Colour creates Mood

Claude Monet was a master at using colour. He was always looking for the special effects light could have on the environment because it added a special element to his paintings.  We have to remember that colour is not a natural phenomenon. It follows a set of rules like gravity. It is highly variable depending on the amount of light and the colours of objects adjacent. A car may appear to be red in colour during the day, yet may appear black at when parked under a street light at night. The actual color of the car is called its Local Color. The color we see, which is constantly changing, is referred to as the Perceived Colour.

Rouen Cathedral MonetMost artists will tend to paint perceived colours rather than local colors which is fine, but what about feelings and emotions. What if we were to use color in the way that we feel it to be right. Think of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral paintings or Matisse’s Fauve paintings.

Try this idea, take the perceived colours of a scene and create a color plan for your painting based on that. Now lets make some adjustments, but before we do we need to understand the following colour terms:

  • Value – is a measurement of the brightness of a color. The brighter the colour the higher its value. A vivid yellow is brighter than dark blue therefore its value is higher.
  • Saturation – can also be called a colour’s intensity. It is a measurement of how different from pure grey the colour is. Saturation is not just a matter of light and dark, but rather how pale or strong the colour is.

Just think for a moment that a high value, high saturation red is quite different from a low value, low saturation red. When you also add to this idea that a colour’s transparency may vary depending on the medium used. A whole world of possibilities opens up.

Imagine tweaking your color plan by varying the value, saturation and even the transparency of your colours. Experiment with taking the same scene and painting a number of versions. Try adjusting your your color schemes as described, just as Claude Monet did with Rouen Cathedral. Suddenly, you’ll find that the same scene/painting can take on a very different emotional feel, because you have given thought to how you have used colour. Why not try painting your next painting with a very different colour feel to the way you normally paint?

Checkout other pages on the use of colour.

Please note both British and American spellings are used.

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A Colour Idea for more Advanced Painters

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