Quick Color Study

Since I had some trouble with color in the painting I did last week, I wanted to do a quick analysis of the way color is used in some other seascape paintings. Essentially I just wanted to take color samples from various parts of each painting and remove them from their context to help understand how to pick colors better, and how colors are affected by the colors that surround them. Most of these paintings are by Frederick Judd Waugh.


The rocks in this painting tend more towards grays, with various color modulations over the surface. The sea foam is interesting because while blue in the shadows, the lighter parts tend towards peach, and some pale green where the light and shadow are blended together. I like the grayish sky, which almost mimics muted tones from the rocks, because it sort of frames the water, and helps push it downward into the center of the composition where the wave crashes. Overall I notice that the colors are fairly muted but seem to be more vibrant in some places in the shadows.


The lighting in this painting is a bit more complex. The contrast between light and shadow is nearly from black to white. Overall, hue helps differentiate the different parts of the scene more so than value, with the rocks tending to be warmer and the water cooler. However the distinction is subtle. Even within the water the hue tends to move from pale blues, greens, and violets in the shadow, to pale yellows in the light. The colors are muted overall; there is no blue in the water really, rather just cool grays. The shift from warm hues in the light to cool hues in the shadows in dramatic and pronounced.


I’m not sure who this painting is by but I like it a lot. The color and lighting in this painting is a little closer to what I might imagine in my head: rocks are more or less brown, water more or less blue, etc. But even on the brown rocks, the shadows move towards purple. The foam, which looks to me so blue in the shadows, is actually more of a pale purple. I think it appears more blue due to the contrast of the reddish color coming off the rocks. Once again we see the foam shifts from purple to peach from light to dark; this will become a commonality in many of these paintings I look at here. The water is blue as expected, but becomes much greener in the shallower parts, where the waves are coming up. Another gray sky working similarly to the first painting above.


I love the sense of lighting in this painting, and the color is very interesting. Everything which appears to have a blueish tint, such as the distant water, sky, or shadows on the foam are actually closer to pale greenish browns and grays. The overwhelming warmness of the elements surrounding these apparently blue spots is strong enough that browns become blues. The pink clouds are enough to make the pale browns in the sky look blue. Its really interesting. I think the key take away here is that when you’re trying to convey a very warm lighting, things that would have a cool local color need to be made gray or even brown to compensate.


This post is getting pretty long so I won’t say too much about this one. It kind of just reinforces some things talked about above; the crashing waves being greener than the deep water in the background, the foam’s hue shifting from purples to yellows, etc. I’ve noticed that the warm-cool shift between the lights and darks seems to be the more exaggerated in the foam than on the other objects. Once again the sky is gray, this seems to push the focus down to the waves.


Another interesting and dramatic lighting situation. Similar to the warm painting above, the cooler tones are very subdued so as not to contrast strangely against the warm tones. The water takes on a greenish tone but are made with many browns, grays, and purples. The purple tones in the clouds are very close to gray, but appear cooler next to the yellow light.


I like this painting a lot too. Sort of the opposite effect from some of the previous paintings is happening here. Rather than using warm colors to make muted grays appear blue, this painting uses brighter cool colors to make the more muted colors appear warmer. The sky and clouds and almost complementary. The nearly greenish blue of the sky make the clouds appear a much more bright pink than they really are. The water also tends a bit more towards green or turquoise than in the previous paintings, and again complements the colors of the rocks.


I won’t say much about this one except to point out the richness of color achieved with very muted colors. When the painting is very muted or gray overall, even subtle colors are able to shine. I also want to note the overall purple tones of the rocks and how they complement the greenish colors of the water.


I question the accuracy of color in this photograph, as it seems to have a yellowish film over it, perhaps the oil medium yellowed over time as well. None the less the color is interesting. I’ve been pointing out in a lot of these paintings that muted colors make subtle colors stand out more, but in this painting, while the color is subtle overall, the water is made a bit more saturated than the rest of the painting, and it appears almost electric because of it. Though when looking at the colors out of context we see that there is still restraint in the brightest colors. The water tends towards green a bit but muted yellows in the sky and rocks in the background help pull some of the yellow out of the water and help it appear blue.

Thats all for today, I hope this departure was interesting. It was a helpful reminder to me of just how much colors are affected by what surrounds them, both in terms of hue and saturation.

2 thoughts on “Quick Color Study

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