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or Graham's other years:1999 - 2001 - 2003 - 2004 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016

Graham Scandrett on Colour: March 2001

Graham's double-barrelled course aimed to help us manipulate colours more confidently - the first fortnight on achieving different tones of a given colour; the second on how to fool the viewer's eye into accepting juxtaposed contrasting colours instead of tonal differences.

His first demonstration was of a limited-colour exercise in blue. He might have chosen red, yellow or possibly even purple or green, but these give you greater problems: you can modify blue to make it lighter or darker, but red is more difficult (e.g. if you try to lighten it it becomes pink and loses its intensity). Likewise yellow has its problems when darkening (except by adding a purple glaze, otherwise it changes its true colour to become green or orange).

To demonstrate the range of colours that can be used in a "limited-colour" exercise Graham suggested picking an arbitrary colour on a standard colour wheel and then seeing how far you can widen the angle without reaching colours that could not be described within the same colour range.

He had prepared a sheet with several blues and some purple (cling-filmed water-colour) and made his original marks in Winsor Green (sic), knowing full well that he was going to put different blues over the top. He used several blues (Cerulean, Cobalt, Winsor, Ultramarine and Indigo) and modified these with half a dozen other colours (reds, greens etc.) either mixed in or glazed lightly over, but in small enough quantities never to make any significant area look a colour that could not be described as blue-ish.

We feasted on advice on relative transparency (see the Winsor & Newton colour chart), staining, dominance, brightness etc. that I cannot start to summarise. The finished picture had a very wide range of tones and certainly looked "blue", although nearly a dozen different tubes of paint had been used (some of the blues were very greeny or purply). Since pure colour was rarely visible, the result was gentle rather than bright - a result that might quite well sell, despite being done only as an exercise.

How different the second fortnight! Working in pastel (no drying time needed during a demonstration) and inspired by a "failed", "boring" Mediterranean water-colour, Graham started straight in with high-intensity colours: dark purple sky, bright yellow "white" walls; bright orange for shadowed white, other shadows in purples, blues, dark greens and reds and a lovely central tree-trunk in red and shocking pink.

The most important considerations seemed to be to think carefully about the relationships between the different areas of colour (in fact to avoid very large areas of unbroken colour) and to juxtapose complimentary colours where there were large tonal differences in the "real-world" scene. The normal rules (e.g. warm colours come forward; cool colours recede) do not apply in this type of painting, where perspective through colour contrasts is the main way of expressing distance. This type of picture can be startlingly effective but it is a brave painter who tries to do one without prior experiment. Graham likes to create his demonstrations in real time and meet the challenge, so this time he found himself moving, eventually, away from the initial "do not mix colours together" idea. A vivid lemon-yellow glaze was added over the orange foreground to bring it forward, the sky was lightened and several other compromises were made. But why not? The message was clear: colour can be used to represent tone.

The two "second-week" workshops produced many very impressive members' paintings Graham would have us remember these lessons in real life: able to fill our pictures with both subtle tonal differences and exciting colour contrasts. We shall try. Thank-you, Graham.

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or Graham's other years:1999 - 2001 - 2003 - 2004 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016

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