Thursday, July 11, 2019

Complements in Action - Figure Painting

 A couple of weeks ago I took a workshop on figure painting by David Shevlino. The supply list included primed boards.  He asked us to use a mid-range gray as tone.  I tinted Gesso with black, ultramarine and red acrylic to arrive at my gray.  I prefer a little hue to my grays.  The cool background worked very well with the color mixtures David demonstrated as his flesh tones; yellow ochre, cadmium orange and dioxine purple for flesh in the light and burnt sienna, dioxine purple and olive green for flesh in shadow. On the second day, we painted the model shown here.  I blocked in the painting (see below) and began to lay in the light flesh tones.  I added some blue in the background where a blue cloth was hanging.  When I turned away, then turned back, I wondered how or why I had used the blue on the figure itself... and realized I had not, but the warm flesh tones acted as the complement to the cool gray background to make the background look like blue. 

The illusion was startling.  Look at the top photo, which I cropped down to hide most of the background tint, then the second photo in which you can see the blue in her forehead as you compare it to the background on the left and the blue cloth on the right. Each time I looked at it, my brain saw blue, not gray, though I had only painted blue in the background cloth.  
Complements are powerful, we know we can use them to neutralize color by mixing, and to enhance color by laying them side by side.  This illusion from the workshop is a great reminder. 


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