Monday, October 23, 2017

Setting a Mood with Color

Snowy Splendor?

I recently completed two pieces for Onondaga Historical Association's Snowy Splendor: Winter Scenes of Onondaga County. Yes, in Central New York we've decided to stop complaining about our cold winters and instead celebrate our Snowy Splendor! Ok, not everyone has stopped complaining, and really, there's nothing you can do about the weather....hmmmm unless you are an artist! Then you can paint it, frame it, hang it up on the wall and have a party!

I've participated in this show for the last 4 or 5 years, each time submitting a painting of a different area of Onondaga County. Highland Forest, Green Lakes, Butternut Creek and Downtown Syracuse in the winter have all been subjects of previous paintings.

Cold Day

This year's entries are completely different in subject matter and in atmosphere. In Dickens Christmas Skaneateles, pictured above I've used a limited palette of cool blue, purple and rose tones, mixed with Payne's Gray. The resulting image feels cold, as it often is down by the lake. The only warm areas in the painting are around the focal point, which also happens to be the Dickens characters and the Christmas trim. Our eyes are drawn immediately to this area of warmth. The rose hues draw us into the painting and lead our eyes around the composition. Soft browns guide our eyes over the crowd and into the gazebo. Cool blues and Payne's Gray weave from the sky to the roof of the gazebo and down into the crowd, anchoring the composition.

Warm(er) Day

Baltimore Woods provides the setting for this piece which invites the viewer, or a solitary hiker to stop and pause for a while. The woods are quiet and snow covers much of the ground eliminating forest "clutter". The colors in this piece are very different form the Dickens painting. The rose and purple hues are warmer and color is much more saturated. Although we have strong verticals and diagonals in the picture the mood is still quiet and contemplative. The setting sun casts long purple shadows across the snow and the wooded area in the background is aglow with color. Bits of yellow sunlight play across the snow and a curving path through the tree leads us not just into the woods, but into a warm inviting area. 

Color Temperature 

In our paintings, color temperature can be used to our advantage in a few different ways. Using just a a warm or cool palette can unite a composition and lend a cohesive look to the final results. Color temperature can also help to set a mood and to tell a story. Think of an image painted primarily in cool blues and purples. How does that make you feel? Keep in mind that "cool" colors like blues also have warm and cool versions. Cerulean blue, Ultramarine blue and Thalo blue are all different in color temperature, ranging from warm to cool.
In a landscape color temperature often lets us know the time of day. Still life, portraits and other types of painting also benefit from color temperature's ability to set a mood. Subject matter is often the determining factor for how color temperature is used. A portrait of a charming, engaging person will most likely be painted in warm, inviting hues. 

Cold Scene, Warm Colors

I like the challenge of painting a snowy winter scene using colors that are more warm than cool. And I like looking for the color in a season that is usually white or gray. The winter is full of color. We just need to see it.

 "Leave Only Footprints" from Snowy Splendor 2015

For similar posts on painting the winter:

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