Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fun With Color Studies

color study for horse painting

Color studies are fun to do. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about putting in details unless you’re doing them to get the detail right, like a person’s face or a dog’s eye. For another, you don’t have to get the shapes and proportions exactly right, either. And, they’re usually quick to do, so if one doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can easily do another. 

What is a color study you may wonder? 

A color study is a small (usually) quick painting done to work out possible problems in a larger, more finished painting. 

Why do a color study?

1. To work out color harmonies
2. To work out values
3. To practice painting a subject or object or the whole painting
4. To prevent having to make a lot of corrections to the final painting

Before beginning the big version of “Twilight Reverie”, I decided to do a color study. Why? Because color harmonies, accurate color for the time of day and the atmosphere of the painting will be critical elements for what I want to say with this painting. Plus I wanted to get an accurate and pleasing color for the horse figured out before putting a lot of paint on a big canvas and then having to do parts over again. 

So, I spent a happy afternoon yesterday painting away on this 8x10 inch color study, drawing right on the canvas and slapping on the paint with little regard for detail. Detail in this instance is not necessary to get a feel for how the colors will work together. Nor are absolutely accurate horse proportions. 

Same colors look different on white background from the yellow  toned canvas

First I played with paint, trying various combinations of colors to get the horse color I’m after. I tested the color mixes on a sheet of white canvas paper and came up with some mixes that for the horse that match closely with the reference photo and my own familiarity with my horse’s color. Then I found a small canvas board that was already toned with a light yellow and proceeded to create the color study by drawing directly on the board. 

When it was finished, I confess to being pretty pleased with the result. But, most important of all it revealed that the color mixes used will be much warmer and bright when painted on top of the yellow toned canvas. I had expected this to some extent, but the change was more dramatic than anticipated. 
Desaturated colors in Photoshop

Now I must ponder, will that effect diminish with thicker applications of paint? Do I need to soften, dull down or lighten the color mixes to achieve the soft evening reverie mood that I’m seeking? 

I’m also debating whether or not to work some grass into the hilltop that the horse is standing on or leave it all sand. And, adding some road behind the fenceline will also help to break up that large area of solid green trees. Some experimenting in Photoshop is in order before beginning the big canvas. 

Stay tuned. 
Here is the cropped version that will actually be the painting

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