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A close up painting of a light filled dahlia flower.

Why Understanding Colour Theory is Important For Artists

Colour theory as a study is fascinating. We are surrounded by colour, and it can have a tremendous impact on our mood, behaviour, the choices we make, and how we perceive the world.

Marketing firms have been using colour theory for decades to influence what we buy, how much we eat, and how long we stay in a restaurant. For instance, orange, yellow, and red are known to make us feel hungry and many fast food restaurants have capitalized on that with their logos and interior decorating.

To paint with Black…Or not?

If you paint with black, you rely on a “colour” that does not exist in nature. When discussing black in terms of science, it is the absence of light. And for me, painting is always about the light. (See my previous blog post). As an artist who paints flowers, I avoid using black as I want to capture the true essence of nature. My tulip painting at the top of this post was painted without black, using only primary colours and white–because there is no actual black in nature. You might remark that a burned tree stump in a forest is black. True, but if you look closely, it is comprised of various dark colours. Not black. If you want to paint a cave—deep inside where there is no light—then yes, black would be your “colour!”

All About That light

When I first came up with the idea to write about light, Meghan Trainor’s 2014 song, “All About That Bass” (with the word light substituted) played on “repeat” in my head. In the same way that Trainor’s analogy of the lowest sound in the audio range to her own posterior became an anthem about positive body image, I hope that keeping the importance of light in mind when you are composing a painting will have a positive effect on your art.

Painting is always all about that light. We see form, shape, value, texture, and colour due to light, and it is what creates the most visual interest in a work of art by directing the viewer’s eye around the composition. Conversely, a lack of light in your painting will result in a viewer losing interest quickly. Keeping that in mind, it is astonishing how often artists do not consider light when composing a work of art.

The Secret to My Art Success

While 2015 was a successful year in my art career, it was 2014 that was most memorable for me. In the first week of January, a Vancouver gallery invited me to participate in a May exhibit; Arabella Magazine asked to feature my work in their special Love of Flowers edition; and Canada Post contacted me to submit two paintings for their 2015 Flower Series stamps. Then in May, the Royal Canadian Mint commissioned me to design a $20 collector’s coin. In June, I was informed I had received both National commissions.

When people ask me the secret to my success, I often find myself giving them the “cocktail party” answer: I worked hard; I got lucky. It seems this is what most people want to hear – that I worked hard, so therefore I deserve the success. But while working hard is part of it, it’s not the whole story.