to gray out.
Now, if it’s a very powerful light source, it can overwhelm the object.
There are all sorts of variations to that.
You’ll tend to get a little grayer than you would.
However, intense it is, it’s not going to be as intense if the color of the object was
the same, the temperature was the same.
When I say color, let me correct and say temperature because if it’s warm on warm, it doesn’t
have to be orange on orange.
It can be orange on yellow.
Orange light on a yellow object.
Orange light on a red object.
Orange light on a red-violet object.
All of those would get much more intense, and if it’s warm on cool.
It can be orange on blue.
It can be yellow on blue.
It can be red on green, red on violet, all those combinations, but it’ll tend to gray.
Of course, then, if it’s a cool light with a cool object, then it’s going to intensify.
You can get the cool shadow light.
Say it’s a blue shadow light on a blue shirt or on that old man’s blue-gray beard.
You’d get a very intense shadow color for that beard.
You’d think that old gray beard would be old and gray.
Instead, all of a sudden it gets really intense blue because you have a cool shadow light
So cool on cool intensifies.
Cool light on a warm object would of course gray again.
We can see what happens.
As long as your values are solid, and you harmonize your colors, they have something
in common with each other.
If you look at your painting and the violet looks garish and out of whack, it doesn’t
have as much in common with the warm colors as it should.
Gray it down, warm it up.
Then it will harmonize.
Or, if things get too muddy, then they’ve lost their character, and they are so trying
They have so much in common they become a Tom of Toms, basically.
They’ve lost their character.
They’ve lost their personality.
That’s no good either.
We want to balance that out.
That’s going to be our basic color theory.
Our impressionists will work in limited value.
They’ll kick up the intensity to show off greater temperature shifts.
We’ll have the color of the light plus the color of the object is the color we mix.
If we’re going to screw up, make the colored light more intense.
Make it more yellow.
Make the color of the shadows more cool.
Push it more to the blues than you think it should be.
Push this warmer.
In general, and it’s very much a generalization.
You can find all sorts of lovely exceptions.
If we made the light side more intense and more warm and lighter in value, that would
be a better mistake.
If the shadow on the shadow side if we made it cooler, darker, and grayer than we think
it should be, that would be a better mistake.
Cool, dark, and gray.
But as I just said, we can get some very intense shadows for all sorts of fun reasons.
It’s still going to be relatively darker, but it can get very intense cools.
But, just in general, we can still, when we get in trouble, we can still rely on that
Brown School logic, that shadows are kind of non-light or weaker light, lesser light,
and so you don’t see as much into them.
They don’t have as much light.
They don’t have as much color.
They don’t have as much intensity.
They look grayer.
We can default to that.
Let’s stop there.
That’s enough with this blasted theory.
Let’s get to actual painting.
I’m going to make sure all my paint stays on my palette.
I’ll do a little demo for you of a painting, and we’ll see, we’ll do just a little
study, a little quick sketch study, and we’ll see how this color theory plays out.
I’m going to show you an infinitely easier way to do this.
If you write these notes and put them by the side of your palette of your painting, you’ll
was them up and throw them away in ten minutes.
They’ll be completely useless.
These are things that have to settle in over time deep-seated gut instincts rather than
just intellectual diatribe.
Look at this.
Don’t ignore the theory.
Look at it many times.
Think about it.
Write your ideas about it.
Look at your old master favorites and see if you can see the differences between the
value ranges and the impressionists in the Brown School.
If you can see the intensity differences between the shadows of the Impressionists, the shadows
of the Brown School.
Analyze those things.
See how much black the Impressionists use.
They will use black sometimes especially the ones who have an indoor Brown School background,
which a lot of them did.
Sorolla did and Sargent did, and a lot of these guys did.
They’ll still use blacks, but it won’t be in big areas like it would be in the Brown School.
Take a look at it.
See what you see.
We’ll come back and try and apply some of this hopefully in a way that makes sense just
on your gut, and you can just have fun with it.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview34sNow playing...
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2. Intro to impressionist color theory15m 39s
3. Value ranges14m 56s
4. Reflective light & color16m 7s