Watercolor: The Rainbow Trail

When I was painting at Sharon Woods in Westerville, Ohio in mid-September last year I stumbled upon a wonderful adventure in color before me. This late afternoon painting entailed rapidly changing colors. Yet the expressionist within me furiously took on the job of representing what I saw. What my paint did and what I saw were not entirely the same thing. Color range is a funny thing. Realistic interpretation of color is rarely very interesting. Even the great watercolor and oil painter John Singer Sargent exploited abstraction (especially with color).

Rainbow Trail

When you look at the works of John Singer Sargent you begin to understand the great expressive capability of watercolor.

Watercolor can be dull and muted. It is easy to blend colors. If you read my last article, Watercolor Vibrancy you will see that this problem can be solved.

Water media is a difficult media to command, because water attracts to water. Mud is easy to come by.

Consider for a moment that you have great potential in 4 little colors: red, blue, yellow, and brown.

Compliments are perhaps the easiest colors to come up with out of this mix: purple, orange, green.

Perhaps the things you may not think about are the tertiary colors available: red-purple, yellow-orange, blue-green, and many many more. Crayola has a wild knack for naming them.

So what happens when you are mindful of complimentary colors (compliments)?

  • It attracts attention to the area with the most color contrast. Purples next to yellows are interesting to look at.
  • Everywhere else the compliments appear on the paper create arrows to the main area.
  • Your eye bounces around the page to all of the different areas of compliments.
  • Depth is implied.

True we could go on and talk about saturation and the use of watery values, but I will save that for a future post.


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