August 4, 2013

Sophisticated Use of Intelligent Neutrals

Last Light on Brady's Beach, oil on canvas, 30X40"                 

The "sophisticated use of intelligent neutrals"  is a phrase that I have coined from Robert Genn, my long time friend and mentor.  I have never forgotten those words.

What is a "neutral"?  

So glad you asked.  A neutral is an intense primary color - blue, yellow or red- that is modified, or nuetralized by adding the other two primaries to it in varying amounts to make the color less pure; to actually de-saturate it.  White is used to bring the tonality (light/dark) into the desired range, and temperature and hue are adjusted with the primary pigments.  At least this is how it works in my world.

Why are neutrals important?

Neutrals enable us to create areas with color "wallop" in the painting.  In the painting above, the colors in the ocean, sand and sky are all neutral colors - colors that have all three primaries in them.  Without the neutrals, the punch of color in the sun rays would lose all of it's impact.  I have directed the focal point by saving the purest and most intense color in the painting for that one area.

Intelligently using neutrals creates sophistication in our paintings.  It takes planning, intent, and careful observation.  It also takes some practice, but the results are well worth the effort.  It is something I did not come to really understand until I had been painting quite a number of years.

When you are observing a color from life, or from a photo reference, and it is difficult to put a name to it, and you find yourself reaching for adjectives to describe it (such as "purplish grey") you are  needing to mix a neutral.  Play with this idea and have some fun with it!

All the best, and happy painting!



Painting from the model, Whistler BC, August 23,24,25
Painting Outdoors in the Shuswap August 30, 31, Sept 1
Bear Valley Outdoor Painting, Sept 21,22,23

*for course information please click on the side bar of this post under 2013/2014 workshops

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