Art & Design Magazine

Wine and Color

By Susanroux

Wine and color Bend in the Road Work in progress  18x24" by Susan Roux
No, this is not a drinking post. This is a reflection on where my art journey has sent me lately.
Complex color.
I've been pondering this for quite some time now. My paintbrush furiously seeks it. My eyes are beginning to open to it, hopefully my mind is beginning to understand it. I know I've only brushed the surface, but a year ago I didn't even stop for a minute to think about it. An art journey is like that. We become aware of certain things we never noticed before and our exploration of that element becomes our new focus until we finally get a grasp on it and hopefully make it your own. It's what keeps artists so motivated and powering forward. It's also what makes artists feel like they can't ever paint anything good enough. There's always so much more we seek to capture.
My best description of complex color comes from relating it to wine.
We all know that wines can be very complex. The connoisseur can identify subtleties in the flavor that most of us cannot detect nor specify. Be it certain fruits, flowers, spices, wood and even fungi, the palate must be very developed to distinguish many of these wonderful nuances.
Expensive wines perhaps have more complexity than really inexpensive wines. Yet for every wine out there, a buyer exists that will swear by it. The flavors found in the wine may be complex or not. If the individual drinker has not developed their palate they can drink happily completely unaware of the difference.
That being said, I think there are satisfied buyers for every type.
I believe the same is true of color.
If a painting is constructed of simple straight from the tube colors, will the unknowledgeable viewer know it? Probably not. They may be simply attracted to the image portrayed. We all know a handful of subjects that sell because of their popularity. Need I mention lighthouses? An untrained eye looks at a discernible subject and sees very little difference with one that is masterfully executed. On the other hand, someone that is educated in art or has spent hours upon hours honing their skills, the execution of the work is far more important than the subject matter itself. A deeper appreciation for the subtleties exists.
What is complex color?
Think of the difference between a gray from a tube compared to the unlimited combinations of grays achieved by neutralizing those colors on your palette. The subtleties you can achieve and the varying pull towards certain color pigments are so superior to that of the tube gray, yet the untrained eye will see both as gray on a painting. Multiply that to include every color you use and you'll begin to get a glimpse at the idea of complex color.
Stas Borodin told me some Japanese could discern 100 colors in black. I know Monet found countless shades in gray. Those artists fixated on capturing light won't just use a buttery color to depict it. No. There will exist a whole variety of shades and subtle colors, if it's done masterfully.
Yes there will be those who teach less values is key to a strong painting. I don't agree. It's a good place to start to understand how value works in a painting, but a well executed work with a full value range can bring a viewer to tears. Go look at the master works in your local museum. Sorolla and Sargent didn't limit themselves to 3-5 values. They played in complex colors...
The longer you look at your subject the more colors you'll be able to discern. This is even true of a photograph. Trying to capture every color you see while the number increases the longer you observe, can be daunting. As a representational artist, I think these things hold the secret to continuously improving your art. Now attempt to add creative spontaneity to the mix and you'll begin to get an idea where my mind's been existing lately.
So complex, it's hard to put into words...
Not only is complex color hard to achieve, control and wrap your brain around, it's far too complex for the camera to comprehend... Photographing my work has become impossible. I hope you can get to see it in person sometime.

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