Exploring the various aspects of Color Theory, though fascinating to some, is simply a mental exercise that will not improve your painting unless it is put into practice. At first it takes a conscious (and for me, rather painful) effort to break old habits and to go back to a new beginning. Two years ago I decided to retrain my eyes, my mind and my hand to explore the vast world of color at my fingertips. I began each day painting a small watercolor or oil. Each night I overloaded my brain with as much “book” information on light and color that I could read before falling asleep. If I paint all day, every day, for the next thirty years I know I will not exhaust the possibilities of color nor the pleasure I experience from the journey.
I’m not sure that I emphasized the importance of challenging your understanding of “color theory” by putting it to the test through painting. This sounds rather obvious, but putting into practice what one knows is not always easy and it does not always follow naturally. I have posted a couple of the watercolor studies I painted when I first returned to the study of color and color schemes. I began each morning by painting a small, quick study of fruit. These simple, fun, studies revealed both my understanding and my lack of understanding. I was free to experiment and compare the results without the pressure of judging the quality of the finished painting.
The painting of the Anjou Pears is a study using two complementary colors, yellow and purple. The study, Bosc Pear, is an Analagous color scheme. I think it would be more exciting if the shadow were more purple than green. The study of the Green Apple is a study using what might be referred to as a Semi-Triadic Complementary color scheme. One might also think of it as an Analagous with one Complement color scheme. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you paint the study beginning with an intention and that you review that intention as you paint, allowing yourself to be free to change your mind and go in a slightly different direction if you wish. Every path will provide an experience to add to your book of Color Knowledge.
Following strict rules usually results in paintings devoid of joy, energy and inspiration. Set your rules and then see how far you can push them. When you break the rules you will do it with intention, not from lack of knowledge. The result is often shockingly delightful.