1) Take photographs
2) Collect information
3) Create colour palette
4) Adjust colours
5) Create artwork
6) Add finishing touches
Step 1: Taking photographs
After taking a few close-up photos of some leaves or flowers I like, I decide on one photo that I like best. From that photo, I pick an area where the colours look most interesting to me (although you can use the whole photo if you wish). I usually don’t spend too long ‘deciding’ which image to use, it’s more of an instinctual feeling and one photo usually stands out to me above the others that I’ve taken.
At this stage I ask myself some questions, which will help me later on when deciding what parts of my photo to include or omit, based on my personal preferences.
I ask myself:
- Why has this area caught my eye?
- Why do I like these colours?
- Are the colours strong, bright or more muted, soft, pastel?
- Is there much variation in colour throughout the photo? i.e. are there lots of colours or just a few?
- Is there much contrast between light & dark? Do the colours provide a range of shades?
My answers were:
- I like the blue & purple colours against the yellow-green leaves
- Colours feel fresh, crisp and summery
- Mixture of pastel & stronger vivid colours
- There are 3 main colour groups (blue/purple/green)
- Good contrast between light and dark shades
By making notes of your answers to these questions, it will help you later on when you being to create your piece of art. This will also keep you on track and remind you about what it was that you liked from your initial photograph.
Once you’ve thought about these questions and pondered why you particularly like the photo you’ve selected, you’re armed with enough information and understanding to proceed to the next step. Plus it’s a good habit to be able to understand why you like certain colours, as this will aid you in creating a piece of art/ craft that you really love.
Note: when I decide on a particular photo, it may be just because I like the way the colours work together or the way the leaves entangle around the stems. Whatever the reason, it’s personal to me and my perspective on the world and your photos along with your decisions will be personal to you. Don’t over think this part or worry about doing it ‘right,’ as there is no right way to do it! Think of this exercise as ‘Forest Therapy’ as it cultivates the use of colours from nature in helping you feel more relaxed and contented after creating your very own colour palette.
This is the fun part! Having decided on an area of a photo I like, I then look at the colours that really catch my eye and that I think will work well together. In my photo, I really like the blues and purples and how they contrast against the juicy lime-green leaves and small dark areas. I usually view my photos on an iPad, as the backlit screen helps to add vibrancy to the colours. Viewing the image on a phone or computer is just as good too. Personally I find that printing the image out tends to dull the colours a bit.
Having got your image close to you, grab a piece of paper and draw 6 similar-sized squares on it. Pick 6 colours from your image that you really like. I usually don’t pick black or white areas from the photograph, however go with your instincts as if these are colours you really like personally, include them!
Try to pick at least 1-2 colours that are lighter/darker than the rest so it gives you some good contrast. Printer paper is fine for this, as although it may crinkle a little if using paints (because of the water) you’re only using this as a springboard for colour inspiration, so the paper doesn’t need to be expensive.
Colour in the squares with 6 colours that resemble colours from your photo. They don’t have to exactly match the photo; just aim for an approximation or whatever aligns with your personal preference. In my own colour palettes, I use acrylic gouache paints because I love their colour vibrancy, but you don’t need any fancy art supplies. Use whatever colour medium you’re comfortable with and have easily on hand. Items such as colour pencils, wax crayons, acrylics, watercolours, poster paints etc. work great.
It’s up to you how many squares you decide to colour in, though I find that around 6 is a good amount to start with. Too few colours and you can limit your choices, but too many colours and your artwork can lose focus and impact.
Once my palette is dry, I look at my chosen colours and decide which ones I want to lighter, darker or make more vibrant or muted etc. I play around and experiment with adding different quantities of red, blue, yellow, white and black to my palette colours to make my colours more vibrant and personal to me as an artist.
You can create different moods and feelings by adding white, black, red, yellow or blue together with your chosen colour. Obviously the quantities of each colour will be different and you may need to add a few together to get the exact shade you want. For example, if you mix orange + white together, you’ll get a lighter, ‘softer’ more pastel orange. Yet if you mix orange + yellow together, you’ll get a zesty, lively, vibrant colour. It all depends on the mood and feel that you wish to create.
Remember also that how you choose to apply the paint will also affect the mood and feel of a painting i.e. neatly, thinly, thickly, big areas of colour versus small, with a brush, with a comb.
When creating your piece of art or craft, it’s a very personal choice as to what colour to start with. I paint intuitively and simply decide in the moment where I want to put a certain colour. If I want to paint a big red circle then I do, I don’t over think it at all. In fact, I find that ‘thinking’ about where to put the colours creates doubts & fears in my mind. I find the best pieces of art that I’ve done are created this way. When you block out those doubts and stop them creeping in, you allow your creativity full reign. Trust it because it really does know best! It knows what will look best since it’s you who is deciding, even if it doesn’t feel like it, subconsciously it is.
Start wherever is comfortable for you and pick whatever size paper/canvas/cardboard that you have. Any surface will work well for this exercise although consider what painting medium you’re using and therefore what surface is best suited for it (i.e. paints/crayons/pencils/poster paints/oils/ pastels etc require different surfaces to make the supplies easier to use).
Continue adding colour in your chosen way, whether small random shapes or large swirls, just add the colours as you see fit. With abstract art, there is no right way to apply colour. You are the artist so you get to decide. Keep going until you have filled your paper and then leave to dry. You may or may not want to add any finishing touches in the way of ink pens, so the next part is optional. Just finish your piece however you’d like, as you’re only pleasing yourself!
For my art, I love adding some finishing touches with the use of a fine white ink pen. My line marks resemble dashes, lines, dots, stitches etc. Obviously this is a personal choice, and you will have your own thoughts and ideas as to how to ‘finish’ your own piece of art/craft.
I hope this exercise has given you some tips and suggestions and when you’re out next in nature, you’ll look out for those juicy colours that can help you make your creative pieces more interesting and personal to you.
See more of her work on her instagram page and her website.