Vibrant Colors Aug 2023
Zoom Class Recordings & Resources

Hello Vibrant Artists!
I started the recording after some of my initial explanation, so I summarize it below, along with images and examples. Included is the image we painted, but you can practice these exercises with any view. Remember, with these quick paintings we are gathering experiences as ways of seeing. None of these need to be a masterpiece! If you try out these exercises, I'd LOVE to see what you create. Send me your questions, or what parts were the most helpful!
Thank you,
Maggie Sutrov
create @

We can create vibrant paintings by using COLOR and CONTRAST.  There are THREE ways to create contrast: VALUE, WARM/COOL, and SATURATION.

First, VALUE, as in dark and light.  Your eye will always be drawn to the place in an artwork that has the darkest dark next to the lightest light.  Being aware of this will help you design how a person’s eyes will travel when viewing an artwork.  Below is the photo we painted from, and a grayscale image of the artwork.  To better tune your eye to seeing value, it’s ok to take a photo of the scene and view it as monochromatic in your photo editor.  To internalize the darks and lights of a scene, look at the full color view, and try painting it using just one dark color.  This is called a value study. Below, I used prussian blue, making use of the color from its strongest saturation to its lightest wash. 

Next, we can create contrast by having WARM colors next to COOL.  Warm colors are red-orange-yellow, and Cool colors are green-blue-purple.  Warmth and cool are relative.  A reddish-purple is much warmer than a blue-purple, for instance.  But in general, practicing noticing where warm colors and cool colors are, will tune our eyes to color contrast.  As a part of this, don’t think in terms of seeing browns or greys.  If it were a subdued version of a color on a rainbow, what would it be?  Is it an orange-ish brown?  Or a Blueish grey?  This is another practice we will use in our next step.  

FINALLY, we can create contrast by HIGH SATURATION colors vs LOW SATURATION colors.   High saturation colors are the colors on your color wheel, or in a vibrant rainbow.  Low saturation are your beautifully muddy colors.  Your browns, greys and other colors that are just more subdued.  A brilliant red-orange will stand out against a burnt sienna brown.  Both are similar warmths, but the brown can be mixed by the brilliant color AND a touch of its complimentary (the color across from it on the color wheel.)  It can be fun to mix a brilliant rainbow of colors AND a subdued rainbow of colors like in this example (that has been traveling with me to all my in-person classes, and shows it!)

But for this project, we are just going to be aware of these relationships, and paint this scene using ONLY high saturation colors.  

We begin with YELLOW, and find where the sunlight is shinging, add reds, shift to blues, and only then, add greens.  As we layer these colors, we end up with a mix of high and low saturated colors.  For instance, putting down red where the trees are dark (and a warmer green), and then adding a green, creates a beautiful shadow green that contrasts where you have bright yellow and green. 

Finally, we doubled back to thinking about VALUE so that we can tune how our eye moves through the painting.