In my early twenties I was taken back by learning that someone with whom I had attended High School was studying color theory for an entire year at his chosen university. I shook my head and could not comprehend that one could fill a whole year’s studies on color! Yellow and blue make green, right? How could there be that much to know? At the time I was busily engaged in creating a lot of stained glass windows. Our company, Fregeau’s Glass Works, was making hundreds of windows and I was actively involved with the color aspect of each one. We worked with many interior designers and wealthy clients. Stained Glass was, after all, a luxury. I had taken a lot of art classes and grew up with an artist mother – a wonderful painter. I could not fathom that there was that much to learn about color.
I was very wrong.
I was a couple of years into my painting career when I saw someone’s paintings at a local show, and there was such a depth and maturity in his work that I recognized there was something about paintings that I just didn’t know that he evidently did. And so I asked him for lessons. The main ingredient I was missing? A knowledge of color… color theory is the term.
And so began a learning curve that has yet to quit. God made a world filled with color and light. This truth permeates every painting.
When the Impressionists came out of their studios into the light of day to paint, their experience with discovering color was “like scales falling off the eyes.” We hear such dramatic imagery from the Bible when the Apostle Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus, but when he again received his sight, the scales fell off. Seeing and understanding color was so dramatic to the Impressionists that they used like terms.
The key? Observation. Look and look and look and look. Don’t paint what you think you see. Paint what your eyes tells you that they see. And when it comes to color, that is quite a lot.