Bright colours grab our attention. Who else has been to the art shop to replace an old paintbrush only to find themselves irresistibly drawn towards that wall of paint tubes, like Odysseus to the Sirens?
Big paint brands display their wares in beautiful saturated gradations – a row of blues segues effortlessly into a row of greens and jewel-like turquoises – and we gather around like helpless peahens, ready to be seduced and to inevitably make that purchase. (Last time it was a 30ml bottle of Pyrrole Red, a pillarbox red so brilliant and intense that I just couldn’t resist).
But this is a post about neutrals. so why am I going on about bright colours? Because if you love the brights, you need the neutrals to make them pop even more. If bright colours sing, then you could say that the neutrals are like the mellow sound of the backing vocalists. They have an important job: they often make the star of the show (or in this case, the bright colours) sound (look) even better, and they also help the piece of music (the painting) hang together as a more cohesive whole. Sometimes the rich harmonies of the backing singers take over and they themselves become the star of the show – a painting with a predominantly neutral palette will feel peaceful and nonabrasive.
My favourite way of mixing interesting neutrals is to pair two complimentary colours (ie colours at the opposite sides of the colour wheel, so broadly speaking red/green; blue/orange; yellow/purple) plus white. Once you know this, you can mix an infinite array of beautiful greys and earthy tones. If you are very organised you can make a chart for your studio wall so that you can remember your favourite ‘recipes’.
Here are a few examples starting with that Pyrrole Red that I bought last week:
I used alot of greyed down / desaturated blues and pinks in my latest series using the same principle – by adding their compliment colours plus white. These are small pieces featuring Portobello beach near Edinburgh. They are currently available through the Velvet Easel gallery: The Velvet Easel Gallery | Claire Kennedy
Thank you for reading!