Creating a Color Story
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Let's talk about a little thing called Color Theory. Have you considered what color palette captures the spirit of your artistic voice? Let's say your favorite color is blue. Is it a calming barely there blue or an electrifying brilliant blue? Does it have a touch of green or is it full on turquoise? There are primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), secondary colors (orange, green, and purple), and tertiary colors (green-yellow, yellow-orange, orange-red, red-violet, blue-violet, and blue-green). There are contrasting colors and complimentary colors. Then of course we can darken colors and lighten colors or add gray and make subdued colors.
Color symbolism varies by culture and even within cultures. Red can be associated with love but you can also be "seeing red" with anger. You can be green with jealousy or green can represent growth. Colors can also be assigned highly personal meaning, your own experiences can literally color your view of specific colors!
What does all this mean when developing your own style in relation to color usage? Color schemes can be used to express emotion. Are you creating...mystery? whimsy? agitation? If you paint a landscape in different shades of one color, how does that create a different feeling than using a harmonious balance of analogous colors that make sense in the setting or even a startling use of high contrast bright, unexpected colors? Different colors tell different stories because they set different moods. They completely change the way we look at or feel about the subject.
If I painted a picture of my dog Barkley in his natural color scheme, he would look rather dignified in reddish brown fur and a smart leather collar. This dose of realism wouldn't capture Barkley's often exuberant, peculiar personality of trying to dance with the cat and run haphazardly on wood floors, in order to do that I might select some unexpected colors like lilac, lime green, and magenta to suggest there is more to this dog than meets the eye. Play with colors in your art! Try painting one subject in three different color schemes and see what stories they tell.