14 July 2009

Color Intensity Study

Color intensity is important for conveying changes in the quality and location of light sources in a composition and in atmospheric perspective. Here's a good exercise for learning about color intensity from the introductory painting class I just finished with Lucas Graciano. We were given a landscape photo and told to paint it as a high, medium, and low intensity image without changing value. There are 2 ways to do this. First, mix the appropriate color, then add either the complementary color of the same value or a neutral gray of the same value. I opted for the neutral gray approach, using a set of 4 grays of increasing value that I pre-mixed from ivory black, titanium white and small amounts of raw umber (to balance the coolness of the ivory black).

The top left image above is the original photo. Next are the high (top-r), mid (bottom-l), and low (bottom-r) intensity paintings. I wasn't trying to render, just get a decent read of the big shapes. In hindsight, the low intensity image should probably be less colorful. I followed Richard Schmids' method, described in Alla Prima. He mixes the paint for each brushstroke based on the color, value, and intensity of the adjacent shapes. Once applied, if the stroke/shape is not correct he removes it immediately. His advice: Never leave a mistake on the canvas.

You can learn a lot from this type of study about intensity, and also about color mixing in general. Time well spent if you're just starting out. So, how did I do on maintaining the values? See the grayscale conversions of my paintings below. Not too bad, could be better. I'll work on it.

In his blog, All The Strange Hours, David Rourke posted a useful article on color and color mixing, with a great section on intensity, which he calls chroma (about half-way through the post). His blog is worth visiting, lots of good posts.


  1. very nice blog, Candace. You are doing some great work. I only wish the atelier's were around when I was trying to learn.
    God bless and keep it up.

  2. Gary, It is unfortunate that atelier-type schools are so few and far between, it's a great experience. They really immerse the student in the technical skills needed to become a realist artist. But then plenty of wonderful artists exist in this world despite their rarity. Thanks for your comment and your visit. Regards.

  3. Anonymous16 July, 2009

    Boy, I need to come around more often. You are really moving along, Candace. Won't be long before I can say "I remember when she was a student". I'll echo Gary's comments about the atelier experience. You are very fortunate indeed to have this experience.
    All the best.

  4. hi Candace ! it is always great to come back to see your work !!!!

  5. Ralph, Your assessment is way too kind. TY. Regarding the atelier experience, classes just started and I've met 2 students who moved here from Canada for the term. It makes me appreciate even more that short 20 minute drive I make to get here. Not taken for granted. Best regards.

  6. This is a great exercise.
    I love what you're doing here and you have lots of great links!

  7. Thanks, Mary. Much appreciated. Always nice to know someone is clicking through. Best.