Virtual Art Academy
Creating Color Maps 1

Creating Color Maps

Why Create a Color Map?

There is one technique that will help you learn more about a color in a few months than many people learn in a lifetime. Not only will it help you learn color but it will help you come up with a much more interesting compositions. This technique is called a color map.

What is a Color Map?

A color map is a very quick small abstract painting that consists of just a few, perhaps four or five, color spots of approximately the right size and placement. Use the color map to:

  • Capture your first impression of a scene so you do not lose sight of what attracted you to it in the first place.
  • Capture the exact relationship between the planes of the light and shade.
  • Work out what gray to use to best show off your main color accent. As with a mass notan painting, the contour is not important.
  • Help you work out a major color strategy quickly

Examples of Color Map:

Creating Color Maps 3
Creating Color Maps 7
Creating Color Maps 4
Creating Color Maps 8

How To Create A Color Map

Materials Needed:

Paper: Almost any paper will do. The thickest papers are better since they do not buckle as much. I do not gesso the paper and just use my regular notan sketchbook (Strathmore 400-I medium 80lb (130 g/m) drawing paper)

Paint: Just use your regular oil paint with no medium.

Steps:
1. Paint the gray background very thinly.
2. Add your more saturated color spots on top of the gray background using slightly thicker paint.

Key Discoveries In Practice – After the Party

Creating Color Maps 5
Creating Color Maps 9
Creating Color Maps 6
Creating Color Maps 10

I painted “After the Party” while I was in a remote area of China called Xinjiang. I always plan a painting as an abstract design even though my paintings are representational. However, there are sometimes when I find there is no point taking the painting any further and I just leave it as an abstract painting. Here is an example of when that happened.

I was painting in a picnic area in the countryside and came across a pile of discarded wine bottles and their red packaging. The late evening light created a warm orange shaft of light on the ground, creating some wonderful complementary contrasts. Also, note the use of contrast of detail between the distinct spots of color that represent the discarded items and the more blended and less distinct areas that represent background foliage.

There is also a contrast of saturation between the vivid red color spots and the muted blue and green grays of the foliage. I used the principle of brushwork variety to create near music in the painting. Note the difference in both the direction and size of the brushstrokes.

Note the use of contrast of detail between the distinct spots of color that represent the discarded items and the more blended and less distinct areas that represent background foliage. There is also a contrast of saturation between the vivid red color spots and the muted blue and green grays of the foliage

More Oil Painting Techniques

See more oil painting techniques.


What Our Students Are Saying About The Virtual Art Academy

This is a far more superior school than anything I have seen being taught at colleges across the country

This is a far more superior school than anything I have seen being taught at colleges across the country 2

This is a far more superior school than anything I have seen being taught at colleges across the country and have learned much more from the Virtual Art Academy® than from any art course I have ever taken! I cannot begin to tell how the Virtual Art Academy has improved my observation of potential compositions in my daily travels. Because of the VAA2 I find myself looking at trees/buildings/landscapes as shapes and not as structures, etc. I find myself looking at values more closely and observing strong and weak notan in a particular subject as I go out and about. Thank you so much for VAA2, just one disagreement though; the Virtual Art Academy is not just the best online course, it is the best course period.

Steve Jorde
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