Drawing with Color: Part Two #1

Complementary color combination applied to a multicolored form.

cp2 6

We open the second eight weeks of Drawing With Color with a review of complementary color combinations. Our object is multicolored but our task is to utilize a limited palette of only 2 hues. We look to our object for direction and consider many possible combos: red and green, red-orange and blue green, red-violet and yellow-green, blue and orange and blue-violet and yellow-orange.

We try a few different combos in class in our sketchbooks on white  paper:

Red and Green

cp 2 r g

Yellow-Green and Red-Violet

rv yg

Blue-Green and Red-Violet

cp 2 ro bg

Each study evokes a different lighting condition. None show the true local colors of the feather. Rarely do we see actual local color.

The next step is to work on a tinted ground. The color of the paper/ground should be a tint or tone of one of the colors in your complementary combination. Choose a warm or cool tint. (Complements are opposite in color temperature).

I am choosing red-orange and blue green so my paper is a tone of red-orange.

cp2 1

In addition to the 2 hues choose their tints (white added), tones (gray added) and shades.

cp2 4


You can see the little swatches of color representing most of the pencils I’ve used in this drawing. Notice the use of tints for the “background”. I used a tint of the warmer “advancing” red-orange in the foreground and a tint of the cooler “receding” blue-green in the background.

Shadows are cooler and duller/darker than the object. Shadow temperature and hue change depending on surrounding conditions like light on the paper and reflected light off of the object.

cp2 ro

And now an example of a cool ground. Notice how the mood is more detached and the object appears more distant. Use ground temperature to influence the mood of your work.

cp 2 b

To recap:

  • Choose a multicolored natural form
  • Look for a complementary combination therein
  • Choose a colored paper that is a tint or tone of one of the complements
  • Make your dyad chord/grid.  Add white to the lightest values in the grid
  • Begin the drawing: Map in shape proportions, value changes and color changes with a light line
  • Begin to shade in darks, lights and middle values.

Its good to determine darkest darks and lightest lights right away to maintain accuracy of value.

Okay-now have fun!

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