I am making some headway on the chapter on color. This will be a longer chapter than the previous ones, broken down by the attributes of color. As always, I would love your comments, additions, agreements, disagreements, questions, anything that would help. Since this is being posted without examples, some of it may be difficult to grasp. Let me know.
Chapter 4: Color
The chapter on color is going to be longer than the previous chapters. Color has several attributes used to describe it: hue, value, saturation, and temperature. I will cover each one as a subchapter. Other attributes that will be mentioned are opacity vs. transparency, mineral vs. vegetable composition of paints, and staining vs. non-staining attributes.
Hue is the property which distinguishes red from green. If you ask, “what hue is the sea?” the answer might be: “Aquamarine” or “ultramarine” or just “green” depending on where you are (and the weather). Hue is determined by the wavelength of the color. The colors of the rainbow are considered hues. Browns and grays are not hues.
Value (lightness-darkness) applies to color as well as the gray scale. Yellow has a naturally light value and blue has a naturally strong (dark) value.
Saturation refers to how much pure pigment of the desired hue is present versus medium (medium being that vehicle used to bind the color, such as oil) or other hue. You can desaturate a pure color by adding white, gray, black, a transparent filler or medium (such as water – for watercolors) or the complement of the color. This is often referred to as color intensity or chroma, although chroma has a slightly different meaning to a purist. (Visual artists don’t usually seem to pursue this distinction.)
Temperature refers to whether the color is perceived as warm or cool and is a relative term. Red may seem warm in relation to blue, but may seem cool if placed next to orange.
These attributes work together with line and form to create pictorial depth and composition.
There are some additional terms, such as “shade” (amount of black added), “tint” (amount of white added), and “intensity” (the brightness or dullness of a hue). But I think the main concepts it’s important for a painter to get are the first five.
In doing exercises with color, it’s easier, to my thinking, to work with oils, because they dry slower and allow mixing easier. If you are working with acrylics, you may want to get an acrylic retarder medium to mix with your acrylics to slow the drying time. If you go to any art store or art supply site, just search for “acrylic retarder.”