Colour composition – Exploration of colours – knowledge of colours. Colour Theory.
If we imagine knowledge of colours to be like a map, and the example of mixing colours like a route finder, then the following can be seen as a travel guide. Here you can experience or find something that someone else has already discovered.
Cold and warm colours
When you talk about cold colours you often refer to blue or something with a blue tint. Many find the colour blue-green the coldest. The warmest colour is the yellow-orange.
Example Claude Monet
This is obviously simplified, and the experience of a colour to be cold or warm often depends on the colours that surround it. The great artists often used compositions that were based on playing with the cold and warm colours together.
Cold and warm colour creates a depth in a painting since cold colours are seen as further away and warm colours give the impression of being closer. You can also create a strong feeling of light by playing the cold colours against the warm.
Two complementary colours
Complementary colours are colours which are based on the opposite side of the colour circle such as yellow/violet, red/green etc. Two complementary colours which are mixed often give beautiful grey shades.
Example – Edgar Degas (detail): In this example the colour contrast is orange/blue.
Large and small
Another way of achieving contrast is to make different colours have different sizes. For example a strong yellow colour might need a smaller surface to compensate a violet shade. Johannes Itten created a formula for the relationships of colours and yellow/violet=3/9. This type of contrast can give harmonious and calm effects as long as there is a balance between the colours.
Example James Whistler:
Some small points of yellow-orange gives balance to the whole painting of grey-blue.
A common method of achieving contrast is that if you have a strong light contrast you reduce the colour contrast, and equally with a strong colour contrast you make sure the colour has the same value and lightness.
Example (Constable) large light contrast – small colour contrast.
Example (Turner) large colour contrast – small light contrast.
Blue and yellow balance
One of the most light-creating contrast is that between yellow and blue.
Example Anna Ancher.
Whisper or shout
The example below needs little explanation.
Example 1 (Degas).
Example 2 (Gauguin).