Appreciation of Color
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Thoughts of A Sociable Artist

Appreciation of Color

"More varied than any landscape was the landscape in the sky, with islands of gold and silver, peninsulas of apricot and rose against a background of many shades of turquoise and azure."
Cecil Beaton
Last night I saw a black and white movie set in present day Paris. I realized that when you drain the color from the world, you see things in stark contrast. You are forced to focus more on the words and expressions of the characters, because you are not distracted by a kaleidoscope of color. Objects are reduced to their simplest form. I understand why a director or photographer might choose black and white, but to me the effect is cold in its simplicity and has a morose and lonely quality.
When I have a subject that I am interested in painting, sometimes I take a black an white photo. Doing this helps me to see the dark and light areas, the shadows and reflected light, as well as all those shades of gray. It becomes easier to put things in a scale from light to dark if you remove the distraction of color.  If you are new to painting, you might try this practice;  Take a photograph of a still life and, using your computer’s photo editing program, see what the image looks like with the highest contrast between black and white. Turn up the brightness. See what happens when all the shades of gray are gone. Then returning to the original photo, sketch the still life in pencil paying attention to the areas of light and dark.
Next, go back to your sketch and add colored pencil, and watch the image come to life. Sometimes removing color can reduce a subject or a problem to it’s simplest form, but you also remove the nuances of emotion and life that color invokes. Try this, stand at your font door and observe the view. For the next few days, look at the same view and notice the differences in the quality of colors at different times of day and in different weather.
While observing things in black and white can be a useful tool in creating art, color is what gives life it’s flavor. If we see things only in the extremes of contrast, we miss out on all the wonderful, chaotic, messy color in between.
Painting created using a high contrast photograph

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