Inventing Color from Black and White Reference

I did this as a demo for my Illustration 1 students to explain how I make the jump to a full color palette when working from black and white reference. I think this is a valuable exercise for any artist as it forces you to think outside of the box instead of relying on whatever colors are in your photo reference. This challenge was probably as beneficial for me as it was for the students. First, I found a photo that I had taken  at the Getty Museum of a Roman sculpture.

I liked the way the light played across the various planes of the head and the structure of his head was appealing. I knew that working from black and white would force me to think about the basics of color so I set a couple of parameters for myself. One was that I would consciously create a temperature shift from light to shadow and that regardless of the colors I chose, meaning that if the light source I defined was cool, I would paint the shadows warm and vice versa.  I would also maintain a strong value pattern from light to dark. Given these guidelines, I also wanted consciously chose colors that I do not normally work with, forcing myself to invent palettes out of my comfort zone.

The results were delightful and surprising. I found myself fully enjoying the experimentation and being excited by the way certain colors looked against others. Although in some respects the color palettes are not natural, I think they are all believable for the reasons I set as parameters from the beginning: the value patterns were maintained and the color temperature shifts from light to shadow. Each of these versions also has its own unique mood as well. This is an oversimplification of the concept of temperature shifts and they can often times be more subtle than what I did here. Creating color studies like these can be valuable in defining what you want to achieve in a particular piece. These head studies are 4″ x 5.5″ and I took about an hour and a half to paint each one.

See full post here: LIFE NEEDS ART2012-04-26.