Experimental Color

by Lisa Larrabee

Pink & Green
color study (detail)
Pastel on toned paper
artist Lisa Larrabee

I recently taught a class for the Art Verve Academy about adding a touch of color to your drawings.  The idea was to make simple controlled changes to see how dramatic the affect was on the image as a whole. It was a lot of fun and and a huge learning experience.

As we delved into more experimental color combinations, I felt compelled to join in the fun and play with colors that I would not usually use together.  I highly encourage anyone to give it a try.  Choose 2-3 colors (plus the background) and build a drawing without any expectations for how it will turn out.  You may surprise yourself!

I began by sketching the value shapes with a bright pink pastel pencil.  It is impossible for me to fully capture the experience with this photo, but the use of approximate complimentary colors in a similar value played with my eyes like crazy.  The pink felt like it was quite literally luminous and vibrated against the gray-green. The process felt a bit surreal as a result.

Although the purpose was to choose whimsical colors, it was important to focus on building values (regardless of the color).  I added a bold red-violet that was a darker value than the pink.  I placed the red-violet anywhere that I wanted to accentuate the form with more contrast.

My final step was to add white highlights.  I initially began with stronger highlights because it was more accurate to my reference.  However, the more white I added the less energy I captured of the  red/violet tones against the green.  I lifted out the bolder highlights and placed the light sparingly.  

I had a tremendous amount of fun exploring how the colors interacted.  There were elements I expected, but there were also results that I was surprised by.  It is amazing how relative color is and how dramatically one color can influence another.  If you give it a try, be prepared for a few unexpected results of your own.

~ Lisa