After spending almost all of 2016 working in black and white, I decided it was time to play around with some colour. So I set off on my winter holiday with my little Koi Sakura sketch box of 12 watercolours, determined to give it a go. But the task was not so simple. I realised that while I associated the world of black and white with clarity and simplicity, the world of colour seemed to present an almost dizzying array of choices. Where to start?
In Picture This, Lynda Barry gave me the perfect way in:
Can you color a picture if you have only one color? It’s a good thing to find out. The only color we have for this picture is brown. we start with a pale layer, let it dry and then add darker layers one by one.
This technique was a wonderful way to experiment with colour without getting overwhelmed by choices. I could focus on areas of light and dark, greater and lesser intensity. It was like working with black and white except more… colourful! And it was a great way to really dive into the qualities of each colour: the bright sunlight in yellow, the cool moonlight in blue, the heat in orangey-red, the lush of the trees in green.
I love holiday photos and usually take way too many. But these paintings capture the feeling on the inside in a way that my photos don’t seem to be able to do.
When I began using this technique, I had the idea that the addition of colour to a piece would bring chaos and lack of focus. Instead, I found that it can bring a new kind of focus. By the time I came home, I found I could experiment with several colours at a time without things becoming too chaotic. Now I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, leaving the black and white of Kansas for a whole new world of technicolour!
If you are at all daunted by the thought of using colour in your work, this is a great way in. One colour at a time, one layer at a time. Give it a go!
You can see more images from my holiday sketchbook here.