Thursday, 13 August 2015

Colour and darkness

I have been exploring a range of colours that I am repeatedly drawn to - dark intense but comples colours - and the effect of combining them. Part of a general attraction I have for the darker (visually rather than metaphorically) images, or how colours are different in the dark. Exploring through pinterest, and my own photos. And some efforts in my sketchbook to reproduce the interesting ones.

Dark cars and reflections in them

Concrete, slate and oxidised metal etc

The shop window on the right isn't so dark, but has a lovely cool intensity to the colour.

Fashion (from Vogue Aug15)
A page from my fashion textiles sketchbook showing dark intense colour range

Foliage and flowers

How different backgrounds affect colour

Blackberries in red bowl
This photo shows the complexity of the shapes, but not of the colours. There are many more variations and tints in the blackberries in real life.

With a medium tone warmish background, the red is duller, and the berries darker looking.

The red parts of the berries also look duller.

With a pale grey background the red is less intense, and the berries look more interesting and detailed.

With a darker greenish greybackground with a bit of texture to it, the photo becomes all about that texture. The red is deeper and the berries more sunken into the dark. The red on the berries is more intense and detailed though.

With a graduated background, the red on the bright side is darker than on the dull side. The berries are again less interesting and the red parts of them are paler and duller.

I did some sketches to explore this a bit more...

This one started out with beige background as in the photo above, but looks much more harmonious and homely with grey.

The fig's cool moderately dark colours give it an atmosphere of mystery!

The conch shell in bright dark colours looks dramatic.

For all these sketches I felt the need to simplify the shapes more than usual, which was much better for showing their shapes. Perhaps I have been putting too much detail in too early.

Variations in exposure
Since I was exploring dark colours, thinking about how attractive I found images taken in the dark in theatre and restaurant - here are a few photos I took, stolen from my earlier learning blogs from OCA.

Also finding appealing some of the artists who use very dark backgrounds eg Odilon Redon and Seurat drawings. Why? Mystery, radiance, altered colours. The backgrounds are not black but more complex colours. (except possibly the bottom left picture)

Reminding me of

James McNeil Whistler 1865 Nocturne in black and gold
Museum of Art Wsshington
(copied from

I should do some studies of how particular colours change as there is less light. These photos all seem to be yellower...

I did this series of photos to explore this, and see which level of light works best in my eyes:

The answer is this last darkest one is most appealing to me. More drama and mystery. Makes you look at the detail more intensely too.

Try doing a sketch like the Seurat ones, but in softer colour than 'black' and 'white'?

This was my first attempt to do that. I picked the conch because I had found it so engaging when I drew it before, but I was rushing at it, using coloured pencils, which didn't turn out as dark as I had hoped. Also, as you can see I didn't concentrate enough on tone.

So for this one I tried using wax resist for the lightest areas, and brown pencil for the darker ones, which again didn't work!

I think I should have tried a wash of something like watercolour rather than pencil...

So for the last one I went for basic tones, in cool dark colours, as planned:

Both from the point of view of dark cool colours giving it a feel I like, and from the point of view of tone giving shape.

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