If you’re a colour blind artist and worried about painting in colour, preferring instead the safety of black and white ink drawings then these tips are meant to bring a little colour into your art.
All my life I’ve painted and been colourblind. I studied art at Coventry University and the Stourbridge College of Art and have never considered colour vision deficiency (CVD) as a reason not to create. Although, like all people who are colourblind, I went through a period of using monochromatic colour schemes.
This isn’t a bad thing, it develops your understanding of shape and space without the worry of including the dreaded colour. However, there comes a time when facing our demons is worthwhile.
So here are ten tips I’ve discovered over my 50 years of painting. They might not work for everyone but there’s no need to fear colour. Embrace it, use it and create your own legends. Remember, it’s only red by another name. Okay, it’s green but who’s counting.
- Colour is subjective. Everyone sees tones of colour differently. We are just special and see them a little more different. We all saw the green/white dress on Facebook that created a stir, well that’s our daily bread. If you see orange, it is orange.
- Study the colour wheel. This is your text book, understand complimenting colours, tonal opposites and contrasting hues, this is where you can build harmony, confusion or passion. All you need to know are what colours work best together.
- Manufacturers, they label the tubes. If you use watercolours don’t use pans, use tubes, “Manufacturers, they label the tubes”. This makes it easier to identify the colours in the first place. It might look green, I have four greens and they’re all orange but at least you know what you’re dealing with.
- Order your palette. Yes, we have a problem but we can over come it by planning. If you order your palette in the first place, then you’ll know where you put the colours. This is especially useful as you get older. (which I am).
- Don’t be subtle. Pastel colours don’t sit well with CVD people, they don’t kick it enough for us. Why confuse yourself from the get go. Paint in bold colours, leave pastel for the fashion designers and their Spring collection.
- Work from light to dark. It’s easier to change a mistake when it’s lighter than when it’s darker. Watercolour painters traditionally work this way, while oil painters do the opposite. The good thing with oil paint is that you can scrape it off, it’s not so easy with watercolour.
- Don’t fear colour. People who are colourblind are often afraid of colour. Don’t be! No one questions Monet’s use of colour. Who say’s Dali had no idea what he was doing in his paintings. The colour is what you see. Let them live with it.
- No one remembers. Worst case scenario, “no one remembers”. So you paint a pink T-shirt and it was grey. In ten years, the painting will still be great and no one will remember the colour of the T-shirt that has long been turned into rags. Go with your good self.
- Work on one primary colour at a time. I always start with green, it’s the mid-colour, you can go forward or backwards from there. Then blue in the background, it gives depth. Finally red for the highlights, the foreground and detail. Hey! it works for me and is less confusing.
- Find a style that suits. For many years I tried to paint traditional watercolours but realised I didn’t have the natural range and subtly for this style. So I went all out brash. Finally I could see the colours, only because I painted what I wanted to see.
Remember these coping strategies work for me, you may discover other methods for painting. Find your groove but don’t be afraid of the colour. We are great at light and shade, black and white, now fire up the rainbow. Happy painting.
Ponte Rialto, Venezia – watercolour & ink. 60cm x 40cm (For Sale)
Painting in Venice
The next set of paintings sees a trip to northern Italy, to the watery city of Venice. This is a wonderful city full of magic and wonder. There are no cars on the islands and all transport is done on either the vaporetti and gondolas or you can take a traghetto across the Grand Canal and of course you can travel along the canals by foot.
Rialto Bridge, Venice
The first painting, in the set, is the famous Ponte Rialto, which has stood since 1591. A popular attraction with visitors it spans the 48 metres of the Grand Canal and has shops built into the bridge. One of only four such bridges in the world today.
Watercolor on the Grand Canal
This picture uses three different view points, from the centre of the Grand Canal, looking directly at the bridge, and on either bank to achieve the flat perspective. The feeling of depth is created by over lapping the buildings and piers as well as diminishing object size with difference.
The painting makes use of aerial perspective and dark shadow to give added depth. The idea is to show how a completely flat painting can still exhibit three dimensions and create a visual puzzle for the viewer.
Gubbio – The Saint, The Wolf and a Race, watercolor and ink. 36 cm x 68 cm (For Sale)
Gubbio is a fascinating town in Umbria, said to be one of Noah’s first twelve cities, it is also the place where St Francis spoke to a wolf, who was terrorising the residents. Each May there is a famous mountain race where three teams carry 25 foot totems to the basilica above.
Ceri dei Gubbio
The main landmarks around Gubbio are depicted including the ancient Roman amphitheater, the churches of saints Francesco, Ubaldo and Pietro as well as the magnificent Palazzo dei Consoli.
The painting is a sister to the one of Assisi with the sky following from one to the other. It is painted with a lack of linear perspective as a way of exploring differing ways of depicting depth.
Palazzo dei Consoli
The style is a modern interpretation of the Medieval Gothic work of such artists as Giotto and Martini who were both active in this region over 700 years ago. Great examples of their works are shown in Assisi.
The painting employs a pallet typical of the era. With earthy tones and the occasional splash of colour thrown in. Ultramarine was especially reserved for depictions of the Madonna and so a cerulean blue is used instead for the sky.
The greens are mainly viridian, sap and terra verde with titanium and Chinese whites providing the highlights. As always vermilion is used for the bright red roof tiles.
Assisi – watercolour and ink, 35 cm x 70 cm. (For Sale)
This Assisi watercolour is a very busy painting filled with lots of detail and colour. Like the town itself, you can easily get lost looking at the buildings, alleyways and churches. The three major cathedrals of St Francis, St Ruffinus and St Clare are all prominently featured, as are five of the medieval gateways.
The sky is a beautiful sun burst pattern, one commonly seen in the Umbrian dawn. While the picture is divided into three views by two trees, which depict the styles of Giotto and Simone Martini. Both of whose work can be seen in the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco.
Streets of Assisi
As you walk the streets, what strikes you most is the array of arched doorways and windows. The town is full of arches, some ancient ones, long blocked in, others leading to delicious restaurants and bars, while others lead you down interesting back alleys to new and captivating piazzas.
Marmore Waterfalls – watercolour and ink, 90 cm x 30 cm (For Sale)
A question, often asked of artists is “how long did it take you to paint that?” Well the waterfalls at Marmore took me 8 years. I first visited them back in 2009 and decided I had to capture the area on paper.
The actual design, once I put pencil to paper, took about two weeks to dream up. Those who followed the paintings progress on Facebook know that it took five days to paint. So depending on how you look at these things, anywhere between eight years or three weeks.
Some times you can’t rush things.
Umbria Film Studio
Behind the painting
The painting features the 2,200 year old, man-made waterfall at Marmore, popular with artists, the medieval hill top village of Papigno, through which your drive on your way to the base of the falls and pass the Umbria film studios.
The studios are where Roberto Benigni filmed his classic movie “La vita e bella” and has a strange collection of building facades along the river, with the large, metal cladded buildings behind.
Around the corner from the studios you come across the waterfalls. If you visit, choose your times carefully as they are not always flowing. The water is diverted through a hydro-electric plant and for the greater part of the day they are quiet.
However, twice a day the sluice gates are opened and you can experience the full glory of the water cascading over the cliff face and through the trees. It is this spectacle that artists and poets down the ages have come to witness and area is a truly tranquil place to explore.
Lacrime di Lucifero – Morro d’Alba – watercolour and ink 44cm x 28cm (For Sale)
Lacrime di Lucifero. Lacrime refers to the delicious wine of Morro d’Alba, Lacrime (meaning tears) and Lucifero being the nickname given to the heatwave of the summer of 2017. One of the things you need to ease the midday temperatures is a good wine and believe me, this is a great wine.
Morro d’Alba painting
Morro d’Alba is 12 km from the coastal town of Senigalia in Le Marche, Italy and is perched high above the Adriatic Coast. From its covered walls, you can look down on the endless fields of sunflowers, vineyards and olive groves.
The main piazza, on the left, sits on top of a small hill, with the rest of the town sloping away from it. All around the town walls there are pine trees and oaks along the road side. During the summer months these provide much needed shade and were especially welcome in 2017.
Again the style is an apocalyptic, Gothic stylised painting, with a red faced demon, blasting hot air down on the town and the typical trees and buildings that can be found in Medieval manuscripts. The idea is to give the painting a doomsday feel to it. Soaring temperatures, parched landscape and bleached, dry towns. All very “The end is nigh”.
Lucifer’s Summer – watercolour and ink, 26cm x 40cm (For Sale)
After the heatwave, that drifted over southern Europe for three weeks, the summer of 2017 earned nickname “Lucifer’s Summer”. The average temperature was in the mid-forties and the heat was stifling.
The painting features the village of Belvedere Ostrense in Le Marche, with the silhouettes of Barbara and Ostra Vetere in the background. The hills had either been ploughed, which left hardened clods of earth or black, dried sunflowers, making the usual verdant landscape turn various shades of black and brown.
The never-ending heatwave had the feel of a biblical prophecy to it so I decided to paint it in a Medieval manuscript style, complete with a demonic head in the corner. From its foul mouth swirl the stinking, reeking heat of hell. Well that’s how it felt for quite a few days that summer