For most painters color is the main focus of the painting, it has an emotional aspect to it and it’s the first thing we notice when looking at a painting. Color is also the hardest thing to understand in painting, everyone sees it differently, Coming up with guidelines or rules is like nailing jello to the wall.  One of the problems I had early on was that I was trying to copy the color that I was looking at.  I would isolate the color I wanted to mix and try to reproduce it.  The problem with that is I wasn’t comparing the value and color with surrounding areas of color and I wasn’t SEEING the color correctly.


When we talk about seeing color correctly it means we're thinking in terms of mixing a color that best suggests the light that we're seeing. I don’t want to try to do too much.  If I can make suggesting light my goal then that simplifies the process. I can’t reproduce reality with 8 colors and white, but I can mix a color that suggests the light or shadow that I’m looking at.

This has nothing to do with what color I’m actually looking at (local color), it has to do with color temperature. For example a red barn in the sunlight isn’t really red, it turns to a reddish orange (a warmer color) and in the shadow it turns to a red violet (a cooler color) and if I’m aware of that and can see the color correctly in terms of light and shadow then I will mix a color that works instead of copying what I see.

Thats a big part of it, SEEING color correctly, the other part is simplifying the shapes and creating simple shadow patterns. If I can simplify the shapes and create big masses and keep the values (darks and lights) simple, then color becomes easier to deal with.

But if I start out with too much detail, too many small shapes with a lot of value changes, color becomes impossible.


You might ask,  "If I keep everything big and simple what about detail or finish? I don’t want my painting to be posterized or flat.” That’s where broken color comes in. I can break up these big areas with different colors that are the same value. This gives the painting a more refined or finished look without overdoing the detail. Detail is smaller value changes and too much of it can ruin the design and sense of light in your painting. Broken Color can refine or help finish without ruining the design and sense of light.






"The Importance of Broken Color"

1 hr. 22 min Video - Download File Size: 2G - Plus Photo Reference



How you handle color and detail can kill a painting or enhance it.  Broken color allows you to add detail with color without a value change, allowing you to create the impression of detail without creating a “busy” painting that doesn't work out.


I participate in numerous exhibitions and gallery shows annually. I am professionally associated with the Scottsdale Artists School and the Tucson Art Academy Online, teaching workshops every year with students from every region of the country as well as Alaska and Canada. Foreign students include the countries of France, Germany, Norway, AustraliaCroatiaBrazilTaiwan and others. International students are now taking my Online Mentoring classes. My gallery website is www.philstarke.com.  I offer a FREE NEWSLETTER which contains further art content.  You can use the link in the previous sentence or you can find a Newsletter link at the bottom of the page. I presently teach online video classes, plein air and studio workshops, and a weekly, local studio class.