The abstraction of the small parts of the picture should match the abstraction of the whole if the picture is to make sense.
Once you decide it’s going to be orange, there’s just no turning back.
Complementary colors are ones that appear especially intense because they contain opposite frequencies of light. Blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet are all color opposites. One subject that I portray often in my art — the koi pond — has a natural blue/orange opposition since many of the fish are orange and the water, reflecting the sky, is blue. But the sea shells I collect have strong passages of orange too and placed against a blue cloth they stand out very boldly.
Exploration of color is one of the principle motives of my artwork. So I try to understand color, making a particular effort to explore different colors and different color combinations. Toward that end I collect objects from different color groups. The orange vase that sits nestled among the objects on my still life table is one such example.
I have also learned about the color orange by looking at how other artists use it, as in this copy of Bonnard’s orange jug that I made in front of his still life using oil pastel.
In Bonnard’s picture you find orange and blue together: the orange of the jug and blue from its shadow cast by the sunlight coming through a window.
Something doesn’t have to be exactly orange to create the dynamic of blue/orange opposition. Something that is almost orange will do it too. There’s enough red and yellow in the blue compotier against the jade green cloth to create a lot of blue/orange signal in the light. The warm/cool contrasts and the general bouncing around of red and yellow light against bluish color does something similar.
The subjects can be very dissimilar but orange has a mood it brings along, and objects that are orange colored pull that sensibility from our minds. I feel like these things are connected simply because they are the same color, whether they are fish or vases or fruits or something else. They all participate in the essence of orangeness.
One ought to study all the colors to learn their meanings.
By the time I started work on the darker colors I was listening to Janos Starker on the “boom box.” It’s hard not to make rather vigorous stokes when Janos Starker bows such vigorous strokes.
My orange fish got so orange that I forgot all about his lovely tail. It becomes reduced to just a slender cylinder.
Meanwhile, the dark fish seems to leap even more swiftly in this version. All the fish were swimming to Kodály by this time.
To have a listen for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCB9X9a77uU
Color conveys mood. One question I begin my koi paintings with is what color blue will predominate? For this particular painting my studies help me decide whether one fish (now in a leading role) will be a soft pale orange or a richly saturated orange. The color of the fish is especially important since orange and blue are optically opposite. If the fish is richly colored he will stand out in a maximal way, and if he is a quietly pale orange he will make a much less forceful impact.
I’m thinking this little fish deserves a big personality, but I’m trying to make certain the whole painting will balance. This study tries the quieter color. It’s also the first time I’ve dealt with the dark fish who dives downwards.
Today was drawing day. I made three studies for the koi paintings. The freedom of drawing is exhilerating. Beginning an idea from the blank page always delights me, but I am supposed to be finishing paintings. Well, this way I get to eat my cake and have it too. I am “working on” the painting — indirectly. I am trying out ideas, rehearsing my lines, all of which gives me necessary practice for the painting. But I still get to begin from blank.
The version above is a compositional sketch for the whole painting. In the next couple posts I make studies of the group around the dark fish.