Narcissi and Willow Pattern, Oil on Panel, 12 x 8 inches
The more I paint, the more I realise the importance of chroma.
I know that, for many people, chroma isn’t really something they consider much as they paint.
Until I dscovered Munsell, I didn’t think about it much either.
But lately, I’ve been giving as much attention to chroma as I have to value. And the more I do that, it seems to me, the better my paintings become.
I’d like to draw your attention to two areas of this painting where the chroma was very carefully considered and where I think it’s very important.
Firstly, the background
I actually had a much lower chroma background originally. And indeed, for a long time I painted shadows in low chroma backgrounds very close to neutral.
But just lately, I’ve realised that adding chroma to those shadows gives an impression of depth and light that I can’t get any other way.
And the reason I can do that now is that I’ve changed my approach to value.
The two are inextricably linked.
You see, right down at the bottom of the value scale of paint, chroma is generally very low.
True, there are phthalos that have high chroma down there near black, but shadows are rarely phthalo blue or green!
In fact, the shadow areas in this subject were mostly a yellow-green.
The connection with the value there is that lately I’ve been painting with a more impressionist value balance – which means that the shadow areas, with the exception of the very bottom of the value scale, are lighter.
Which means I can have more chroma there, and that’s where the light is coming from.
Secondly, the radial petals
Now here, the chroma is low, very low. Almost neutral in places –
but not quite.
The more I dropped the chroma there, the more the petals seemed to take on a diaphanous, translucent feeling.
I did try painting patches of them actual neutral at first, but it didn’t quite work.
What did work, in the end, was very, very low chroma that still had just a hint of the hue of the petals – a green yellow.
That seemed to hit just the right note.
I don’t think I could mix them reliably without the Munsell book to guide me, it’s a great help with getting the hue right of very low chroma colours – they’re extremely difficult to judge.
So, as I become more aware of chroma, and of the link between chroma and value, I become more convinced that paintings work best when at least as much attention is given to one as to the other.
At least, that’s what I find with my paintings.
I’ve been aware of and considering chroma for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve been giving it as much importance as value.
Because I think that I get my best results when the two are working together, balanced in such a way as to give a stronger feeling of light and depth.
Best wishes and thanks for reading,
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