Lesson 3 - Essential Darks, The Key To Brilliant Color

The Temperature of Darks

Our eyes depend on light. It’s as simple as that. If we take a good look at everything around us, we notice how light is the life-force of our vision. Without it, we cannot discern what is in front of us — without it, we cannot see.

With that being said, as artists, we can use light to make our paintings more relatable. Using color temperature is one way to bring more depth to our paintings and add to the realistic point of view.

Color temperature is basically a description of the color of a light-source. It involves the coolness and warmness of the color when put into context.

Ordinarily, yellows and reds are considered as warm colors while blues and greens are cool. Warm colors appear to have more of a prominent attitude whilst cool colors tend to recede or blend into space.

In our previous modules, we showed you what value is and how it can make your paintings more realistic. Now, we’ll add color temperature to that concept. Although most people won’t consider temperature when used in the concept of value, when you're developing a value plan for the painting you can begin to think of temperature as well.

One of the reasons as to why that is, is because the perception of color and color temperature is conflicted.

The difference between seasoned painters and beginners is that the former would know that the perception of color temperature is not only physical, but also psychological.

What I mean by that is when people see a specific color firsthand, they associate it with something they know. For example: when we see red, we instantly think fire — we instantly think hot. Or when we see blue, we think of water — we feel cool.

As painters, we have to think differently. Now, I could go on and on about the science of color and color temperature but it all boils down to this: color temperature is never predetermined and it should always be used after considering the nature of light-source.

With that in mind, we can conclude that color temperature and all of its benefits are preceded by the one thing that rules our vision — light.

But why are we studying darks? Aren't darks the absence of light? Isn’t darkness voided of temperature?

Most people would think so. However, if we incorporate what we already know about value, we’ll find that even the darkest of the darks can be warm or cool.

Temperature and value are two distinct concepts of color. However, despite their differences, both of them actually work well together. Using both of these concepts can ultimately bring our paintings to a more realistic and resonating level.

Going back to color mixing. Let’s explore Transparent-Oxide Brown and Cobalt Blue and how they can work with each other. These two colors are different for several reasons but here, we consider how color temperature is affected when these two are at play.

When mixed together, they create this dark and brownish hue. But if we continue to experiment with the consistency of the mix, and observe keenly, we’ll find what most novices can’t see — temperature in the darkness.

Mix more of the Blue than the Brown, you’ll get something cooler. The other way around, you’ll heat things up.

To further explain how temperature and color work together, we recommend that you do the exercises on our website: https://www.rosetanner.com/colormixingmasterclass Our website not only paves the road on how you can find the proper darks, but also, offers a comprehensive painting lesson that allows you to experience firsthand the capability of these darks.

In this lesson, we’ll delve into the world of still-life — which is a whole other genre in and of itself. However, if we look into how still-life paintings are made, we’ll notice several techniques that use the temperature of darks rigorously.

But first, here are some tips on how you can set up a still life:

1. Position your painting and still life ergonomically

Like any other activity that requires constant movement, we should find the optimal position on how to do it. In our case, our paintings should be set up at the opposite side of our painting hand. This will allow yourself to have as little over extensions as possible — and ultimately, you’ll have a lesser chance of muscle strain.

2. Consider your light-source.

Remember what I mentioned earlier? Temperature is never predetermined. It is dependent on the light-source.

This tip emphasizes that. You can either use natural or artificial light for your still life. We recommend artificial lights though since it is more controllable (at least 55,000k gives a true representation of color.)

Furthermore, we recommend you set up your still life in something like a box or use poster boards to contain your light-source — light, most of the time, bounces around and can be hard to control.

3. Consider the shadows as part of the composition

A rule of thumb is to angle your light source so that ⅓ of your subject stays in the shadow.

Shadows are essential to still life. They make paintings more dynamic and realistic. However, we must also keep in mind that subjects with stronger contrasts are easier to paint.

Remember, our goal in this lesson is to learn how darks can make our paintings more dynamic. With that in mind, I guess you can say shadows will be our main point of interest.

4. Set your subject at an optimal height

This is entirely up to you. However, we recommend your subject to stay at eye-level, its easier for perspective and drawing. Be resourceful and use anything (like a box) to elevate the subject if needed.

We know that still life can be complicated. So we decided to walk you through the painting process. At https://www.rosetanner.com/colormixingmasterclass you’ll find the intricate process on how to do it yourself — and how it relates to the necessary darks. Go check them out!

Here’s the gist of what you’re going to find on the site: