Balance colour and temperature

Sunlight and Lemons
30 x 30
Some painters deliberately avoid using all three primaries in a single painting, but it's a practise that has never worked for me.  I need to see the full spectrum of colours in each painting or it feels out of balance.

This may be the difference between a tonal and a colourist approach; I can see limiting primaries if the subtle distinction between values were my method of painting, but colour is what obsesses me, and I need to use my full palette to satisfy my eye.

Of course I tend to forget this on occasion, as I did in this painting.  It began as a generally cool piece with greenish shadows and warm, yellowy light.  With the blue dominance in the still life objects, this meant that my painting was an analogous scheme of yellow greens and blues.  It was what I saw in the still life set up, but it didn't work in the painting.

It's interesting when that happens, because it's a reminder that you can't just trust your eyes, you have to use some rational thought and invention to recreate the effect that you're perceiving.   What I perceived was warmth, luminosity and airiness.  What I achieved with the first pass, was chilly heaviness.  I didn't love it.

That's when I remembered the full spectrum thing and added reds - pinks, actually - to the painting. The white cloth got shots of pink and purple that were of equal value to the yellow tints already there.  Because they were the same value, these new colours didn't scream "odd", they settled in and created a warm vibration.  The sky through the window got the same treatment.  It has peach, yellow, blue and other tints in it, making a general warmth that is more balanced, and more warm-feeling than when it just contained yellows and oranges.  Strangely, by adding cool notes, the warm yellows felt warmer than they had before.  Logical, I guess: I needed to see the opposite of warm to appreciate and understand the warmth when I encountered it.

So I added the full spectrum of colour and temperature to the painting and I began to like it.  It was saying what I intended it to say.  It's a lesson that I have to relearn, I suppose, but my hope is that on each relearning, I also learn something new.  It's that excitement and novelty that makes painting an obsession.

Happy painting!


This is exquisite Ingrid!
Thank you, Sharon! It was one of those struggle pieces that become something that I like.