Tag Archives: colour relationships

Colour Relationships 5: Still Life with Colour used to Evoke Mood

Finished Piece in Sepia

Finished Piece in Sepia

For this exercise paint your still life in any way that you choose. Make decisions an advance about the range of colours that you will use. You are aiming to create a mood or atmosphere in your use of colour and handling paint.

The idea for this exercise started with the last study in complimentary colours. Experimenting with the background made the painting look quite creepy and looking at it I couldn’t help thinking of a Tim Burton movies so with that in mind I tried to build on that for this exercise hoping to evoke a sinister mood to the painting.

For some reason I couldn’t imagine this still life in any other colour but Sepia and so I edited a photo of the previous still life in Photoshop so that I could try and work out for myself, without looking on Google which colours would make Sepia.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought, I could see a lot of different hues in the Sepia photo and so I decided to experiment with some colours, these were:

  1. White + Payne’s Grey + Rose
  2. White + Payne’s Grey + Yellow Ochre
  3. White + Payne’s Grey + Orange
  4. White + Payne’s Grey + Copper
1 Finding Sepia

1 Finding Sepia

Of all the colours the copper mix looked best and so I decided to start the still life composition to see how well the colours looked together. I used the same big brush technique as in the previous exercise barring the spines of the rambutan. Eve though the three colours looked great together in my experiment they didn’t look that great on paper the Payne’s gray looked too blueish and it was obvious it needed swapping for black. I was also going through the copper at an alarming rate as it was only a small tube  then I realised that the copper was very similar to Burnt Umber and so I swapped again.

2 Still ife in Sepia

2 Still Life in Sepia

The finished piece looked great, you could see it was a Sepia painting but it didn’t look how I expected it to, I asked my girlfriend how she felt when she looked at it and her reply was ‘sad and cold’ these weren’t the moods I were going for but at least the painting was getting some kind of emotional reaction.

At this stage I thought it wouldn’t hurt to experiment further and so I kept experimenting hoping to find the result I had been hoping for. I began by making a very thin mix of Burnt Sienna and white and applied it over the top of the painting with a scrumbling technique to try and give the painting an aged look.

I then applied made a light mix and a dark mix of the same colours then run the edges of a another sheet of paper through them and and then applied the paint to the painting in very thin vertical lines to give it an old movie flicker effect then added a few more white specs and flicks with a thin detail brush.


3 Still ife in Sepia - Trying to be Sinister

3 Still ife in Sepia – Trying to be Sinister

I’m not sure what mood this painting evokes but if nothing else it does look like the scene from an old movie or a cine-cam clip from an horror movie or at least I hope it does.

I am satisfied with the way this painting turned out , the photo above doesn’t do it justice there is actually a lot more colour to it,. I Think that this style would really suit a portrait and so I hope to put it to use a bit later on in this course.

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

3 Still ife in Sepia - Trying to be Sinister

Colour used to evoke mood







Looking at the paintings side by side the composition is almost identical but the effects that I have created in both are completely different. In the first study, Still Life with Complimentary colours the subjects are very three dimensional but yet due to the limited palette of two complimentary colours the subjects look to have an over-exaggerated sense of form as if they are made from Plasticine, the background seems to emphasize this.

In this last exercise my intention was to build on the qualities that already existed in the previous painting and to try and evoke mood by realizing what I imagined the finished painting to be like. The effects used in this new painting were very different, unlike the first study in this last study I managed to create a sense of distance, like the composition is in the background and the movie clip lines/flicker effects are in the foreground. I think going over the painting with the mix of white and burnt Sienna with the scrumbling technique I mentioned earlier to tone down the composition and then painting definite horizontal lines over the top created this distance effect. It probably doesn’t look as sinister as what I expected with the still life but I can imagine this effect would work really well with a Sepia self portrait or scary doll on a trike.

Colour Relationships 4 – Still Life with Complimentary Colours

Make a colour study of your still life using only a narrow range of colours. This will require great concentration and discipline in observation and interpretation. Make the most of using colour in an inventive way.

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

Still Life with Complimentary Colours

I should have probably used my Chromium green with primary red for this exercise but I decided to mix my own green from primary yellow and primary blue. Some would call that cheating as even though I did make a nice dark green out of the two colours some of the lighter tones looked blueish with others a yellowy green.

I could have been a bit more inventive with the subjects I used for the still life maybe choosing subjects of all different colours and I regret not doing that instead of choosing subjects of similar colour properties like I did but I still feel satisfied with the end result.

Materials used:

  • Oil/Acrylic Paper 24 x 33 cm
  • Acrylic Paint: Primary Yellow, Primary Blue and Primary Red
  • Brushes: Small Filbert, Large Round and Large Flat

This was the first time using  small sheets of paper although it was only a study I still intended to use it not only to develop my understanding of colour relationships but to further develop my brush skills and painting on a small scale I decided, would help me to do that.

I begun with a very light wash of green mixed with white followed by a very light wash of red. As the green was mixed with a lot of white and went on unevenly the red wash settled around it creating a prime coat of light red and green, which reminded me of rhubarb.

Chosen Subjects

  • Mango x 2
  • Rambutan (gno) x 3
  • 2 slices of watermelon
  • Red Apple
  • Plate

Although the subjects I chose were mainly red and green there were other colours as well which were omitted by using only the complimentary colours these were, yellow, orange and light brown. For the grey details such as the bruising on the mangoes, the watermelon seeds and the dark stripes on the skin of the watermelon on the left of the plate I mixed the colours together and and allowed them to cancel each other out. This was also a technique I used for the darker parts of the rambutan, painting wet red over wet green to get the darker strands.

I also allowed the pigments to cancel each other out for the shadows although I made the result of this biased towards red in most places so that the green of the mango would really stand out.

Being Inventive

I find it hard to use my imagination when painting still lifes and to me there wasn’t really much I could do here to make this stand out all I know is that I was bored of using the same old round table with the plain backgrounds and so if I were try and get inventive wouldn’t this be the best place to start. I applied a light coat of white/red to the background with a scrumbling technique followed by fine drip like streaks then painted the shadows with a muddy green applied with the same scrumbling technique. It may not be genius but it makes the still life composition stand out,however it wouldn’t be until the next exercise Still Life with Colour used to Evoke Mood that the background would really come alive.



Colour Relationships 2 – Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

Successive Contrast

This is something that we encounter a lot but we don’t think about how it happens. The first part of the brief tells us to find or paint a large area of bright colour, stare at it for 30 seconds and then close your eyes and wait for an after image to appear. Because I chose red the after image that appeared was the complimentary colour green.

Successive Contrast - Flourescent Pink

Successive Contrast – Flourescent Pink

From there I painted an isolated square of my most vivid and intense pigment, which happened to be fluorescent pink, I did the same with this then after 30 seconds I shifted my gaze to a white space on the same paper, the after image that appeared was an intense turquoise, Its complimentary colour.

These effects are caused by the stimulation and exhaustion of the receptors in the retina. By Exhausting the receptors for red, for example, only the remaining combinations of colours that mix to produce blue green are seen when you turn from looking at red to looking at white.

White light, as Newton showed, is made up of all the colours of the spectrum. The human eye has full colour discrimination through the rod and cone cells. The rod cells in the Retina distinguish light and dark, while the three types of cone cells respond to red, green and violet which make up colours.



Colour Relationships 1 – Exploring Contrasts

1 Exploring Contrasts

1 Exploring Contrasts

Choose any colour you like (colour A), then mix a series of several colours that are close to colour A on the spectrum. From there paint a series of small squares of colour A, surrounding it each time with one of the colours you’ve mixed.

Following the brief’s instructions I chose red as colour A and then made various mixes similar to colour A then used colour A to paint a series of small squares then surrounded the small squares with the other colours that I mixed. I noticed how the surrounding colours altered how the centre square of red looked, in some squares looking more orange-red and others looking darker and even brownish.

From there I made a series of several small squares in yellow and several mixes of different tones of violet which I surrounded the centre squares. Each of the mixes had different amounts of white in so that I could try and equal the tonal value of the yellow centre square. Which I think I managed to match with the mix in the bottom left of the above image.

Matching the tonal value by adding white seems to tone down the yellow centre square but with the darker mixes of violet surrounding the yellow it seems to look the brightest.

2 Exploring Contrasts with medium Grey Centre

2 Exploring Contrasts with medium Grey Centre

Next I painted a square of violet leaving a space in the centre, next to it I did the same with yellow and underneath both of them I painted a white square, again leaving a space in the centre. From there I mixed a neutral grey and painted a small square of this colour in the centre of each.

Doing this I noticed that the neutral grey looked different with each of the surrounding colours. With the violet surround the grey looked the lightest then darker in the centre of the yellow surrounding square with the medium grey looking the darkest in the centre of the white square.

I was pushed for time with this project so I didn’t have much time to experiment further but I made a quick painting using some complimentary colours and a medium grey noticing how the tone of the grey altered against the different colours.

3 A Simple painting with Complimentary Colours

3 A Simple painting with Complimentary Colours