Monday, April 13, 2015

Developing a Better Color Sense.

How do you improve your sense of color in the landscape? Well, if you're painting on location, seeing your subject firsthand while standing right there in the landscape is the best way. But if you also work from photos, a great exercise to try occasionally is to eliminate color altogether from your reference photo.

Looking Beyond, oil, 8x10

Black and white reference photo for Looking Beyond.

Every once in awhile we work from a black and white photo in my classes at my studio. The idea is to reference the values in the photo, and use light and shadow for your warms and cools, and chroma (saturated color vs. greyed color) for distance. Basing your use of color on those indications, it liberates you from agonizing over matching your photo's colors exactly...something that drives us all crazy, causing pastel artists to figure they need even more pastels from which to choose, and oil artists to spend crazy amounts of time trying to mix an elusive perfect color.

Creekside Respite, oil, 8x10

Black and white reference photo for Creekside Respite.

Depending on how close to the local color you'd like to stay with the painting, you may want to have a general idea of the local color that exists in the particular landscape. For simply an exercise, it's not as important. 

Learning to think through color in this way will help you out not only when you can't seem to match your photo's colors, but especially when working from a bad reference photo that gives your incorrect color information, which is the case more often than many artists think.

The above demos are from two oil classes from last week.

Last week's classes may be the last of the classes I teach in my studio here in Roswell, GA. We have a buyer for our home and are planning to make our move out to Bend, Oregon on May 23. A little sooner than planned, but that's sometimes how it goes with selling a home. Of course anything can change with selling a home, but that's the plan as it now stands. We'll need to find a temporary rental when we arrive out there, but we hope to find a home soon thereafter. I'm not sure how large of a studio I'll have once we're settled. Chances are it'll probably be smaller than the one I currently have, so I don't know how much I'll teach from my studio. But I'll keep you all posted!

A big THANK YOU to all of my students who've attended classes at my studio! You've been awesome! 

My studio in my Roswell, GA home...soon to be packed up.

Upcoming Workshops:

My workshops for the rest of 2015 are full except for the following one in San Antonio, TX in October, and one in the Hartford, CT area that has just been added to my schedule...

San Antonio, TX - 3-day PASTEL workshop
Oct. 17, 18 & 19, 2015 (Sat/Sun/Mon)
The Coppini Academy of Fine Arts
115 Melrose Place
San Antonio, TX 78212
$400/member; $450/nonmember

Wethersfield, CT (Hartford area) - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Nov. 12, 13 & 14, 2015 (Thurs/Fri/Sat)
Wethersfield Academy for the Arts
431 Hartford Avenue
Wethersfield, CT 06109
$390/member; $420 nonmember

See my website at for full 2015 schedule and my 2016 workshop schedule.


  1. I love this and am going to try it. Usually I paint from a color photo and try to push the color, but I love the idea of making it up. I had to paint a portrait once from a b&w and that wasn't easy though. I'll bet your home students are going to really miss you! I have a cousin in Bend that perhaps I can impose on if you have workshops in your new location. Have a good move to your new home! Thanks for your wonderful blog!

    1. Thanks, Jacqueline! Yes, it's a great way to think through color rather than simply copy it. Thanks for following my work. If I do get set up to teach classes and workshops in Bend, I hope you can make that visit!

  2. Good luck with your move. Your work is beautiful. The link for the Wethersfield workshop didn't work.

    1. Thanks, Mary! I've gone in and made the links "clickable" and also added the fee info for the Wethersfield workshop...thank you!