The Value of Neutral . . .


"Coastal Wedges"
watercolor 15 x 22 inches

More from the Oregon Coast. . . . .

While I am binging on plein air painting, an occasional break in the studio helps me focus on various elements while painting . . . . .instead of wind, bugs, glare, people interruptions etc.

Using a few of the photos taken while on our trip up the Oregon Coast, I put this scene together.   As you can see, it really is nothing more than a lot of stacked up wedges . . . .one on top of the other . . . .to set up the drawing.   But it was the commonly grayed colors that make this painting challenging.   It is all about value management and placing sparks of pure color to make this painting come to life.  The background hills, for example, each have a reduced value as each hill recedes into the distance.   Then, the currents in the foreground all need to lay flat and appear to recede, too.   There is very little color play in this painting (only in the rocks, the first hill and the sky).   Notice how 'hot' the upper edge of the rock in the middle ground appears!   It is just brown!   But the brown is sooo much warmer than the surrounding grays.   So, it attracts our eye.   

The dominance of gray sets up the jewel color of the sky (emphasizes it) and provides the basis of comparison for the warmth in the low hang in clouds.   The gray sets a mood of calm and a sense of quiet neutrality that makes the simple blue spot come to life.  

Making an emotional painting isn't always about how much color we can put in.  Sometimes it is about how little color is present.   Neutral color can make for very impactful paintings.