Start with Color

by Lisa Larrabee

Why start your drawing or painting on a color?  A background color can set the mood for your artwork and unify the elements right from the start.  It has the power to neutralize or enhance the colors layered over it.  Certain background colors can add or reduce energy, effecting the entire piece.  When a single decision has so much influence, it is important to take the time to explore the possibilities!

Effects of a Background Color

There is much to consider when choosing a color to build upon.  Think about how much you want to allow the background color to show through. You can draw or paint in a way that lets large areas of the background color be visible, or you can let little bits of color show through between the marks or brushstrokes.  You can choose to layer or blend the medium so that the color shows through subtly.  Depending on the medium, you can also cover areas opaquely to hide the color underneath.  How much you choose to reveal the background color will effect the overall style and mood of your piece.

Profile on Cool (Whisper) & Profile on Warm (Promise) - by Lisa Larrabee

In these two examples there is a lot in common, but each painting captures a different mood.  Both portraits have soft edges, reduced detail, high-key values and are of the same model.  The portrait on the left was painted over a cool lavender background.  The portrait on the right was painted on a warm orange-pink.  It can be very helpful analyze the effect of a change when other elements stay the same. You can think of it like a scientific experiment where you keep most variables the same in order to best identify the effect of the change.