Monday, October 5, 2015

Getting Comfortable with Temperature

Threesome, pastel, 11x14 

I find that many students I teach struggle with color temperature in their paintings. Not surprising to me, since it's something that took me a long time to wrap my head around in my own work. In a recent pastel workshop I taught in Texas, the topic was new information to several fairly new pastel artists, and so we discussed it quite a bit.

One reason for the difficulty in grasping color temperature is due to working from photos. More often than not, photos of the landscape tend to cool down colors and eliminate the warmth of the light. So when we try to replicate the local color too literally from a photo, we end up shifting a sunlit area to a lighter value of the local color rather than a warmer, "light-filled" hue. 

Roadway Shadows, pastel, 14x11

For example, when green foliage is catching direct sunlight, shifting that sunlit area to a lighter green won't capture a sunlit feel. To do this, even though we may (or may not) need to shift the value lighter, we need to shift the temperature to a warmer hue, possibly toward an orange or yellow, or really anything in that direction away from green on the color wheel. And for a more subdued sunlit area, we may need to only shift the temperature but not the value. The local color as well as the intensity of the light will influence the exact color choice of that warmer hue.

Roadway Shadows, detail of trees
Another example is the sky. Often photos will only appear to have a blue sky fade to a lighter blue in the lower portion of the sky. If the artist copies this just as the photo appears, the sky in their painting will appear stark, cold and flat. Adding some same-value warms in that lower portion of the sky, such as pink, peach or ochre, will convey the feel of a light-filled sky. 

Quiet Moment on the Deschutes, pastel, 11x14
Other common stumbling blocks on this subject are snow and highlights on trees. On either, if those areas are catching direct sunlight, they must shift to a warm hue (something in the yellow, orange or pink family). 

Evening Shadows Out Back, pastel, 11x14

A regular practice of plein air painting will train the artist's eye to see color temperature accurately in the landscape, and the adjustments to be made when working from photos in the studio.

All of the work shown on this post are a few selected demos from recent workshops from the past three months. Listed below are my upcoming workshops, and another announcement I'm excited to share!...

Afternoon Thaw, pastel, 11x14

Online Critiques! - I'm excited to announce that I'm now part of ProArtCritique, a website through which you can have your artwork critiqued by professional instructors for a nominal fee. Visit for details.    

Upcoming Workshops:

San Antonio, TX - 3-day PASTEL/OIL 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 Ave.
Wethersfield, CT 06109
$390/member; $420/non-member 

Goshen, NJ (Cape May area) - 3-day PASTEL workshop -FULL WITH WAIT LIST
Nov. 20, 21 & 22 (Fri/Sat/Sun) & evening demo on Thurs., Nov. 19, 2015
Guest instructor at Stan Sperlak's Goshen School of Art
Crow Creek Farm, Goshen, NJ

Cincinnati, OH - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Jan. 22, 23 & 24, 2016 (Fri/Sat/Sun)
Cincinnati Art Club
1021 Parkside Place (beautiful, historic Eden Park area near downtown Cincinnati)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
$400/member; $425/nonmember

Bridgewater, NJ - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Feb. 26, 27 & 28, 2016 (Fri/Sat/Sun)
York Art Studio
350 Grove St. #4, Bridgewater, NJ 08807
Students can register starting Fall 2015. Payments will be made directly to Barbara Jaenicke via PayPal. More info to come.