Tag: local color

Painting Intensive: Part 7

This part’s artist is David Hockney

David Hockney, OM, CH, RA, is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He lives in Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, and Kensington, London.

During this part we will be focusing on creating a portrait painting done in acrylics with disregard to what is commonly referred to as “local color”.

Local Color

Painters often refer to something known as Local Color. So what is it exactly? Well, there is a very simple explanation. Local Color refers to the color of an object if it is unhindered by shadows and highlights. Still don’t get it? Basically it is what the actual color of an object is. Take for instance a Tomato, now most people would agree that tomatoes are red, however that’s just part of the story and the way that our eye perceives colors. In reality if we really examine a tomato we will see all sorts of different tones and highlights. Take a look at the image below and you will notice the myriad of colors which are created just by one tomato. There’s pinks, violets, browns, and reds. Simply put, when painting any object we must consider all the colors and many times it isn’t intuitive to see the light violet colors because of our preconceived ideas about the local color of the object, which is red.

local color

When it comes to painting it is very important to be aware of what the local color of the object is, however it is also vital that we delve further into the more nuanced colors that appear as well. This is even more important when we have multiple objects of different colors placed closely together. The light bouncing off of one surface can create a reflection and influence the surrounding areas. Therefore, if we look at the top of the tomato we can begin to see that the green vine above it is effecting the colors of the shadows as well. For this reason it is very common for painting instructors to say that students need to start examining what colors make up the shadows in the objects they paint. There’s a whole rainbow of color hiding in the shadows. This was most evident in the Impressionists’ works as they would commonly use blues, and even reds in their shadows.

It is the goal of this lesson to get beyond local color and we are going to make sure that there’s no chance it will seep into this exercise. You will be painting a portrait without the use of local color. It is up to you to use your skills in seeing the value (darkness) of a color and by doing so you can still create a believable space which is totally divorced from your preconceived notions about what the local color of the object is. For the first part of the assignment you will copy the painting below and this will give you a feel for how Color as Value works. I’ve included the drawing, as well as the original image (gridded out), and a picture of my palette so you can get a clear look at what these colors look like. Once you are finished with the first painting you will find an image of your choosing and will have to complete a second painting. In your second painting you will once again be looking beyond local color. Really push how intense you can make your colors, and you’ll also start to notice that the temperature (basically how warm or cool a color looks) also influences the way we perceive reality.

1. Source Image from which the painting will be made. Feel free to change the unit of measurement if you wish. One box could easily equal an inch or whatever fits the size of the canvas you are working on.

2. After gridding out your painting surface you will sketch in the big value shapes present in the photo.

3. You will then paint in the value shapes using the value of the color to create an illusion of depth. Disregard what you know about color intensity and local color. Be bold.

4. Remember that your palette should be a representation of all the colors you will use.


5. If possible take a photo of your painting and change it to black and white. This will be an indicator of how good your eye is. The painting should stand up as a black and white image as well as a color one. This is an extremely important aspect of painting. Seeing color as value.

Upon finishing this copy you will be creating another painting on your own in the same manner. Remember to choose an image that has a wide range of values from light to dark.