Art & Design Magazine

Dealing with Warm and Cool Colour

By Ingrid Christensen

Dealing with Warm and Cool Colour

Dancer in Green
14 x 11

I'm taking a break from still life in the studio for a while and mining some old photos for paintings.  If I go too long without painting a person, I get antsy and don't feel like I'm doing my best work.
This comes from a model painting session in which I achieved absolutely nothing, nada, bupkis (I was a bit frustrated; can you tell?) but got some great photos when our model walked through a series of graceful dance moves at the end of the session.
The challenge here was to create rich and varied dark skin colours and to capture the effect of light on them.
While most of the illumination was from north-facing windows and a couple of skylights, I'd added a warm, halogen flood light to create shadows.  The resulting warm/cool effect was beautiful, but tricky.
The solution was to use alizarin as my main red in the cool side and add a lot of cad red light and cad yellow deep into the flood-lit side.  As well, because the model's skin is already a warm colour, I couldn't achieve much drama from adding warm, orange or yellow-based highlights on the right side, so I went with a greeny-yellow, making use of the effects of complimentary color to boost the illusion of strong light.  But, if you squint, you'll see that the highlight on the right shoulder is no lighter in value than the pinks and purples on the left side of her neck.  It's amazing how adding a lot of yellow tricks the eye into believing that an area is much lighter than it actually is.  If I'd used a lot of white to highlight her skin, it wouldn't have made sense.  The model's skin is dark, and the highlights have to be fairly dark as well.
I'm always amazed by the amount of problem solving that goes on in even a small painting.  I think that all that brain work keeps artists young.
Happy painting!

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