A color study is used to explore colors in relationship to each other. Often Abstract paintings are only color studies. It is an arrangement of colors to understand how they look together, what emotion they create and how one likes one color with another color. Does it create depth? Does it bring calmness? It is dramatic? Is it boring?
Color studies can be practice for larger, more serious paintings. Often, they are the painting itself. With colors studies you can test combinations of different colors against each other. Some famous artists used these to create masterpieces.
Often started with large strokes, one simplifies the effort to eliminate intricate brushwork, designs or edges. Values are not used in these studies. There is little design….just color. From these studies you can identify the strongest, most vivid color, the hues of colors and the colors that are important for your vision. The colors you have identified can then be used in a more significant painting, if desired.
You can paint the same painting with different combinations of colors to see how the painting expresses itself. Is it a high-key painting or a low-key painting? Is the subject painted on a sunny day or in twilight? They will be dramatically different.
Multiple color studies are often done of the same subject to explore different arrangements. Sometimes it may be used to test slight variations of the initial color study. For example, you might want to test high-key and low-key variations of a color study.
The basic color study should be the main focus before you employ your choices paintings a scene. You can then progress into colors and shapes. There are many famous artists who employed the study of color in their paintings and in their instruction.
Artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Charles Hawthorne, Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse and more contributed to the field through their experimentations with warm and cool palettes, complementary colors and more.
Henry Hensche taught at the Cape Cod School of art and was one of the most important teachers of color study. He studied under Charles Hawthorne and became an important impressionistic painter. He practiced the language of color, according to the website dedicated to his work, Henry Hensche Foundation.
“Henry Hensche, an assistant to Hawthorne, perfected the concept of seeing and teaching color after Hawthorne’s death in 1930. Mr. Hensche taught and practiced thisvisual language of color from that first Summer in 1930 until his death in 1992.”
Pablo Picasso adopted different colors when his emotions changed. “Colors like features follow the changes of emotions,” he said in the 1930s.
You can combine different colors on one canvas to study how they look, as I did in this painting, Palm Beach. This was one of my first abstracts when I started to evolve and focus on abstract paintings.