When I’m choosing colors, there is always a little bit of a plan. This is true not only for colors, but for every other aspect of creating my paintings. Long gone are the days of putting the paintbrush to canvas without a plan.
Well, actually, this is only mostly true. For my daily paintings, my “stretch” painting as I call them, I either have only a very loose plan, or no plan at all. The purpose of those paintings are to get into the groove of painting for a half hour or so.
The more “serious” paintings are always planned. I keep a notebook, where I not only sketch different possibilities for the new painting, but I also write notes. The notes are all about what I intend for the painting to look and feel like, what I am bringing into the world basically.
I always have a very clear idea of what I want the art to be about. It took me years to appreciate how essential this is. Otherwise, I’m really just painting what I see; there’s no REASON for it except to build technical skill through practice I suppose.
Let’s say for example that I want my painting to look ethereal and magical and I want it to feel a little twisted, dark and scary. I’m going to choose a very different palette than if I intend the painting to look whimsical and feel light and happy. The colors for the dark and twisted painting will probably be dark, with some misty blues and glowing purples, while the whimsical painting will probably have some yellows and bright greens in it, or something similar.
There’s no “right” way to choose colors, but there will be a right way for you, and for what you’re painting. To me it’s all about knowing what you want your colors to “say”, and understanding the way the colors work together.
For example, if you really want a certain color to pop out in a bold and bright way, you would want to surround that area with that color’s dull, muddied down complement. There are too many color “rules” to list here, there are all kinds of great books on the subject that can help you. Using color in paintings is a subject that you could study every single day for the rest of your life and even if you lived for 100 years, you’d still have tons to learn.