Color in Practice, Part 1: Black, White, and Complements

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Painting in full color can be an intimidating experience for many students, or even for professionals exploring a new medium. There so many colors to choose from and so many variables to consider, including hue, chroma, and value.

What I’ll do in this video workshop is start with a few basic, inexpensive materials and foundational ideas. I’ll demonstrate grisaille (black and white) painting in gouache. We’ll explore the variations you can get with the contrast between transparency and opacity, and apply them in a painting of a store window.

Next I'll paint Greg at his workstation in a car repair shop, demonstrating a single-accent scheme based on the Zorn palette (basically, black, white, red, and an iron-based yellow). The painting developed spontaneously on location and it takes advantage of a raw-sienna colored underpainting.

I'll then paint two pictures, each using a different complementary relationship. In the first, I use just two colors: ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, and in the second, I paint a still life with an opposition between yellow-green and magenta.


• Underpainting options

• Zorn palette

• Complementaries

• Wet blends

• Color afterimages

The video alternates between simple, practical exercises that are well worth doing, regardless of your skill level, followed by paintings made on location that put the principles into action. I use gouache and watercolor, but the painting insights are universal and will benefit oil and acrylic painters as well.

"Straightforward and unassuming" —Edward Minoff, Teacher at the Grand Central Academy of Art

"A multi-layered discussion of color in practice - using a clear, logical progression of concepts and techniques." —Renée P. Foulks, Painter / Draftsperson, Professor and Chairperson of Drawing, PAFA

"Down-to-earth, step-by-step approach that anyone can understand."—Nathan Fowkes, Teacher and Concept Artist for DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and Disney

"James brings it down to small steps accompanied by inspiring painting demonstrations."—Wouter Tulp, Artist and Teacher

This video takes the concepts from my book Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter and translates them into basic practical assignments.

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Color in Practice, Part 1: Black, White, and Complements

162 ratings
I want this!