Last Day of June (Boscobel) – Oil on Panel, 7 x 5 inches
When I first started painting – or at least, when I decided that I was going to try to learn properly – I spent the least time I could on the palette.
I wanted to be on the painting as much as possible. I thought that’s where the action was, where a painting succeeded or failed.
But I was wrong. In fact, the opposite is true.
Especially when I find myself with something that really challenges me (this rose would be a good example!) then these days, I spend much, much more of my time on the palette than on the painting itself.
Because that’s really where a painting really succeeds or fails.
Finding the Balance
For this painting, I was almost constantly trying to find the best balance between value and chroma.
Each hue finds its highest chroma at a different value. The pinkish-reds in this painting find their highest chroma just below the middle of the value range.
There’s a range of hues in this painting, from more orange red to almost purple, but the majority of them are, in Munsell terms, around 5R.
Here’s a page from the Munsell book of that hue (sorry I forgot to focus the camera – typical!):
You can see here that this hue reaches its highest chroma – the chroma I need – around the middle of the value range and below.
But a lot of the petals of this rose were higher value, but still with high chroma, particularly where there was light travelling through them.
Paint won’t do that. You can see here how the chroma drops off sharply as you go up the value range.
So it becomes a dance between the value and the chroma, looking always for the best result that will make the painting work. The best balance.
This is a large part of what I mean when I refer to the value balance – it’s this delicate balance between value and chroma where some of the most interesting things happen in colour in paintings – representational paintings anyway.
I streamed the start of this painting live, and have put together a short video of the initial stages, you can see it here:
And if you don’t mind watching two hours of video, here is the full version:
Colour is endlessly fascinating. Endlessly challenging, endlessly joyful to work with.
For me, the careful analysis of colour is part of the joy of painting. I know for some people, analysis is the opposite of joy.
For me, I find my deepest joy in learning and improving, and for that I find the analysis is necesssary.
Not least becasue when I come to paint, when I come to spend that smaller amount of time actually applying paint to the surface, I’m more free to focus on the caligraphy of the brush, to feeling the subject and the painting. That’s where I find most of my expression.
I hope this painting brightens your day a little. And I hope you’re finding the space, balance and calm you need to get through your days.
If you’re struggling with that, I highly recommend spending some time with roses.
Best wishes, and thanks for reading,
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