My signature palette, Color.

Question from the outside world.

Yesterday I asked for questions on Facebook. I received one question that was really interesting. At first I was a little bit afraid to get questions like "How long does it take to finish a drawing" or "When do you think your drawing is finished?" or even "Can you draw a horse".
No the question was a challenging one. 

Colorstudy, tell us about your regular / signature palette.

So now I have to talk colors. I don't think I am the only one who is struggling with this topic and I have to mention that I am still studying the phenomenon! But I guess I do things pretty well by accident since people seem to like it hehe. But this is how I do it and what the philosophy behind it is.
I quickly drew a pirate so I could demonstrate how I do it step by step and also why I make these decisions in color. Why a pirate? you might ask. I heard Alestorm and I had to draw something to demonstrate everything. You can't go wrong with a pirate.

Step 1. The first cut is the deepest.

Extremely important. I have to make sure the drawing is there and all the grey tones are right where I want them to be. Let's take a look at the image below.

Grey tones.
I think Andrew Loomis did call this the "big tone approach". I will post more about these tonal approaches by Loomis in the future. I am working through this stuff at the moment.
But basically it is about showing where the shadow side and highlight is and where the mid-tones are. 
Why is this so important? The answer to that is: color is light. You probably already know that a red looks different at the shadow side and in the spotlight. Also colors work differently in different colors light. You can play with this as much as you want when you get this right and study it enough.

Step 2. First layer of color.

In photoshop I added the first layer of colors. The grey tones are feeling cold and dead. I like the colors to be bright and present. Although I really like the paintings of Rembrandt and Van Eyck I am a great fan of modern day comics too like Hellboy and Tank Girl. That is why in my case I added the first layer of warm tones with a slightly cooler note in the background. This pirate is at a beach or something and the sun is shining. So I think warmer tones are not bad to start with.

first layer of colors, warmer tones.

Step 3. Second layer of colors.

In this second layer I decide what color every element gets. A purple head with a red purplish feather like thing on it would suit this captain bluebeard since his jacket is red. The things who need to get more attention are more saturated and the less important the less saturated the color is. This is how I create some kind of depth in this drawing.
In this case the sword and map in his hands are the brightest. Secondly we go for the right side of the face and then back. I think I use this as some kind of underpainting since in the next step I am going to add the brighter stuff. I like high contrasts and play with them. You will see in this proces there is going to be contrasts in more then one element. The warm and cold contrasts, the high and low saturation, the light and shadow side and so on and so on.

Step 4. Third layer of colors.

Here is where I added more of the atmospheric elements. I think this is an very important step since here is where you can tell more just by using colors. By using the warmer orange colors you can tell it is in the evening. Bluebeard finally is close to the treasure. He is tired but he is close and that is why he is biting his lip. He can almost taste the treasure.
In fact I really added the light source over here. 
Also I added clouds in the background. 

Step 4. Final act.

Pushing the background a bit more back since I thought it was too present. Now Bluebeard gets a more darker look and is more in the front of the drawing. This still is a happy colored drawing for the things I do but this way I could show you in a basic way how I color my drawings step by step. I didn't bother you with all the technical stuff (photoshop e.d.) Since I think I should make a youtube video of that when interested.

Let us take a look at other drawings I did.

It is pretty hard to talk about how I make the choices in my colors since I don't really aim at realism. Maybe it is the lack of knowledge that makes my use of color unique so it's about time to take a look at some of my older drawings. 

In the drawing below I wanted to create a forest scene. Autumn, filled with warm colors. I like to use colors from nature and but then make them shine a bit more. Things may shine like gold when they are pretty or they may shine when gross or disturbing.
Funny thing is that I can remember when I was working on the right side of this piece I had to think about Rembrandt. Now I googled the painting I discovered some similarities and where I missed things. The "golden edge" from the painting is also to be found on the leaf but now I feel a bit sad about not pushing the caterpillar a bit more back and place more focus on what is happening in the front. That could make a more exciting piece!
Anyway, again I can find the cold and warm tones. I try to isolate main characters in the piece so the viewers eye is pulled towards that character. Second thing I always try to do with colors is to create a rhythm. You can see the red construction on top of the caterpillar with the funny looking creature sitting in it. That is all red with a red light source placed in it. This is very bright colored just like the caterpillar. I repeat the red color in a weakened form in the mushroom next to it and again in a even more weakened form more to the right of the piece.
The caterpillar ride- CAVUM2017

Another piece we can take a look at is the one below. These are all very desaturated colors. I but still with the highlights that are to be found here and there. I placed them like they were dew or maybe frost on the happening. In front there had to be a bit light but just mildly since we are to be found in an overgrown dark place of memories. And we can go deeper and deeper into this abyss.
When I think of it the colors are also based on the work of Richard Dadd. Brown, yellow, red and the second cold color spectrum of blues and greens. Interesting fact is that I always come to that point that I feel like I should put purple in my work to make it more exciting or interesting. I think it would be more appropriate to tame that urge a bit and use more pinkish type of colors.


Richard Dadd- Titania Sleeping


As I already mentioned before, the use of colors is hard and every artist is struggling with it to get them to communicate with them the best he or she can. That is why I am studying light and colors at the moment so neurotically. James Gurney is a great companion at this moment. As I am studying color I discovered another thing, I am not a painter. I think in lines and composition and how to use the lines to manipulate the message. This line magick is something completely different then painting where you are mainly communicating though light and color. So what I am trying to do here is to bring my line drawings and the painting elements closer together without them looking like they are from the children's coloring books.
Also I can conclude that I base my use of colors on the painters from the past but a lot brighter because I like putting the spotlight on things.

Thank you Leo for your question. This made me a lot more aware of what I am doing and what I want to do. Now I even got to the point where I know where I make mistakes and how I can improve things.


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