Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Neutral Ground...

Black, white, grey and sometimes brown... these are the neutral colors that many artists love. We love them because they can impart both harmony and drama as the more colorful often do not.
Rembrandt was a master of the neutral palette, using it to make his own self-portraits into dramatic character studies even though he was quite an ordinary-looking fellow. James McNeill Whistler actually titled his most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black rather than its more popular name, Whistler's Mother. That maternal skin glows amid all the surrounding neutrals just as an open yellow umbrella glows on a grey rainy day.
Make neutrals by mixing complementary colors and you'll create a bouquet of beautiful soft greys that suggest all the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes this leads to vocabulary confusion with one artist referring to a color as grey when another (often me) sees it as really blue or maybe pink or orange.
Whistler's Great, Great Granddaughter is my bow to the ways of James McNeill. Done in open studio, it measures 24x20.


  1. Shirley, I really got this lesson in grays from the Carol Marine workshop...I didn't get it or that it has so much to do with getting the right values...but you are so makes those splashes of color just pop and the infinite variety of grays is a lot of fun to play with...lovely painting

  2. Oh yes, I envy you that workshop. Carol seems to be the master of all sorts of gorgeous greys. Thank you Christine for liking the painting.

  3. Shirley, great post and beautiful painting. I am reading How to See Color and Paint it by Authur Stern. On page 24 of the book he says, "black, white, brown & gray" are "dirty words". Interesting read and recommended to me in Dawn's bootcamp. There are lots of color exercises to do in the book too!

  4. Thank you, Denise. Another book to go on my list of must reading. I'm going to Amazon now!

  5. Shirley, what a grat painting! love your blog, thank you for stopping by my blog. You will never believe this, I was born in KY and have family in Nashville, another "small world" happening. I will look forward to sharing more with you. Try Jeanne Doby's Making Color Sing. It is for watercolor painters but valid for oil as well.

  6. Shirley, your work is lovely...serene and calming.
    I will enjoy following you.

  7. Thank you Brenda and Cissy. I can't wait to see what avenues both of you explore next.
    And Cissy, I become more and more convinced as time goes by that it is definitely a small world!

  8. so delicate & lovely - just the right colors for the subject - almost a ghostly feel . . . thank you!

  9. Good to have you back, Dusty, and thank you.


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Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...