Color Notions – False or True Or Relative?

You went to a party. So many young ladies are there. All are beautiful. You will get confused, on whom you have to put your attention because everybody is beautiful. Then suddenly another young lady entered there. You are shocked when you see her because she is very unattractive. Where everyone is beautiful, such unattractiveness among them, you could not digest. For sometime your eyes will follow her, whatever movement she makes.

It’s relativeness.
Unattractiveness  among Beauty.
Same thing happens when a beautiful girl steps into a place where every girl is average looking. This kind of feeling is evoked everywhere in our lives and nature. Everything we see is relative.

Figure 1 : Red

See this Color Red. How much attention it is getting from you? Analyse truthfully the feelings evoked in you. 

Figure 2 : Red and Green

Compare figure 1 and figure 2. See the figures one at a time. Analyse which red is more striking.

A French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix regarded as the leader of the French Romantic school said …“Everyone knows that yellow, orange, and red suggest ideas of joy and plenty. I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will.”

Figure 3 : Liberty Leading the People is a painting by Eugène Delacroix

See how much little quantity of red he used in the entire picture space. How much attention it is getting from us! Is this not proving the theory of relativeness of a young ugly lady among beautiful girls? Or a beautiful lady among average looking ladies.

Figure 4 : Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Landscape with fall of Icarus

See another painting from 16th century artist Peter Bruegel the Elder’s -Landscape with fall of Icarus – How a small bit of Red appears dominant, surrounded by lot of Green and Earth tones.
You see how the red is appearing with more striking contrast than in Delacroix painting.
Why red here is appearing with such intensity? Because green is Uglinesscomplementary to red. Whereas Delacroix painted the entire picture space in his painting with varied brown tones and blue greys. That’s why there Red is not appearing as strikingly as in Peter Bruegel’s Painting.

These things are proving the power of color lies relative to its surroundings rather than on its own.

One painter says these words
”I like red color because it expresses excitement, energy, passion, strength, aggressiveness and danger …. ”.

What about the truthfulness of this expression?

Are we really feeling these attributes from the color of red? Or are we tuned to those notions since long? Have those notions become our beliefs? If not, why in some countries red symbolises Joy, Good luck, Happiness; In India women use it as Sindoor on their forehead as it symbolises their happiness and fortune and the same red is used as a symbol of Danger in traffic, hospitals and wars ,Red alerts, Red corner notices, Red tapeism in government offices and also used as a symbol for Shame and for many many more negative things … . so much contradiction.

I think these notions may not be true.
When we see red we feel little bit uneasy for its’ strong intensity and harshness. It effects us very deeply and will get our attention totally. Because of this reason red will be used as the symbol to get our attention. For example when we see a person in an accident first we will see his blood, due to that effect we will try to turn away our face. This is true.

Derek Jarman said – “Painters use red like spice.” This is true. That’s why in their paintings Eugène Delacroix, Peter Bruegel the Elder used red as a spice.

Not only Red, all colors are like this. Yellow symbolises light, Green symbolises nature, Blue symbolises night, water and skies like Red as blood. These are basic influences on us. Artists have to use these influences in their work depending upon their subject. At the same time they have to understand the relativeness of color.

In conclusion, Color is relative, Its’ attribute depends on surrounding colors. Once again we have to remember Delacroix words … “ I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will.” 

Are These Statements True?

Dear All,

Sorry for not posting in ‘Painting Secrets Column ‘ this week.

After 3 years break, Again I am reopening my institute and studio in my old place where I conducted classes for 15 years.Due to that busy work i was not able to post my article here.
From next week it will be regular.
At the end of this month 65 years would have passed from my life. Last few months I thought about retirement.Spending time, with some reading, occasional painting, a little bit of writing on art and fiction.
But slowly I have realized my life should not be like that. The reason … When I was in forties I had reasonable knowledge which was sufficient to do my work well. After that, in the next 25 years I have acquired a lot of knowledge on the science of art. If I have to say in one line …’ I have understood the Art of Painting.’

After acquiring that much knowledge, taking retirement … I didn’t feel it’s the right thing to do. So I have come to the conclusion that I have to continue my work as if I was in my twenties and have to share my knowledge with whoever is interested to learn. This is going to be my remaining life.

Next week I am going to write an article about Color Relations.

”I like red color because it expresses excitement, energy, passion, strength, aggressiveness and danger …. ” One painter says.
”I use yellow to express joy, happiness, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine ” another painter comments.
” The artist used yellow, blue and red very powerfully. lot of energy and vigor flowing in painting ” one critic writes.

Are these statements true?

How truthful these statements are when we apply them in our work?

( Read this article next week in my blog.)

If I know Color Mixing Tips …

It’s always interesting and sometimes funny when experiencing some art students’ attitudes. They think if they know how to mix the colors, they can do paintings well.
Is it true?
If we know few tips about color mixing, does it helps us to do painting well? To find answer for this question first let us explore what is color mixing.

If you mix white to a color it is a Tint.

If you mix black to a color it is a Shade.

If you add its complementary color to the color, it is Grey or Tone.

 (Colors on exact opposites of the color wheel are known as complementary

 colors. See the color wheel given below)

These three things will play in any painting, whether it is realistic art or abstract art.
Mixing these colors as tints, shades and greys, is it really difficult? Not at all. Few days of practice of mixing those colors will give anyone familiarity with them. Then they will know how to mix colors, how to get tints, shades and greys. Even after that their paintings don’t turn out well!  What’s the problem? What’s the reason for their failure? The reason … Lack of understanding about color.

Mixing color is only a part of the process of understanding color. While color is an ocean, mixing color is only a wave. Studying a wave is not enough to understand the mysteries of a Sea. Studying wave means you are standing at the shore. From there you have to enter into the sea. From there …. you have to travel to the deep dark mysteries of the ocean.

To know about the ocean of color we have to start with Color as a Value. Many great artist say that ” Value is more important than color. If you get your value right your color also will be right.

When we paint a picture with variations between black and white that is value scale. Usually 5 to 9 value variations would be in that scale. Depending upon the subject and taste of the artist, he will choose a few values in that scale.

One of my students Hyma painted these two pictures with grey value scale.


  The head of the tribal woman is painted with full value scale that means almost 9.
Tribal Woman


Two Women

Semi abstract painting of two women painted with 4 values.

Same thing if we do in color, there we have to see every color in a grey scale. That is Color as a Value.

I will discuss about this and about some more in coming weeks …..

No Secrets but She did it!

Vineeta Naresh

She, Vineetha came to me a few months ago. She told me that she is very much interested in painting; she tried in other art schools to learn but some how it didn’t work. She heard about me from others so she came to me. She wants to learn seriously.
These kind of words not new to me. Whoever comes usually they talk like that. They are true in their sense. Sometime in their childhood or high school days they had interest and might have attended a few art classes also. After sometime they might have got bored with the art teacher’s teaching and they stopped going to art classes.
Later they had grown up, got married, had children … and got bored with life, then they wanted to revive again their childhood painting skills. In that process they will find some places who say they will teach painting. They will join there. After sometime again they will get bored. They will lose the interest to learn painting. Not only that, this time they will also lose their confidence about learning painting. Here also the problem lies with the teachers. Most of the times they are not well knowledged.

Well Knowledged or Sound knowledge, whatever word it is. Many laymen or mediocre artists think to teach art to a beginner is not a big issue. They think that someone who has some reasonable painting skills can teach to a beginner easily.
It’s a wrong notion which comes out of ignorance.
To paint for your sake, you can manage with reasonable skills but to teach others a teacher requires good commanding skills. A teacher who is struggling to get his painting well how could he teach to others?
He must be the person who has understood painting as a whole. Otherwise how would he be able to understand students’ struggle to work in a right way?

This is the reason for most of the adult students’ failure to learn even foundation course. Finally they think there are some secrets in painting which teacher is not teaching them. And they will start to think those secrets teacher won’t tell them also. Once they came to that kind of thinking they lose the interest to learn.
This is happening with many of the students. The sad thing is that they don’t know that teacher himself is struggling to do painting successfully and not having much knowledge to teach them. To mask his ignorance in the subject he is creating a wrong notion that painting has many secrets which are not easy to understand.

Vineetha enrolled for my classes and she started to learn these subjects sequentially….
(1) First she started to learn sketching with Positive and Negative spaces, then imaginary scale after that inward and outward curves,
(2) Shading with Pencil with understanding of Value scale
(3) Achromatic Painting in Oil (Copying from great masters’ paintings)
(4) Monochrome Painting in Oil (Copying from great masters’ paintings)
All these subjects she finished in 40 classes. Then she started painting in full color palette and completed her first one from John Singer Sargent’s painting Oyster Gatherers of Cancale.

This is is Vineetha’s first full color painting copied from John Singer Sargent’s
painting Oyster Gatherers of Cancale.

Just think. Really if there are secrets how she has reached to this level of skill within 40 classes?
No secrets. Only there are approaches. She journeyed on the right path. She has intense passion and did hard work. These factors made her to achieve this success.

Next week I will discuss another issue.

– Magunta Dayakar

Are there any secrets to do better Painting? (From The Painter’s Heart)

I have been teaching painting since many years. All these years I have been hearing how the students have been talking about the secrets of painting.

I have understood, they are thinking that there are some secrets in painting. If they knew them they would become good artists.

Is this true? … I don’t think so. It is entirely a wrong notion. There are no secrets in painting.

Reflection             Artist:Magunta Dayakar

What is a secret? It means something hidden purposefully. Something kept away from others access.

But painting is not like that. It has been evolving continuously with time. Every painting technique has been analysed and is being analysed further. Few good teachers had always tried and been trying to establish best standards for the growth of painting. Beside that so many art books coming into the market explaining various techniques of painting.

So where is the secret? Truly … No secrets.

But many of the art students are feeling … there are secrets.

Artist’s Wife                            Artist: Magunta Dayakar

What are the reasons for this ? Only two reasons are appearing for this. (1) Students are not getting right teachers. (2) They are not able to understand the approaches explained by professional artists in their books.

Getting right teacher is not in the students hands. Because always there are very few teachers who know the intricacies of art. But what about getting right knowledge from the books written by professional painters?

Reasons for the failure of second one is not with the books. Most of the books have been giving a lot of information about proper approaches for better painting. Then why that knowledge is not reaching to the most of the art students ?

Because the student is not prepared for that. The professional writes books with the knowledge and experience gained over a lifetime, But the problem is, learning in the presence of a Master is vastly different from learning from his teachings through books.

The reason for this is, the way our brain responds.
It responds for visual learning easily ( ex: When the Master personally demonstrates some approach), but understanding same approach via Writing is difficult.

Painting is Visual. Writing is Verbal.

Shilpa                          Artist: Magunta Dayakar

To elaborate further…
Our brain absorbs visual things easily and is able to store it in memory for long time. For example something we had seen in childhood, we are able to recall back those visual memories even in our old age. The same brain could not recall properly something read a few months back. That shows that understanding anything verbal and analytical is not easy. It requires a lot of experience and interpretation. Understanding painting in depth through books will take many years of intensive study. I have learned that way.

Reading books will give you a basic understanding, After that, Learning with a Master will help the passionate student to understand it in depth.

Slowly he will realize that there are no secrets in art. There are only problems, that need to be solved. Understanding those problems continuously and finding solutions for those problems will make his work better.

(Left side brain activity-Photograph)

 This photograph was taken by camera which was clicked mechanically without any creative thinking

(Right side brain activity-Painting)
 Artist: Magunta Dayakar   Wet on Wet method in Oil.

                ( This is painted from that photograph by using artistic sense.)

Here my intent is to provide that basic understanding through my column. I am a writer as well as an Artist. I will try to use my experience in both fields to try and explain those difficult problems as simply as possible..
I will start to discuss those problems in upcoming posts.