The Importance of Color in Art: Choosing a Color Scheme

Today I am blogging about an introduction to the color wheel and how artists can use it to choose an effective color combination. Since last week, I have been consulting a reference book entitled, Color is Everything, by Dan Bartges. I wanted to try out some various color schemes for my Biographical Portrait of Sting, which I posted about in last week’s Sketchbook blog post.  After consulting the book about possible color schemes, I tried out two versions of a tetrad color scheme; one is described on pg. 35, and consists of oranges, reds, and greens, while the other color combination includes blue-green, red-orange, yellow-orange, and blue-violet and is described on page 36 of Bartge’s book.

Sting, pencil sketch
Line sketch based on the Photoshop collage.
Sting in Landscape, with symbols, with black and white
Photoshop collage I made with various photographs.
Sting's Biographical Portrait #1, flat
Here is version one of my color sketch, using a tetrad color scheme of blue, orange, red and green. This sketch was made with watercolor and pencil.
Sting's Biographical portrait version #2, flat
This is version two of the color sketch tetrad version # 2, with blue-green, red-orange, and yellow-orange. The sketch was made with watercolor and pencil

But before I get into the definition of tetrad color schemes, I would like to give a short overview of the color wheel and how it can improve an artist’s artwork.According to the article, “Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors”, retrieved from http://www.arttherapy, the color wheel displays the three primary colors and its secondaries, and the twelve colors which are included on the color wheel are: yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, red- violet, violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green. The most important colors displayed on the color wheel are red, yellow and blue, from which you can mix almost any color. (ibid) However, this concept should be considered in a theoretical context, because paints do not necessarily contain only one color. (ibid) In fact, paints often contain residues of other colors which can affect the final outcome of color mixtures (ibid).  Some colors that you can mix from the two primaries include yellow + red= orange and red + blue= violet.  These colors are called secondaries.(ibid)  It’s interesting to read that primary colors theoretically mixed together, can create any color you wish, but that in practice, it is not always so easy. I think that this is a concept I have grasped as a seasoned painter but did not have words to explain it. This is why I need to buy specific cool reds such as alizarin crimson, or warm reds, such as carmine to get reddish colors that are either warm or cool in tone. Now I have evidence to support my observation and I can explain to others why I need to buy so many different paint colors to create specific colors!

According to the author, Bartges, (2008), a triadic color scheme utilizes three colors which are equidistant from each other on the color wheel, and these colors create “a strong, triangular relationship.” For example, Bartges, 2008, states that a frequently utilized triadic scheme for landscapes includes green, orange and violet. Furthermore, in the words of  Bartges, 2008,  the “most visually powerful triad is red, yellow and blue, which are called the primary colors”.

I decided to apply this knowledge about triadic colors to my portrait of Sting. While I knew I wanted the colors to be pleasing to the eye, I didn’t want them to take center stage. Instead, I wanted them to complement the symbolic nature of the artwork. In this drawing, I wanted to tell a story about Sting’s ancestry and family stories, which I learned about by watching a PBS tv show entitled, Finding Your Roots, a few weeks ago. In this drawing, Biographical Portrait of Sting, I wanted to tell a story about Sting’s ancestry and family stories with references to his great-grandparent’s trade as lace makers, their migration to France, and to describe the setting of his hometown in Newcastle, England. These items were symbolized by the Canada geese migrating in the background, the lace handkerchief, the fleur de lis symbol, (which is often associated with French royalty, according to, and the ships and dock of the Tyneside docks represent the setting where Sting grew up amongst the shipbuilding trade in the 1950s. If you are interested, you can learn more about Sting’s family story by visiting the following website: The PBS website includes an overview of the television series, Roots, Finding your roots,   which features an episode that investigates the family history of Sting, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra. Thanks for stopping by! I hope to continue work on the color sketches pictured here and post the results on next week’s blog post.



Administrative Aspects of Being an Artist: Writing an Artist’s Statement



Voices and Visions: A Narrative Series

Today I am challenging myself to finish writing my artist statement for my poetry illustration series, Voices, and Visions. After months of on and off work on this series, I am committing to working on the series at least 1x a week.  Some of the activities that I engage in to get the ball rolling with this series are: to write critiques about work in progress, post paintings and sketches to Instagram on a weekly basis create tonal studies, and to create photo collages in Photoshop for subjects that require complicated themes.

This body of work, Voices, and Visions, is really stretching me, and it is unlike any other series I have worked on in the past. There have been several instances of artist’s block and resistance in general to finish the work. What is holding me back? Are life circumstances to blame for my lack of follow through with this series? Or are family crises taking up the bulk of my time and energy? Do I fear to make a mistake so much that it paralyzes me from picking up the pencil or brush? Or have I spent too much time watching British TV mystery series, such as Vera Stanhope or Inspector Morse?  I’m not really sure; maybe all of these things have played a part in my inertia.

Writer’s Block: Getting started with an Artist Statement

In addition to avoiding completing this series, I have also avoided working on my artist statement for this series, which has not been helpful either. Unfortunately, I have not been reading or editing the artist statement which inspired me to create this series as I do the work. However, I realize that if I want to have a cohesive body of work with a strong message, I need to be sure that the work in progress is tracking with my original artist’s statement.  Regrettably, I have made this mistake before, and as you might imagine the results of that experiment were not good. A few years back, well, more than a few, I applied for graduate school at a number of colleges for a master’s degree in art. Needless to say, I didn’t get any acceptance letters, and the artwork I created did not reflect the artist statement I had started writing because I did not adjust the statement to reflect the artwork as I was painting or vice versa.  So with that in mind, I am trying to learn from past mistakes and catch this lack of synchronicity between my artist’s statement and the work in progress.  I hope that writing about how to write an artist’s statement will get me out of this rut.

Why Should You Write an Artist’s Statement?

According to the Agora Gallery article, “How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts”, an artist’s statement plays a crucial role in communicating your intentions about your artwork to others (“How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts”, Agora Gallery,, pg. 2)   Sounds good right? But what if you don’t like to write? The author, and art business coach, Alyson Stanfield makes a good point in illustrating why an artist may not want to write an artist statement when she wrote: “My artwork speaks for itself.” (Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, pg. 51.)  But can it really? Can other people follow your art-making processes and really understand what you intend if you don’t give them a map to follow? To illustrate, imagine that you sent out a resume and cover letter that are very general for a specific job posting, rather than tailoring your skills to that job description.

Are you likely to get the job, or even an interview? I think the answer is, probably not, because an employer needs to see why they should consider you as a candidate specifically. In a similar manner, I think that writing an artist’s statement can also help an artist to stand out from the multiple numbers of artist entries and websites, and make their work more personal and meaningful to viewers. Most important,  writing an artist statement can make a connection between you and your audience, when you are not there in person to speak for yourself. (Agora Gallery, pg. 2)   But as an artist, I do empathize with those who don’t like to write and would rather express themselves visually. Despite years of writing research papers as a college student, I still don’t like to write.  Hopefully, the highlights I am sharing from this article will help you to overcome any excuses or fears about writing an artist’s statement,  so that people will stand up and take notice of your art. This is particularly important if you want to make the transition from being a hobby artist to a professional artist who exhibits art in galleries or other public spaces.

Who is Your Audience?

In addition, an artist statement is necessary for consideration in art competitions, art galleries, museums, etc. (Ibid, pg. 2).  Occasionally, an artist’s statement may be displayed as an accompaniment to their artwork at a gallery show, art fair or on an artist’s website. (Ibid, pg. 2). One important thing to remember is to consider who your audience is as you write your artist statement. (Ibid, pg. 2)  Some of the people you are communicating with could be “gallery visitors, students, or potential buyers”. (Ibid, pg. 2). To write an effective statement, an artist needs to use terms and words that are understandable to a range of people, from those who have an art background to others who may have little to no knowledge about art. (Ibid, pg.2)

How Would You Describe Your Art?

Another thing that you should include in your artist statement is an explanation of how you make your art.  (Ibid, pg.2) For example, include information such as your favorite colors to paint with or your medium of choice, such as photography, sculpture, watercolor, etc. (Ibid, pg.2)   What style of art do you practice? (Ibid, pg.2)    Is your art abstract or realistic, or somewhere in between? (Ibid, pg.2) For instance, do you like to include texture in your brushwork by loading your brush with thick paint, or do you like to hide your brushwork and build up tone with thin glazes of paint? (Ibid, pg.2)

What Do You Paint, Draw, Sculpt or Photograph?

What imagery do you use to make your art? (Ibid, pg.3)Explain the content which you use in your artwork.  (Ibid, pg.3) Does it relate to your process, or to the medium that you use to make art? (Ibid, pg.3)  Do you use specific themes to illustrate a story, feeling, or memory, such as figures, landscapes, or symbols? (Ibid, pg.3)   What influences inspire your art? (Ibid, pg.3)   Is it political issues, memories of your childhood or your local surroundings, or formal elements of art, such as line, shape, color, value, etc?

Why Do You Make Art?

Finally, you want to include a section in your artist statement which gives an explanation of why you make artwork. (Ibid, pg.3) Tell viewers what drives or motivates you to create. (Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, 2008, pg, 44)   Be specific, don’t just say, because I have to do it. (ibid) Certain examples might include, I make art to process difficult childhood experiences, or I create artwork to bring attention to political issues I am passionate about.  This article is just a brief overview to get you started with an artist statement and is by no means comprehensive. However, if you would like a more detailed resource to walk you through writing an artist’s statement, I recommend that you visit the link for the article: How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts: Another excellent resource I would recommend that you read to help you write an artist statement is Alyson Standfield’s book, I’d Rather be in the Studio, which is available on or as a pdf download from her website: Chapter 4 describes a system about how to write an artist statement, with some helpful prompts to get you thinking about why you make art.

infographic, hand, writing, pen, artist statement.
This is an infographic from the article, “How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Experts,” Agora Gallery,